Writing Takes Form : the class, the archive, the exhibition, and now, the book

In the fall of 2019, in the basement of Rowan Johnson Hall at the University of Alabama, I assembled a  group of writers under the guise of an English 307 course, with the mission to share  what I knew of freeing writing from the confines of the 8.5” x 11” page. On the first day, I made my students a proposition : what if I used what we did in class as the basis for Creative Writing MFA Thesis? There could be an exhibition in a gallery. There could be a book. Many lines could be added to all of our CVs.

To my delight. They agreed.

There were 13 of us. We met twice a week.  We cut paper, folded paper, wrote on paper. We talked around the table. We asked each other: how’s it going? We shared paper. 

RJ3 Collective formed. 

Then together, we made books, we filled books, we  learned not to hold books too dear, and we had what can best be described as “a big time.” We gathered ourselves, and we gathered our work, into an archive, at first in a white box under a chair in the English Department office. Then two boxes. Then the books began to defy boxes.

The following Spring, we put on an exhibition called Writing Takes Form: The Archive of all the books the RJ3 Collective had made. There were homemade pedestals, a card catalog, the books from the archive were on display and lining the shelves of a library cart. One pedestal was designated a reading space where visitors could check out the books from the archive and stamp their library cards with the date of reading. The RJ3 manifesto hung on the wall. An exhibition catalog was printed by UA Press on glossy paper and perfect bound.

The night before the show, the University went online and canceled all events. Because: Covid-19. A few people defied orders and got a glimpse of the show.. I sent out a sad call for email addresses so I could at least send all the members of RJ3 Collective an exhibition catalog.

That same spring, which is right now, I completed work on my Creative Writing Thesis: a book based on the handouts created for RJ3 Collective called Writing Takes Form. Two days before I was to deliver my thesis via email along with pictures of the show 2/3 of my committee could not attend, my defense was called off. Because Covid-19.

After the disappointment dissipated, I called around and got some volunteers for a new committee for what we’ve decided is not my anti-thesis. expect to defend my work by Zoom in the next couple of weeks, after the Doodle date results are in.

I invite you to take a look at my thesis. Download the beta-version of the book Writing Takes Form and bind it using the instructions provided on this page. Send feedback if you’d like. Check out the pics from the show and the exhibition catalog.

Best wishes,

Sarah Scarr