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Mustard creative writing club offers casual workshops, community

| Tuesday, February 9, 2021

It all started with a packet of mustard on a table in South Dining Hall. 

Club legend has it that before becoming Notre Dame’s official creative writing club, Mustard was an informal gathering of students interested in creative writing. A packet of mustard would be placed on a table in South Dining Hall before each meeting to discreetly show where participants should meet. 

Courtesy of William DiSimone
The Mustard creative writing club during their last meeting in 2019.

Since its creation, Mustard’s goal has been to provide an opportunity for students to share their writing and receive feedback in a laid-back setting. 

Mustard uses a unique style of workshopping and critique, junior Ella Wisniewski, Mustard club president, said.

“One of the best things about Mustard is you get feedback immediately after you read your piece out loud,” she said. “Other times, when you’re trying to get feedback on your writing, it can take days or weeks for someone to email you back and be like, ‘Oh, this is good.’ But in Mustard, you get it right away.” 

Meetings take place on Wednesdays from 9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., in the McNeill room in LaFortune Student Center. Meetings are held in-person, but due to the pandemic, members participate via Zoom if the number of attendees exceeds the room’s maximum occupancy. 

Senior club member William DiSimone said Mustard is open to anyone, regardless of major or level of writing experience. DiSimone himself joined as a first-year studying finance and felt welcomed. 

“You can even come not intending to submit anything, just to see what other people write, to get a feel for how everything works,” DiSimone said. “It’s a pretty casual experience.”

Participants are welcome to submit any type of writing, junior Alena Coleman, another member of Mustard, said.

“We’ve had raps, screenplays, poems, prose, short stories, bits of novels, songs,” Coleman said. “Really anything that you can write, we can talk about.” 

In a typical meeting, members submit a piece beforehand, read their work aloud and then receive feedback, Wisniewski said. 

Coleman said during national novel writing month, the club holds “write-ins.” In these meetings, members participate in various writing activities.

“We’ll do some writing sprints, where you write for a short amount of time and try to get as many words out as possible. We’ll do fun writing prompts, or we’ll just talk and play other games,” Coleman said. “So those are a little less like a workshop and a little more like a writing camp for an hour or two.”

DiSimone said during one meeting in his sophomore year, the group didn’t feel like discussing writing, so everyone went around and told stories of the most horrific injuries they had had. 

“It’s just fun hanging out,” DiSimone said. “It’s a good time.”

Wisniewski said the first time she submitted a piece for a meeting as a sophomore, she was terrified. 

“Everyone was so nice and they genuinely made my poems better, and now I feel a lot more comfortable submitting,” Wisniewski said. “And I just hope that someone who comes into Mustard and submits for the first time can have that same experience. If you just want to come and not say anything, just listen to writing, that’s awesome, that’s totally fine. We’re just happy you’re there.”

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