What is CityWrite?

On Saturday, October 20, 2012, Indianapolis recognized the National Day on Writing through CityWrite. Over 350 people participated in the 2012 CityWrite at one of 25 writing sites across Indianapolis. Additionally, The City of Indianapolis recognized CityWrite through a mayoral proclamation and declared Saturday, October 20, 2012, to be “The Indianapolis Day on Writing.” Through the efforts of numerous sponsors, organizations, and volunteers, CityWrite organized 25 writing sites and invited the public to write their stories and memories. CityWrite provided facilitators at each site to help guide participants through the writing process and offer prompts designed to demystify the writing process and encourage unique and varied perspectives. These writings are currently being added to a public archive and are available at citywriteindy.org

We believe everyone has a story to tell and has lived through an experience that everyone can learn from. We are dedicated to encouraging everyone—from the marginalized to the mainstream—to write down these stories and experiences so that they may become part of a larger public conversation. We believe each person has a unique perspective, and because each perspective is unique, it should be documented. Through this belief, we work towards demonstrating, on a personal level, the power of literacy and writing.  Memories and stories contain powerful lessons and learning them is essential in building strong communities and a vibrant city.

Because of the success of the first CityWrite, we are proud to announce that CityWrite will return in 2013. Our goal is to build upon the achievements of the previous year and organize 50 writing sites across Indianapolis, encourage at least 500 people to contribute their stories and memories, and to publish a CityWrite anthology in early 2014.

Writing is a way for people to use their own language to illustrate the common and uncommon human experience we each share. Unfortunately, the common and everyday experiences that shape our lives and impact community go unnoticed and memories connected to our living spaces remain undocumented. In order to capture these stories, CityWrite works within the spaces of others in their home communities. Sites are hosted anywhere people gather. CityWrite sites will be based on geography, cultural relevance and community perspectives. Sites will intersect all walks of life and will include libraries, bookstores, schools, churches, shelters, institutions, associations, neighborhood groups, and businesses. During the inaugural 2012 CityWrite, our goal was to host at 25 diverse community sites. After successfully meeting this goal, our goal for the 2013 CityWrite is to host 50 sites and encourage families and individuals to meet in their respective spaces on in the week leading up to October 20, the National Day on Writing.

CityWrite sites and related activities will take place during the week leading up to Sunday, October 20, the National Day on Writing. Starting on Monday, October 14, CityWrite will conduct writing sessions at numerous locations across Indianapolis. Residents are asked to come together, explore written memories and reflections associated with their communities, and join in an effort to document and share these experiences. To accomplish this and acknowledge the importance of writing and documentation of individual histories and stories, numerous organizations, businesses, and volunteers are invited to take part in CityWrite and help create a city-wide writing project. This is where you come in…

How Can My Organization Participate in CityWrite?

By becoming a CityWrite site and helping to promote your involvement. Sites may be open to the general public or operate as a private event, open only to employees and members. CityWrite will provide site facilitators to guide the writing session, organize the session, promote the event, and archive all writing.

  • Businesses are encouraged to show their support of literacy by hosting “lunch and write” sessions.
  • Libraries and neighborhood organizations can easily demonstrate their commitment to civic engagement through hosting a CityWrite session.
  • Schools and universities can promote their support of engaged and immersive learning by incorporating CityWrite writing prompts within lesson plans and classroom activities.
  • Churches and support groups can empower personal agency by helping to document written history and stories.

Regardless of the size or type of business or organization, everyone is able to make a unique and significant contribution to CityWrite. We will work to tailor each session to fit best within the site environment.

These writings will not only contribute to a larger Indianapolis conversation, but they will also provide invaluable history, stories, ideas and information to individual sites. Organizations who host a CityWrite site are able to retain copies of the writing produced during their CityWrite session (with the author’s permission), and previous CityWrite site hosts have found these honest perspectives to be extremely helpful in evaluating their community relations efforts.

What Does it Cost? What Do I Need to Do?

Hosting a CityWrite site costs nothing. Sites need simply to provide a space to host a writing session and help encourage participation within CityWrite through social media and provided promotional material. CityWrite will provide trained facilitators to conduct the writing sessions.  To host a CityWrite writing site, provide your contact information here or contact Mark Latta (mlatta@marian.edu) or Darolyn “Lyn” Jones (ljones2@bsu.edu).

We’d Like to Participate—Can We Offer Suggestions for Writing Prompts?

The prompts for the individual writings are based around themes for each site such as food, events, memories, books, and so on. We encourage writers to tell their stories and voice opinions about specific places and times. While we’ll have general CityWrite writing prompts to help get ideas flowing out onto paper, we’re also happy to work with sites in developing site-specific prompts. Many sites have found that asking about memories and stories related to their organization provides them with a greater understanding of their role within the community and offers a chance for the public to provide honest and invaluable responses. CityWrite is committed to capturing stories and memories that speak to an authentic truth of the writer. Therefore, we will not censor writings and request that each site also commit to open and honest writing.

What Happens During a CityWrite Session?

Most sessions last from 60-120 minutes. During the session, one of the site facilitators will briefly explain the purpose of CityWrite, address common writing myths, encourage honest and vivid writing, and then proceed through 3-6 writing prompts. Depending on the size and location of the writing site, facilitators may also encourage read-alouds and the sharing of written works.

CityWrite facilitators focus more on “authenticity” and “voice” rather than technique or style. While facilitators will respond to writing, they will not focus on grammar, spelling or mechanics. In fact, CityWrite facilitators are trained to encourage writing in any manner regardless of language—if someone would rather tell a story in pictures, that’s encouraged as well.   If people can’t write, we’ll write for them by providing transcribers to capture their stories and memories.

Before specific writing prompts are delivered, facilitators will guide participants through idea generation exercises. These include listing of memories (“I Remember…”), events, holidays, neighborhood issues, or emotions connected to time and place. Then, facilitators will encourage written responses to a series of directed prompts (“My First House In Indianapolis,” “The One Thing People Need to Know is…,” “If I Were Mayor…,” “The Time When My Community Came Together”). Participants will usually have 10-20 minutes to respond to each writing prompt.


Is This Like an English Class?


In fact, CityWrite sessions generally feel like the opposite of an English class. We have nothing against English instruction (in fact, many of those involved in CityWrite including the creators are English teachers), but English classes and CityWrite sessions have different purposes. No one is evaluated during a CityWrite session. Grading does not take place, and no one is penalized. Everyone, regardless of ability or background, is encouraged to participate in whatever language they are most comfortable with because they hold a unique perspective and a unique story—we want them to tell those stories and share those experiences in whatever manner they are most comfortable. CityWrite sessions treat each writing as an authentic representation of a place and time—there is nothing to “correct,” only to validate and accept. To some, this may sound as if CityWrite encourages shallow writing rife with mistakes. To the contrary, however, once people experience writing without pressure, they then begin to want to become better writers and engage in self-correction.

Many facilitators and participants have reported that participating in a CityWrite session has enabled them to see they do have something important to say and knowing that someone wants to hear it serves as a powerful literacy lesson.

How Can Individuals Support CityWrite?

We need volunteers to serve as site facilitators. The 2013 CityWrite will require roughly 100 volunteers. Facilitators are trained through a two-hour training session (dates to be determined). To volunteer, please contact Mark Latta (mlatta@marian.edu) or Darolyn “Lyn” Jones (ljones2@bsu.edu).

We also encourage individuals to get involved in the planning of the 2013 CityWrite. CityWrite should be a community-wide initiative, and we desire public input in planning the next city-wide writing project. An organizational meeting for CityWrite will take place on Tuesday, July 16, at Marian University in room MH206 (Marian Hall) from 6-8pm.  Those interested in assisting in planning the next CityWrite are encouraged to attend. To RSVP, please contact Mark Latta at mlatta@marian.edu.

Who Sponsors CityWrite?

While we are still securing CityWrite sponsors for 2013, past sponsors include The Indianapolis Public Library, IndyReads, Second Story, Indiana Writers’ Center, The Hoosier Writing Project, Big Car Service Center, Marian University Writing Center, and the IUPUI Writing Program.

I’d Like to Sponsor CityWrite—How Do I Become a Sponsor?

Please contact Mark Latta (mlatta@marian.edu) or Darolyn “Lyn” Jones (ljones2@bsu.edu) to learn more about sponsorship opportunities.

What Does CityWrite Do With the Writings?

Provided that participants are willing to sign a release form, CityWrite scans and digitally archives them on its website at citywriteindy.org. We are currently in the process of uploading the writings from the 2012 CityWrite. All writings created through CityWrite will remain freely and publicly available to anyone.

Future plans call for a printed anthology of CityWrite stories and memoirs in 2014 as well as the creation of lesson plans and teacher resources to encourage the incorporation of community literacy texts within education.

Who Created CityWrite?

This project is the vision of Mark Latta and Darolyn “Lyn” Jones and is the result of a collaborative partnership between numerous Indianapolis organizations and volunteers.


As a representative of the great city of Indianapolis, please accept this personal invitation for you and your family to participate in this important event. Writing is extremely important in the progression and history of Indianapolis. Before the Internet, cameras, and cell phones, there was the simple, unadulterated art of the written word. CityWrite is an effort to encourage this skill as a necessity of civic engagement and individual empowerment. Having your support in this endeavor would be much appreciated, and we invite you to join us in writing a city and demonstrate the power of the written word.


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