Writers Write (and write and write...)

Several dozen Rowan University writers take to a keyboard and crank out copy for 24 hours straight.

In a nod to the old-fashioned dance marathons (maybe you should ask your grandparents) several dozen Rowan University writers took turns at a keyboard and cranked out copy for 24 hours straight October 19-20.

Meeting in the Writing Center on the fourth floor of Campbell Library, the writers gathered to participate in the National Day on Writing - a coast-to-coast celebration of the craft. Their work, combined with articles, stories, poems, emails, even Tweets from across America, will be included in the National Gallery of Writing, a vast online collection of work.

At Rowan, many of the writers (the vast majority of them students) wrote around the theme of dreams - recalling and interpreting experiences that are at once universal and highly personal.

"For me it was a free writing kind of thing," said Steve Harbold, 29, of Vineland, a second year student in the Writing Arts graduate program. "I wrote about a dream about (poet) Billy Collins and also about a Salvadore Dali painting."

Harbold, who serves as a writing consultant at the center, was among several students who staffed the marathon for the duration - from 8 p.m. Monday through 8 p.m. Tuesday.

"It was a good experience," he said. "We were talking and writing and talking and writing."

Another all-nighter, senior Loralynne Yost of Bellmawr, said a big part of the fun was just hanging out all night with other writers.

"I'm a night owl so I stay up anyway," said Yost, 28, a history major with a writing arts minor who plans on attending law school next fall.

Yost, who worked the overnight hours after another marathon - a long drive from North Carolina to take part in the event - said she felt a bit loopy by the time she sat down to actually write.

"I wrote about a dream sequence in which I got into an accident (driving back north) but the accident led to inner peace," she said.

Jackie Cassidy, another second year Writing Arts graduate student, fueled her marathon with lots and lots of coffee.

"It was great fun," said Cassidy, 23, of Glassboro. "The night became progressively more hilarious the more tired we became."

Around 4 p.m. Tuesday the center actually embodied the low-burning embers of a fading party. Multi-colored streamers hung from the ceiling, there were snacks and beverages on a folding table, but once-festive balloons lay dull and leathery, their best hours behind them.

Writing Center director Deb Martin, an associate professor in the Department of Writing Arts, said the first annual marathon helped promote the main function of the center - to provide guidance and support to campus writers from all disciplines.

"Our mission is to promote writing and raise the profile of writing across the university," she said.

She said there are 370 majors in the undergraduate writing arts program.

The Writing Center has about a dozen staff members, many of them Writing Arts graduate students, who serve as writing consultants to the Rowan community.

Students and faculty may schedule free half-hour sessions at the center for feedback and guidance.

Martin said the center moved to the fourth floor of Campbell this year and serves students and faculty with a simple, important goal: better, clearer writing.

"We're not a fix-it shop and we're not the grammar police," she said. "Our goal is to help them become better writers."

>> Watch a video about the National Day on Writing on YouTube <<