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After 10 years, Downtown Writer's Center plans expansion

The YMCA is well known for its athletics and the many sports programs in place to keep people active. But there is an artistic side to the Y, and it comes in the form of The Downtown Writer's Center, a program unique to Syracuse.

This year, the DWC celebrates it's 10th anniversary, and to kick off its second decade there are some major changes in the works.

What is it, anyway?

Founded in 2001 by Philip Memmer, the Downtown Writer's Center is a community room for the literary arts.

Each year many creative writing workshops and reading series are set up for students, ranging from fiction and poetry writing to graphic novel and non-fiction writing workshops.

The students at the DWC come from diverse backgrounds and experiences -- police officers, EMT's, teachers, stay-at-home moms and empty nesters have all ventured to the DWC at some point.

"A dangerous thing in any kind of workshop setting can be a class where pretty much everyone is all the same, all trying to do the same sort of writing and all coming from a similar background," said Memmer, executive director of the Arts Branch of the YMCA of Greater Syracuse. "You're going to get a lot of the same sort of feedback."

Going PRO

Two years ago, the DWC PRO Program for fiction and poetry writers was created, offering a two-year intensive certificate program similar to an MFA at a university at a fraction of the cost.

When Jessica Cuello, a Syracuse native and Nottingham High School graduate, read about the DWC PRO, it seemed like destiny. Within two years of being back in Syracuse she joined the DWC PRO Program.

"I love Syracuse. To me the DWC is emblematic of the best of Syracuse. It's very down to earth, it's kind of rough around the edges, it's a little gritty, which to me is a part of its charm," Cuello said. "There's nothing glamorous or hip about it, everyone is there for the love of the art."

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