What’s Going On in the Back of Writer’s Block Book Shop

Photo by Jon Estrada

Photo by Jon Estrada

Writer’s Block Book Shop leads a modest double life. The front of the Downtown store is, of course, devoted to a well-curated selection of new books. But in the back of the shop, through an unassuming door, lies the Codex—a versatile classroom and workspace where the Valley’s kids are learning creative writing from a volunteer group of local experts. Writer’s Block co-owner Scott Seeley reveals Codex’s secrets.

What goes on in here? Are you really teaching kids to write fiction?

Yep. It’s primarily been free writing workshops for students ages 5 through high school. These are project-based workshops, meaning it involves writing in some form, but beyond that, it will always end in a product of some kind. It might be a book. Another time, the kids wrote songs and recorded them across the street at National Southwestern (recording studio). Another group wrote screenplays that some UNLV film students are turning into short films. Starting in the fall, we’ll be offering field trips here, primarily for public schools.

What inspired you to do this? Is it because creative writing has largely fallen out of the new Common Core being taught in public schools?

Maybe. These days, when kids do writing in school, more often than not it’s very assignment-based. They do an essay or write a story, but it’s kind of abstract. At best, it ends up on grandma’s refrigerator or something. Here, it’s going to become a book. It makes it more fun and inspiring for them to see that process played all the way through, as opposed to, “Did I get an A, B, C or whatever on this assignment?”

How would you describe the Codex environment and the volunteer instructors?

The nice part is that the volunteers who teach the workshops, and the staff members who teach them, are in T-shirts and jeans. It’s not a formal atmosphere. Most of us are creative; we’re writers and artists ourselves, and the majority of our volunteers fall into those categories as well. At the very least, we’re all excited about art and about writing. That enthusiasm comes through.