A group for writers and storytellers, Ana McCracken launches Ames Writers Collective

Ronna Faaborg
Ames Tribune
Ana McCracken, the founder of Ames Writers Collective, poses with the books at Dog-Eared Books Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Ames, Iowa.

Author Ana McCracken saw a need in the Ames community for a support network for writers — a group where writers and storytellers can study outside of academic settings. She decided to fill that need by founding the Ames Writers Collective.

The organization celebrates its kickoff with “Words Meet Art,” an event Thursday evening at the Octagon Center for the Arts.

As she pursued her Master of Fine Arts at Iowa State, McCracken taught at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) as part of her program.

“That’s where I found this underground of people who really want to write. They don’t necessarily have the world’s greatest aspirations, but writing is important to them. Many want to write stories for their grandkids,” she said. “So I decided to design a writing center.”

That idea for a writing center has grown to the Ames Writers Collective, “which is intended for the non-traditional writing student,” McCracken said. “I’m an example of a non-traditional writer. I have studied with best-selling authors and writers all over the country outside of academic settings.

“Ames needs a place like the AWC. A place to either write just because someone wants to write or a place to go to learn about writing and set goals. A place to be exposed.”

Earlier this month, the Ames Writers Collective became a legal entity with a filing for nonprofit status.

The collective is also an opportunity for writers to congregate and support each other, she said, and a place for published authors and writing teachers to offer their expertise.

The mission of the Ames Writers Collective is to bring together “writers and readers of diverse ages and cultural backgrounds to celebrate the essential art of the written and spoken word,” McCracken shared in an email. “Talented and committed working writers and authors teach and empower people of all skill levels to bring their stories to life. We foster conversation across cultural divides, building and uplifting communities through the art of storytelling while advancing the literary arts in Ames, Iowa.”

'Words Meet Art' event to feature work of 10 writers

McCracken herself is a published author whose work has appeared in the California Writers Club’s Literary Review, the anthologies “Nothing But The Truth So Help Me God — 51 Women Reveal the Power of Positive Female Connection” and “Chicken Soup for the Soul — The Joy of Adoption.”

Her poetry has been featured at Telepoem Booth Iowa.

When she lived in Hawaii, McCracken was a columnist and editor for Maui Vision magazine, and her essays and articles have appeared in various publications in the San Francisco Bay area.

Also a photo essayist, McCracken has a deep appreciation of visual art, and the event she planned to kick off the Ames Writers Collective, the Words Meet Art event Thursday, is indicative of that. 

"Words Meet Art" is the first event for the Ames Writers Collective.

The program for the evening will feature readings by 10 writers who were selected from a pool of more than 20 applications.

Forty-eight hours before the program, McCracken will send each of the 10 selected writers a different image of artwork from the current Octagon exhibit. Each participant will write something inspired by the image they receive, and they will read their work starting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, after a reception that will start at 6 p.m.

The writers selected for the event are Tina Bakehouse, Andrea Dorn, Leslie Kim, David Lee, A’Ja Lyons, Elaine Mattingly, Donna Moyer, Jane Robinette, Alisha Sauer and kat blue.

Thursday's event is the first for the Ames Writers Collective. For the Octagon, it’s the last event in its Image & Text exhibit event series.

“Several of our board members and I will make the official community announcement (of the collective),” McCracken said.

Ames Writers Collective board members:

  • Jennifer Brockpahler, director of the Ames Community Arts Council 
  • Jennifer Drinkwater, Extension community art specialist and associate professor in the Department of Art and Visual Culture at Iowa State
  • Ellyn Grimm, co-owner of Dog-Eared Books
  • Anna Magnusson, executive director of AbleUp Iowa and host of Heart2Heart Messages, an hour-long show on KHOI on Tuesday evenings
  • Ana McCracken, Founder and President, Ames Writers Collective
  • Mikesch Muecke, associate professor of architecture at Iowa State and chief editor of Culicidae Press, an Ames-based publishing house.

The public is welcome to attend this free event at the Octagon Center for the Arts, 427 Douglas Ave. For those who are unable to attend, the event will be available on YouTube at tinyurl.com/X92SEP5V.