The Writers Studio is a mysterious piece of Princetoniana about which most students have never heard. No one seems to quite know what it is, but it has quietly served as a secluded nook for those in the know to study and work quietly, with a cozier atmosphere than a typical library. Hidden away on the third floor of Blair Hall, the Writers Studio serves as an enclave for writers and poets, as well as any student seeking an alternative study space.
Mathey College subsidizes the organization, which means it is consistently stocked with coffee, tea, snacks and literary magazines from The Atlanticto The New Yorker. The studio is furnished with standard desks and chairs as well, as a cozy nook — complete with a recliner, plenty of pillows and a plush white area rug.
“Everyone thinks you have to be a writer to come to the Writers Studio, but it’s really not a space that’s reserved for poets or novel writers. It’s just a study space,” Studio co-director Luke Hamel ’16 said.
The Writers Studio was founded in 2010 by Amelia Worsley GS, Maria Cury ’12 and Mirabella Mitchell ’13, according to its Facebook page. Although the exact history of the space remains unknown, the current directors speculate that the room was originally a single within the dorm when the tower of Blair Hall still housed undergraduate students. While most of the rooms in the tower were converted into offices or classrooms, the room the Writers Studio now occupies remained unchanged.
Currently, co-student directors Hamel and Terry O’Shea ’16 manage the studio space. Orlando Reade GS also helps supervise the operations of the group in his capacity as a resident graduate student at Mathey College. The Writers Studio depends on student volunteers to staff the room and serve as custodians of the space—essentially librarians—while students are studying inside.
O’Shea is associate opinion editor for cartoons for The Daily Princetonian.
“Most nights I’m in there, it’s just me. But some nights, a small group of two or three other people will come in, and I’ve seen nights where five or six people pack themselves in there. That’s about capacity for us,” Hamel said.
One of the custodians opens the Studio every night at 8 p.m. and closes the space a few hours later — the earliest the Studio will ever close is 10:30 p.m., but closing time usually varies from 11 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. depending on the night and the occupants. During intensive study periods, such as the days immediately preceding Dean’s Date, the Writers Studio is open almost all night.
While the Writers Studio is open to students of all fields, it lives up to its name by hosting various literary events — journal launch parties, book signings and writing workshops. On Oct. 14, the Studio will partner with the University’s Council of the Humanities, the Peter S. Firestone Society and the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies to host a dinner discussion on creative writing and social justice.
The discussion will feature guest speakers Adrianne Kalfopoulou, a poet and cultural and political blogger, as well as Eliza Griswold ’95. Griswold’s non-fiction book, “The Tenth Parallel,” received recognition as a New York Times Bestseller and the recipient of the Anthony J. Lukas prize after its publication in 2010. Her most recent work, “I am the Beggar of the World,” is a collection of Afghan folk poems, known as landays that have persisted through oral tradition, that she has translated into English.
“[We’re interested in] involving creative writers and hearing about their work,” Reade said of the upcoming events the Studio is planning. “I’m hoping that we’ll be able to bring some exciting young and unfamiliar names to campus—people that might not have been invited otherwise.”
While the Studio’s obscurity and small attendance are conducive to a productive study environment, they do limit accessibility for new students to discover the space.For now, the directors largely publicize open hours and events through mass emails sent to residential college listservs.
“Once we have real events and a regular schedule, I want to start advertising us with posters, but we’re not there yet,” Hamel said.
The Writers Studio is an often overlooked study space that is a great option for students seeking a more private environment to study alone or with a few friends, or to come and relax by browsing the bookshelves and enjoying a hot mug of tea.
Regardless of future events or publicity campaigns, the Writers Studio currently remains a cozy study space just waiting to be found by students wandering through the area.
“I found out about the Studio because I lived on the third floor of Blair during my freshman year,” O’Shea said. “One night, I meandered over to the end of the hallway, through a door, up a few steps, through a door, through another door, and there it was — like a mirage.”