Campus Ministry keeps Newman’s creative spirit alive through short story project

May 07, 2020

Staff, students and faculty of Newman University take great pride in their creative spirit, and an ongoing project from Campus Ministry is living proof of that. 

Located on the website The Virtual Red Couch, there is a continuously growing story written by members of the Newman community.

The project was engineered and spearheaded by Father Adam Grelinger, Newman University chaplain, who “thought it would be fun to create something during the pandemic.”

Grelinger said, “When it is completed, I hope to have it compiled and printed as a book to put on a shelf as a way to remember how we spent the stay-at-home days. We’ll probably forget the shows we watched and the push-up challenges we completed. This will hopefully be a cool little thing we can point to and show that the pandemic couldn’t curtail our communal creative spirit.”

Emily Simon, assistant director of Campus Ministry, explained how they gathered a team of writers.

“We put out a call on social media for any interested writers on the Newman campus and we put together a pretty awesome team of nine students, alumni and staff. I can’t speak for the whole team, but I think myself and Father Adam have both appreciated the chance to tackle this kind of interesting project.”

She then presented a synopsis of the plot, at least, what is known so far: “The adventure follows three siblings: Emma, Daniel, and James as they find and explore a fantasy world hidden above their favorite bookstore. The latest chapter introduced a bit of a twist in that the characters our siblings had trusted in their search for the missing youngest brother may not be so trustworthy after all.”

The story continues to evolve in a truly unique and brilliant way, as each chapter is told in a different voice, one chapter at a time, posted weekly.

“I was tasked with writing the first chapter. We didn’t have a specific prompt in mind except for something along the lines of a lighthearted adventure. But otherwise, the team trusted me to start with a blank slate.”

All the writers have loved playing a part in the project, and each of them admires the creativity of their colleagues.

“Emily did a wonderful job with the first chapter,” Grelinger began, “getting us set up for a wild, imaginative adventure. I have truly been excited each week to see what happens next. However, the pressure was on when it was my turn. I’ve never really written a story before, so it was a fun new challenge to think about how to express actions, thoughts and feelings while trying to tell an interesting story. It definitely increased my appreciation for great writers and stories because it is no easy task.”

On the matter of appreciating literature, Simon expressed the attention that the story is beginning to draw.

“I do have a friend and alumna of Newman who surprised me the other day by expressing her appreciation of and interest in the short story. So I’m sure we don’t have a huge fanbase, but I’d say we have a couple of people in the community who check back each Monday for the next installment.”

Both Grelinger and Simon are delighted with how well the story — and website in general — are doing. 

“I think we’ll keep the blog portion of The Virtual Red Couch up and running throughout the summer,” Simon informed. “So if any staff, faculty, students or alumni have something they’d like to share, they’re always welcome to email content to myself or Father Adam.”

Grelinger, too, had a humble request as a call-to-action for other talented artists of the community.

“If there is anyone out there who would like to make some art for the book, that’d be cool.”

To catch up on previous chapters and watch for new installments, visit the Campus Ministry website.