When Michael Khandelwal started The Muse Writers Center, he expected it to gain popularity because, as he says, "Writing is cool." Now 10 years later, the center is more popular than ever—they've more than quadrupled the number of classes offered, they've obtained one of the largest poetry libraries in the country, and now they've relocated from Norfolk's Chelsea District to a spiffy new center at The Ghent Market Shops.
The Muse began as a place for writers to network and improve their writing, "but also improve their lives in some ways," Khandelwal says. "It offers an opportunity to people who haven't been able to express their voice."
Today, the vision is still the same, but the atmosphere has upgraded. The new location features five large classrooms, two quiet areas for writers to work, office space, a kitchen, a library and an auditorium to host teen open mic nights and other events. "I think this is a beautiful space," Khandelwal says, gazing around the center. "It's still shocking for me to walk in."
The classes offered have also expanded significantly. What started as 15 classes in the organization's humble beginnings has now grown to 72, with focuses in journaling, poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction, memoir, blogs/websites, comedy, film studies, songwriting and many more. There are also classes available for kids and teen writers.
The Muse's grand re-opening took place in January with a celebration of nearly 1,000 attendees made up of students, teachers and supporters. It's the sort of community Khandelwal says he'd envisioned forming around The Muse from the beginning. "I've been very heartened by the response," he says. "It's better than I could have expected."