The sunlight-soaked space of the Detroit Writing Room, an entrepreneurial endeavor launched in June of 2019 by wife and husband team Stephanie Steinberg and Jake Serwer, is quiet and empty during these pandemic months. But now that many are finding the time to get their creative juices going during quarantine, Steinberg and her team of accomplished writing coaches have never been busier, virtually guiding those who are curious about starting a podcast, who will finally pen that long pent-up novel, or need just the right branding for their business concept. Throw in a few poetry slams and children's book author readings, and Steinberg has crafted the coziest virtual spot for all things literary in Detroit.
University of Michigan alumni Steinberg and Serwer met while living and working in Washington D.C. In 2016, they returned to the area, where Steinberg landed a job as a feature reporter at The Detroit News and Serwer founded Espresso Public Relations.
“I kept writing about people who were opening up new businesses in Detroit,” said Steinberg, who lamented that during her 2015 book tour for In the Name of Editorial Freedom: 125 Years at the Michigan Daily, there was no downtown Detroit literary hotspot for book lovers and authors.
“Jake and I decided we wanted to be a part of this transformation. As part of Detroit’s comeback, we thought there needs to be a workspace for the creative and literary community to meet and mingle.”
They found a spot in downtown Detroit close to restaurants and bars where job seekers could get help on sprucing up a resume or pull up a chair at the side of a writing coach to plan out a work of fiction or non-fiction, and moved into an apartment across the street. Now, they live in Birmingham, where they enjoy taking walks in the neighborhood with their Goldendoodle puppy. Steinberg is also a contributing editor for U.S. News and World Report, where for five years she held writing and editing beats in health and finance.
Through a non-profit initiative called Coaching Detroit Forward, the DWR this summer provided an online journalism camp to qualified high school journalists not only from Detroit but also New York, Florida, Georgia, and Texas.
Students shared stories from a turbulent spring and summer as they covered protests for racial justice and documented how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their lives and communities. To Steinberg, the students' demonstrated interest and passion for reporting and photojournalism is proof that despite the economic battering the industry has taken, journalism still matters.
"This camp exposed students to what good journalism can do," Steinberg said. "Now more than ever, we need to train young journalists to go into their communities and report back on what is going on there. The upcoming generations are not just standing idly by. They want to make a change, and some want to make a change through their writing and storytelling skills."
Steinberg is not sure when or even if the physical DWR will open again, even as she launched the virtual opening of the New York Writing Room, boasting writing coaches with bylines in the New York Times and Sports Illustrated, among other publications.
“I would love to someday again fill the space with people for all kinds of classes and events,” said Steinberg. “But for now, the DWR will continue virtually. Because no matter what field you are in, from marketing to law to medicine, there will always be a need for learning how to communicate and write a great story.”
Photo: VPG Photography