The Heart & Soul of TWC: A Profile of Sunil Freeman
by Jason DeYoung
Though he wasn’t there at The Writer’s Center’s (TWC) founding, Sunil Freeman has been with the organization longer than any other staff member—26 years! He is often described as TWC’s “institutional memory.” Hard working, modest, and giving, Sunil is perhaps the quintessence of TWC.
Sunil has lived most of his life in Maryland, but spent some years in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and India as a child. He graduated from University of Maryland, College Park,
in 1978. While there, he majored in journalism and wrote for The Diamondback, the university’s newspaper. He started taking workshops at TWC in 1985 and was hired in 1986.
When I asked him how he found out about the Center, he said his Aunt Grace (who later became the Poet Laureate of South Carolina) gently encouraged him to take a workshop after reading some of his poems. Sunil found TWC through word-of-mouth and he started taking workshops,
first with such legendary workshop leaders as Ann Darr and Rod Jellema, and then later with the wonderfully talented William O’Sullivan and Cathy Fink. Sunil says in The Writer’s Center he “found people who were serious about writing, but who didn’t take themselves too seriously.”
Sunil’s publications include two books of poems, Surreal Freedom Blues (1999) and That Would Explain the Violinist (1993), and numerous poems, essays, and reviews in various literary journals.
Sunil is currently TWC’s assistant director, in charge of off-site workshops at satellite venues and the Open Door Reading Series, which he calls the “celebration” of the hard work that goes on at TWC. He also oversees TWC’s special projects, such as the NEA-funded “Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience.” Over the years he has been the managing editor of Poet Lore, the bookstore manager, and the programs director. “But I was first hired
to do phototypesetting of literary journals and books.”
Sunil says what he likes best about working at TWC is the interaction with the workshop leaders. “They are the heart and soul of TWC. They are such a talented, accomplished group of people and that’s a honor to work with them.”
It’s hard to tease Sunil and TWC apart. While talking to him, you learn that an important part of his character is the sense of accomplishment he gets from helping lead this well-oiled organization. He is particularly proud of inviting Stanley Plumly and Robert Bausch to lead workshops.
When I asked him what people don’t know about TWC, he said, “I think of just how much work goes on behind the scenes to make things run smoothly. I think an apt comparison is what you sometimes hear about musicians. There are very talented guitarists who make their playing
look like it’s effortless, when in fact there’s a good deal of work that goes into it. There are a lot of conversations, emails, and thinking that take place behind the scenes [at TWC] to ensure that workshop participants, and those attending events, are able to focus on the writing.” ¶
This profile was originally published in the summer 2012 Workshop & Event Guide.
Jason DeYoung is a former Writer’s Center staff member and Managing Editor of Poet Lore. His fiction has appeared most recently in The Los Angeles Review, The Fiddleback, New Orleans Review, and Harpur Palate. His fiction will also appear in the forthcoming 2012 edition of The Best American Mystery Stories. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
photos by: Genevieve DeLeon (Freeman); Ann Compton (DeYoung)