Hub City Writers Project executive director Betsy Teter fills a niche
FDR would be so proud.
About 17 years ago, three writers in Spartanburg decided to create an organization based on President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s idea called the Federal Writers’ Project, enacted to put 6,000 writers back to work during the Great Depression. Betsy Teter felt Spartanburg could benefit from a similar incentive: “We felt like the community could do more to appreciate its assets, its culture, and its history,” says Teter, who, along with journalist Gary Henderson and Wofford University professor and author John Lane (her future husband), founded the Hub City Writers Project in 1995, based in Spartanburg.
The kick-off party, pegged to their self-published Hub City Anthology, an original collection of personal essays written by local writers about the experience of living in Spartanburg, was in a decrepit train station, which was a fitting backdrop. Teter explains, “The name ‘Hub City’ goes back to the late 1800s when Spartanburg was a very ambitious place and laid all the railroads here that made the city prosper.”
The city decided shortly thereafter to renovate the train station. We were building a community of writers, but at the same time it was our mission to community-build, as well—to make this a stronger community focused on things that mattered,” she says.
Teter comes from a family with three generations in the car-dealership business, but words were always the industry where she felt most at home. After attending Spartanburg Day School, she majored in English and history at Wake Forest University then jumped into the newspaper business for 15 years before launching the Writers Project, for which she is the executive director. Two years ago, the Hub City Press became another tentacle, expanding the reach of this literary community as an independent and nonprofit press with its own bookstore. The Writers Project has published 400 writers and has a budget of $450,000—not bad for an idea that started over coffee those many years ago.
Just recently, a literary agent who had been living in Ohio called Teter to say she had moved to Spartanburg. When Teter asked why, the woman said she had heard about the Hub City Writers Project and began following it on Facebook. “She said Spartanburg looks like a literary town, so I decided to just move here,” says Teter. “I thought, wow, that’s a pretty good sign that we’re shaking things up for the better.” A novel idea if there was one.