Website eases writers’ woes

By Amanda Murphy

Some people never really leave college, while others depart the physical campus but never really outgrow their bad habits. But Joseph Roza and Alex Boston took their best college experiences and put them on a website.

Roza and Boston launched in August 2011. The website, named after the Italian word “scrivo,” meaning to write, acts as a social network to help connect writers and promotes the use of peer editing. The two took the constructive writing community they experienced while attending the University of Iowa and have since spread it around the Iowa and Chicago areas, encouraging writers of every kind to share, collaborate and, in turn, become stronger, more successful correspondents.

“We missed having that type of creative community and people to share our writing with,” Boston said. “So we started thinking of ways we could use the Internet to build something and recreate the workshop experience.”

The idea came when the two graduated from the English program, enthusiastic about what they had learned and wanting other writers to experience that environment. The world of peer editing can be difficult, Roza said, when it comes to mailing notes back and forth or using tools like track changes.

Roza said their first business expense was a big writing pad, where they would write down and bounce around multiple ideas for the site. The end result features multiple components, including a line-by-line feedback system and the ability to create a workshop-like environment for the writers who join. It also features a free writing aspect that gives members the ability to write anywhere and anytime the mood strikes instead of losing it to the abyss of forgetfulness.

The site encourages community writing, and users can collaborate and work together on one or multiple projects. Roza and Boston listen to feedback from the users when it comes to enhancing and adding to the site, resulting in a constantly improving tool.

“We wanted to distill the things we enjoyed when working in the Iowa City community and academic environment and translate it into something that would work online,” Boston said.

He added that he highly emphasizes peer review but acknowledged the important relationship between a professional editor and a writer. Boston said a more professional atmosphere can become disconcerting for writers, but creating a positive environment of two people who are in the same situation can be not only refreshing but also more helpful in some situations.

“It’s a more friendly relationship, I think,” Boston said. “It’s about trying to create a relationship with someone else who is trying their hand at writing. It isn’t someone up on a pedestal telling you what you can and can’t do.”

The result is a site that has seen steady growth since its launch more than four months ago as an active literary community utilizes it. Still in its early stages, Xrivo has more than 150 users, with the numbers growing rapidly in the last month. The site has also attracted academic interest, including a proposal by Columbia College

English professor Jeff Schiff, who contacted Boston and Roza about using it in his classroom. Currently focusing on the Midwest, they said they would love to see the site become a national resource. In the meantime, Chicago writers share an advantage to build a strong and connected creative writing community.

“When I was in high school people, told me to not pursue writing because I could never make a living that way,” Boston said. “It’s about finding people who will encourage you, who will work with you and who will make you feel like you’re refining your work and growing in some way.”

To learn more about the website or to start a membership, visit