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Unfinished writing projects welcomed at Republic of Letters in Geneva

'Dedicated to the literary arts'

GENEVA – Among the commercial tenants of Geneva on the Dam is a haven for writers, The Republic of Letters, 1 W. State St., Suite 103, Geneva.

It is billed as “an enchanting space dedicated to the literary arts,” according to its website,

“The Republic of Letters is a literary center, used bookstore, and publisher," according to the website. "We believe in writing, reading, and critical dialogue. We offer writing classes, discussion groups, editing services, and author events. ... … We're a writer's bookshop. We help people write books.”

Run by husband and wife Ryan Block and Cathy Borders of St. Charles, the nonprofit offers help for writers and classes.

Both have master of fine arts degrees in creative writing from the New School University in New York City.

They started the nonprofit to help people write their books and to get their books published, Borders, 36, said.

“Unfortunately, two writers falling in love – we can’t make any money,” Borders said. "We just found – through the publishing world – that it is very hard to make a living writing. Few make it to the top. We wanted to open up a space that was more about the process of writing."

Block would only describe his past work as “odd jobs” while Borders has run after-school programs and just became co-director of the reading series for Waterline Writers, part of the Water Street Studios in Batavia.

Block, 39, said one of their philosophies is that publication is the least important and least interesting part of the process.

“We are about process and about composition,” Block said. “We have been very, very delightfully surprised as we suspected how many projects there were out there that people have cooking. … There’s a tremendous amount of people who have projects that are basically private that they may have started, written or finished but it stays in the drawer. We are trying to draw those projects out.”

While publishing may be a final goal for many writers, others just want to get the process down.

“If they have a project that they are working on and want any kind of help with it, we are the place to go,” Block said.

At the moment, Borders is reading a 700-page manuscript for one of a half-dozen clients The Republic of Letters has taken on since it opened in March.

While the first consultation is free, there is a cost to its editing services, but at nonprofit rates, Block said.

Classes run the gamut from how environment affects writing to workshops on poetry.

The community has not only embraced The Republic of Letters by coming with manuscripts and attending classes, but also by donating more than 1,000 books for the center

As for them personally, Block has published in short stories and academic journals and Borders has published a romance novel “A Suburb of Monogamy" in 2016 and is at work at a second novel.

“The second one is what I honestly write, fantasy and fairy tales,” Borders said.

Borders is originally from St. Charles, having graduated from St. Charles High School before it was split into two campuses. She said after New York, they lived in Minnesota and Evanston before coming to the Fox Valley.

“We just love Geneva,” Block said. “It’s a wonderful town. Of all the towns in the area, Geneva is our favorite. We like going there the best.”

The Republic of Letters is open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. More information is available by calling 630-360-1902 or online at

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