Thursday, April 1, 2021

What's a "Literary Garden Club"? What do you do?

Two of our Exec Board Members explain what the Garden - and the Club - mean to them. 


by Megan Neeley, Literary Garden Vice-President

Megan collecting postcards for Emily Dickinson's
birthday celebration in Amherst, MA (Dec 2019)
        Normally, a friend asking me to hang out, study, or spend time together would prompt me to say, “Sorry, I have swim practice.” However, once a week, I was able to say, “I’ve got a Literary Garden Club meeting.” This would usually lead to me trying to convince them to join us, but most are so unaware of how impactful the Literary Garden is, that they would just call me a nerd and walk away too quickly for me to respond.

I would have responded with a long list of how the garden has impacted me in ways no one could have imagined. Yes, it has enhanced my educational experience. Yes, it has given me a second family. Yes, it is a therapeutic experience to be in the garden. And yes, it has been an amazing club for allowing me, and others, to reach out to the community. But, overall, I have always loved reading, and to see authors physically shown in a garden that I am a small part of, is amazing. I mean, seeing Emily Dickinson’s work represented by the blooming and growing Harrison’s Yellow Rose brings a whole new perspective to how her work has also grown and stayed present in the lives of high school students, today. 

Emily Dickinson's roses, March 2021

“We have Harrison’s Yellow Roses to represent Emily Dickinson, a poet that has never failed to inspire me and my peers with her depictions of hope, love, life, and even death.”

Looking back, Emily Dickinson is how I became so invested in the garden, and the funny thing is, it has come full circle. I have come a long way from being a small freshman joining the club and learning about Emily Dickinson because I am now in and out of college admissions and scholarship interviews. 

Emily Dickinson's roses in full bloom (courtesy of Dr. Jane Eberwein, distinguished professor of English, emerita, Oakland University, and internationally renowned Dickinson scholar)

Matching boots!
    The one thing that is always consistent in these conversations is the fact that they glance over my resume and never fail to ask me about the Literary Garden. A lot of them have no idea what this could be, but by the time I finish explaining it, they all have forgotten their other run-of-the-mill questions, and are expressing how much they wished their high school had had something like this. Or, they ask me what an example of a plant is for an author, almost as if they do not believe I would know, or as if they think I simply overexaggerated the impact this club has had on me. This is where it has come full circle because I never fail to say that “we have Harrison’s Yellow Rose representing Emily Dickinson, a poet that has never failed to inspire me and my peers with her depictions of hope, love, life, and even death.”

Sunflowers for days! (Fall 2020)

So yes, to those that have no idea what this club entails, the Literary Garden Club may seem obsolete in the grand scheme of things, but trust me when I say, there is nothing in my high school experience that has already impacted my life outside of the four walls of WBHS like the Literary Garden has. 

Winter Walk (Feb 2021)

Megan Neeley is a junior at West Bloomfield High School who has applied for early college admission and will be graduating with the class of 2021 this June. She has been a member of the Literary Garden Club since she started at WBHS, and we are cheering her on as she begins this fresh new chapter in her life! We are so grateful for every post she created, every weed she pulled, every idea she's had, every minute she made time for us - Megan is a master of time management, an incredible student-athlete of the highest caliber, and is still one of the first to volunteer to take on a Garden-related project. 

We will miss you, Megan - as Emily Dickinson wrote to Samuel Bowles, "My friends are my 'estate.' Forgive me then the avarice to hoard them!" (ca. 1858 or 1859). 


by Daniel Wisely, Literary Garden Committee Chair

Megan, Dan, and the other LGC students hosted Gerri Chopin Wendel, great-granddaughter of Kate Chopin, known best for her daring early feminist work The Awakening (March, 2020).

Pivot. My least favorite word in that damned dictionary. It's a word that’s been overused to death in the past year. It’s a skill that’s become essential in our ever-changing world. Pivot used to be a Ross Geller reference and although it may lose me some Gen Z street cred, I know Friends quite well. When people say it today, I visualize David Schwimmer yelling at his friends beneath the weight of an oversized couch. We, as a society, are Ross Geller. Shouting commands at each other and just praying that something will work. We’re manifesting a way to get out of our sticky situation. The coronavirus is the couch. Big, heavy, and a royal pain in the butt. It’s become more than we expected it would be. For me, a three-week spring break amid a hectic sophomore year sounded like paradise. Little did I know this couch would continue to break my back over a year later. Despite my loathing for this horrible new concept of pivoting, one thing keeps me grounded: The Literary Garden. 

Fall clean up, 2020

I laugh when people ask me to explain the Lit Garden. How do you explain something that’s one of a kind? You don’t. You can’t. So instead, I flash a grin and say it’s a club at West Bloomfield High School. I note our connection with the Michigan Hemingway Society or list my favorite of the dozens of authors represented within our organization. The problem is…

that’s not Lit Garden. Not to me, at least. 

Poster making for Homecoming, Fall 2019
Hosting Kurt Vonnegut Museum Director of Education Max Goller
at the West Bloomfield Public Library, November 2019.

The Literary Garden is a safe haven. A calm within the storm. It’s getting dirt under your nails while, for the first time in your day, taking a breath. It’s sounding your barbaric yawp in the middle of the woods with a chai tea latte in your hands. It’s screaming questionable song lyrics at the top of your lungs with the people you love most. It’s euphoria and peace and warmth all wrapped up in a bow. 

Winter Walk, Feb 2021

As Uncle Walt said: “I am large. I contain multitudes.” I’m just thankful to be one of the multitudes the Lit Garden has the audacity to accept. I’m honored to live, breathe, laugh, love, and drink overpriced coffee with our lovely garden. 

Haunted Lit Garden, October 2019
Once again I beg you to make no mistake. It’s not a courtyard. It’s not a club. Hell, despite my frequent doubts, it’s more than a bunch of dorky teenagers coming together for an afternoon snack. The Literary Garden is a culture. A lifestyle. A connection to the Earth that will ebb and flow with every brave soul who wishes the opportunity. 

Fall clean up, October 2020

I reckon I don’t know if I’m ready to pivot again any time soon. Knowing myself, there will be some eye-rolling, some rated R words, and stress-induced Starbucks runs. I’m okay with that because one thing always brings me back: my connection to the garden. 

First fall meeting and clean up, September 2020
March 2021 - HOPEFUL!

It was there before I got to West Bloomfield and, assuming I do my part, it will be there long after I’m gone. For now, the garden and I continue to grow together. I sure hope you find a place to grow as unique and welcoming as mine. We’re a lucky bunch, us Lit Garden kids, always growing and exploring together. And if you’re reading this, maybe it's a sign to blossom with us.

Dan Wisely is a junior at West Bloomfield High School who can be seen here taste-testing Pearl Buck's (The Good Earth) West Virginia grapes. It appears we plucked them off of the vine a wee bit too early. Sour grapes indeed. 🍇🤣 Dan and his fellow rising seniors are looking forward to leading the Literary Garden Club next year and are actively looking for interested students to join them on the exec board and, as always, in the Garden. Ms. Tianen (some of you still call her McQ, and that's just fine) can be reached at

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Join the WBHS Literary Garden Club! Fall 2020

 Welcome to the WBHS Literary Garden Club! 

We currently meet in the courtyard on Tuesdays from 2-3 PM - check in at the front doors and don't  forget to wear your mask!

In the past weeks we've been weeding the garden and decorating it for Halloween since so many staff members eat lunch out there. We thought it would boost morale!

As the weather turns colder, we are planning on some Walden Walks in the nature trails to take a much needed break from our devices. We'll connect with nature, sound our barbaric yawps, share some of our own poetry, take pictures, and enjoy some silence. Maybe we'll kick a ball around or find some interesting plants or animals out there. Stay tuned to our social media for the latest!

You can find us on Instagram and Twitter @wbhslitgarden

and on Facebook at West Bloomfield High School Literary Garden (@wbhsliterarygarden)

We can't wait 
to meet you!

Contact Ms. Tianen (McQuillan) 

for more information:


Sunday, August 11, 2019

Welcome to the Garden, Fall 2019

Welcome to the WBHS Literary Garden, Fall 2019
By Literary Garden Club President 
Olivia Cannella, Class of 2020
Olivia takes pictures of the Garden after our August clean up. In the left foreground, guarded by Poe's raven, is the sedge.
The garden means patience to me. I was never a huge reader which then makes it very odd for an abstaining reader, as I was, to join a club about literature let alone subjugate myself to a whole year of reading old American literature in Honors American Literature. It might have taken me 15 years to get there, but that garden was waiting for me. I became enthralled with Edgar Allan Poe's “The Fall of the House of Usher” as the months passed, and I finally stopped making excuses for disliking every book we read. Poe was the first author to take me to visit the garden, to see his sedge. Sure, the garden had been there beforehand, but it was only then that it meant something to me, where I began to savour the time it took for his sedge to grow and his roses to bud. The garden had patience, it knew the plants would bloom when they were meant to and it knew I would arrive (in my own time) when I was meant to see it. I know the last thing I want to do is wait for something to come, but what a better way to teach me the beauty of time than a garden seeped in years of hard labor and tough love. 
Kurt Vonnegut's heart-shaped hydrangea from Cape Cod, MA. 
My goals for the club and the Garden this year are as follows: Increase the following and support the garden has throught the school on a student level and within the community--including the commitment of both. In addition, I want to involve the garden and its people in the daily lives of our students. This would mean hosting events that include the Literary Garden to celebrate it along with share it with others. Many times, kids don't take a second glance at the garden, thinking that "it's just a garden.” This year, I hope to open the door to others so that everyone can feel welcome as a part of the garden even without being a part of the club. Finally, I want to encourage growth at our daughter garden at Doherty Elementary School, the Junior Literary Garden. I know that with the success of the Junior Literary Garden, we will be able to share even more with the community as a whole. As kids, we were shown that a garden can bring a community together with Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. Today, I think two gardens are a great start to do just that. 

The door is open to all!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Hello, Goodbye

Hello, Goodbye
by Mrinalini Gupta, outgoing Literary Garden Committee Chair (Class of 2019)

I would argue that procrastination is one of the fundamentals of the high school experience, and I have definitely procrastinated on writing this blog post. This time, however, it wasn’t for the thrill of cutting it close to the deadline, or even because it was an assignment that I had been dreading. It seemed like an impossible task: to condense into a single blog post the three years of everything the Literary Garden has been to me. 

As I wrote this, I found out that it truly was a Herculean task. How could I convey the passion and support of all the club members who showed up and showed out for the Haunted Literary Garden? They braved rain and mud with bright smiles even as noses ran and feathers drooped, and despite the unfavorable weather, they put together an amazing event. There was no way for me to fully convey all the laughter (I’m still laughing at “Poe-ka,” sweat (“this wasn’t a weed?!”), and tears (seeing  “Mothra” in real life was a pretty gnarly experience) that not only I, but everyone else connected to the Garden have invested in it. I have mulched and weeded and done all sorts of things in the Garden, and while I can’t say collecting a whole molehill’s worth of dirt under your nails counts as a great time, spending all that time in the Garden certainly was. This year we also inaugurated the Junior Literary Garden (much love for the amazing Ms. Bain!) and I could not think of more meaningful legacy to leave behind. 

The Garden has a special, undefinable quality that brings people together, and I’m so glad to have been part of a group of such warm, supportive, genuinely wonderful people. They have taught me the strength of teamwork and the power of caring (and also, fun fact, that those “weeds” are actually little baby sunflowers—oops!). Most of all, being a part of the Garden has shown me that if you only have the courage to dream and the bravery to follow it, you can work wonders. 

It seems only yesterday that I was a tenth grader, sitting under the pear tree and discussing Their Eyes Were Watching God. As the flowers in the Garden start to blossom once again, my time in the Literary Garden draws to a close. However, I know that I will continue to carry the three years’ worth of memories, laughter, and love that I have experienced by being a part of the Literary Garden with me always.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Literary Garden Kick-Off, September 2018

Literary Garden Kick-Off, September 2018
By WBHS Literary Garden Co-President, Jessica Bain

The Literary Garden is a place to relax and learn all at once, this is why we wanted to invite more people to join the club. When Cookies in the Courtyard was just around the corner, we were all thrilled because we wanted to be able to share our love of the garden with other students. With such little time to prepare, we had an amazing outcome. Although the crowd was not huge, we pulled in new members of all different grades. With our kind words and personal experiences on one poster, our social media accounts on another, and a table full of candy and  garden pillows, we managed to have a whole list of new members interested in the Literary Garden Club. 

On top of everything, we were able to come together for the first time as an executive board to represent our love and commitment to the garden. As a board, we decided that our main goal for the year was inclusiveness. Not only are we striving to expand our club, but we are also hoping that the garden gives people a place to be themselves. When asked to describe their experiences in the club, members wrote about how the garden was a place for learning as well as a place to relax, bond, and have a group of people to call another home. It’s unbelievable to believe that the school year is almost here. We are looking forward to all of the activities for the year. 

One of our favorite activities to plan and host is the WBHS Haunted Literary Garden. This is a way to celebrate Halloween with a spooky literary twist, so mark your calendars for Friday, October 12th from 7-10 PM.

We were a little nervous at first about how the garden would be as we had not been able to see it the
ENTIRE summer due to construction. On the bright side, McQ was finally able to access it and was welcomed by a beautiful and overgrown jungle with sunflowers being the center of attention. 

This year is going to be amazing. We hope to grow our garden and the list of authors in it. I am looking forward to an extraordinary year and I am so glad to be able to call the Literary Garden Club my second home, because of course, there is no place like home.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

What the Garden Means to Me

What the Garden Means to Me

By Izzie Matthews, Literary Garden Club Vice President
This obviously is not your ordinary garden, and it isn’t just because it is connected to literature. This garden has been built on passion and love and support and hope, and it has established a community of people who are kind-hearted and understand the amount of work that has gone into the garden to make it possible. It has somehow transformed itself into a safe place, a zone of serenity and peace where everyone can come together and help each other with our everyday lives. This garden is made up of authors and novels, but it is also made up of students and a teacher who have given up their time to educate people and show them how books written hundreds of years ago have topics that are still relevant today. The garden to me is a happy place that holds a different meaning to each member, and I think that is extraordinary.
The Literary Garden Club didn’t even become official until this year, and yet somehow we have the most genuine members I have ever seen. All of us have discussed this before, but it seems as if every member is not here to put the club on resumes for college applications; each member wants to be a part of the club because the garden has spoke to him or her in some way. Personally, the garden has shown me how little things can make such a big impact. A flower can inspire a world-renowned piece of literature just as easily as words you say to another person can make or break their entire existence. It has shown me how to cherish these little things in life and to try and understand how everything, good or bad, has impacted me and my growth throughout high school.
Leaving this club as a senior is bittersweet. Yes, I was a part of the founding class, taking all the surveys and being a part of every discussion. I have helped to build the club to what it is now and I know it has so much potential that I hate to leave it. However, I know for a fact that McQ and the students are full of incredible ideas on how to expand the club, and I am beyond excited to see what they do in the future. This hardworking group can pull off anything they put their minds to, and I am so proud to say I belonged to this club.
So, what does the garden mean to me? The garden means hope and love, it means connecting people through common interests and common struggles. The garden means passion and support, growth and reflection, but most of all, the garden to me means family. I have never been in a club where people have so much love for each other, and the little family we formed is something I will always remember.  
Izzie and Maggie, our fearless leaders, showing off our hardy little Harrison's yellow rosebush.
This beauty originates from Emily Dickinson's home in Amherst, MA, and may date back to the poet's time there.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


by Maggie Liepshutz,
President of the West Bloomfield High School Literary Garden Club
Maggie waters the Emily Dickinson roses.
I remember the day that Mrs. McQuillan introduced the Literary Garden to my sophomore Honors American Literature class. There were definitely mixed reactions; some of us were confused, some were open to the idea, and then there were the students who were absolutely obsessed with the idea, one of those students being myself. I also remember Mrs. McQuillan sharing her ideas with the class, but what I remember the most was the passion and enthusiasm that she felt towards this idea of a garden that would both display nature in literature in a new and unique way, but also bring her students closer together not only to this nature, but to each other. These feelings were completely contagious, and soon I started to feel the exact same way.

It's bloody butcher corn time, thanks to the Old Manse!
The garden started to flourish (literally). Ideas sprouted, plants were planted, and the garden was off to an amazing start. Soon after that, the Literary Garden “club” was put into action. I thought it was a great idea, so obviously I decided to join! We spent the first year as an “unofficial club,” which was unfortunate at times, considering we weren’t able to do half of the things the normal clubs were able to do, but the 15 of us had a great time that year nonetheless. I looked forward to going to every meeting just to be the in the presence of Mrs. McQuillan and my fellow classmates who had the same love for the garden as I did. After that year, I knew that the garden was going to become a huge part of my life.

It wasn’t even a question whether or not I was going to join the Literary Garden Club during my senior year. I knew that if I was going to do any extracurricular activities or clubs, I was going to make room to care for the Literary Garden. What I didn’t know was that the club was going to grow significantly. The club that once had only a dozen people each each meeting would soon have over 30 new members. The first meeting we had around 50 students... I was SHOCKED. I  was expecting the same 15 or so students to gather up for the first meeting and it would be like the previous year until we publicized the club more, but man was I wrong! That day was the day I knew that the Literary Garden Club was going to be something more than just 15 students in a room, but a brand new huge family.
The West Bloomfield High School Literary Garden Club, 2017

Allen Ginsberg's Sunflowers

The WBHS Literary Garden Club Exec Board and Committee Chairs
I decided to run to be the president of the Literary Garden Club for a couple of reasons. The garden had grown significantly, and Mrs. McQuillan couldn’t continue to do it all on her own. Plus, I had so many new ideas for the garden, and I really wanted to make an impact on the school. When I was elected to be the president, I really had no idea what to expect. I had never really had any significant leadership roles in a club before, and I knew that the responsibilities would be endless, but I was up for that challenge.

Being president has been everything I have imagined and even more thus far. We threw our first Haunted Literary Garden Haunted House at the end of October, and it was a huge success.

The First Annual Haunted Literary Garden!

I proudly watched members of all grades come together to create something magical.
American authors, living and dead, mingled in the garden for some horror and comedy.
I also watched everyone come together to decorate a window for U-Matter week with less than a two day notice, and everybody had a great time. It has been a terrific start to the year, and every time we all come together it makes me really excited to begin planning more activities and fundraisers for us to do.
Club members wrote inspirational quotes from American authors on the leaves of the tree to inspire
fellow students during U-Matter week.
The Literary Garden Club is truly much more than just your typical club; we are a huge family full of people all ages who are just trying to make West Bloomfield High School a better place. Although there have been some stressful moments and some mild bumps in the road, everything is coming  together so amazingly, and we have so much more that we want to do. I’m so grateful and honored to be the first president of The Literary Garden Club, and I  know that the rest of the year is going to be incredible.