Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Writers and Teachers of Writing Meet – And Both Get Inspired!

This guest post is by Carol Deering.  It first appeared in the October 2012 Wyo-Writer, the official newsletter of Wyoming Writers, Inc.

Carol Deering reading at the Central Wyoming College Sinks Canyon Center
Photo courtesy Wyoming Department of Education
“It was a new experience for me.” 

“The Wyoming writers’ presentation was a wonderful opportunity for teachers to learn about the joy. ... and the need to write, and how that need can be fostered.” 

“If I had the chance, I would take advantage of such an opportunity again.”

Across the state this summer, writers read to teachers of writing, and both felt enriched. ...

Shortly after our conference in June, I was contacted by Kathy Shirley, a consultant with the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) and a former writing teacher, to organize readings at their weeklong training sites.  At the Central Wyoming College Sinks Canyon Center, at the Beta Coffee House in Cody, at the Night Heron Bookstore in Laramie, at the Natrona County Library in Casper, and at the Campbell County Library in Gillette, a total of 21 writers from around Wyoming spent a Wednesday night reading from their work to teachers attending these sessions. Many of the 21 writers were members of Wyoming Writers, Inc. Nine read poetry, eight read nonfiction/memoir, three read fiction, and one read several genres. The teachers at every site said the readings were a highlight of their week!

The first reading, for the facilitators of the remaining WDE sessions, was magical. On a gorgeous solstice evening, beneath a canopy and birdsong — and connected to technology (for a piece of music and photographs) by a long and winding extension cord — a small, receptive crowd sat at picnic tables and listened to four writers share their work. Marjane Ambler read from her book manuscript, Paradise Isn’t for Sissies: Life in the Heart of Yellowstone; Sara Wiles read and showed photographs from her book, Arapaho
Journeys: Photographs and Stories from the Wind River Reservation. Echo Klaproth read from her essays, stories, and poetry. And I read poems from my chapbook manuscript. Teachers who seemed hesitant about their own writing got animated by the end. As Echo remarked, “The evening served as a shot in the arm; I can’t explain it any other way than to say it was spiritual.”

At Cody’s reading, coordinated by Lynne Bama, one first-grade teacher “absolutely loved the Wednesday night with the poets,” and said it “filled her soul.” Lynne, Mary Robinson, Jazmyn McDonald, and Rob Stothart enthralled their audience with poetry ... and would each volunteer again.

The reading in Laramie, coordinated by Diane Panozzo, was a great success. The fact that there were two younger and two older readers helped to create a diverse audience including university students, teachers, and the public. Diane and Maggie Mullen read fiction; Aaron Graham read poetry; and Pam Galbreath read a nonfiction piece about her son’s drug addiction. Afterwards one teacher remarked, “I was so impressed with the writing ... and am inspired to write more myself. I felt much more connected to the human experience after hearing them read!”

Those who attended the reading in Casper, coordinated by Cindy Bower, interacted positively, both through their attention, laughter and tears during the readings, as well as their personal thank-you greetings at the end. Cindy read the beginning chapters of a middle-grade adventure book; Cindy Grafton read from a poignant memoir about her
life as a disabled child mistreated by her family; Vicki Windle read and performed a variety of serious and humorous poems; and Keith Cottam read a nonfiction article concerning a Vietnamese refugee and her heroic efforts to help others in camps as she awaited her release and emigration to the United States.

At the reading in Gillette, coordinated by Darcy Lipp-Acord, five writers read their work and made a huge impression. Darcy and Katie Smith read nonfiction/memoirs; Pat Frolander, Wyoming’s Poet Laureate, read poetry; Chris Ellsworth read fiction; and Mikayla Howard read poetry. 

One teacher wrote: “I was thoroughly impressed with the writers’ honesty, vulnerability, and talent. ... Thank you for such a neat and memorable experience.” Overall, comments glowed. “What an awesome experience. Their writing inspired me to keep writing and to ... go for the jugular.” “The experience last night was phenomenal. It is so important to hear not only authors reading their own work, but to listen to the process they go through to produce such works of art.” “I would love people like that to come to my room and share. It would be great for someone besides myself to ... talk to [students] about writing.” “These authors were passionate as they read their words. Hearing the stories behind their pieces gave a new voice to what they read. I want to have some of these authors visit my classroom, and they expressed an interest in this possibility.”  “I really think that good things can come out of this burgeoning relationship between the Wyoming Writing Project, the Wyoming Writers, and the Wyoming Department of Education.” “A great idea. Let’s keep it up — all over Wyoming.”

A few comments reflected the need for more coordination between WDE and the writers.
Everyone hopes this summer’s experience will be repeated next year, when it will be even better. Meanwhile the Wyoming Writers’ board will be considering more regional writing events throughout the year.

I am deeply indebted to the other site coordinators for all their efforts and for some of the wording in this article.  And thanks to all the readers for making this series a magnificent success!
Carol Deering
Secretary and Past President
Wyoming Writers, Inc.

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