Friday, June 21, 2013

Creativity: Alive and Thriving

I spent the last week teaching a Creative Writing and Art Class at the St. Peters Cultural Arts Center. For the good of the class and all those registered, I focused on the writing component while another instructor handled the art. If you have ever seen any of my artwork then you understand the need for this arrangement. My creative measures do not extend to the graphic arts unless you count drawing bubble letters and I am fairly certain this does not qualify. 

Each day the youngsters completed an assortment of writing projects and then illustrated them using various mediums.  The class size might have been small but the energy and creativity levels oozing from that room was high. The children re-wrote fairy tales from the villain’s point of view, described what they might hear if given an opportunity to be a fly on the wall, wrote persuasive arguments to encourage their principals to bring their favorite celebrities, created poetry of varying lengths and styles, and worked on revising and editing.  Simply put, those kids wrote, drew, and created their little tails off. 

And as always, because it never fails, I learned more than they did. One of the writing prompts this week involved the kids responding to the question, “Do you think reading fiction is a waste of time?” You would have thought I asked them if toilets were a bad invention or if the I-pod is dumb. After calming from their initial anger for suggesting fiction was a waste, their responses were compelling and thought-provoking. 

The young writers, ranging from ages 9-14, shared their beliefs, reminding me that age doesn’t always bring wisdom. Without revealing their identities, I would love to share some of their nuggets with you. 

“Fiction allows us to escape reality, even for a little bit. It takes us on journeys that we would never be able to go on in our real lives.” Student, age 14

“Reading fiction lets us use our imaginations and be creative. We can dream up whatever we want.” – Student, age 11

“Fiction is better and cheaper than therapy.” – Student, age 14 (I had to stifle a laugh with this one. It's funny and spot-on!)

“Fiction is important because there is usually some truth hidden behind it.” – Student, age 13

“Reading fiction is not a waste of time. We wouldn’t have some of the best characters without fiction.” – Student, age 9

These friends know what they like and their passion runs deep. Carry on!

Another project we enjoyed occurred today even as the creative juices were running low. I asked them to write a short story about a chance encounter between themselves and a fictional character or group of characters. I prepared myself to read multiple stories involving Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen and the like. Once again, the kids surprised me. Several of them wrote in great detail about a meeting between characters from their own stories and themselves. Their characters have become so alive in their individual voice and tone this week. These aspiring writers are devoted to their creations, just like you and I might become attached to a familiar storybook character.  

I loved working with the kiddos this week. Their passion and energy spread around the room like a fire, igniting each other. With their courageous storytelling and detailed art, they created sensational work. I am honored to have a small hand in the process.


  1. This sounds awesome! It also sounds like a perfect fit! Certainly some school someplace could utilize your passion and talents!! I had a few teachers like you in high school and they were, beyond compare, my favorite times at school.

    1. Thanks Jen. I still remember my favorites too, even keep in touch with one or two of them. What a difference the right teacher makes, huh?

  2. You are the quintessential teacher, Karen. It is encouraging to know our kids are still involved, still learning and creating. My son teaches creative writing to jr high and he says they instinctively discern good writing from mediocre or poor writing. We shouldn't take twitter and instant messaging as proof of poor writing skills. We should encourage and expect complete thoughts expressed in fullness of language. Our children are capable and enjoy communicating well. Thank you for being one of their mentors. All is not lost!

  3. The camp was a lot of fun. I found it very refreshing over the course of two weeks (between this camp and the SW one-day camp) to see so many youngsters still in love with words and creative expression and willing to put in the hard work that goes with it.