Left: Students of Oceanside West and authors pose for a group photo at the end of an all day Creative Writing Workshop.
Right: Authors presenting at the Creative Writing Workshop are, from left, Jen Blood, Ben Odgren, Lacy Simons, and Elizabeth Hand.
Photos and article by Sarah Woodman, Youthlinks/AmeriCorps
On March 19th, forty eighth and ninth grade students of Oceanside West gathered at Watts Hall in Thomaston for a full-day Creative Writing Workshop, organized by Youthlinks of Rockland. This workshop complimented a weekly after-school creative writing club provided by Youthlinks and offered to high school students of RSU 13, from January through April of this year. The Creative Writing Workshop connected Oceanside West students to four writers of varying literary style who call the midcoast area home: Jen Blood of Cushing, Liz Hand of Belfast, Lacy Simons of Rockland, and Ben Odgren of Rockport. Students split into groups of ten and rotated through the day to spend an intensive, hour-long session with each author.
Jen Blood holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine, is a freelance journalist, professional editor, and author of the bestselling Erin Solomon mystery series. Jen Blood led the students through the creative, multi-media process of developing dynamic characters which reflected her own process of creating characters. Blood provided a series of questions about the character to encourage students to think deeply about creating a layered character; questions such as: what is their favorite color, who is their best friend, what food do they love or hate, and where did they grow up?
Elizabeth Hand is a multiple award-winning critic and author of numerous novels, comics, and short fiction for adults, teenagers, and children. She is on the faculty of the Stonecoast MFA Program in Creative Writing, and divides her time between Maine and London. Liz Hand led students through an exercise in creating strong descriptive language for stories. Using student directed words and phrases, Hand showed how an out of the ordinary descriptive word choice can create emotional, visceral, and evocative descriptions of images and objects.
Benjamin Odgren studied film in college, lives in Rockport, works at the Island Institute in Rockland, and writes screenplays in his spare time. Odgren’s session began with a screening of the introduction of the movie “Kung-Fu Panda” while students followed along with a copy of the movie’s screenplay. Odgren explained the structure of a screenplay, the language of denoting camera work and dialogue, and the importance of writing directorial narration such as setting, actor direction and blocking. Students were then given time to write and share their own film scenes.
Lacy Simons, who holds an MFA in poetry and is the owner of Hello Hello Books in Rockland, introduced to students to a variety of literary games and exercises to inspire creativity in writing, specifically poetry. Simons had students write the thoughts, sounds, smells, sights, and emotions of a ride in a favorite car. Using this exercise, Simons encouraged students to keep a journal as a record of similar sensory memories, which are so integral in writing and so easy to forget.
The day wrapped up with time for students to bravely share the imaginative, layered, and often funny works created throughout the day in each author’s session. The intention of the workshop was to connect students with local authors, inspire and skill-build in those students with experience in creative writing, and create a new interest for students who had not expressed an affinity for writing in the past. Feedback from students and authors indicated that the workshop was a success.
Organized and hosted by Youthlinks in Rockland, the Creative Writing Workshop was generously supported by RSU 13 and Oceanside West’s student activity fund. Snacks for students and lunch for the authors was available through donations from the Rockland Hannaford and Shaw’s supermarkets. The use of Watts Hall at no-cost for this educational event was provided by the town of Thomaston.
Youthlinks is a program of Broadreach Family & Community Services, a non-profit organization that has been serving the children and families of Waldo and Knox Counties since 1983. For more information please call Youthlinks at 594-2221 or visit youthlinksonline.org.