“Everyone has a story” became the mantra during the three-day Young Writer’s Workshop for 7th and 8th graders at Princeton Elementary, when author Genevieve (G.A.) Morgan, author of the Five Stones Trilogy, guided students in their own writing journey. The focus was the classic, centuries-old Hero’s Journey with its various stages of challenge and revelation.
To warm up their creative juices, and begin to think about their own stories and where their “daylights” might take them, students took Genevieve’s “Find Your Tribe” quiz, based on the daylight powers of Ayda, the island we are introduced to in The Fog of Forgetting (first in the Five Stones Trilogy). Genevieve also gave them prompts for using everyday, ordinary objects as portals that lead to extraordinary transformations.
Genevieve would masterfully switch gears from focused writing prompts to a quick spontaneous game of “Telephone” where, in lightning-round fashion, a story is created one word at a time at a rapid-fire pace. When things got too nonsensical, Genevieve reminded them, “Your job as the writer is to make it make sense.” Somehow, a cohesive story would unfold with surprising story lines.
From instructions on how to operate a remote controlled car to Fan Fiction and even stories about hunting, students discovered that each one of them had a story to tell and that writing was more fun than they anticipated (or had ever experienced). They also learned techniques for giving critical and thoughtful feedback.
Not only were words woven during the course of the three days, students also created a beautiful weaving on an Earth Loom to represent the various attributes of the tribes of Aydan and the journey of the Young Writer’s Workshop. In the end, the trust built between Genevieve and some of the students over the three days culminated in hugs and tears upon departure. We’re confident their s/hero’s journey will continue as they develop and refine their stories.
Seventh grade ELA teacher Kaylee Disher enjoyed “the writing prompts and the less ‘formal’ approach to instruction.” Kaylee said, “Gen was awesome with the kids. They were all so taken with her.”
According to Ms. Cochran-Barnes, unlikely students really blossomed with the right support and motivation and wrote pages.
Many students commented that they were surprised that they were not that bad of a writer, or how much the workshop helped their writing, and just how much it takes to write a story. They said the most valuable things they wanted to remember from their experiences were that they’ll always have supporters, that writing is the base of many things, and to never give up.
IRW then brought Genevieve to Beatrice Rafferty Elementary School at Sipayik for a one-day Young Writer’s Workshop. Students learned that part of the journey is, according to Genevieve, “finding people who believe in you and who can be your mentor, your Obi Wan Kenobi.” They also discovered that “Great writing comes from a place of self-knowledge. Knowing what you like helps you write.”
Both students and teachers learned how normal, everyday objects can become fantastic writing prompts. They were tasked with making lists of adjectives to go with garbage, beach, a pot of soup, a movie theater, boots, and sky. By describing an object, protagonist, and action, a story begins to take shape.
Teachers Sarah Donahe and Rhonda Stevens both commented on the confidence that the students began to have in themselves and the kids’ laughter and smiles they exhibited while creating!
Throughout the Young Writers Workshop days, Genevieve read aloud from her own Five Stones trilogy, recited popular song lyrics to show how stories are told everywhere, and shared some classic hero fables as recommendations for further reading. At both schools, students received signed books, everyone signed the YWW poster, and there were great celebrations and sharing of stories. Young writers in Princeton and Sipayik had a rich experience that took them on a writing journey and each, in their own way, found their hero’s voice.