On March 3rd, 2012, the Nebraska Writing Project hosted its first Youth Writing Festival. This event occurred at Elkhorn South High School and was attended by roughly 20 students. These students were from various school districts around Eastern Nebraska, such as Millard, Lincoln, Papillion-LaVista and Elkhorn. There was a second Youth Writing Festival on April 28th, 2012 at the University of Nebraska-Kearney that also had about 20 attendees. Students at this writing festival were from the central and western regions of the state. Districts represented were: Ogallala, Aurora, Valentine, and Harrison.
Both events kicked off with a mini-writing marathon led by Susan Martens at ESHS and Cathie English at UNK. Students were allowed an opportunity to wander around the two campuses and be inspired by the spots they chose (such as the library, the stage, and the art wing). Students enjoyed writing what they wanted and much of our feedback suggested that this was one of their favorite events.
Here is one piece of writing collected from a student at the UNK site: “Writing is a part of other people’s lives just as well as my own. Others have their own version of a writing style, just like I have my own. The creativity level skyrockets in the minds of others when they silently listen to a beautiful, poetic, and assembled piece of writing that others have mastered in their own way. Writing is a life we wish to take up because a picture is worth a thousand words and seeing that there is more than one picture in the world, some of us will have to write them all out for the world to understand.”
After the writing marathon, the students were able to go to their first break out session. Throughout the day, the various sessions included topics such as: “Enriching Characters”, “Deep Mapping”, “The Art and Craft of Screenwriting”, “Building the Writer’s Life”, and “How Journalistic Writing Differs from Average Writing Assignments” at the ESHS festival. At the UNK festival, topics included: “Place Conscious Writing”, “Writing Short Fiction”, “Building the Writer’s Life”, “What to do with an English Degree”, “Capturing Memories via Anatomy Poetry”, “55 Word Fiction”, and “Blogging”.
After their first breakout session, students were able to listen to two Nebraska authors, Todd Tystad and Shelly Clark Geiser lead a discussion and answer questions related to being an author professionally. After lunch, there was one more break out session and then a final read around to end the day.