Students in Kevin Puckett’s seventh grade science class weren’t expecting to close the year out as published writers, but now they can say they did.
North Carolina Arts Council writer Belle Boggs spent a week each with students at Starmount and Forbush Middle schools to help encourage students to explore their creative side and write their stories for others to read.
“I’m working on a project that I developed earlier this year,” Boggs said. “It’s about landscape and identity that invites students to answer the question how does the place they live affect the person they are, the person they’ve become.”
Boggs is from Virginia and has a collection of published stories titled “Mattaponi Queen,” which won the Library of Virginia Literary Award and the Bakeless Prize, and she was recently named “best new southern author by Southern Living Magazine.
Boggs was asked to come to the middle schools by the principals and the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center. After collaborating with teachers and administration Boggs prepared a program to work with the students to create a unique writing experience.
“I work with the schools and I talk to the teachers ahead of time and find out what the students are working on,” Boggs said. “We also identify schools in other locations. This time there are four schools. There are students at Starmount Middle, Forbush Middle, The Haw Bridge School in Alamance County and students at Sacred Heart Middle School in Washington, DC.”
Boggs said that she worked with students from Forbush and Starmount Middle for a week each. They began their journey by reading poetry and prose that focused on landscape. Then she took the students outdoors to experience their surroundings, take notes and get inspired.
The last few days were spent working on drafts and perfecting a final copy of a story or poem to post on Bogg’s blog.
“They’ll be able to read the writing of their peers at the local school and also work from the schools in Alamance County and Washington, DC,” Boggs said. “They have a chance to see the different traditions, cultures, interests, experiences with landscapes, students and other places.”
Boggs said that the students really seem to respond to the project since it provides positive online interaction. She says that she encourages other professional writers to go on to the blog and read and comment on the students’ work.
“I think that writing for a publication and writing for a wider audience does give it more of a special feeling,” Boggs said. “I think it motivates the students to do their best work. I always try to give them an opportunity to share their work with a wider audience in some way so that they feel like they are doing it for a purpose.”
Boggs also spent some time with the community members in Yadkinville on Veterans Day. She led a memoir writing seminar at the Yadkin County Public Library where she guided attendees through the basics of writing about their family history and stories.
“I thought that the community members were really fantastic,” Boggs said. “There was a real interest in preserving stories of their families and stories of their community before those stories were lost.”
The final event for Boggs was a short reading for Forbush Middle students and gathering for families and community members. A selection of brave students took to the mic to share their story or their poem with a room full of parents and peers.
Other students’ work was displayed on the walls of the arts council classrooms for attendees to read and laptops were set up in both rooms for everyone to go online and read entries on the blog and comment.
Boggs said that her experiences with Forbush and Starmount Middle students was a fulfilling one,
“I think that the students at Forbush and Starmount are really fantastic writers,” Boggs said. “They love the outdoors and they are very interested in hunting, fishing, farming, gardening and being outside. They all seem to be interested in the traditions of their families. They are writing about their own experiences and their own interests, their family traditions and their cultures.”
Boggs said that while this is the end of her time in Yadkin County she would love the opportunity to come back and work with the library by attending a book club meeting or to read to other classes.
“I have been thrilled to work with the students and teachers here,” Boggs said. “I think Yadkin County has a wonderful school system. It seems like there is a really great community here. It’s been a really nice two weeks.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.