TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama’s master of fine arts program in creative writing has implemented a pilot program for young writers.
The teachers, published poets and prose writers, who are graduate students in the UA master’s program, are leading the 12-week writing exploration called the “Creative Writing Club.”
“The Creative Writing Club is an enrichment opportunity for high-school students who love language and want to develop their writing skills in ways that extend beyond just “correct” writing into that zone where words are art,” said Robin Behn, professor of English and founder of the club. Behn said the effort is campus-wide and would not have been possible without cooperation and grant support from the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education.
Behn especially credits Jolene Stanford, executive director of the Alabama Consortium for Educational Renewal, a division of UA’s College of Education, who coordinated with local schools and helped to facilitate the cooperative effort between UA’s English department and area high-school teachers and principals.
“This is the type of true partnership that the Alabama Consortium for Educational Renewal strives for, programs where we have University people working with the area’s public schools to help kids love school and love learning,” said Stanford.
“I hope that we not only continue the current partnership but expand it as well,” said Major Herb Ragsdale, principal at Central High School. “We are all judged on how well we communicate, and the Central High students who are participating in this program will have a distinct advantage.”
Forty high-school students, from 11 area high schools, participate. There is no charge for the program.
The students meet each Monday afternoon, first collectively for introduction to a creative writing concept and then in small groups of five, where each group receives specialized instruction and attention from a mentor.
According to Behn, even though writing is generally a solitary activity, individual writers flourish when they can come together to share their work, talk about the creative process, and share their knowledge.
“The Creative Writing Club has helped me feel better about expressing myself,” said Frank Fleming, a student at Bryant High School. “Before the club, I was really shy about presenting my work. Now I have more confidence.”
Other students agree. “I didn’t know I had so many ideas. They come more easily now,” said Anna Rosenthal, a Capitol School student.
“The club has exposed me to different ways to think about my work,” said Kate Lawrence, a student at Northridge.
“I find that I write more, and now I constantly think about what I want to write,” said K.C. Vick of Bryant High School.
“The Creative Writing Club teaches you different styles of writing and gets you to think outside the box,” said Randall Willis of Central High School. “I just thought I was outside the box ‘til I joined Creative Writing Club!”
Plans are to publish the writing by the high-school students in a variety of ways. Throughout the semester, students are posting their work on the club’s website, www.bama.ua.edu/~cwc/. The site was set up by UA computer-based honors program student Zac Riddle, who is working with the Creative Writing Club.
The students will finish the program by producing their own literary magazine that highlights the writing produced during the semester. Each of them will present work at a public reading and reception on April 25 at 6 p.m. in Morgan Hall on the UA campus.
The club is the brainchild of Behn, who, while on sabbatical, taught creative writing as a parent volunteer at her son’s school, The Capitol School.
She was joined by Sande Fowler and Dan Kaplan, both of whom were parents at the school and master of fine arts students. They developed a creative writing program that spanned preschool through high school.
Behn has taught poetry writing and other courses about poetry to graduate and undergraduate students in the creative writing program at UA since 1988. She is the author of three books of poems, most recently, “Horizon Note,” and co-editor of a book about how to write poetry, “The Practice of Poetry.” She is the recipient of the Burnum Award, the highest faculty award at UA.
For more information, visit www.as.ua.edu/english or contact the creative writing program at 205/348-5944 or 348-8488.
The College of Arts and Sciences is the University’s largest division and the largest public liberal arts college in the state with 6,600 students and 360 faculty. Students from the college have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships, and memberships on the “USA Today” Academic All American Team.
Rebecca M. Booker, UA Media Relations, 205/348-3782, firstname.lastname@example.org
The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.