HARTFORD, Conn. – The successes of Rockville High School’s creative writing classes have become well known when it comes to receiving state and even national awards and recognitions, in part due to the dedication shown even during the summer holidays. summer.
Some of these students, along with teacher Victoria Nordland, spend time during the summer honing their craft by creating, writing and producing an online literary magazine, Journey 75, at the Nook Farm Writers’ Collaborative – a program at the Mark Twain House and Museum.
For six weeks, students (this year 13 area high schools are participating), under the guidance of Nordlund and program coordinator Dr. Erin Bartram, produce a variety of plays in forms inspired by the writing career of Twain, including journalism, essays, poetry and short stories, culminating in a personal portfolio. With the support of workshops led by various writers and editors from across the country, students also work collaboratively to design and produce an online literary journal featuring their works.
“We bring in people…who have jobs in this field, so they can see what it’s like to be a writer or a marketer or an editor,” Nordlund said. “They discover these professions. They also create their own website, a literary journal and learn skills within an editorial team or a marketing team. Everyone has a job.
Bartram said the magazine gives writers some perspective because they learn there’s more to the process than just writing.
“What we’re trying to get across to them is that there are a lot of other people involved in getting your work out there,” she said. “There’s a reason why the author doesn’t get all the benefits.”
On July 18, the students had a workshop with Courant Community reporter Steve Smith who gave them some basic thoughts on how to interview people to get to the bottom of their story, how to stay in conversation while being professional, and the “five Ws” — who, what, where, when and why — with an emphasis on why.
The next day, the students put those lessons to good use by interviewing Nick Paley, who wrote and directed the film “Marcel the Shell”, via Zoom, asking him about his writing process for the film, character creation and the challenges of filming stop-motion animation.
“He’s trying to bring something that’s really close to your heart, and something very personal, and it’s hard to put into words, and you’re afraid people won’t understand it,” he said. declared. “But now, on the other side, I can tell you, sharing the movie with everybody and people hearing it, really understanding what we’re trying to say with…and they totally get it, and you feel more known and heard. Worth it. »
Paley told students that one of the keys to successful writing is to be brave and do what you want to do without worrying about whether other people like it or not.
“The best thing you can do to learn to write is to learn to pay attention to your own life,” he said. “See what interests you. No one in the world can tell you that you are a writer. You just have to decide that and act like everything that interests you and matters to you really matters. This is the most important thing for your job. It’s about giving you the authority to say, “What I live and think is interesting.”
The students said they appreciated Paley’s thoughts.
“What always interests me in an interview like this is how people react when asked questions,” said Tovah Oslovich, a student from Rockville. “He was really likeable and he gave insight into the fact that people who do really cool things are really just humans with interesting brains.”
“What I found really interesting is that I like to see what happens behind the scenes and how people come up with the magic before the actors and the animation arrive,” said Kim Yankson, also a student at Rockville.
The students added that they learn a lot in the program, while thoroughly enjoying it.
“I love being able to write in the Mark Twain house itself, because that’s where you can get a lot of inspiration, just from the landscape,” Yankson said.
“I’ve always really loved writing,” said Rebecca Tsarkov, a sophomore at Hall High School. “I like interviewing people and writing for the school newspaper. I want to be an investigative journalist, which I haven’t tried yet, but of all the different subjects in journalism, this seems the most interesting.
This exposure the program provides to different facets of writing, Tsarkov said, is invaluable.
“I love trying out all these different types of writing, like poetry, which I’ve never done before,” she said, adding that as part of the magazine’s marketing team she worked on advertising.
“We’ve only just started, but we’re going to social media and trying to spread the word about the magazine,” she said.