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Middle school students' creativity encouraged by Penn State DuBois faculty

5/11/2006 —

DuBois - There lives a seed called creative writing deep within the soil of the human psyche. You first know it's there when thoughts intrigue you, word play amuses you, language transcends its communicative nature and becomes art. The waters of culture, maturity, society and opinion soften the seed's shell, bearing a seedling that prompts its person to begin to write – to express the written word in ways that entertain, motivate and teach. The words inside call out, waiting to be written, read, heard and said.

When cultivated, creative writing can grow into a skillful talent with powerful abilities. The most effective writers can evoke tears, laughter, anger and action from readers. Writing can and has revolutionized the world, improved living conditions, and saved lives. Words have convicted, freed, romanticized, comforted, dictated and evangelized. They have crowned kings, united and divided nations, encouraged some to live, or chanted mantras for others to die.

Wow, powerful stuff, huh?

Young writers at the DuBois Area Middle School have been sharpening their writing skills with the help of volunteer Penn State DuBois faculty members Jackie Atkins, senior instructor in English, and Tony Vallone, associate professor of English, in an after-school program that began in October and continues through May. Called the "Young Publishers Club," the students learn to let the words flow through free association exercises in poetry, short stories, scripts, biographies and journalism. Reviewing, revising and editing are also steps every good writer must learn, as well as researching and interviewing techniques, Atkins said.

Vallone and Atkins, whose son, John Vallone, belongs to the club, said they work with the students in using strong verbs and in using visual and sensual language. The group learns that it's not only acceptable, but encouraged to embellish during fictional writing. No scores are given to foster the creative writing freedom, Vallone added.

"I like to be an ambassador for writing so I like to get out and do this," Vallone said. "Kids sometimes do not have the encouragement to follow these sorts of pursuits."

Speaking of pursuits, some students in the Young Publishers Club want to pursue careers in writing, including Amanda Osman of DuBois who would like to be an author of children's books and poems. Aaron DeWyer of DuBois, inspired by a Monty Python movie, would like to write science fiction books and scripts, and Andrew Vipond of DuBois, a NASCAR fan, would like to write television and radio commercial scripts for Murray's Ford.

Chelsea Landini of DuBois said she likes how the club has brought out her creative writing skills and has found that she is thinking of more things to write about and consequently writing more as a result. John Vallone of DuBois said he was surprised at how many different styles of writing exist, and Elizabeth Platt of DuBois said she prefers short story writing involving comedy and action, and that the club has helped to improve her classroom work in English.

The club's activities will culminate in May when parents and friends can review the students' portfolios which will be on display at Penn State DuBois.

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