Students from Empire, Marlow and Duncan Middle Schools took part in a creative writing workshop at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center.
Nathan Brown, 2013-2014 Oklahoma Poet Laureate, has been teaching this class at the heritage center for five years. He has two museums that host his creative writing short course, the heritage center and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in Norman.
“The basic concept is writing in response to art,” Brown said. “What I have discovered in young creative writers is that if you have a creative writing class and you come into a blank classroom and say ‘I want you to write a poem,’ their eyes just glaze over. If you give them something to write about, they will basically go crazy.”
The class consists of 12 students at a time meeting in two, two-hour sessions. They learn how to use all of their senses and incorporate them into imagery filled writing.
This class started when Leah Mulkey, education coordinator at CTHC, attended a workshop in Norman and decided the heritage center could benefit from this type of instruction.
“Susan Bailey from the Fred Jones Museum was talking about the program they had there, which was the creative writing program,” Mulkey said. “So, I went to a reception saw the kids work and interact with Nathan and he told me he travels around to do this.”
Brown says the success of these classes are readily apparent. He has been blown away by the things these middle school students have produced.
“I have had incredible writing. I’ve had 6th graders published from the poems they have written in this class,” Brown said. “I had a girl in Norman who wrote in response to a Georgia O’Keeffe painting. I bring her poem into adult workshops when I teach them.”
That first year CTHC had the workshop for Duncan Middle School students only because of the museums proximity to the school. The class has grown from 24 students in the first year to 48 students now.
On March 29, Brown will return and the students will present their work at a reception in their honor. The time will be announced later. This reception will be free and open to the public. Many students will read their favorite poems or other works. They will have the opportunity to take their families through the museum and show off the paintings or sculptures that inspired them.
A book is created each year with the best products of each class saved and professionally printed.
“They pick their favorite poem, and I put all of the Duncan, Marlow and Empire students into the same book,” Mulkey said. “The students can come up and read their poems and show their parents around the museum.”
Entry into the class is dependent on two things, writing skill and interest. Students are selected by teachers for the class. They use the results of the 5th grade writing test and the students general interest in poetry or creative writing to decide who should go each year.
“It is amazing to me every year,” Mulkey said. “Some of the things they come up with just amazes me. When you look at art I guess everyone sees art in a different way and every kid can look at the same painting and come up with a million different stories or poems. It is really neat to see their finished work.”
This class is free for the students and the schools. The Oklahoma Arts Council pays for the event.