In 2010, the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center launched a unique creative writing program for area sixth-grade students from Duncan, Empire and Marlow middle schools. Now in its 9th year, the program continues to be a success and a few participants from the second year were recently recognized by Cameron University for outstanding creative writing at that institute.
LeeAnn Arrington, Esty Alford and Mackenzie Cook, Tayler Janz and Mia Meshell were among the 2019 CU honorees. In 2018, CU also noted Montana McGill as an outstanding writer. McGill was in the second CTHC class in 2011-12, along with Arrington, Alford and Cook. Janz and Meshell were in the 2012-13 program. Additionally, Darius McReynolds was also honored. McReynolds has participated in CTHC summer camp art workshops.
CTHC’s program began “Writing in Response to Art,” and in 2015, was renamed to “Saddle Up & Write,” yet its directive remains the same – inspire young writers and provide them them a platform outside of the classroom in which they can enhance their talents. The CTHC program has been taught by Dr. Nathan Brown since its inception.
Selected by their middle school teachers, the students have a day in the fall semester and another in the winter semester where the museum becomes their classroom. Brown, a published author and former Oklahoma Poet Laureate, engages the students in open dialogue, and group writing exercises. He challenges them with activities in which they use the art and artifacts found in the Heritage Center to craft their poems and short stories. The Heritage Center supplies the journals, which are returned to the students at the end of the program, to further encourage their creative writing efforts.
Leah Mulkey, CTHC Education Coordinator, compiles the favorites into a mini-magazine booklet, along with images of the art that inspired the selected writings. Each student receives a book as a keepsake. In 2011, that book earned an award from the Oklahoma History Museums Association for the first year’s launch, featuring the writings of 24 Duncan Middle School students. It was the next year when Empire and Marlow joined the program.
The ninth annual reception for students of the 2018-19 program will be at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, April 28 at the Heritage Center. It is open to the public. Students who choose to may read their published writings, or Dr. Brown will read for them. Refreshments follow and parents will get a chance to see firsthand some of the art that inspired this year’s students.
Students in this year’s program, with published writings are:
Duncan – (Teacher: Stacy Smith) Vivienne Albin, Cannon Brenneis, Jackson Bull, Deacon Clark, Seth Downey, Ariyah Harris, Reagan Hicks, Cadence Hill, Kierney Holthaus, Raven Hunter, Reece Imel, Ava Johnson, Luke McFatridge, Noah McFatridge, Emmelyn Marks, Ava Miller, Sydney Miller, Isaac Pain, Noah Pharoah, Jackson Poage, Logan Sparger, Greg Stroud, Landon Thacker and Katelyn Young.
Empire – (Teacher: Chasity Brown) Ashtin Anderson, Mia Curtis, Mallery Garrison, Raylee Grace, Zoey Gustin, Kayden Lemons, Lukas McDaniel, Kendie Rochell, Gunter Sain, Sydney Sarmiento, Daniel Seely and Carson Skiles.
Marlow – (Teacher: Tara Smith) Lilly Anderson, Erick Busch, Gabrielle Brown, Haylee Daniel, Joshua Fine, Gracie Grissom, Blayd Harris, Katie McPherson, Tobie Mitchell, Parker Boyles, Trace Ribble and Emma Wilson.