Writers Unleashed program comes to South Fayette Township Library
They're hunched over their notepads and laptops, type and scribble furiously, never look up and never miss a beat.
They talk about the novels they're working on — their ideas, the number of chapters they wrote last night and their plans for publication.
But they are in middle and high school.
The six girls at South Fayette Township Library on Saturday are part of the library's Writers Unleashed program, led by Brittany Ketter, 21, a student at Victory School of Ministry in Youngstown, Ohio.
The program began in 2009, when library officials were brainstorming idea for new summer reading programs. Ketter suggested a writing program, and Writers Unleashed was born. The program started out as a high school program with a few middle school students, and in 2011, the first middle school class was started.
Ketter said the content of the classes varies.
“It depends on the kids' year, their age – we do lectures and writing prompts,” she said.
Saturday's lecture revolved around the process of publishing and building a platform. They talk about some of the common myths surrounding the publishing process — that all authors make a lot of money, that rejection ceases to exist after a writer's first contract is signed – and why it is important to brand oneself as an author.
Ketter offered the girls some poignant advice, as well.
“These little things that you're starting — that's a big thing,” she said. “Don't despise small beginnings. Little things add up.”
Their writing prompt centered on the same theme — they were to write what their initial reaction would be to having their first book published.
“Elation” is an obvious answer, but the young wordsmiths went much deeper than that.
“I can almost feel the excitement in the air,” wrote middle school student Nikki Cronin. She wrote about how far she had come since her days of “scribbles on the floor — unreadable tales of adventure.”
There were monologues, dialogues and streams of consciousness. Some took place in a bookstore, some at the mailbox awaiting the delivery of the published novel.
Ketter said her desire to start such a program and work with the students comes from her own creative values.
“Creativity is something that is important to me,” she said. “I encourage my students to be creative because I believe that we are created beings, and thus we have creativity.”
She said she strives to make the Writers Unleashed program a safe haven for the students to foster their creativity.
“The primary way many of my students express themselves and are themselves is through their writing,” she said. “Writers Unleashed is a safe place for them to break out of the mold and be themselves and be expressive without being judged for it.”
The main goal, she said, is to encourage her students to dream. As people get older, she said, they lose the art of dreaming well. She aims to foster that art in her students.
“These girls know how to dream well, and I'm encouraging them to keep doing that,” she said. “If I can encourage them to continue to be creative with their dreams and to be creative with their life, they're also going to be creative in finding solutions to achieving what they dream.”
Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or firstname.lastname@example.org.