Park City High School writing class stokes creativity
March 10, 2015
Not everything you want to say can fit into a tweet.
That’s the pitch Mark Parker, an English teacher at Park City High School and Treasure Mountain Junior High, offers students who are considering taking his creative writing course at the high school.
"When you need to say something that’s more than 140 characters, you need the skills you get in creative writing, journalism and these electives that focus on writing and expression," he said.
Many students are heeding his advice. They are taking his class and discovering that, deep down, they have something important to say. And at the end of the year, their parents, peers and the rest of the community will be able to see the proof.
As they’ve explored various literary genres, comprising both prose and fiction, the high school’s creative writing students have worked on assembling a book of their best work. At the end of the year, the compilation will be available for purchase on Amazon.
Allie Hedderly-Smith, the publication’s student editor, said students are looking forward to having a permanent record of their efforts.
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"I think it’s a really cool thing,’ she said. "It’s really great that we’ll have an actual published thing that we can look back on later."
It is the second year students have created a publication, and the finished product will be the end result of a collaborative creative process. Students choose the pieces they would like to include in the book, then revise and workshop them with their classmates until they become the finished work that will be published.
That collaboration is essential to draw out the best creative work from writers, Parker said. In fact, it’s even helped him grow as a writer.
"As a writer myself, it’s almost as instructive — if not more instructive — to watch another person go through their creative process and receive feedback and incorporate it as it is to have that done for my own work," he said. "We all get to learn from each other’s processes and that’s been really fun."
Hedderly-Smith, who wants to pursue writing as a career and is interested in young adult fiction, said the collaboration has been successful because everyone is committed to putting out their best work and helping each other do the same.
"A lot of the people in the class are really serious about writing," she said. "Everything they write is really good. And it’s nice to have people to talk to and edit with who really care about what they’re doing. You can bounce ideas off each other."
The students’ writing abilities have evolved throughout the year. Parker said it has been exciting to see their progress and to watch them discover new ways to use the written word to express themselves. He said that in an age when young people communicate largely through short messages and emoticons, it’s becoming increasingly important to stoke creativity and teach students how to articulate complex feelings and ideas.
"Not every student is serious about writing as a career," he said. "But the students all come here because they get something out of the creative process that they can’t get or explore in other classes. Whether you’re a novice or an expert, there’s a place for you here. You can experiment with the different forms of writing and get feedback from peers and from me. I’ve seen enormous growth from these students."
The growth in the students comes in many forms and in different levels. But one of the best parts of teaching the class, Parker said, is discovering students who have genuine talent. Getting to play a role in fostering that is rewarding.
"For me, it’s really exciting to see students that find their outlet with words," he said. "I’ve seen some stuff that’s blown me away. You see a lot of bad writing, too, but that’s nothing in comparison to those moments that I read something that just knocks my socks off."
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