Writers’ Workshop partners with high-school students

BY HAYLEY BRUCE | MARCH 25, 2011 7:20 AM

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City High junior Mason Greer has self-published a book.

But that doesn’t mean the 17-year-old doesn’t value all the professional feedback he can get. Now, his high school is offering just that.

On Thursday, a group of 15 City High students and four members of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop met at City High as part of the first session of “Writers in Bloom” — a pilot partnership program aimed at providing student writers with an opportunity to have their work reviewed by professionals.

“There are sports for athletes and orchestra and choir for students interested in music, but there’s not a whole lot for creative writers,” said City High language-arts teacher Robin Fields. “But today, they have that, plus professionals who can give them feedback and nurture that interest.”

“Writers in Bloom” began when City High Principal John Bacon approached the language-arts teachers in February with hopes of connecting the school’s aspiring young writers with students at the Workshop, said City High language-arts teacher Brad Hartwig.

“We knew that having the Writers’ Workshop in town was a great resource for our students, and that, perhaps, we could give students a great experience working with professional writers,” Hartwig said.

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Greer, who self-published his novel, Hybrid Hoodlum, last week, said Writers in Bloom gives them a chance to read and critique each other’s work.

“I liked to make up stories in my head for the longest time, and when I was 14, I decided to actually try to put it on paper,” he said. “It’s not perfect yet, but I decided it was good enough for people to see.”

Before Thursday’s session, students submitted a written work of their choice — including poetry, short stories, plays, animé, and nonfiction — to Workshop members.

The Workshop students read over each student’s work in preparation to offer constructive criticism and advice.

During the session, first-year Workshop student Carmen Machado, 24, offered her own general advice. She then prompted group discussion over each student’s piece.

“There’s a lot of exciting stuff coming out of here,” Machado said at the end of the event. “Everyone had a lot of feedback and a lot of good things to say, and everyone was eager to learn which was good.”

Writers in Bloom will meet again in April and May, and Hartwig said it will continue next year if the school receives positive feedback from students.

City High freshman Tess Wisdom said she felt privileged to have the opportunity to work with Machado.

“The Workshop is very prestigious, so I’m glad I live in Iowa,” she said. “It’s good to hear what really great writers have to say about your work. It’s good to have someone to aspire to.”

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