What Times Are These (2020-2021)
The educational landscape is vastly different this year, with many teachers working from home or juggling a combination of online and in-person instruction. But even though we can’t send writers into schools in the same way, students still need creative outlets—perhaps more than ever. We propose a literary correspondence: students will respond to the prompt, “What are you afraid of?” and will send their poems, stories, and essays to a Mississippi writer assigned to their classroom. The writers will answer their work by responding creatively to the question, “What makes you brave?” But we know grown-ups don’t have all the answers, which is why we will then flip the script. Writers will share with students the things that give them worry or anxiety, and after reading and discussing that work, students will answer with their own advice: what gives them courage and optimism. This correspondence will be accompanied by a lesson plan that teachers can use to get students discussing poems about fear and hope in the classroom, and classes and writers can arrange a virtual visit if desired.
The best pieces and pairings will be collected into a published book to be distributed across the state next summer—an encyclopedia of fear and hope to reassure Mississippians that our creativity will always show us the way forward.
Call and Response (2018-2019)
In the fall and winter of 2018, Mississippi writers will lead creative writing workshops in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, asking senior citizens to consider the following prompt: “What’s your strongest memory from when you were a teenager?” Through looking at examples of creative writing and brainstorming ways to think imaginatively about their memories, residents will craft brief narratives from their own lives. These stories will be collected and, in the spring of 2019, shared with students in public high schools. A second series of workshops will send writers into classrooms to help students imaginatively expand those memories, using the prompt: “If this story took place today in your community, what would happen next?” The best pieces and pairings will be collected once again into a published book to be distributed across the state — a kind of call and response that will highlight Mississippi’s past and map out its bright future.
We believe this will be a remarkable opportunity for both our senior citizens and our young people to investigate memories of youth, enjoy the benefits of creative expression, and engage across generations to create a shared narrative of where we’ve been as a community and where we want to go.
In light of our recent political turmoil and deep historical burdens, Write for Mississippi is planning a series of creative writing workshops in the spring of 2017 that puts guest writers into public high school classrooms in all 82 counties of Mississippi to generate poems, stories, and essays around the prompt “What’s a problem in your community? How could you try to fix it?” and then to publish the best of the resulting pieces in a book that will be redistributed across the state. Our belief is that this work will illuminate the wide spectrum of issues that confront our young people; provoke students into thinking of themselves as agents; bring our diverse communities together in productive dialogue; use creative writing as a springboard for positive action; and position Mississippi as a leader in what could become a broader national movement.