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.