By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

'We're all writers'

Rockne Roll/News-Register##
 Linfield College Prof. Anna Keesey, left, works with Kendra Garrettson during an after school writing program at Wascher Elementary School in Lafayette.
Rockne Roll/News-Register## Linfield College Prof. Anna Keesey, left, works with Kendra Garrettson during an after school writing program at Wascher Elementary School in Lafayette.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##
Retired teacher Pam Tate, right, talks with a student during the Wascher writing festival.
Rockne Roll/News-Register## Retired teacher Pam Tate, right, talks with a student during the Wascher writing festival.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##
From left, fifth-grader Ayla Sullens works with teacher Zealand Reynolds as Breonna Sallee looks on during the Wednesday, Feb. 1, session of the writing festival.
Rockne Roll/News-Register## From left, fifth-grader Ayla Sullens works with teacher Zealand Reynolds as Breonna Sallee looks on during the Wednesday, Feb. 1, session of the writing festival.

LAFAYETTE — Before they knuckled down to writing, Wascher Elementary School kindergartners shared what they’d composed the day before, in the first session of Wascher’s annual writing festival.

“I go to school by car,” Bentley Andre said. Then he hesitated as he pondered the the final word in his opening — “Vrrooomm!”

“Look at all these letters you wrote, prompted his teacher, Shelly Shilhanek. “And look at the exclamation point.

“That means you have to say it with expression, right?”

Bentley tried again. “VRROOOMM!” he growled, imitating the sound of the car in which he arrived.

Bentley had been doing one of the exercises writers need to do, according to teachers and volunteers — including the published authors running the after-school festival. He had been listening. 

Writers also need to look at the things around them, Shilhanek said. Using multiple senses helps them describe what they’re writing about, she said.

Then she led them into a discussion of having a beginning, middle and ending to a story. Like Bentley, they had all written a sentence or two about how they get to school. What’s next? she asked.

“We need to add more detail,” said Ruben Mason, who was writing about riding the bus.

Shilhanek smiled. “I think you’re a writer!” she told him, exclamation point.

In fact, she told all the kindergartners, “You are amazing writers. I love it!”

Wascher students love writing, Principal Kourtney Ferrua said. 

Some students who participated in the festival just wanted more time to write. Others wanted to improve. And some planned to enter Paper Gardens, the annual creative writing festival sponsored by the Arts Alliance of Yamhill County.

Open to both young people and adults, Paper Gardens accepts poetry and prose, both short stories and creative nonfiction. The entry deadline is Feb. 22.

“If you write something you’re really proud of, you can turn it in for Paper Gardens,” Ferrua reminded each group of young writers.

The principal said she expected about 30 to take part in the writing festival this year. Instead, 90 signed up.

Fortunately, she said, plenty of teachers and volunteers were happy to work with small groups of young writers.

Anna Keesey, a Linfield College writing professor and author of “Little Century,” encouraged a group of fourth-graders to use “vivid, descriptive language.”

“Develop a repertoire of really vivid adjectives, similes and other tools,” she told them.

Just as she would do with her college students, Keesey said, she also talked with them about ways to begin stories, both those based on real events and those that are imaginary.

She was pleased with what the Wascher writers were doing.

For example, she said, one student, Kendra Garrettson, started her story, “Have you ever drowned in cold water, desperate for air?” How could a reader not be intrigued; Keesey wondered.

Kendra said she was excited about getting to work with a published author. She loves writing, she said, especially when she can use her imagination. “I like to twist things,” she said.

Keesey encouraged students to make their stories unique and true to themselves.

“Each person has his or her own story to tell. Nobody else will write those words,” she said. “Try not to fake it, or write something everyone knows. Write what you can make real.”

Back in the kindergarten room, Ashton Malloy noticed two extra adults visiting the classroom where he was working on the story about how he gets to school.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“He’s a photographer,” the female visitor said, “and I’m a writer.”

“I’m a writer, too,” Ashton said. 

He indicated his fellow kindergartners, hunched over their desks with pencils or crayons in their hands. “We’re all writers here,” he said.

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