By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Poet laureate leads Mac workshop

“You want your writing to describe vividly,” she told the group, gathered as a prelude to the Arts Alliance of Yamhill County’s Terroir writing festival, held in April.

Terroir 2014 is slated to run all day the Saturday of April 19 at Chemeketa Community College’s Yamhill Valley Campus. And this time, organizers have added a mentor-student element.

Adult mentors will work with student writers in the weeks leading up to Terroir and the annual Paper Gardens writing contest that accompanies it. The goal is to prepare the young writers to enter the contest, which has a March 1 deadline, and help them get more benefit from of the festival.

Some of the mentors and students participated in the training session conducted by Petersen. “I’ll be coaxing from you lots of imagery,” the poet laureate promised as she led participants through a series of writing exercises she calls “springboards.”

First, she asked them to envision a favorite food they had enjoyed away from home. Then she asked them to write down details, such as how much it cost, what it contained, where they ate it, whom they were with, how the place looked and sounded, and how they felt. Then she gave them 10 minutes to write a poem that would help readers experience the same sensations.

Second, Petersen asked them to think of someone important to their lives. What did he look like, how did he talk, what did he like to do, what did they do together, she asked, again directing students to capture images that popped into their heads, then create a poem.

Third, she told them to pick three colors and describe those shades. She asked, what does each color look like, taste like, smell like? What’s its favorite subject in school, favorite song, favorite month? How does it relate to the other colors? Once again, writing a poem followed.

At the end of each 10-minute writing period, Petersen asked participants to pause. “Don’t stop, pause,” she said. “Writing does work that way. You can return to this later and keep writing.”


David Bates

I had the pleasure of attending this event as well, and was surprised to find that there was a poem inside of me that wanted to come out. Thanks to the Arts Alliance of Yamhill County for organizing it, and to Paulann Petersen for coming out to McMinnville. It was nice to see a number of younger writers there. I hope teachers and librarians around Yamhill County who know of young people who are self-motivated to pick up pen and paper will encourage them to enter the Paper Gardens contest and/or attend the Terroir festival.

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