…Wisconsin, that is.
Never mind the gorgeous weather, the scenic drive from the Twin Cities, the idyllic campus of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. It was the writers I met on Tuesday that made my day.
Those eleven writers were participating in the Mississippi Valley Gifted and Talented Network Creative Writing Festival. Let me tell you: “talented” is a tidy little understatement for that group of high schoolers.
In our time together, we talked about the ingredients of effective fiction writing and played around with creating some bits of fiction ourselves. We took to heart the lesson of writing with concrete detail, courtesy of fiction phenom and Wisconsin native Geoff Herbach. (Hurry up and read Geoff’s book, Stupid Fast, NOW because the sequel, Nothing Special, comes out on May 1!)
And then my favorite part of the festival: We listened to each other read a paragraph or two from our stories-in-progress. How fun to hear so many voices and to glimpse such wildly differing fictional worlds. There were stalkers and scary stepbrothers, “dream walkers” and Homecoming dance disasters, bonfires and ill-fated lovers and –gulp!– corpses on trains.
Despite the range of subject matter and style, all the writers had something in common: passion for their art. Creative writing festivals can help us become more skillful readers and writers, but passion comes from somewhere else entirely. Passion shows itself in those moments when it’s just the writer and her story, when she could be doing a zillion other (easier?) things but knows she must do this.
A post scriptum (because I never like to pass up the opportunity to point out a convergence of writing and sports):
One talented writer I met on Tuesday plays in the pep band for Onalaska High School. It has been a busy month for her and her bandmates, as a few of their athletic teams have had success in postseason play. This weekend, the pep band will accompany the boys’ basketball team to the Wisconsin state tournament — Go Hilltoppers! And go band!