Oh, The Places They Went

With their big public reading just a day away, the young writers are officially in prep-mode. Pens went to paper in nearly every activity as they begin to polish what they’ve been working on all week. But before they reach their final destination of sharing their work with family, peers, and other members of the community, they had one more mini-journey to make today: Toward a new sense of place.

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They started this journey with a painterly scavenger hunt around the Beach Museum. Equipped with a list of discoveries to check off — a painting containing a mother and child, and a piece of art in three mediums among them—, the writers rushed toward the galleries. The prize if successfully completing the hunt? In the words of instructor Brian McCarty: “Bragging rights.”

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Instructor Brian McCarty explains the painterly scavenger hunt. 

This was a great way to open the penultimate day of the Workshop, as it allowed the young writers to once again interact with the art. Their interaction continued when the writers were challenged to select a piece of art in the Beach and find a way to incorporate it into their works-in-progress.

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The writing marathon continued with a change of scenery, as the writers trekked across campus (many hadn’t explored the K-State campus beyond the Beach) to Hale Library. They spent a half-hour writing in the Great Room, referred to as the “Harry Potter” room by many at K-State. As it turned out, the writers got the entire room to themselves, allowing them to spread out and find new places of inspiration among the life-like paintings and filtered sunlight. You could feel a fresh creative energy in the air as pens and pencils scratched against paper, a sound magnified by the absolute silence within the room.

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Our final visitor, Stephen Johnson*, was a perfect fit for today’s theme of place. In his profession, Stephen often takes words to a new “place”; he is an artist whose books take the alphabet and transform it into something visually innovative. His presentation first focused on children’s books such as Where The Wild Things Are and how they use visuals to tell a story, before showing and explaining the stories behind his own works of art.

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Stephen Johnson reads from his book, As The City Sleeps.

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Stephen Johnson gives the young writers an exclusive look at his newest book, Alphabet School, to be published in September.

Stephen also discussed the concept of “story by reinvention” and how visuals and the “functionality” of those visuals lend themselves to creating a new story.

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Stephen Johnson demonstrates the “functionality” of a story with his book, My Little Pink Princess Purse.

You could tell that the writers enjoyed Stephen’s presentation; there were many whispered exclamations of “That’s so cool!” as he flipped through his books. If the writers hadn’t considered the idea that visuals could in fact prompt a story and not just the other way around, they did now.

Stephen challenged the writers to find that balance between “storytelling and interactivity” by giving them each a four or five leaf clover to work with. Where did these clovers come from? That was up to the writers to uncover.

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Some of the answers included a clover as a metaphor for a dying butterfly and an unlucky four-leaf clover. This exercise showed that by visualizing an object and having that as your starting point, a story can go in a brand new direction.

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Stephen Johnson explores the Beach Museum with the young writers. 

Day 4 of the Workshop wound down where it began, with the students once again exploring the galleries of the Beach. They had ventured to many new places throughout the day, both literally and figuratively, so returning to a familiar place served as a comfortable bookend. With a big day ahead of them tomorrow, the young writers had a confidence that their journey was nearly complete—and a bit of good luck in the palm of their hands.  

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~ Dustin Vann, Program Assistant

*For more information on Stephen Johnson, visit his official website: http://www.stephentjohnson.com/

Bonus Pictures of the Day: 

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Oh-Sou-Ka!

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Alliteration amusement with Stephen Johnson. 

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