Writing the Self into Art: The Young Writers Explore Character, Point of View, and Setting

The 2022 Young Writers’ Workshop is off to an excellent start! As our young writers arrived for the first day, they answered today’s very important morning question—What food would you throw at a ceiling fan?—with an unusual assortment of choices, from baby food to peas to cake, complete with illustrations. Some of our young writers are artists, too!

We also got to know each other through the potato game, where each person said what kind of potato they would be. We have a lot of French fries with us this year! Next, the young writers separated into three groups, each of which chose a team name. This year, we have The Investigators (led by Dustin), The True Liars (led by David), and C3 (led by Riley).

Our first writing activity was inspired by an exploration of the museum led by Dustin. The young writers brainstormed adjectives that described an enigmatic print of a prairie fire, then applied that practice to paintings or photos of their choosing as they wrote themselves—or a character—into the piece of art.

Next, the young writers filled out the Proust Questionnaire, a set of questions which is widely used in the literary world, as an exercise in character building. Some brave volunteers were “interviewed” and got to share their character with the group!

After lunch, visiting writer Ania Payne, instructor in professional and creative writing at Kansas State and author of Karma Animalia, read her essay “Irrational Integers,” a highly relatable piece about mathematics and striving to meet the expectations of one’s parents.

Then, she led us outside to take advantage of the beautiful weather—and to switch up our point of view. Among the flowers in the field, each young writer chose an animal or object and wrote from its perspective, giving us insight into the inner thoughts of trees, lamp posts, and more.

To complete her visit, Ania asked the young writers to revisit the museum’s galleries, this time choosing a piece of art that would evoke a memory.

Finally, Riley led the young writers in an activity designed to develop their skills at crafting both setting and beginnings. Each person chose a postcard and focused on the place it depicted, striving to create an unexpected or unusual story beginning—which led some of our young writers into the depths of dystopian worlds.

Today’s parting question was another important one: What animal are you, and why? Again, our young writers impressed us with their artistic talents and command of language. Among the answers were a bear, an otter, a penguin, a cat, and a simple declaration: “I am a shrimp.”

With an eagerness to learn and the chillest vibes imaginable, our young writers knocked it out of the park today. We can’t wait until tomorrow!

— Adrien Sdao, Program Assistant

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