JACKSON, Tenn. – March 7, 2003 – The key to good writing is often considered one of the mysteries of life. While students and professors probe for a special button which releases creative abilities, many people avoid a pen and paper at all costs. At Union's annual writing workshop, however, the mystery is reduced to simple techniques that can make anyone a better writer.
The workshop participants, fifty-two students from seven West Tennessee high schools, spent the morning learning how to improve their poetry, short story and creative non-fiction skills. Led by members of Union's English department faculty, Union students and visiting poet Todd Davis, the students discussed selections from well-known writers, wrote short essays and analyzed their work.
"It gives us with an opportunity to share our work with students from other schools," said Josh Hall, a senior at Milan High School and this year's winner in the creative non-fiction writing category. "Usually we write and compare our work with a small group of peers, but today we can share ideas and learn from a wide variety of people."
Accompanying high school teachers also participated in a workshop focusing on creative writing techniques, taught by Pam Sutton, associate professor of English at Union.
"This is only the second year we have done this, but we have had very positive responses," said Sutton. "It gives the students an opportunity to exchange ideas with other teachers and shows what college professors look for in their writing classes."
The workshop concluded with an awards ceremony for previously submitted work in poetry, short story and non-fiction at the high school and college levels. In the high school competition, the winners were Kaylen Mallard for both poetry and short story and Josh Hall for creative nonfiction. The college winners were Joanna Stillman (poetry), Andrew Terhune (short story) and Erin Hetzel (creative nonfiction).
After the workshop, Todd Davis, professor of English at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana and a visiting writer in the creative writing program at Iowa State University, read from his newly published book, Ripe: Poems. Union University faculty and students and members of the Jackson community gathered to enjoy both the poetry and the stories behind each poem's creation.
Davis explained the impact nature and his rural upbringing has had on his poetry. As the son of a veterinarian and a lay minister, Davis combines science, the natural world and spirituality to create vivid pictures of the world which has shaped him. "Nature is such a vital part of all of us," Davis said. "As a poet, I attempt to integrate the spiritual and natural aspects of our lives, because to me the two inseparable."
In his introduction, David Malone, assistant professor of English at Union and a friend of Davis, described him as "sincere and down to earth" and "a man you can trust, whom I am honored to know as a friend."
Davis has published works in numerous journals and magazines including Appalachia, The Nebraska Review, Aethlon and Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion. In addition to his poetry, Davis writes contemporary fiction and is the associate editor of Interdisciplinary Literary Studies: A Journal of Criticism and Theory.
"It's exciting to hear a poet of the caliber of Todd Davis in person, where he shares insight into the story behind his poems," said Gene Fant, associate professor and chair of the English department at Union. "The strong attendance at the reading was an encouragement to the entire artistic community here at Union. As a liberal arts institution, imaginative works like poetry should be central to the life of our community."
By Mariann Martin
Class of 2005