Temple Times Online Edition
    DECEMBER 8, 2005
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Creative writing students encourage young authors

Precious Young, a student at Duckrey Elementary School, reads while behind her two Temple graduate students in the Creative Writing program, Natacha Leonard (left) and Mecca Sullivan, look on. Young participated in the young author workshops offered by New City Writing, a center directed by professor Eli Goldblatt in the Temple English department.

Natacha Leonard and Mecca Sullivan, both second-year students in Temple’s graduate program in creative writing, knew at a young age that they wanted to become writers.

Sullivan decided on that career as early as fifth grade, and Leonard had an elementary school teacher who prodded her to keep writing.

Now, thanks to an initial series of young author workshops at the Tree House Books children’s bookstore in North Philadelphia, Leonard and Sullivan are returning the favor for a group of students from Duckrey Elementary School.

“I had a teacher who would always laugh at my funny stories and encourage me to keep at it,” said Leonard, from Silver Spring, Md.

“For me to be able to give back and help these kids with their own writing is so satisfying. It’s a great opportunity to show them that writing is important and worth pursuing.”

Leonard and Sullivan — and a third Temple graduate student, Martina Arnal, an art education major at the Tyler School of Art — taught after-school sessions in poetry, fiction and printmaking to a dozen students three days a week for four weeks this fall.

At a reception at Tree House Books on Nov. 16, each Duckrey student read from a handmade book that he or she had created during the workshops. With the help of Temple students, Tree House Books owner Joanne Jackson, whose new store was founded to promote literacy and an appreciation of multicultural literature for local children and families, hopes to expand the program next spring. Program organizers will also collate the students’ work into a new publication, Acorns: Young Writers from Tree House Books.

The project was funded by New City Writing: Institute for the Study of Literature, Literacy and Culture, a center directed by professor Eli Goldblatt in the Temple English department.

“Having a teacher who encourages you and stays with you every step of the way is very gratifying and can make a lasting impression,” Sullivan said. “Being from Harlem, I love that I am able to do something like this in a similar community setting where kids might not have all the advantages and truly need this kind of support.”

- By Ted Boscia