PowerPhilanthropy Friday: Young Writers’ Studio
Famous Columbus author and humorist James Thurber wrote, “Columbus is a town in which almost anything is likely to happen and in which almost everything has.” Students in the Young Writers’ Studio are working hard to craft creative, new stories that often imagine the few things that have not taken place in Columbus, as of yet anyway.
“The kids that come in here are so very bright and intelligent. They come from all different backgrounds. They have tremendous promise and a lot of them need just a little structure or something outside of school to give them the encouragement to become what they can be. That is what Thurber House programs like this one offer,” said Robert Loss, facilitator of the Thurber House Young Writers’ Studio.
Young Writers’ Studio is open to all 9-12 grade students interested in writing outside of book reports and beyond classroom prompts. During the first half of each session, students participate in a lesson on various aspects of writing designed by Loss, a local writer and teacher at Columbus College of Art & Design. Students also submit a piece of their own writing prior to each meeting for it to be reviewed during the second half of the session. Each piece is thoroughly discussed providing the author with constructive and supportive feedback about everything from character development to grammar.
“The ability to share their work with peers who take it as seriously as they do is great. The community that they form here is a special kind of group. It’s not something that they can get at their own schools. Here the work is fun and laid back but we do take the critique part of the workshop very seriously,” said Loss.
The community of the Young Writers’ Studio was readily apparent as the first session of the season got underway Wednesday evening. Students eagerly came rushing in and began catching up with their peers from all over Columbus. They come from private, public and home schools.
One very passionate student in the group of roughly 15 has been engaged with Thurber House programs for 8 years.
“At this point it’s like family. Everyone here is a fantastic writer. My writing has really improved. People are honest but not mean with critiques. Some of my best friends are from here,” said Frankie Diederich, a junior at Grove City Christian.
Diederich, who aspires to be a writer, editor, and independent bookstore owner, can’t imagine life without Thurber House programs especially after the closing of her school newspaper.
“Without Thurber I wouldn’t be as good. I wouldn’t be doing this. I would be alone. So yeah, my life would suck if I wasn’t able to come here,” Diederich said with one of her all but constant smiles.
According to Meg Brown, manager of Children’s Education Programming, some 1,800 students have been involved with the Young Writers’ Studio over the last six years. The sessions run seasonally throughout the year and students can join in and pay-as-they-go at any point. The cost is $15 per meeting.
“I am constantly amazed how talented these students are. They write without abandon and it’s a truly great thing to witness. They just light up when they work together and become inspired. Young or old, if there is any part of you that loves to write you should come here and give one of our programs a try. Thurber House is a rare gem where year-round people of all ages and abilities can come and share their love of the written word,” said Brown.
Thurber House is where James Thurber lived with his family in the early twentieth century. In 1984, after several years of restoration, it was opened as a literary center, offering a residency for creative writers and journalists. Year by year, new programs continue to be added, all geared toward the wonders of the written word for both children and adults. It is on the state and national registers of historic landmarks, and is unique in that it is also a living museum, open seven days a week for tours.
Thurber House is known for its Prize for American Humor and its outstanding children’s programs, which include a summer writing camp, an afterschool program for teens interested in writing, free library writing workshops, and more. The adult programming includes an Adult Writing Workshop, Evenings with Authors, which brings in nationally known authors for discussion with the public, and Summer Literary Picnics that celebrate Ohio-related authors.
For Loss, the Young Writers’ Studio is a critical asset to the students but also the Columbus community as a whole.
“This gives them confidence moving into the college community and tools that they can use there. It prepares them for small college classrooms where a lot of discussion is expected. I think we have lost sight of what the arts can do not just for young minds but also for entire communities. The kind of vibrancy, the discourse they can encourage is crucial to a community that is self-aware and is able to talk amongst itself. This program and the others at Thurber House inspire an adventurous, intellectual curiosity and that is a way to grow a unique and open community,” said Loss.
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