Youthlinks hosts student creative writing workshop

Apr 17, 2014

Thomaston — Forty eighth- and ninth-grade students of Oceanside High School West gathered at Watts Hall in Thomaston March 19 for a full-day Creative Writing Workshop, organized by Youthlinks of Rockland.

This workshop complimented a weekly after-school creative writing club provided by Youthlinks and offered to high school students of Regional School Unit 13, from January through April of this year. The Creative Writing Workshop connected Oceanside West students to four writers of varying literary style who call the Midcoast area home: Jen Blood of Cushing, Liz Hand of Belfast, Lacy Simons of Rockland, and Ben Odgren of Rockport. Students split into groups of 10 and rotated through the day to spend an intensive, hour-long session with each author.

Blood holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine, is a freelance journalist, professional editor, and author of the bestselling Erin Solomon mystery series. Blood led students through the creative, multi-media process of developing dynamic characters which reflected her own process of creating characters. Blood provided a series of questions about the character to encourage students to think deeply about creating a layered character; questions such as: what is their favorite color, who is their best friend, what food do they love or hate, and where did they grow up?

Hand is a multiple award-winning critic and author of numerous novels, comics, and short fiction for adults, teenagers, and children. She is on the faculty of the Stonecoast MFA Program in Creative Writing, and divides her time between Maine and London. Hand led students through an exercise in creating strong descriptive language for stories. Using student directed words and phrases, Hand showed how an out of the ordinary descriptive word choice can create emotional, visceral, and evocative descriptions of images and objects.

Odgren studied film in college, lives in Rockport, works at the Island Institute in Rockland, and writes screenplays in his spare time. Odgren’s session began with a screening of the introduction of the movie "Kung-Fu Panda" while students followed along with a copy of the movie’s screenplay. Odgren explained the structure of a screenplay, the language of denoting camera work and dialogue, and the importance of writing directorial narration such as setting, actor direction and blocking. Students were then given time to write and share their own film scenes.

Simons, who holds an MFA in poetry and is the owner of Hello Hello Books in Rockland, introduced to students to a variety of literary games and exercises to inspire creativity in writing, specifically poetry. Simons had students write the thoughts, sounds, smells, sights, and emotions of a ride in a favorite car. Using this exercise, Simons encouraged students to keep a journal as a record of similar sensory memories, which are so integral in writing and so easy to forget.

The day wrapped up with time for students to bravely share the imaginative, layered, and often funny works created throughout the day in each author’s session. The intention of the workshop was to connect students with local authors, inspire and skill-build in those students with experience in creative writing, and create a new interest for students who had not expressed an affinity for writing in the past. Feedback from students and authors indicated that the workshop was a success.

Organized and hosted by Youthlinks in Rockland, the Creative Writing Workshop was supported by RSU 13 and Oceanside West’s student activity fund. Snacks for students and lunch for the authors was available through donations from the Rockland Hannaford and Shaw’s supermarkets. The use of Watts Hall at no-cost for this educational event was provided by the town of Thomaston.

For more information please call Youthlinks at 594-2221 or visit

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