In April, Nonfiction Editor Emily Rich and Poetry Editor Laura Shovan visited Magruder High School. Students Megan Mitchell and Sam Lee each wrote essays highlighting the impact this visit had on them. First up, Sam Lee.
The chatter of a room full of creative writing students fell nearly silent when writers Laura Shovan and Emily Rich walked into the room. Our teacher led them to the front and introduced them, even though we already knew much about their writing. Each pulled up a chair and casually sat down. Once they were settled in, Ms. Shovan asked, “So, what are your questions?”
It took a few minutes for the collection of aspiring writers to warm up, asking standard questions as first—“Why did you begin to write?”, “How is writing part of your daily life?”, and “What are your inspirations?” They gave thoughtful and insightful answers from two unique perspectives, but our questions were not very specific yet.
In the weeks preceding their visit, we had the opportunity to read some of their works and familiarize ourselves with their individual writing styles. For Ms. Shovan, in particular, we had many questions about her style; our next assignment would emulate some of her poems. The questions for Ms. Rich pertained more to her content. Her personal essays had captivated us, and we were all curious about her storytelling.
We view them as role models—their lives are something that we, as students of writing, hope to accomplish one day. They answered fully and with grace, frequently elaborating with their past experiences. Ms. Shovan even pulled out her own personal writing journal to show us, and Ms. Rich explained a bit of her writing process as she works on a new piece.
Each left us with a few pieces of advice—to live lives worth writing about, and to be observant of others. Their thoughts and ideas have helped inject more vigor into our writing; seeing and having the opportunity to converse with two kind, successful women was an invaluable experience.
Next, Megan Mitchell reflects.
I had the privilege of sitting in front of Laura Shovan and Emily Rich, experienced writers who graced us with their presence. Now of course, we had the typical questions that any aspiring writer would ask: How do you come up with ideas? How important is character development? What’s the difference between prose and short stories?
Ms. Rich and Ms. Shovan shared their extensive knowledge on these topics. Their unique explanations of their experiences were an invaluable aspect to their visit, and provided a diverse image of their individual journeys as writers.
However, I found that the most striking questions and answers weren’t about the process of writing itself, but the ones concerning our own personalities within our writing. As Ms. Rich and Ms. Shovan shared, writing well is not about being like other popular authors, or what your teacher defines as good writing. Good writing is about putting your own style into your work, and telling your own story through your own creativity.
Ms. Rich and Ms. Shovan’s visit offered incredible insight into the world of a writer, and gave me inspiration in following my own path. I greatly appreciated their presence and generosity in taking time out of their days to inspire us.
Thank you, Laura Shovan, Emily Rich, and Little Patuxent Review!
Online Editor’s Note: A special thanks goes out to Scot Ehrhardt, Sam and Megan’s teacher, who was instrumental in getting Laura and Emily into the classroom and encouraging his students to write, not only about this experience, but about all experiences. We thank Sam and Megan for getting Laura Shovan to open up her journal and give us all a peek inside: we’ve been so curious to get a glimpse of her genius at work!