Speaker Series Gives West Writers New Perspective

Speaker Series Gives West Creative Writers New Perspective
Posted on 03/19/2019
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photo of speaker in West's creative writing class“Writing is hard work."

“Just get it on paper.”

Coming from someone who writes for a living, these words seemed to carry a lot of weight for the Lakota West students sitting in Eileen Washburn’s creative writing class last week. Historical crime detective author Brian Forschner was the class’s first visitor in a three-part speaker series Washburn had planned for her students.

“I write for myself, so I don’t have an extensive knowledge about rejection, publishing, pitching a film, and so many other areas that the students are interested in learning about,” said Washburn, who takes every opportunity to tap into other people’s networks to connect her students with professional writers.

Her most recent networking led her to Forschner, who captivated Washburn’s class for 90 minutes with the tale of his journey writing a book that has also been adapted into a play coming to the Aronoff Theatre’s stage this May. His book, titled “Cold Serial: The Jack the Strangler Murders,” reopens the unsolved case of a century-old series of murders in Dayton, Ohio and goes on a quest to discover the truth.

Forschner explained that his initial discovery of the case and inspiration for his book was more of an accident - just something he stumbled upon during a regular visit to the library. But the intense research that followed was evidence to Washburn’s students of just how hard writing can be.

Following another visit from Andrew Eisen, writer of the feature firm “Youth in Oregon,” Washburn welcomed the final speaker into her classroom in a less traditional format. Using Google Hangout, students spoke with Jay Martinez, a California-based screenwriter. “Without technology, we wouldn’t have had this opportunity. He was able to interact with the kids and even workshopped with them. They loved it!,” Washburn said.

Washburn has been known to use digital tools to engage her students in other ways, too, including regular videos with writing tips by famous authors. She also uses the district’s learning management system, Canvas, to facilitate idea sharing and peer review.

With each visit, Washburn could see the impact the speakers were having on her students. “I heard some students leaving class saying that hearing from the speaker solidified that they want to study writing in college and pursue it more seriously,” she said. “I have heard students discussing the tips from the writers and in turn incorporating different techniques into their writing. That’s when I know it’s working.”