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Tips and tricks for young writers from the MU literary festival

Julia Walters

Features Editor

Millersville held its first Literary Festival this past Friday, November 2nd and with it came various writing professionals who shared their tips for young writers trying to find success in a turbulent world where writing isn’t always seen as something that is especially practical for a career.

Professor Michele Santamaria shared some of her advice for writing that she believes can help students. “If you want to do the writing, you also need to do the reading. Learn from other writers.” She then gave a few writers who have inspired her over the years, including the poetry book Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? By Kenneth  Koch, as well as writers such as Jericho Brown and Tracey K. Smith. She also advocates for completely unstructured writing without any premeditation, as this can hinder writing. It’s important for writers to simply write from the heart and then ask questions like “Who am I now? What just passed through me?”, according to Santamaria.

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Poet Barb Strasko was also present and gave her advice for writing effectively. One way to write poetry well is something that answers a question that can be answered through poetry. According to Strasko, “anything can trigger a question” and it’s especially important to notice things through different perspectives so that questions can form from this. If a writer can“look outward and notice things,” they will be able to think in a different way that can influence their writing. As well as this, Strasko says it’s especially important to keep writing because “you never know what’s going to happen with a poem you write.” It could end up anywhere and impact somebody in ways you never imagined.

Though it can be difficult for students with their busy schedules to find the time to express themselves creatively. Mitchelle Sommers, lawyer and frequent writer, says writers it’s quite the challenge: “You have to really stay focused while everything else is trying to pull you out of focus.”

Alex Brubaker, manager of the Midtown Scholar, says that it’s sometimes necessary to “carve out space intentionally to be creative” which can help students with busy schedules to write.

Matthew Kabik, writer and editor based in Lancaster, says he “use[es] notecards to concept names and ideas when I write fiction…I’ll write a paragraph and put it in my pocket.” This is a small way to keep creativity flowing during a busy work day when there isn’t necessarily much time to sit down and write intensely. If a schedule is increasingly overwhelming, Kabik says this is nothing to despair over: “If you have the drive to do it, creativity won’t be silenced and will find a way to present itself.”  Busy schedule or not, writers have creative juices that flow no matter what life throws at them.

In the face of adversity, it can be hard for young writers to stay encouraged to keep writing. The scholars have advice for this as well. Strasko admits that “it can be very discouraging when you don’t get acceptances. But then all of a sudden, you do, and that keeps you going.”

Additionally, even if a writer doesn’t see success right away, that doesn’t mean they should give up on their passions. Kabik emphasizes, “if you find value in writing something yourself and it’s making you stronger, that’s the most important thing. If you touch even one person with your writing, you’ve already went above and beyond.” It doesn’t matter if others don’t believe in your abilities because the intrinsic value is above anything else.

Even with the difficulties students face with finding time to write or feeling discouraged, there are so many reasons to keep writing and to keep sharing those passions with the rest of the world no matter what anyone else thinks about it. Kabik’s lasting advice may say it best when he said, “creatives have an obligation to create and present.”