Monday, March 28, 2016

Ripples from a small stone in a stock tank

As a writer, I frequently feel that what I do has little lasting impact on life in general, aside perhaps providing a temporary escape from dailyness for a few people. But the other day, a blog suggested that maybe one project had a larger impact.

A few years ago, TCU Press sponsored a collaborative novel called Noah’s Ride. (I was part of the planning team, and to my great joy, I have the original artwork for the cover hanging in my office.) Each of several authors—I can’t remember how many right now—contributed a chapter, with the late beloved western novelist Elmer Kelton leading off. I was left to follow Elmer with the second chapter—the second time I followed his lead in a collaborative novel and, believe me, it was intimidating. Of the remaining authors several were journalists, one a new writer, several seasoned novelists.

In the blog I read, the blogger, Jean Henry Mead, interviewed Mike Kearby, retired high-school reading and English teacher and the author of seventeen novels. He talked to Elmer Kelton and James Ward Lee about the project and decided a collaborative work would be a great way to involve kids who dreamed of becoming writers.

Mike came up with two goals: students would understand that schools could be collaborative and not always competitive, and small-town students would understand that they could write as well as their peers from larger schools. The program was a success.

In 2010 Western Writers of America took over the project, calling it the WWA Youth Writing Project, with Mike Kearby as the coordinator. They produced a work titled simply, Anthology. Although Mike retired as coordinator, the project continues under the auspices of WWA. I can’t help but wonder how many students have participated and been inspired to new confidence. If a handful go on to become writers, it’s a remarkable success.

Like the ripples from a small stone thrown in a stock tank. Thanks to Mike Kearby for his innovative idea, and to Jim Lee, Jeff Guinn and others for spearheading the original book.

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