To celebrate National Poetry Month, English and Creative Writing teacher Melanie Farmer hosted the Visiting Writers series in April. The series featured workshops with nationally acclaimed writers Jasmin Morrell, Rochelle Hurt, and Chrissy Kolaya. These writers met with students through virtual workshops, offering encouraging insight into the world of poetry.
Junior Isabel Tongson attended two of these meetings hoping to learn how to develop her own voice and style as a poet.
“I think the Visiting Writer Workshops are great opportunities to expose myself to writers who are sometimes under the radar but have successful work in the field,” Tongson said. “I love hearing about the many different approaches to writing because it’s different with each author and reminds me that there is no correct way to creative writing, as it’s a vast spectrum. These workshops are also great cures to writer’s block!”
Helping students to gain an outsider’s perspective is one of Professor Chrissy Kolaya’s main goals for her workshops. As a college professor at UCF for undergraduate and graduate students, Professor Kolaya finds that students tend to benefit more when exposed to different voices. It helps to pass a sense of curiousness to students that she hopes they can carry for the rest of their lives.
“If a student has spent a whole semester learning from one teacher, they will know plenty about how that teacher utilizes Creative Writing,” Kolaya said. “But it is especially valuable when outside writers come in and offer a different angle, a different life experience, a different career path. It lets them listen to different conversations and look at writing through multiple lenses. It helps to develop a modern and personalized interpretation of poetry for each student.”
Another reason Kolaya enjoys doing these workshops is that she feels they allow her to do the “fun parts of teaching.” She enjoys seeing the lightbulb go off for students during collaborative and engaging activities. For instance, in her workshops Kolaya has students recreate Frank O’Hara’s poem “Lana Turner Has Collapsed” through mad-libs. Since this poem was about a famous celebrity, students imagined modern-day celebrities doing scandalous or shocking things in their day-to-day lives.
Though the majority of students who attend these workshops are students with a writing background, Tongson and Kolaya both agree that these workshops can be accessible for any grade level and any level of writer.
“These workshops are truly judgment-free-zones when it comes to quality, style and content,” Tongson said. “Overall, these workshops are spaces for people who simply like writing to gather, creating a very fulfilling energy. Everyone there has some desire to make something. So as long as you love being creative, you’ll have a great experience.”