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She was the first one in the classroom, sitting primly, her hands clasped beneath the student desk, her only sign of nervousness coming, perhaps, when her hand swept her long, straight-cut hair behind her. Another student arrived in a white hoodie, slinging the burden of her backpack to the floor and sliding into a seat. They had come to the Creative Non-Fiction workshop at Mercy’s Young Writers Conference for middle-school and Mercy girls on November 14. As they wrote their way through the class, they revealed what writing is to them:

“If writing behaved like an animal, it would be a bird kept as a pet, constantly squawking new ideas and characters at me,” said Olivia. “However, the pet is kept in a cage, hidden from everyone except people who are closest to me.” Also comparing writing to birds, Morgan saw it as “a sparrow flying through a story” or “a lion attacking words.”

“A leopard swaying through the jungle,” added Jazmine. “Writing is swaying through a world of imagination and creativity.” Sara M. likened writing to a “snake. It slithers around and generally captivates people with its functions. Writing can slither through ideas and topics and captivate peoples’ minds.”

Taliah commented, “When writing, the kind of weather in my mind is a thunder storm. It starts with chaos and confusion, loud noises throbbing through my head. But when the storm stops, I see a clear mind.”

To Autumn, “Writing is a way to let me forget reality. It helps me [her] escape to other worlds, while sentences appeal to Meg K. “Writing a sentence is like painting. It develops over time, and words of a sentence are like colors. The painting visualizes a meaning like a sentence does.

The conference served as a meeting place for writing professionals to hand down trade-secret tips to aspiring authors. Ms. Laura Shovan, Mercy mom, published poet and poetry editor for Little Patuxent Review, conducted a workshop on how to get published. Mercy’s Ms. Kitty Yanson showed the girls how to use fiction techniques to enliven their non-fiction writing.

Dr. Lynne Spigelmire Viti ’65, a teacher in the writing program Wellesley College in Massachusetts, read from her forthcoming book and led workshoppers in composing their own poems. Likewise, Ms. Alma Nugent Shuster ’66, former creative writing and English faculty member at Goucher, Towson University, and Stephenson University helped participants with their own creations.

Ms. L.M. Preston used her extensive knowledge of science fiction writing, fostered by an enthusiasm for coming-of-age stories, technology and travelling as well as the encouragement of her family, to assist workshoppers with building their own fantasy worlds.

As a widely-published author whose works appear in a diverse group of publications which includes The Rumpus, Johns Hopkins Magazine, NPR.org, Post Road, and The Little Patuxent Review, Ms. Elisabeth Dahl was more than qualified to expound on techniques for writing strong fiction.

At day’s end, participants and instructors gathered in the library for individual to read their work in a celebration of words.

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