The Guest Artist Experience - Creative Writing
by Alexa Halim (Dance '21)
Welcome to our blog series by 2020 Summer Intern, Alexa Halim (Dance ’21). Alexa is covering recent guest artists in the different Art Areas at Kinder HSPVA, to give supporters a peek at what it’s like inside an HSPVA classroom. Enjoy!
Guest artists in the Creative Writing Department bring their unique writing styles to Kinder HSPVA so that students can explore different avenues for their writing and learn from the guests’ particular industry experiences. Through these masterclasses and lectures, the Creative Writing students further develop their own writing styles and explore possible careers.
Rising sophomore Lakshmi Sunder (Creative Writing ’23) was kind enough to share her experiences learning from three of the visiting writers from the 2019-2020 school year: poet and University of Texas professor Roger Reeves, prominent Latino playwright Octavio Solis, and editor Bunmi Ishola.
Roger Reeves has quickly become a favorite visitor to the Creative Writing Department! Since the students met him several years ago on one of their annual trips to the Texas Book Festival, Reeves has spent full weeks on the Kinder HSPVA campus as a resident visiting artist. This year, he used the great poem Epic of Gilgamesh and short story “The Semplica Girl Diaries” to teach about writing fiction and poetry. Known to be the first written story, the Epic of Gilgamesh was used to demonstrate how to find narratives in the students’ own poetry.
Lakshmi explains, “Roger Reeves’ mentorship really taught me about the practice of writing and revision, along with the importance of experimentation. …He really taught me about how form plays a role in the way a story is told, and it’s led me to revise my poems and short stories in more unique ways. I also learned about the importance of revision and how no first draft is perfect. I learned that your audience is what truly makes your writing, and that the goal of making art across all mediums is to find something and make it better – to change what already exists and find the right medium to tell your story. Mr. Reeves also taught me about sticking to a schedule and trying to write as much as you can. Even if the writing is bad, it’s still there.”
Octavio Solis, playwright of Quixote Nuevo, paid a visit to the Creative Writing Department thanks to our partnership with the Alley Theatre. Lakshmi recalls her valuable masterclass with Mr. Solis:
“I was inspired by how he took the 400+ year old novel Don Quixote and made it into something modern and unique. Mr. Solis came in for only about an hour, but I remember his lecture clearly because I loved the exercise we did. It was a grid exercise, in which we drew a hundred boxes out on a piece of paper and randomly filled them with nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. After, we had to write a poem in the order those words were put in… While it was meant to be a fun exercise, I felt like the randomness of it all made my final poem a lot more creative, emotional, and narrative-based than it would’ve been had I tried to create it another way. While writing, his exercise has helped me remove a filter in my mind and write from a place in my mind that did not really make sense. I’ve realized that letting your poem write you is a valid way to convey the human brain and tell a story, and it makes your writing all the more unique. When I have writer’s block, I think his exercise would be a helpful way to get my ideas going.”
Another of Lakshmi’s favorite guests was Bunmi Ishola. Ms. Ishola is an editor at a publishing company that specializes in children’s books, and she was introduced to the school through her friend, Kinder HSPVA Magnet Coordinator Jonathan Klein. Ms. Ishola taught about the importance of networking, the need to ensure there is not offensive or ignorant language in one’s writing, and problems around the lack of diversity in the publishing industry.
Lakshmi says that this motivated her “to advocate for more racial and gender diversity” both with publishing and writing. She continued: “Ms. Ishola helped me better myself as an artist by showing me how I can take my passion for writing and make a practical career out of it. Though I don’t know if I would ever pursue publishing, it’s helpful to know about that industry. I do want to become an author, and knowing about the “other side” of that career is really important. I learned about what editors do on a daily basis, became informed on the need to fact-check your writing even if it’s fictional, and the importance of inclusivity and diversity in novels and other works.”
These guest artists come in “with an organized curriculum and an overall openness that made me feel comfortable with asking [questions],” says Lakshmi. With these masterclasses and lectures from professionals in their field, students are able to learn how to pursue a career in their passion!