Students have the Write Connection

Pelham High School Write Connection participants were (Front row, L-R) Kaley Rector, Tracy Kimbrell, Sarah Banasiewicz, Emily Sansom, Rachel Scott, Becca Weiler and Hannah Blackwood; (Second row, L-R) Mara DeLuca, Austin Hancock, Casey Nichols, Belle Griffin, Tyler Sharp, Ray Foushee, Izzy Dixon, Michael Owens, Allie Robertson and Cassidy Clevenger; (Back row, L-R) Ryan Hatch and Victor Angel. (Special/Connie Nolen)

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“Seriously? They selected me? I am going to Write Connection! Wow! Thanks for calling me,” Belle Griffin said.

Griffin was absent on the day that our Pelham High School Write Connection Award letters went out. Unable to hand Griffin her letter in person, I opted for a phone call. Her excitement made the call worthwhile.

Griffin was one of a small group of Pelham High School writers selected to attend Write Connection, the University of Montevallo’s annual partnership with Shelby County Schools to host a writing conference for high school writers.

Participants from each school are limited to allow representation from all eight of Shelby County’s high schools. Students compete to attend Write Connection by completing portfolios, which are judged by a committee of teachers and administrators.

February’s fickle weather graced us with a gorgeous day for Write Connection. Montevallo High School teacher Erma Hinton’s Poetry Players brought poetry to life to kick off the festivities. During the day, students enjoyed an open mic session to share work from their portfolios. Students also attended sessions led by a poet and writers specializing in both fiction and nonfiction.

Poet Rosemary Royston used fortune cookie prompts to motivate students. Bryn Chancellor led students in exercises that produced fun and quirky collaborative fiction. And finally, Shelby County author and new teacher Richard Scott led the nonfiction workshop. Currently at Columbiana Middle School, Scott has many Pelham ties. His sons are PHS grads and his wife was the Valley Intermediate School librarian for years.

Scott challenged the students to research their nonfiction writing topics as a process of discovery inviting them to consider two questions about their topics: What do I know, and what do I want or need to know? He encouraged the students to dig deeper for great nonfiction stories. Finally, Scott asked for questions. I asked Scott why he left full-time writing to become a teacher.

“Next to marrying my wife and having my children, becoming a teacher is the best thing I’ve ever done,” Scott said. “I have 164 reasons to get out of bed every morning. I have more than 160 people whose lives I am excited to hear about daily. Do you know what I mean?”

Scott means that he’s passionate about teaching and he’s an excellent teacher who taught me to ask exactly what I wanted to know.

Connie Nolen can be reached by e–mail at CNolen@Shelbyed.k12.al.us.