DPS high school poets, creative writers gather for symposium

McGregor Memorial Conference Center became a think tank for 150 young poets and creative writers on May 5.

Cody, Detroit International Academy for Young Women (DIAYW), Western International, Southeastern, Douglass Academy and Communication and Media Arts were represented at the inaugural “Who Understands Me But Me?” authors conference on Wayne State University’s campus. Hosted by the InsideOut Literary Arts Project, the day-long event featured workshops designed to inspire students with techniques for creating short stories, poetry and other prose. Students received instruction from InsideOut’s professional writers-in-residence at many Detroit Public Schools, along with encouragement from international award-winning author and speaker Jimmy Santiago Baca.

Baca’s workshop and keynote address focused on ways to use life’s challenges and lessons to create powerful messages on paper. Greed and impatience are symptoms in society that can impact a student’s ability to function as a human, let alone grow as a writer, Baca said.

“We have to avoid seeking instant gratification,” he told the conference luncheon. “It makes things hard when we don’t understand the importance of the journey.”

Having visited a class at DIAYW on May 4, Baca held a special workshop for boys, titled “Writing from the Edge.” The seminar borrowed its title from Baca’s popular book, “Stories from the Edge,” which is taught in public school literature classes throughout the country.

Other workshops carried colorful titles like “I Am Bad: Finding the Superhero Through Poetry” and “How to Use the Force – Like a Jedi.”

Sponsored by the JP Morgan Chase Foundation, “Who Understands Me But Me?” was coordinated with help from DPS teachers Christina Bell-Bowers, of DIAYW, William Bowles, of Western International, and Sara Hennes, of Cody Academy of Critical Thinkers.

Dr. Terry Blackhawk, InsideOut’s founder, said the event fulfilled a long-time vision: “It’s a dream come true. We want to continue giving students a passion and love of writing.”

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