Souhegan writer goes to the woods

Every person has a place where they belong. For some people, this place is a sports field; for others, this place is a church. For me, this place is in the woods, which was a good start for the New England Young Writers’ Conference.

However, this Vermont mountain setting was not the only beautiful and self-affirming thing about the conference: there were workshops with brilliant writers; readings by hilarious poets, novelists and journalists; delicious meals; plenty of activities; and, above all, an awful lot of other aspiring writers with whom I could talk.

Some would imagine that gathering a group of aspiring teen poets and novelists in one place would be a festival of angst, but this was not my experience at all. These writers were an unreal group – 200 of the most competent and outgoing students I have ever met.

Between helping each other workshop poetry and gathering more than a hundred of us around a campfire for music and readings that adults neither planned nor instigated, the sense of community and belonging was fantastic.

This setting was the perfect place to write. Keith Wilson, a fabulous poet and our writing mentor for the weekend, began our workshop by asking for two poems: one about similarities to a bird and the other about similarities to a potato.

The real value in this prompt was not the final product, but the opportunity to think about things from a different angle.

Mr. Wilson then shared a Billy Collins quote, explaining that "prose is a potato and poetry is a bird" and opening a discussion about the definition of poetry. While we did not come to a conclusion in terms of what constitutes a "poem" as opposed to a "list," we did open some strange and creative part of each of our minds.

Kira Coleman is a junior at Souhegan High School in Amherst.