Middle-schoolers find their `Voice' in literary digest

Scores vie for chance to have work published

May 24, 2000|By Laura Dreibelbis | Laura Dreibelbis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The written word meshed with computer-generated art at the unveiling ceremony of the middle school literary magazine Our Voice.

Fifty-one short stories, poems and computer-drawn illustrations were published, chosen from nearly 200 entries submitted by pupils from 17 Howard County middle schools.

Our Voice is an appropriate title for a magazine filled with the thoughts of youngsters about topics ranging from the millennium and music to family, self and nature. Included was a poem about a Hershey's Kiss.

Words and pictures form the magazine, but deep thoughts about dreams, hopes and disappointments are eloquently expressed in the pages.

Excited parents and children waited anxiously in the standing-room-only reception area last Wednesday at Faulkner Ridge Center in Columbia.

Scott Gayer from Harper's Choice Middle School said he felt honored that his poem "Anywhere But Here," which he wrote at the last minute, was selected."I never think any of my pieces are going to make it," he said.

His mother, Fran, recognized parts of her son's life, family and grandmother, whom he captured in the poem."As a parent, you are in awe that your child can be such a good writer," she said.

Our Voice began as the dream of Denise Graybeal and ConnieTaylor when they were at Hammond Middle School. Both had been interested in writing and wanted to publish a literary magazine for their peers.

After a year of research and hard work, they received funding from the Howard County school system and began work on the first issue, which was published three years ago.

Because of the success and value of the project, Our Voice draws entries from every middle school in Howard County and is now a line item in the middle school budget.

Denise and Connie, both 16, now attend Atholton High School. They were invited to the unveiling and spoke of the beginnings of their project. As Denise surveyed the large turnout at the reception, she said: "I'm amazed. I never knew it would get this far."

Local author and poet Linda Joy Burke, a speaker, shared an unusual method of experiencing poetry. She handed out instruments to be shaken, banged and rung as she recited verse. As the noise started, audience members looked around - some uncomfortable, others smiling, a few bewildered.

Eventually, with Burke's start-and-stop coaching, everyone got in time and she recited one of her poems - "Weavers" - to the beat. As the instruments were quieted one by one, Burke finished the poem to a silent room.

In her comments to the young artists about their work, Burke noted that she was "moved by the depth of the conversation around nature, around being yourself." She felt the collection had a sense of hope and she "loved how people observed the world around them." Burke urged the youngsters to keep writing, learning, reaching and listening to themselves.

After Burke's presentation, Our Voice was officially unveiled and each participant received a copy and certificate while parents clamored to get close enough to snap pictures.

Elkridge Landing pupil Amanda Forejt loves computers and art and had some of her computer-generated work published in the magazine. Her composition evolved as she doodled and played around with a new computer program. Her art is "an interesting way to express my stuff to other people," she said.

Her mother, Holly, noted that adults often don't like they way kids express themselves and shut them off. But the magazine is a medium that is acceptable to adults."At this age, kids really express themselves more honestly and what's in their heart is in their drawings and writings - we need to read and pay attention," she said.

Amanda's classmate Jennifer German agreed. It is her second year in the magazine and she has won statewide awards for her computer art. Jennifer likes the magazine because she is able to do what she wants instead of following parameters set by others.

Nearby was Meghan Sullivan, who also has won statewide awards and has had her computer art selected for a second year. When discussing her art, she said, it's "a part of me - I can express my feelings and be creative."

She likes to read historical fiction, and her illustrations are based on what she's read and gleaned from her imagination.

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