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Class lets students show their love of words

Young authors inspire each other's creative writing
By: Kim Palaferri, Colfax Record Correspondent
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Other authors, mostly famous, often inspire writers. But at Colfax High School, students in Danise Hitchcock’s creative writing class look to music, poetry, and other students for their inspirations. The teacher encourages student interaction with peer edits, song analyzing, and performances. But most of all, she loves to encourage her students to write and the results for her are what count. “What amazes me is that they write, they just do it and the come up with some amazing things, too,” Hitchcock said. Hitchcock credits some of her passion and style to Jean Page, a Colfax High English teacher who died in October 2011. “I have tried to emulate Jean Page’s class by structuring activities in much of the same way she did,” Hitchcock said. In Hitchcock’s creative writing class, which is an elective course, students have the freedom to explore all aspects of writing, including short story, poetry, drama, journal writing, fiction and nonfiction. “The best part about the creative writing experience for me is that ever day I am rewarded with students who are willing to be imaginative, playful, emotional and creative,” Hitchcock said. Traditionally, teachers are the ones who guide students through class assignments, but Hitchcock has a different vision that allows students to lead micro workshops with their peers. And that’s exactly what sophomore Curtis Hilgenberg did. Getting up in front of his class came easily to Hilgenberg, who has acted with a drama group at Colfax High. In Hitchcock’s class, he led classmates through a lesson in how to write a dabble – a short story consisting of 10 sentences with no more than 100 words. Students were given 10 minutes to create a topic and write their story, edit it up or down to 100 words, and then read it to their classmates. Hilgenberg said he has had a love for words for some time, including short stories that he has submitted. “In my spare time I write short fictions stories. I submit them to a site where the stories need to be 1,024 words, and some of my poems have gotten onto Hugo Winning podcast called Starship Sofa,” Helgenberg said. Recently, Helgenberg co-wrote the comedy Variety Show, with Daniel Castalliggio, that was performed in March at Colfax High. During the workshop, student Kyle Van Rensselaer took all of 10 allotted minutes to complete his story, enjoying the unique experience. “I thought the writing lesson today was really unique and fun. I’d never thought of writing a piece with a predetermined amount of words before,” Van Rensselaer said. According to Van Rensselaer, writing inspirations come from the real life situations of his family and friends, who keep him busy with humorous events that keeps his interest in writing for hours. Van Rensselaer’s story included a language of his creation. He wrote words backwards, but they were read traditionally from left to right, leaving the class to unscramble the hidden message. “It’s about a man trapped in a time malfunction and is talking backwards to everyone he encounters,” Van Rensselaer said. Hitchcock feels that the best prompts are those students create on their own, giving them freedom to create the story from their interests. “One such example is an activity where students build a story, one sentence at a time. Students begin by writing down the first sentence to a story, and pass it to a second student where they repeat the process,” Hitchcock said. The process continues until the story is completed. “In the end you have 30 wild, imaginative and funny stories that everyone wants to share,” she said.