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GTPulse: Interlochen Arts Academy Students Write Creatively in New Ways

How do words come together? How are stories created? Everyday we read the mundane (building signs, emails,) the quizzical (menus, online shipping options) and sometimes we’re lucky enough to read something that sticks with us. A standout book, essay, article or movie makes us feel something and we’re moved by it. Writing connects us all, but good writing makes us feel something and Interlochen Arts Academy is shaping a new generation of creative writers.

Seth Kirby and Bianca Layog are both creative writing majors at the arts academy, although both began writing at different times in their lives and for different reasons.

“For me it happened around sixth grade,” Seth said. “It was around Halloween and we were assigned to write a short story, a horror story. At the time I was really into Goosebumps and Michigan Chiller books so I wanted to write something that was kind of inspired by that. I presented it in class and everyone loved it. It was a big confidence boost for me, at the time I didn’t know what I wanted to do. It was something I could do that I liked.”

Bianca focused on music more throughout her childhood but always liked writing and felt like it was something she could do for herself. 

“It was almost refreshing because it was something my parents didn’t interfere with. I felt like I could do whatever I wanted with it and didn’t take it seriously, but I knew that it was important to me.”

When a middle school english teacher asked her to start writing feature articles for the school newspaper she said yes, and while she enjoyed the challenge of providing articles for the paper, she missed creative writing.

“My mom and I were walking home from school and she said ‘I know someone from your orchestra who applied to Interlochen for violin, you should look into that.’ I said that it sounded like a cool place, but I wasn’t going to major in violin.’ It was a conversation,” Bianca said.

The creative writing classes are heavily discussion based and cover a broad range of different kinds of writing. Seth and Bianca have studied poetry, nonfiction writing and classes that have combined genres into a hybrid format writing. 

“In our creative writing classes we usually sit around a table and the teacher’s will open whatever we’re talking up for discussion. So we’ll be talking to each other, bouncing ideas off of  each other,” Bianca said.

Both students agreed that their classes weren’t like traditional high school classes in that there is a collaborative environment where each student contributes to a discussion and the teacher isn’t talking at students.

“I don’t think there’s a single class that isn’t focused around a discussion or a peer review or something like that. A teacher may be leading the class, but everybody’s voice is considered,” Seth said.

Both Bianca and Seth are eloquent with their words and easy to talk to, and no doubt some of these speaking skills are influenced by being writers, but they’ve also sharpened their ideas and  speaking skills through having to be vocal in their workshop style classes.

“That was one of my biggest problems coming in here freshmen year. I did not know how to speak for myself. I thought, ‘Oh my God am I supposed to be here?’”

Bianca has found that she very much belongs at the school and recently has been drawn towards nonfiction writing after taking a nonfiction writing class. She’s interested in combining academic voices with nonfiction writing and recently wrote a personal essay that she formatted as a paper.

“It was a weird dynamic, I would cite personal experiences in the paper.”

Seth is interested in nonfiction as well, but in a different way. A workshop class that he is taking this year mixes genres, and he’s become interested in the different forms that fiction, nonfiction and poetry can take and how the genres can blend together. He recently worked on a piece that was a response to the painting The Landscape of the Fall of Icarus. Icarus, the Greek mythology character who’s makeshift wings melted under the sun, inspired Seth to write a response that annotated Icarus’s death like a crime scene. 

“I ended up making it almost as a case file type of thing. You had to go back and forth between documents to get the full story and it was also being told through the lens through these modern investigators who felt out of place in ancient Greece.”

Both students are inspired by their surroundings and their peers, and both students are interested in pursuing careers in writing. Bianca has fallen in love with writing fiction, and Seth is interested in writing nonfiction or fiction.

As far as what they like to read in their free time?

“We don’t have time to read,” Bianca said. “But, that’s okay because I usually love the stuff I’m reading in class.”


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