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The desire to write is curious calling. It draws you in unwittingly and before you know it, you have discovered an outlet to express emotion, delve into new ideas and create new worlds.

The “why” of writing requires continual exploration, which is what 60 Fox Valley area middle and high school students were discovering during the Fox Valley Writing Project-sponsored Young Authors Academy that concluded this week at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Education and Human Services (COEHS).

“The key things we want students to come away with is that writing is a process; one that takes patience and a willingness to dive deeper into writing to explore multiple ways to make it stronger,” said Jeff Erdmann, director of the Young Author’s Academy and 6th grade literacy teacher at Perry Tipler Middle School.

Through a series of lessons during the six-day academy, the students explored how to use their five senses to write about a strawberry, learned how to provide and accept constructive feedback while using Play-Doh, worked in small groups to create original stories about random objects they were given and practiced reading their writing aloud in small groups.

In addition, students were challenged to express why they write. Among their responses were:

  • “Because words, like fire, ignite change.”
  • “Because it takes me to exotic destinations.”
  • “Because my imagination has no limits.”
  • “Because I can be myself.”

The benefits of the academy go beyond putting words on a page, however.

“Many writers are introverted, but the sense of community developed at the academy fosters self confidence and to not be secretive about something the students are good at,” said Erdmann. “We want them to also be aware having talent in writing is something to be proud of. Seeing other students who can illustrate their points strongly and articulately reminds them there are others who are artists with words as well and this new pool of talent builds friendships.”

In addition to Erdmann, the academy was led by Christine Hartjes ’01, MA ’08, English teacher, Oshkosh North High School; Kathy Coumbe-Horejs ’94, ’01 MSE, 8th Grade Literacy teacher, Carl Traeger Middle School; and May 2012 COEHS graduates Danielle Sommer and Abby Halverson.

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