Susan Campbell Bartoletti offers one important piece of advice to those interested in writing.
“Only a reader can become a writer,” Bartoletti explained to 30 sixth and eighth grade students at Tunkhannock Area Middle School on Thursday.
Bartoletti is the featured writer this year at the ‘Reader Meets Writer’ program, a joint effort between the school district and the Dietrich Theater.
Margie Young, Cultural Programs Director at the Dietrich, explained that the program has been offered for the past three years. ‘Reader Meets Writer” provides students with the opportunity to work with people like Bartoletti, to see if they too would like to become writers.
Bartoletti, who hails from Moscow, published her first book back in 1994. A former eighth grade teacher, she began offering writing seminars to students
“I’ve been to schools in all but eight states,” Bartoletti explained.
She has taught young potential writers throughout the world - including Bangladesh, Paris, Egypt, and Singapore.
This is the first time Bartoletti has had the opportunity to teach writing to students in Tunkhannock.
“When the Dietrich reached out to me, I couldn’t say no,” she said. “I love going to the Dietrich Theater, and I eat at Twigs often.”
The book authored by Bartoletti that she used with the class is ‘The Boy Who Dared.’
“It’s based on a true story about a young person on death row in Nazi Germany,” Bartoletti explained. “He was a political prisoner who died for speaking out against Hitler. He was 16 when was arrested, and 17 when he was executed.”
Students participating in the seminar are given a copy of the book to read, and then discuss their feelings about it in class. Bartoletti said she uses the book to demonstrate the importance of research in obtaining source material and inspiration for writing projects.
During the seminar, it is easy to see how Bartoletti provides such inspiration to the participants.
“When I taught eighth grade, I had the class write poems, stories, and essays,” she explains to the students. “I also wrote poems and stories, which I shared with the class. By sharing their work, it helped them become better writers. And the reverse occurred as well. By reading my work, it helped me become a better writer too.”
As an exercise, Bartoletti asks the students to recall examples of joy, anger, and other emotions from a popular movie. As the students cite examples, she explains how they can use them to provide the basis for writing projects.
Sara Ergott, a sixth grade language arts teacher, explained that the ‘Reader Meets Writer’ program allows 30 students a hands on experience to work with an established writer.
“We want to give them the opportunity to see literature come to life,” Ergott explained. “As well as help them develop in the area of writing.”
Ergott said the students read ‘The Boy Who Dared,’ in preparation for participating in the seminar.
“They were really excited to meet the person who wrote it,” Ergott explained. “It was so important to them.”
“It was a good opportunity when a big author like her comes to the school and works with us,” said sixth grader Lauren Kovalchick. “So I thought it was really neat.”
Kovalchick said she has previously done a lot of writing in school. What she got most out of the program, Kovalchick said, was how important it is to read to be a writer.
“It was really fun,” said eighth grader Adriana Jentle. “I feel I learned a lot about World War II and what some of the Jews were put through.”
Alyssa Kovalchick, also in eighth grade, said she thinks the ‘Reader Meets Writer’ is a very good one.
“We’re really lucky to have it here,” she said. “I learned a little bit more about what happened then (during the war), and it makes me really appreciate the privileges that we have today.”
“I thought it was an awesome opportunity to be able to work with a Newberry Honor author, explained sixth grader Zoe Powers. “And to learn new writing tips to be able to write better.”
Powers explained that she loves to write - it is one of the favorite things she likes to do.