Regional Writing, the Sense of Place, and the Rural Appalachian High School
The East Tennessee novelist Amy Greene (author of Bloodroot and The Long Man) will visit Sewanee, offer a reading to the college community, then offer writing workshops to selected students from Franklin and Grundy County High Schools. Students from Sewanee Creative Writing Certificate program will facilitate these workshops. The School of Letters will coordinate these events and eventually sponsor a panel at the 2016 National Council of Teachers of English meeting, in which the project will be discussed. This project is a great experience for a group of promising students from local public high schools and their teachers.
Amy Greene is a young but already accomplished novelist who grew up and still lives in a small town in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Her two novels are both set in her home region and specifically concerns its social, economic, and environmental history. Both have been remarkably successful: Bloodroot was a New York Times and national bestselller, was reviewed as widely and enthusiastically, and was singled out by both Amazon and the Times as one of the best books of 2010. The Long Man, which appeared in 2014, has been even more enthusiastically received. Reviews of her work have consistently stressed her ability vividly and movingly to represent the life of her Appalachian world.
This project should be the beginning of a long term relationship between the University’s distinguished creative writing programs and the local public educators. And, through the panel at the NCTE Convention, it could inspire similar collaborations in other parts of the country.
Project Alignment with the Collaborative for Southern Appalachian Studies
We think the project consists well with the Collaborative’s commitments to “humanistic inquiry and a focus on place.” It will encourage the development of “place-based pedagogies that draw their strength from a concrete focus on southern Appalachia while also equipping students [both high school students and Sewanee Creative Writing students] with skills that are valuable and imperative for engaging meaningfully with any place.” And, because of the collaboration proposed with our colleagues at local public high schools, it offers the sort of “academic-community partnerships,” ordinarily rather rare, that the Collaborative is meant to foster. Among the categories of activities funded by the Collaborative, this project would seem to fall within the category of “Public Scholarship,” allowing for the difference between creative writing and more conventional forms of academic scholarship. Th at is, the effort to encourage local students to learn how to “tell the stories” of their communities, the project would engage in “scholarship for the public good.”
The immediate impact of the project will be on the students who are chosen to participate in Amy Greene’s writing workshops. We hope that some of them will continue to work at writing their stories and those of their community, and that the others will at least become more engaged and perceptive readers—literally, of good books, and figuratively, of their “place” and its challenges. We also hope that the teachers from Grundy and Franklin who participate in this project will be encouraged to incorporate both creative writing and an awareness of place in their teaching and interaction with students. Depending on how useful the workshops seem to our high school teachers, this could be the beginning of a long-term interaction between them and our Creative Writing students, one that might be invigorated at some future point by another visit from a prominent regional author (we can think of several).