LPS students learn tips about writing trade from state authors

Lincoln Public Schools students made paragraphs, poems and pencils all part of their day during the 30th anniversary of a prestigious writing program.
Sixty-two eighth-grade students from across the school district took part in the Writers Write Workshop. They traveled to Bennett Martin Public Library in downtown Lincoln for a full morning of educational activities. They met six published authors from Nebraska, produced their own writing pieces and shared their creations with fellow students.
Schoo Middle School student Alexis said she was excited to attend the workshop. LPS teachers selected students who have displayed exceptional writing skills in their classes for the program.
“I’ve done quite a bit of writing in school, but nothing like this before,” Alexis said as she arrived at the library. “I’m really looking forward to it. I think I’ll be able to take a lot of good things from the whole day.”
Nebraska poet Rex Walton was part of the panel of published authors who led the workshop. Walton shared his poem about watching the ocean in California during the day’s first session. He then helped Hayden, Brooklynn, Tesni, Jazzy, Isabella, Grayson, Kaleigh, Jilliana, Jesse and Nick develop their own successful sentences in a small group.
“It’s so much fun doing this,” Walton said. “I always get my hopes up about the world after I talk with the kids. When you see what they’re capable of, it’s something that always makes you feel better about things.”
Sara Danielson, curriculum specialist for secondary English and language arts at LPS, said it was important to help students expand their literature portfolios. She said the process of writing – generating an idea, searching for ways to express it and crafting the final product – helps build organizational talents, creativity, self-confidence and language arts knowledge.
“Writing is thinking, and this event allows students to explore their thinking in new and creative dimensions with a guide who understands the process,” Danielson said. “Of course, students receive strong writing instruction in their ELA courses. Writers Write lets students take those skills a step further with the benefit of a writing community made up of their peers and a knowledgeable practitioner to offer support and immediate feedback.”
Nebraska Literary Heritage Association (NLHA) members worked with LPS leaders in 1992 to pen the first edition of the Writers Write Workshop. They created the program to give eighth graders a chance to learn writing techniques from established authors. Many of the top novelists, poets and essayists in the state have participated with students.
The workshop was stopped for several years due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it has returned in full force. Co-organizer Becky Faber told a full crowd on the library’s fourth floor that she was thrilled to see everyone there. She asked them to continue filling their reservoirs of writing knowledge for the rest of their lives.
“Once that love of language and writing is a part of you, it doesn’t stop,” Faber said. “This is not a one-stop experience today.”
Faber said more than 1,500 students have taken part in the workshop since its inception. The 2024 class began the day with breakfast before listening to presentations from all six writers in the Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors. They read works about playing pianos of happiness, experiencing the migration of Sandhill cranes and reliving memories of their favorite childhood movies.
This year’s leadership team included Walton, a published poet who received the 2017 Nebraska Arts Council Artistic Achievement Award; Twyla Hansen, who served as Nebraska State Poet from 2013-19; Sandra Mathews-Benham, a Nebraska Wesleyan University professor who has published five books; Mary Hickman, a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop who is a published essayist and NWU assistant professor; Lucy Adkins, a widely-published poet and author who has also written folk songs; and Nick Salestrom, a Southeast Community College instructor who earned the 2023 Nebraska Community College Association Outstanding Faculty Member Award.
Students tapped into that professional knowledge when they started writing. Each author shared the strategies they use for creating pieces of literature. They then watched as new works unfolded in front of their eyes. Students discussed their poems and stories in their small sections before returning to the entire 62-person group. Many then read their pieces aloud to everyone.
Danielson said the partnerships between students and professionals are beneficial for everybody.
“Creating something out of nothing is hard work, and our students get a glimpse into how seasoned writers push forward to make a piece better and better,” Danielson said. “Along the way, while working with students, the authors always end up invigorated and impressed by the work emerging from these young writers.”
Faber said it was exciting to watch students build their confidence through the Writers Write Workshop. She said the large number of graduates confirmed that the power of the pen is alive and well in Lincoln.
“I take that as a huge accomplishment,” Faber said. “This is obviously a successful program.”
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Published: April 3, 2024, Updated: April 3, 2024

Eighth graders from Lincoln Public Schools discuss writing tips with former Nebraska State Poet Twyla Hansen at the Writers Write Workshop. Sixty-two students gathered at Bennett Martin Public Library in downtown Lincoln for the morning workshop. They created pieces of writing such as poems and stories during the event.