by Melanie Farber
Lincoln North Star High School
“I am a writer” – Finding our voice in a Writing Marathon.
The Nebraska Writing Project has brought me Writing Marathons. I’m not even sure I remember when I ‘marathoned’ for the first time, but I can now say I’ve had the chance to write at the St. Benedictine monastery; in downtown Schuyler, NE; on UNL campus; around downtown Lincoln; and in and around North Star High School.
Writing Marathons have helped me to connect with a new writing group, as we introduced ourselves as writers and then journeyed about for two hours writing, reading, and sharing.
Writing Marathons have helped me to connect with my students in new ways. I have marathoned with senior AP Literature/Composition students at least once per year for the last few years. Although we don’t use the marathon as an introductory activity, we use it to end our first semester, it serves much the same ‘bonding’ purpose. After the traditional launch of the marathon, students find their groups and introduce themselves with “I am a writer” statements. The journey then begins. Students are often nervous and a bit unsure if I really mean they can write anything they want when they land at their writing locations, but once they get through their first read-around, they realize the different voices of their peers, the different genres available to them, the different topics they’re free to explore. Each stop on the marathon gets a little easier, a little free-er, and students wind up surprising themselves at what they uncover about themselves and their own writing as well as what they learn about their peers. I don’t think I’ve ever left a writing marathon with my students without feeling profoundly moved (by both tears and laughter).
Perhaps even more powerful than writing with my students was being allowed to host a Writing Marathon as part of our building staff development offerings. I was able to gather 30 writers–English teachers, math, science, and instructional technology teachers, office personnel, the childcare director, those new and veteran to the profession. When we gathered in the Haymarket on a 100-degree day to participate in the Writing Marathon launch I found the same nervousness and anticipation for the experience that my students exude. We read from Hemingway, we formed small groups, and we traveled and wrote for almost three hours. I got to write with teachers I’ve worked with for years, but never really “knew.” When we all gathered in Bailey Library in Andrews Hall for our final read-around, people were tired, sweaty, and full of smiles and stories. As always, both laughter and tears were shared. We left knowing we would do this together again (and we will!).
Writing Marathons help us all believe we are writers. We find our voices, we experiment, we play, we dig up memories, we wax philosophical, and we speak nonsense. We often find ourselves both sightseeing—and seeing our world through new eyes. Through writer’s eyes.