Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Author's Inspiring Story a Big Hit with Young Writers

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Author's Inspiring Story a Big Hit with Young Writers

Article excerpt

Byline: CRISTIN WILSON

When the three-hour writers' workshop wrapped up on a recent Saturday at Jacksonville Country Day School, Headmaster Terry Bartow took one last opportunity to drive home the day's message.

Making eye contact with the 60 or so elementary school-aged students sitting in the auditorium of the Southside school, he stressed that every child could achieve his or her dreams.

Once more, as they had heard all morning, they were told nothing was impossible. He told them the key was "to love yourself." So along with the backpacks, writing folders and a book, each student left with a dose of inspiration.

Bartow hoped they left knowing that like the artists teaching the literary workshops, they, too, could succeed.

"Within each one of you there is a very special talent; in order to understand that, you have to love yourself first," he said.

For many of the students - who hailed from 15 different schools, many in Jacksonville's core city - it was a much-needed message. Intimate, one-on-one contact with area writers listening to their work and engaging them in dialogue isn't often part of their reality.

That's why officials with the private Jacksonville Country Day School said they organized the literary workshop, which was free to fourth- and fifth-graders throughout the county. Some of the participating elementary schools included Lake Forest, John Stockton, Windy Hill, Louis Sheffield, Andrew Robinson, Greenfield and Justina Road.

Laura Marlar, a teacher from the Northside's Lake Forest Elementary School, didn't want her students to have any excuse not to attend. She loaded her future writers on a bus to make sure they made it to the workshop, and bought breakfast for them to boot.

Her students needed this, she said.

"I wanted them to see examples of people who live lives like they do that are actually successful. I wanted them to get inspired that they can grow beyond their neighborhoods," said Marlar.

It wasn't just the students who were inspired.

"Never had I done anything quite like this," said Dean Mitchell, a South Florida artist with work that can be seen in several galleries around the country. …

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