MSA students prepare for literary showcases
For two years, literary arts students at Mississippi School of the Arts have been working toward one goal — and no, it’s not graduation. Beginning April 4, the 10 students enrolled in the program will share their work from the past two years during a series of literary showcases.
Jeanne Lebow, literary arts instructor, said the seniors will host the showcases in pairs with works including poetry, flash fiction, short blog entries and personal essays.
“It allows the seniors to have a venue where they share their work with the public,” she said. “As writers they’re going to be doing this all their lives.”
Although all pieces are written by the students, the authors will not read all the pieces. Many are inviting family and friends to present their chosen works.
“We think it’s important that young voices be heard,” she said. “We’re celebrating the two years of work they have done. There’s such a big difference between their first week as juniors and what they’re ready to do and willing to do when they’re graduating seniors.”
The showcases are being organized by some of the best young writers in the state, with MSA students taking home 80 awards during the 2016 Regional Scholastic Writing Awards sponsored by the Eudora Welty House in Jackson and the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers in New York.
Shiloh Alexander and Elly Williams
Shiloh Alexander and Elly Williams will kick the series off with their presentation on Monday at 6 p.m. at Enochs Black Box. Alexander’s pieces include works of poetry and flash fiction while Williams will feature one full-length short story and three to four poems.
“I write a lot of Southern fiction based on my hometown, Philadelphia,” Williams said. “I explore socio-dynamics and quirky characters.”
Alexander’s works often revolve around colorful characters.
Although their project will soon come to a conclusion, both girls said MSA has helped them to be better writers.
“MSA has definitely helped get a clearer thought across, and you learn about the importance of all the people you meet,” she said. “A story can come out of that five minute conversation you had with someone.”
Jessica Moore and Amelia Stanford
Jessica Moore and Amelia Stanford will present their showcase on April 11 at 6 p.m. at Elizabeth Cottage. Both of their pieces are largely poems with Moore including one short story.
Moore said her works tend to be about families and connections between people. Stanford said her poems are often political commentary from topics such as racial profiling and impoverished places.
Both said the difficult part was deciding what pieces would actually be used.
“I’m writing new poetry and trying to decide what will be good to read out loud,” Stanford said.
MSA has helped boost the two girls’ confidence as they continue to grow in their writing.
“The main thing MSA has taught me is to get my work out there and get it published,” Moore said.
Kelsey King and Ashley Lang
Kelsey King and Ashley Lang will share their poems and stories on April 18 at 6 p.m. at Elizabeth Cottage.
“The secret of poetry is not trying to sound deep all the time but saying words in a beautiful way,” Lang said.
Lang focuses much of her works on writing about the things that no one will talk about. She said it allows her to leave behind clichés and say something new.
King on the other hand has stuck to fiction work.
“I’m the kind of person to put as much imagery in as few works as possible,” she said. “Poetry has always been hard. If you don’t know what to write about it can be kind of difficult.”
King said she sticks to the old adage “write what you know.” She focuses on families and experiences in her pieces.
MSA has helped teach the girls what writing is actually about.
“Before I got to MSA I was told to write what you feel. I learned to express what I was feeling and express it in a way everyone else could understand,” King said. “Writing seems to come easier to people once they know what they’re doing.”
Aerial Adams and Vernell Allen
Aerial Adams and Vernell Allen will present their “New Beginnings” showcase, made up mostly of poetry, on April 25 at 6 p.m. at Enochs Black Box.
“Self-examination is not just getting rid of the past but accepting yourself to grow and learn new things,” Allen said.
They both look forward to sharing their work with others, including their families.
“I’m excited about hearing my pieces from other people we’ve chosen to read,” Allen said.
MSA has helped both to grow and mature in their writing.
“It definitely made writing a top priority,” Allen said. “I don’t do it because I want to, but because I need to.”
Adams, on the other hand, said it has shown her how to share an emotion with a character in a different situation. In one story, she was able to take how she felt in a despairing moment in her life and translate it to a character whose parents were going through a divorce. Although she has never experienced that, a fellow classmate said she managed to capture that emotion.
“I learned to say what I need to say without people knowing personal details,” she said.
Christopher Brice Melton and Christian Reynolds
Christopher Brice Melton and Christian Reynolds will wrap up the series on May 2 at 6 p.m. at Elizabeth Cottage. Melton said his work will consist of poetry while Reynolds will present short stories.
“We want to explore the atmosphere around us,” Melton said. “I’m looking forward to finally being able to present the culmination of our work.”
Reynolds hopes the showcase will demonstrate how much they have grown as writers.
“MSA has shaped my experience and given me more to write about,” Reynolds said. “I was also able see how I needed to improve.”
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