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Department of Education workshops inspire creativity

Kate Kulwicki | Monday, November 18, 2013

Saint Mary’s students embraced their inner creativity during Saturday’s “Get Inked” conference through a series of workshops that were open to both men and women.

The conference, sponsored by Saint Mary’s Department of Education, was held in Carroll Auditorium in Madeleva Hall.

From 8 a.m.-5 p.m. students attended a range of poetry, story boarding and character development workshops, said Kathy Higgs-Coulthard, conference coordinator and Department of Education adjunct faculty member.

“We wanted to give them the opportunity to celebrate what they do,” Higgs-Coulthard said. “If you play sports, you make it into a tournament or on the all-star team. There isn’t that for young writers and so we wanted to give them that chance.”

James Kennedy, author of “The Order of the Odd-Fish” hosted his own workshop that enabled students to see how “alive” writing can be, Higgs-Coulthard said.
“I want students to get out of their heads, I find that people who get in costume, their inhibitions go away a little bit,” Kennedy said. “If they are behind a costume or a mask, they say or do things that they ordinarily wouldn’t.”

During his workshop, the writers sorted through a pile of miscellaneous costume pieces in the center of the room in order to create their new identity.

Kennedy said after the students were in costume, he encouraged them to insult each other and exchange creative threats before they ultimately engaged in a dance battle.

“It brings writing and improvisation together in a way that brings out a different form of creativity than just writing does,” said Chris Higgs-Coulthard, a participant in Kennedy’s workshop.

Kennedy, part of the Notre Dame graduating class of 1995, said he came to the conference to help students “unlock the gate”. He said one of the most difficult things about writing is getting started.

“Even though the insults are going to seem ridiculous, it will unblock their creativity,” Kennedy said.

Chris Higgs-Coulthard said he had been stuck in a dry spell of writing since his last creative writing class, but the conference brought out styles of writing in people that have been dormant or that they haven’t even discovered yet.

Seminars like this represent the good that can be accomplished through education, he said.

“There is so much negativity right now in education and for us to be able to look around at the wealth of experience that we have in our community with these amazing teachers and to be able to hold them up and say ‘look these are our teachers doing amazing things’ and give them the opportunity to reach children that they wouldn’t normally reach,”  Chris Higgs-Coulthard said.

Following the event, Emily Smith dwelled on the positive impact that the conference made on her writing.

“I definitely got more inspiration and motivation to keep writing and keep going with it,” Smith said.

Elzbieta Woronowicz said she found the workshop on metaphors to compare items and ideas particularly helpful.

“It really changed my point of view on the similarities between things so it gave me a different perspective,” Woronowicz said.

Teachers from local community high schools conducted most of the workshops and it gave the young writers an opportunity to learn from the community, Kathy Higgs-Coulthard said.

Contact Kate Kulwicki at [email protected].