News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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March 25, 2014

The Write stuff: Middle schoolers employ creativity, perspective in project on writing

TERRE HAUTE — Honey Creek Middle School students had an opportunity to showcase their creativity and writing talents during the 10th annual Writers Fair on Tuesday.

Every student completed a project in English class, from creative writing to research-based.

Eighth-grader Julio Martinez wrote, “The Real Story of Jack and the Beanstalk,” told from the giant’s perspective. Jack is the bad guy in this story.

Seventh-grader Emily Kerr wrote, “It’s a Pig’s Life,” a story about how she raises pigs and shows them at the 4-H Fair, told from the pig’s perspective.

Student Dylan Beasley collected and compiled stories and photos about his great-grandfather, while Joshua Clinkenbeard wrote “U.S. Treasure,” a spinoff of the movie, “National Treasure.”

Students spend much of their time in middle school focusing on essay writing, and the Writer’s Fair gives them an opportunity to get creative and have fun, said Teri Bennett, who organizes the annual event.

Students have a lot of freedom to pursue what interests them. “I love seeing the excitement in their faces. They enjoy looking at each other’s writing,” Bennett said. In her class, she asks students to incorporate technology into their projects, which can include digital cameras or cell phones.

Each year, the school also invites a speaker who writes for a living. On Tuesday, the speaker was Gail Hayes, a senior writer at Williams Randall Marketing.

Past speakers have included a Mark Twain impersonator, an editorial cartoonist (Gary Varvel), a novel publisher, a biographer, a teacher/journalist and a children’s author.

The idea is to show students that they can make a living through writing in a variety of occupations, Bennett said.

Hayes, who has worked at Williams Randall Marketing for 25 years, said she chose her career based on what she liked and what she was good at doing — writing. In third grade at Meadows Elementary, she knew she wanted to be a writer.

In college, she majored in public and corporate communications.

Hayes talked about some of the advertising campaigns Williams Randall has been involved with, including the Indianapolis 500 Festival mini-marathon, a Holiday World promotion and a television ad for Mike’s Car Wash in which the actors get sprayed in the face with water.

Ads might use motivation, humor or emotion to get their message across and sell a product, she said.

Hayes also talked about her own involvement with a new campaign, or rebranding, to promote Indiana tourism. Its tagline is, “Honest-to-Goodness Indiana.”

She described all the effort that goes into that four-word tagline — including the 150-plus taglines that didn’t make the final cut. The process involves consumer surveys, discussions with those who work in Indiana tourism and client feedback.

Williams Randall has worked with the Indiana Office of Tourism Development for several years. The new tagline, which Hayes helped develop, will appear on billboards, radio and TV advertising.

Hayes told students that she would be working on television ads for the state tourism campaign once she went back to work Tuesday.

She said it’s important to have a thick skin in her line of work, a very “subjective” business. Some ideas get a positive response, while others are rejected.

In her line of work, “I’m always learning about something new and something wonderful” that she can share with others through marketing, she said.

After the program, students had opportunities to look over each other’s work. Eighth-grader Katherine Bierly, who enjoys reading, writing and drawing, wrote “The Forest,” a story about fairies. She said she had fun putting it together, both the writing and drawing.

Martinez enjoyed writing about “The Real Story of Jack and the Beanstalk,” but says writing is probably not a future career choice. He’s leaning more toward the medical field.

Some of the students collect family stories about someone who has passed away, and it becomes “a family treasure,” Bennett said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or  Sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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