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Successful Writers Pass Along Advice to Canton Students

May 25, 2016 Arts and Entertainment, Community, Schools No Comments

By John Fitts 

For the writer, dissatisfaction with a finished piece does not have to signal failure.

Sam Adler-Bell, a successful social advocate and journalist, recently told Canton students to embrace the fact that they might be unhappy with their work. It’s a sign of growth, motivation and the desire to always do better.

“One thing I find in my writing is I almost never like it,” he said. “That’s a good sign.”

Adler-Bell is one of six writers who recently visited the Canton Middle/High School campus for the school’s first “Author Afternoon,” presented by the English Department and library media centers at the school.

In two sessions, each writer addressed students, offered some insight on their approach to writing and passed along tips on story ideas, editing, structure and inspiration.

Each presenter offered a unique perspective and background.

Adler-Bell, a policy associate at The Century Foundation, has written for The Nation, In These Times and others. He talked about his dilemma of choosing between journalism and activism and how he found ways to combine the passions and his enthusiasm for political movements.

For Erin Bowman, a 2003 Canton High School graduate who went on to study web design at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the writing passion started early and never waned.

Bowman attended writing camp in middle school, minored in creative writing in college and after several years in design and advertising, is now writing full time and is known for her Taken Trilogy

She told students to make the time to write, even if it’s 5 minutes each day. She also talked about how the Harry Potter series was the turning point that set her on the path that today involves writing full time.

“I wanted to live in that world,” Bowman said.

Joan Hofmann is Canton’s poet laureate, professor emeritus at the University of St. Joseph and past director of the Academy for Young Writers.

Hofmann has had a long-time interest in creative writing but didn’t set out to write poetry. She told students to be open to new ideas and to keep learning and soak in the work of others.

“If you do want to be a writer, continue to read,” she said.

Chris Knopf, CEO of an Avon-based marketing and ad agency Mintz and Hoke, is also author of the Sam Acquillo mystery series. He told students not to limit themselves. Good writing can be applied in many areas of life.

“The best copy editors I know are people who write really good haiku,” he said. “If you have a talent like writing you can apply it to all these different things.”

Janet Reynolds is a multi-faceted journalist who is now Senior Content and Outreach Strategist for Outspoken media and founder of Janet Reynolds Consulting.

The Canton resident is especially known in the area for her work at the Hartford Advocate and Take Magazine.

She told students about the varying experiences she had – from climbing down sewers to helicopter rides with nationally know figures.

“I never went to work thinking I was just going to a job,” she said. “It’s been wildly satisfying.”

Reynolds, who is working on a memoir, also talked about an industry where she started with an electric typewriter and now has to embrace Google as “our new god.”

But, Reynolds cautioned, the internet can lead to sloppy reporting and she offered advice on working hard, fact checking and interviewing skills.

Canton resident Beth Vrabel, author of the Pack of Dorks books and A Blind Guide to Stinkville series, also began writing at a young age.

She recounted a story of writing a story at age 10 and giving it to her mother, Valetta Baumgardner.

Vrabel claims the story was terrible but that her mother read the piece and focused on her daughter’s joy in writing it.

‘Someday, Beth, you’re going to write a story and it’s going to be published,’ she told Beth.

“At 10 years old I got my life’s passion handed to me in a beautiful package,” Vrabel said.

Vrabel said the story was no good and said that while others got better, it wasn’t until she really decided to “stand out” that she found success.

It’s a theme that is carried into her writing and one all students can embrace in their lives.

“I write about the darkest period of most people’s lives,” she said. “All the great stories happen when someone ultimately chooses to stand out.”


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