By Megan Kehoe
Educational news and activities, and local kids and their achievements.
• School Notes and submission info, B2
Students at the Nature of Words’ Storefront Project arrived to find their desks covered with sheets of paper depicting funny-looking creatures.
“I want you to write about who these Pokémon are,” said writing teacher Reese Ringo, strolling through the center of the classroom. “Pick one, and focus on it. Are they the kind of guy who’s funny, but kind of annoying at the same time? What do they like to eat? Tell me what makes them unique to you.”
By the end of the lesson, it was clear that the group of 10-year-olds would never look at Pokémon characters or writing in the same way again.
But perhaps the most profound part of this was that their instructor was only a few years older than they were.
“I want them to take away that writing isn’t just about writing essays in school,” Reese, 15, said. “I think of it in terms of movies. You’ve got documentaries and blockbusters. In school, you’re only exposed to the documentary side of writing. You don’t ever get a chance to see how fun the blockbuster writing side is.”
Reese is a Summit High School freshman who has already gone through plenty of the trials and tribulations that face professional writers. He’s undergone critiques of his work from a local author. He’s seen his work published and cringed when it wasn’t exactly how he envisioned it would be. Once, he nearly lost all of his short stories and novel chapters when he accidentally deleted some files from his computer.
But despite it all, Reese continues to write. And for the first three weeks of March, he is helping younger students discover their own enthusiasm for the craft as part of a project he’s working on to attain the rank of Eagle Scout.
“Most (other Boy Scouts) will build a bench or something like that, which is great because that’s important too, but I wanted to be different,” Reese said. “I figured the best route to go would be to combine my interest in writing with the project. And frankly, I like the way it turned out.”
The three-week course is being held at the Nature of Words in downtown Bend, and is open to fourth- and fifth-graders. The free classes are geared toward bringing creative writing to life. More than 15 students attended last week’s class, where they got a chance to exercise their creative talents by developing the Pokémon character back stories.
Reese has been writing short stories since the second grade, but said growing up, he rarely ever finished any of them because he’d lose the story’s momentum and give up before they were finished. This changed after he started going to the Storefront Project in middle school, a free after-school writing program for students.
Attending the writing sessions gave Reese the inspiration he needed to finish his stories. Since then, he has had several published in an anthology of student fiction by the Nature of Words. He also says he’s about two months away from finishing his first book, a Steampunk novel about a university student in another universe whose antics eventually lead to the start of a war.
“I’ve always had crazy ideas growing in my head,” Reese said. “Writing gives me an outlet for them.”
In an effort to improve his writing, Reese said he also meets once a week with a local author who’s been helping the young writer refine his novel.
Reese said once he’s finished the book, he wants to get it published with a traditional publisher. He says he thinks the chances of that happening might be close to winning the lottery, so he is open to working with a small publisher or self-publishing the book.
Amy Mentuck, executive director of the Nature of Words, said Reese’s enthusiasm and dedication to writing has made him a true standout.
“He’s always seemed ahead of his years because he’s so passionate about writing,” Mentuck said. “It’s so exciting to see him be a role model for younger students.”
In terms of his future, Reese said he’d love to keep writing, and that he’d be happy doing anything in the creative field. Though he doesn’t want to be a full-time teacher, he said he could see himself giving classes like the ones he’s conducting now at the Nature of Words.
“I want to tell students that they’re not doomed to school for the next years of their life, because I think school can be kind of a creative rut,” Reese said. “I think more kids like writing than most teachers think. A lot of times, these kids have nowhere to go. Now they do.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0354, email@example.com