Central School District educators hope book-publishing adventure to be continued
Tuesday, October 18, 2022
Central High School teacher Ben Gorman meets during lunch Thursday, Oct. 13, with the creative writing club. Discussions ranged from plot holes in the Marvel Universe to pandemic possibilities in dystopian literature. (Photo by Jake Arnold, OSBA)
Becoming a published author is the goal of aspiring writers everywhere. More than 48 Central High School students checked that box last school year, and their teacher hopes for a sequel project.
“It’s always been one of my dream goals,” said sophomore Aaron Hayes, who laughed, acknowledging what that sounded like coming from a young person. Still, he said, seeing his name in print bolsters his confidence to pursue other goals.
“Where the Fish Live and Breathe,” a collection of students’ short stories and poetry, was published with a one-time $500 grant from the Ash Creek Water Control District. Each piece in the book has a watershed or Ash Creek connection. Creative writing teacher Ben Gorman hopes book sales can fuel future book projects that inspire students.
The grant typically goes to a science class. When it went unclaimed last year, Central High Assistant Principal Roseanna Larson suggested Gorman apply. Then she suggested it again.
“When we have an opportunity for a grant, we should take advantage of it,” Larson said.
Larson was an English language arts teacher for 12 years, and one of the lessons she learned was to get creative with funding. She also liked that writing about the creek would get the students out of the classroom without major transportation challenges.
Ash Creek flows through the Central School District, passing along the high school campus’s edge on its way to meet the Willamette River in Independence, southwest of Salem. In recent years, the Luckiamute Watershed Council has been restoring the creek. The council is a volunteer group working to improve water quality and habitat conditions in the Luckiamute River and Ash Creek watersheds.
Kristen Larson, the Luckiamute Watershed Council executive director, led a class fieldtrip to study the creek. She talked about the science of watersheds in general and the particulars of Ash Creek’s restoration.
The science lesson was just one way the book project branched into other fields.
Gorman laughed that he had to be told twice and then shown the possibilities of using the grant for something artistic before the idea caught fire with him.
Gorman is co-publisher of Not a Pipe Publishing and is the author of six books. Not a Pipe Publishing was not involved, but Gorman used his expertise to walk students from his creative writing classes and the creative writing club through the whole process, from picking among submissions to layout formats for the poetry. A subtext of the lessons included that writing books involves a lot more jobs than just the visible one of “author.”
Sophomore Olivine Tonnsen is interested in writing and theater and said creating the book opened her eyes to related career possibilities.
Tonnsen was on the editorial team that put the book together, although she didn’t submit anything herself because she was too busy at the time.
“Seeing people I know published makes me want it more,” she said.
Donna Servignat, who was the Central High School principal last year, said the project was another way the school tries to connect students’ learning with their career goals.
“You can find your own passion in all kinds of niches,” said Servignat, who is now the district director of secondary education.
School Board Chair Donn Wahl liked that students created something permanent for their community while receiving a rare look into a real work world. As a school board member, he also likes when grants create sustainable projects with their own momentum.
With the grant money, Gorman bought copies for local and school libraries. He is hoping that students’ family members and community members buy copies as well to provide seed money for the next semester’s creative writing project. Another book is a favored possibility, but Gorman is letting the students decide what they want to do.
“I’m interested to see what the students want to write about,” he said. “It’s important to me that my students recognize themselves as writers.”