Summer Writing Program Opens Creative Opportunity for Local Communities
Inspired by UA’s creative writing program, MFA students Matt Jones and Jess Masterson looked for ways to foster appreciation and awareness for the writing craft in their own and surrounding communities. The result? The Southern Fried Scribes Initiative, which will host a series of free creative writing workshops for high school students in the Tuscaloosa area and the neighboring Black Belt region.
Students enrolled in the program will participate in workshops, complete directed writing activities and reading assignments, and attend individual conferences; Jones and Masterson also plan to showcase students’ work in an anthology. This spring the pair launched a Kickstarter campaign, which will close on May 2, to fund the program.
Southern Fried Scribes exposes underserved students to unfamiliar opportunities. “Most of the students we speak and work with have never been encouraged to write creatively,” Masterson says. “Some have no confidence in their ability to write at all.”
“We hope to develop their individual voices and the voices of their community by showing them that writing is and can be fun,” Jones says.
Working with individual colleges and departments at UA, Jones and Masterson spread the word about Southern Fried Scribes to local students, educators, and schools. Based on early feedback, they reshaped the program’s curriculum to address state and national standards for education and adapted it to the needs of the communities from which they will draw students. Jones and Masterson also secured a venue for their students in Greensboro, Alabama, by partnering with the Hale Empowerment and Revitalization Organization (HERO), a nonprofit organization that serves the Black Belt region by providing housing, community resources, educational activities, and youth programming.
“The Southern Fried Scribes project seeks not only to tap into the talent pool of the areas, but also to nurture confidence and knowledge for students concerning reading and writing,” Jones said. This is especially significant for Hale County, where only 30 percent of the students graduate from high school and even fewer attend four-year colleges.
The two also plan to involve local artists, photographers, and others to demonstrate the intersections between art and writing. “It is our goal to promote Southern writing and culture by developing and guiding the voices of the students,” Masterson said.
“We hope to create a sustainable program that will continue to foster the growth of emerging Southern voices and culture for many summers to come,” Jones said.
The Southern Fried Scribes’ website, www.fieldtigerpress.com, provides a link to the Kickstarter campaign and further information about the program’s mission, origins, and goals. All donors receive updates and news on Southern Fried Scribes activities.