Telling Our Stories in North Country

On March 23, 2017, children, families, teachers, and community members gathered for a first-of-its-kind celebration at the Tillotson Center in Colebrook, New Hampshire. Children from six schools participated in a multi-workshop series with visiting authors Tamara Ellis SmithN. (Nicole) Griffin, and Erin Moulton.

VCFA authors worked with a total of 200 children in grades K-12 in Groveton, Pittsburg, Stark, Stewartstown, and Stratford—small, largely low-income communities that are far off the beaten path for most authors. And our teaching authors faced all manner of challenges (weather, illness, and accident) getting there, with each obstacle only increasing their excitement and resolve.

The young writers they mentored were similarly excited when they took the stage. Groveton students shared memoirs they wrote with Tamara Smith and talked about the process of mining their personal story landscapes. Stewartstown students had “swooped” through a story arc with Erin Moulton and shared tales with complex families, misadventuring loggers, humor, and tragedy.

How did we pull it all off?
This ambitious program was born out of a pilot partnership between the VCFA Young Writers Network and the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire (since replicated in several more communities). A grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts doubled our reach and allowed authors to lead workshops for teachers and community members. Penguin Random House and Candlewick Press generously donated books for students to keep, and the Tillotson Center offered a truly gorgeous venue to celebrate.

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