“Who wants to hear about this backwards little town in the middle of Bum F–?” The sixteen year old with dark stringy hair and an eyebrow piercing seated in the middle of the room caught himself before he dropped the f-bomb on the rest of the class.
“You never know,” I said. “Someday, twenty years from now, someone will be surfing the Web and come across your story and think, ‘Wow! I have no idea where that kid is, but it sounds like an interesting place.'” Half of the class rolled their eyes and returned to their scripts and storyboards. Production was set to begin in three days and we had a lot of work to do before a single word could be recorded.
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In 2007 Matt partnered with a high school English teacher and her students to develop a place-based podcast series. They asked students specifically to tell stories about their rural hometown, and their finished projects were remarkable. They illustrated a variety of connections to their hometown through their stories — about severe weather, relationships, and little known facts about the town.
No matter where we have lived, worked or played throughout our lives, place serves as an anchor for memories and deeply emotional connections. For the same reasons we always return to familiar places to meet up with life-long friends, a grieving mother will often leave a deceased child’s room just as the child left it. As writers who seek to capture the human experience we must not overlook the significant spaces in our stories.
Attendees will learn more about the foundations of place-based writing as Matt shares stories created by the high school students in the aforementioned project, and he will facilitate a brief writing exercise on how to leverage the powerful qualities of place in creative nonfiction writing.