Recently I led the Morehead Writing Project’s Fall Teen Writers Day Out writing marathon. We joined the National Writing Project’s #WriteOut dedicated to Making Stories of People, Place, and Perspectives and so I selected writing prompts to inspire writing about our people, our place, and our perspective connected to Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia. We began by lifting lines from stories of Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia and then we spent time with the poetry of Wendell Berry.

My writers were given baggies containing chunks of a Wendell Berry poem and challenged to work with one or two partners to find a poem. I chose two poems for this activity:

  • 2008, XII which opens with “We forget the land we stand on and live from.”
  • The Silence which opens with “Though the air is full of singing my head is loud with the labor of words.”

I was delighted with the poetry that emerged from this activity and students really dug into the language and imagery, but we were not done with Berry’s work just yet.

We then handed out the full text of the two poems and included an additional two poems, The Woods and The Peace of Wild Things, as well as a brief biography for Berry and a quote that I thought was apt for the theme of our day. The writers were challenged to spend some time reading the poems and to mark up the pages with questions and responses to the text while considering the meanings of the poems and highlighting words and phrases that echoed in their experience. 

After the writers had some time to read and reflect on the poetry and life of Wendell Berry, they were then given time to write in response to these ideas and I added a few topics that I pulled out of the poems to kick off their writing as well:

  • What is the solution to your riddle?
  • What do you depend on?
  • Where is your hope?
  • What is loud in your head today?

If you are inspired to write more about people and place then check out “The House That Built Me” and uncover more ideas for writing your origin story with these prompts. Don’t forget to share them using the #JustWrite hashtag.