The Shire offered a blogging class hosted by Kim Roeschlein and her son Eli. Eight students attended this class and learned the ins and outs of blogging. "Stephani knew I had a blog and she suggested I teach this class," Roeschlein says. (Megan McGuire)
The Shire offered a blogging class hosted by Kim Roeschlein and her son Eli. Eight students attended this class and learned the ins and outs of blogging. "Stephani knew I had a blog and she suggested I teach this class," Roeschlein says.

Megan McGuire

The Shire Literary Center inspiring creativity

March 18, 2016

ArtReach St. Croix offers a new, valuable resource for students to connect with teachers, mentors, writers and each other at The Shire Literary Center. This is a great opportunity for students to participate in many classes based on a variety of writing styles and techniques that will challenge their writing skills, hopefully inspiring creativity and their desire to continue writing on their own.

Beginning in June, The Shire offered three creative writing classes to middle school students at ArtReach St. Croix in an open classroom space. After great support, The Shire officially rented the space in the middle of October. Being the only literary center in Stillwater, The Shire has seen great growth and success, with hopes to continue to reach students and further their knowledge of creative writing with the classes offered. Classes offered to students in 6th through 12th grade will hopefully spread the love for creative writing across the community.

This is a place for people who love to write creatively and tell stories to come and both take classes that will enrich their skill set with story telling and writing, and connect them with people who are passionate about story telling and creative writing. It’s nurturing writing skills and connecting writers with each other, mentors and authors to help them develop their craft,” director of The Shire, Stephani Atkins, said.

I want students to recognize the writer within them and not trivialize or minimize it’s power. Don’t underestimate your capacity to grow and enjoy the art of writing.”

— Kim Roeschlein

Classes come about because students ask for them. There is a youth advisory group that currently meets once a month and brainstorms ideas for classes. Almost all of the classes offered by The Shire so far have been because students have expressed interest in them. Teachers may also ask to teach a certain class and if enough students show interest, The Shire will make the class possible.

“I went to the first class offered by The Shire. It was really informative and fun. The teachers are great. I went to the class on blogging because Ms. Roeschlein suggested it to me and I’ve always found blogging interesting and something I’d like to do,” sophomore Ellie Speedling said.

The Shire has specific items they would like to see in the future. They want to expand the classes they offer to students and incorporate many writing styles.

“Our goal is to offer what we will call ‘kaleidoscope classes’, taking creative writing and marrying it with another art form. We would love to match theatrical jazz with story telling. We want to integrate creative writing with all the different art forms,” Atkins said.

The Shire envisions younger students developing into creative leaders as they continue to take advantage of what The Shire offers. Some that start taking classes will end up in the youth advisory group, creating new and fun classes for more students. In 11th and 12th grade, students have the opportunity to be a paid student apprentice. The opportunities are wide at The Shire, and students’ wants and needs are put first.

“I just really want to see the literary center find broader success and to grow in the community to be more known. I often suggest to my students to check out The Loft in Minneapolis, and The Shire is a really nice East side literary center. I think we’re open to what the community requests, and we are seeking writing mentors that are willing to teach those things. Our ultimate goal to serve the community,” Kim Roeschlein, English teacher and writing mentor at The Shire, said.

The Shire will be airing a radio show on KLBB called “Voices in the Valley” starting Jan. 16 at 8 a.m. The first half will be a learning component where there will be fun ways to explore different creative writing ideas. The last half will be student hosted. There are a couple sets of students lined up to host. They will bring other students on the air to read their poetry or parts from a short novel or share whatever else they may be working on.

“This is hopefully a way to involve the community. For instance, a segment in the first half of the show will be called REL Characters. We will bring people from around the community who are ‘real characters.’ In creative writing, you’re never bored, everyone you meet is a real character you could base a fictional character on who seems quite real to us, and it’s a way to find out community members’ stories,” Atkins said.

The future holds many new and exiting possibilities for The Shire and the community. The coordinators at the literary center could not be more excited to be able to teach the students and broaden their creative writing abilities.

“When I dream of the possibilities, with social media and online connections so readily available, I would love to see an international writing club where kids from our local area would connect with kids from other countries and kids from other geographies, even within the United States. There’s just so much potential for that,” Atkins said.

Atkins and Roeschlein are just two of the faces who make The Shire function. They see the best in students and believe The Shire can continue to grow throughout the community and inspire creativity among all students.

Atkins summed up this belief: “I love the students, they are so inspiring. They are so savvy and so smart and it’s really fun to empower them to go, which is what we are trying to do. This is an exciting place to come to explore your voice. It’s a place where all students are welcome to tell their stories and be respected. We want to empower them to share what is important to them.”

Roeschlein provided her advice to students as well: “I want students to recognize the writer within them and not trivialize or minimize its power. Don’t underestimate your capacity to grow and enjoy the art of writing.”

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