Thursday, June 26, 2014

Gunston Hall overrun by budding writers!

By Linda Hartman and Barbara Farner
Gunston Hall Docents

In the past year, we’ve had the British invasion on the Green, we’ve had British in their tents, Continental soldiers relaxing on the lawn, published authors touting the War of 1812, and a journey into the past with the history of Mason Neck.

On June 7, Gunston Hall offered a glimpse of what writers of the future look like in the form of 27 fourth and fifth grade authors-to-be at Gunston Hall’s Christy Hartman Myer’s Writing Workshop. Eager to begin the day, they swarmed into the Ann Mason Building and were busy by 9 a.m. examining Gunston Hall, the setting for their writing assignments. With notebooks and pencils in hand, the boys’ haversacks slung over their shoulders and the girls’ pockets tied about their waists, they listened to Col. George Mason and Nancy Mason, his daughter, (portrayed by Dan McMahon & Janis Harless) discuss the 1787 Philadelphia Federal Convention. The writers commiserated with Col. Mason about his injuries occasioned by the overturned carriage outside of Baltimore. A quick trip about the plantation acquainted the writers with Mason’s home before they settled in to spend the day learning the different ways to tell his story.

Poetry? How can they possibly write poetry? With the guidance of former Poet Laureate of Virginia Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda of course they could. They all wanted to share their work with each other, taking turns reading the remarkable verses they composed.

Then on to seeing what to do with nonfiction/ biography by interviewing Betsy Mason (portrayed by Lacey Villiva) about her father and her life growing up at Gunston. Guided by Joan Lewis and Carla Heymsfeld, they asked insightful questions and Betsy, in turn, answered them thoughtfully.

In journalism, the writers thought about the important difference between opinion and fact and how to keep opinion out of their news articles. Frank Barker led the writers through the mysteries of the 5 Ws & H of journalism (Who, What, Where, When, Why and How).

Sharon Rasmussen gave the writers the ability to control their literary creations through the power of fiction. As they heard the possibilities of what to do with fictional characters their ideas blossomed into impressive stories.

But then when all is said and done, a picture is still worth a thousand words. Linda Johnston showed the writers how to illustrate their stories - creating impressive images with the help of watercolor pencils and their imaginations.

And in-between writing sessions, there were snacks, lunch, a militia drill and dance lessons!

So were the budding writers ready to go home at 3:30? According to at least one group when asked the question, they responded with a resounding NO. “We want to continue.”

As Frank Barker said “What a great way to spend a day; teaching kids who want to learn and working with a group of adults eager to teach them. How can we not want to do our best when the children give up a beautiful June Saturday to come here--and one of them even shows up with a freshly fractured clavicle.”

 And best of all, from one of the parents, “Thank you very much for the wonderful writing experience my daughter enjoyed last Saturday. She loved every minute of her day.”

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