Friday, September 14, 2001
A Slammin' Book Festival
by Mary Quattlebaum
WRITING will rock next week in Fairfax with tall tales, teen poetry
slams and presentations by authors for kids and adults.
The third annual
Fall for the Book Festival opens Wednesday, with most programs for
young people scheduled next Friday and Saturday in downtown Fairfax
and at George Mason University. Goodies include puppet and magic
shows, concerts and a chance to sip tea with "historic ladies."
For eager young writers, the festival abounds with opportunities
to create. Writing workshops led by Joan Leotta, the festival's
roving storyteller, should prove a hit with upper elementary students
next Saturday. Leotta welcomes dabbler and dedicated wordsmith alike
to her 90-minute sessions, which explore oral and written aspects
of story. "Kids get plenty of silent, individual writing at
school," she says. "I hope to show that writing is also
about communication and connection."
Drawing on 18
years' experience as a story performer and writing teacher, Leotta
guides youngsters in fashioning short plays, story poems, fables
and pourquoi tales (stories about why something came to be). "Playful
writing can help children become more aware of their own creativity
and of ways to shape their ideas," she says, then adds with
a laugh: "And the kids have fun -- that's what's important."
11 and up can learn to strut their literary stuff at next Friday's
poetry performance workshop. Says instructor Nancy Schwalb: "I
try to help participants realize that the poem on the page is vital.
It has to be powerful, to make sense. You can't just hope to dazzle
the audience with your performance."
highly of her workshop assistant, 14-year-old Larry Robertson, one
of her former creative writing students at Charles Hart Middle School
in Southeast Washington. Now a freshman at the Duke Ellington School
of the Arts, Larry is a prize-winning poet who can offer tips from
his own experience.
workshop is a Friday evening poetry slam that is open to the public.
For those who've never experienced one, a slam can be a raucous,
heady experience for both participant and audience. Forget demure
reading. A slam is all about letting loose the poem's emotion. "It's
sort of like an athletic competition but with poems," explains
Schwalb. "Kids can act up with words -- and are celebrated
for it." She believes those qualities appeal especially to
an audience laced with kids. "Going to a slam is a terrific
way to get young people interested in writing. They like the energy,
they're curious. They want to try this, too."
young poets promise panache, the Little Maids of History plan to
spice up the old days with humor. Bonnie Fairbank and Pat Sowers
use antique items and dress in reproductions of 18th- and 19th-century
clothing for their interactive interpretations of the past.
trying to bring history to life and teach children about their heritage
and the early days of this country," says Fairbank, who, with
Sowers, created the Little Maids concept about 10 years ago. The
program has proven popular indeed, keeping the two former Woodlawn
Plantation docents trotting to schools, museums, book events and
TV appearances. Fairbank explains the program's draw: "Kids
love to be part of the show. They learn something about history.
And they may also come away with the sense that people long ago
liked some of the same things -- like dances and stories -- that
we still enjoy today."
FALL FOR THE
BOOK LITERARY FESTIVAL -- Events take place at George Mason University,
Fairfax campus, 4400 University Dr., Fairfax, or at University Drive
and North Street in downtown Fairfax. 703/993-3986. Web site: www.fallforthebook.org.
Free. For information on programs for adults call or check the Web
site. The events below are geared toward kids.
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