How might we foster student storytelling?

Truth is always more interesting than fiction, at least this was the case for three Upper School students in Marie Graham’s The Secrets of the CIA & FBI, a humanities course combining a study of history with modern American challenges around intelligence collection. The course focuses on increasing writing, analysis, and observation skills. Annabel France, Class of 2023, Alyssa Gershon-Palma, Class of 2024, and Kat Petty, Class of 2024 have always been passionate about writing. They frequently enjoy writing about non-fictional events with a fictional twist. When the assignment was to write a fictionalized account of a historical event of their choosing, each young writer worked to complete their pieces before the end of MOD one in order to submit for publishing consideration on TeenInk, a website established over 33 years ago offering the opportunity to publish the creative work of student writers.

Annabel wrote, The Untold Story of Heather Clifton, a fictional account of a young girl’s life inside the Branch Davidian Compound before, during, and after the CIA siege of February 28 through April 19 of 1993. “I chose the Waco Siege because it had so many interesting aspects. For example, I was able to write about the stories that came from the survivors which gave me a ton of room for creativity,” She believes her love for writing stemmed from some of the classes she has taken while at Mount Vernon. “MV has offered tons of writing classes throughout my four years here. I have taken Macabre Literature, and Foundations of Academic Writing, and I plan to take Creative Writing and Magical Realism next semester. I love how my teachers give me opportunities for lots of creative writing, it’s my favorite part of any literature class.”

Alyssa wrote The Life of La Chatte, a story about a World War II French triple agent contemplating the paths she traveled to get herself into a mess. Alyssa chose to write about La Chette because she found her adventures interesting and while she was writing, she saw she could easily add a dramatic twist. “I’ve always been the person who is excited to write an essay or other piece of writing because it’s one of the things I’m good at. I really enjoy writing, especially fiction, because I can write about anything and am not restricted to writing about a single event. One aspect I enjoy is that I can write from my experiences instead of doing a ton of research.” Alyssa is excited about her two upcoming literature classes, AP Lit and Creative Writing, where she will be able to explore her craft through different types of writing assignments.

Kat chose to write the story, An Orchid Among Dandelions: The Story of Mata Hari, cataloging Margaretha Zelle’s (more commonly known as Mata Hari) thoughts at the moment of her death in 1917 after being accused of working as a French and German double agent during WWI. Kat says, “I did a short presentation on Mata Hari earlier in the class and found her absolutely fascinating, so I wanted to write my own creative take. Every event I highlighted in my story is historically accurate, though some parts of her life, having a carriage pulled by goats at age six, moving all the way to Indonesia after marrying a military officer, or being tasked with seducing the crown prince of Germany, certainly seem fictional!” Kat has been recognized for being a talented, young writer in Georgia. This summer, she attended the Governor’s Honors Program after her nomination in Communicative Arts. She plans to continue her writing education at Mount Vernon in creative writing classes and AP Literature while she works towards publishing her fantasy novel trilogy, tentatively called The Last Dragonblood.