College volunteers to lend hand at festival

From the The Brunswick News

Hannah Carmichael pulled a paper out of her backpack as her fellow students gathered around the desk.

As they read the paper, they offered suggestions to improve the piece, a critical dissection of "Hamlet's" Gertrude.

Elizabeth Tasciotti read the paper aloud as the College of Coastal Georgia's Writing Center director, Jennifer Gray, picked up a pen.

"Is it OK if I write on this?" she asked.

Once given the all clear, she scribbled the group's suggestions in the page's margin. For the women - Carmichael, Tasciotti, along with fellow writer Ashley Cain - it was a typical scene. Along with Gray, they are accustomed to making positive changes on many types of material.

"The Writing Center is not remedial. Even the best writers need to get feedback. It's like athletes in the Olympics. They're great athletes, but they still have coaches," Carmichael explained. "We are coaches at the (writing) center. We try to go beyond the paper to help."

As experienced writers, Carmichael, Tasciotti and Cain have an innate love of the English language and are always looking for ways to improve their work.

This weekend, they will have a unique opportunity to gain even more insight into the world of words.

The women, along with fellow writing coaches David Frey and Steve Strickland, will be volunteering at the Georgia Literary Festival Saturday on Jekyll Island.

The event, held at a different location each year, will celebrate literature in many different forms. Various authors, including such recognizable names as Steve Berry and Mary Kay Andrews, will be on hand to discuss their writing processes.

Georgia Poet Laureate Judson Mitcham will make an appearance, as will U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey. Tretheway, the recipient of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in poetry, will discuss and read excerpts from her newly-published collection of poetry titled "Thrall."

Occupying the same space as such celebrated writers is an exciting concept for Gray and her student coaches.

"It's so exciting," Gray conceded. "We're going to be geeking out."

The students will also have a chance to spend an extended period of time with children's author Doraine Bennett.

Writing Center coaches will serve as ambassadors to the Isles, while shuttling Bennett to local elementary schools to conduct writing workshops with the children.

"On Friday, we'll be escorting her around town. It will be very hands on," Cain said.

"We will show her around and take her to lunch. We've already been talking about where we're going to go."

It also will give the students an opportunity to pick Bennett's brain, something Tasciotti is looking forward to doing.

"I am really excited to talk to her. It's a completely new form of writing for us. I want to ask her about her whole process. It's not easy writing for children. You have to select your words very carefully," Tasciotti said.

After playing hosts to Bennett, the writing coaches will attend the festival at the new Jekyll Island Convention Center, where they are looking forward to learning more about the craft.

"There really is something for everyone. There's a history track, a culinary track, a children's book track, a nature track. I think that even people who don't consider themselves to be 'readers' or 'book people' will be able to find something that interests them," Tasciotti said.

Buoying support and excitement for reading is especially critical today considering the staggering rates of illiteracy rampant across the country, Carmichael says.

But it's a problem that is prevalent close to home as well. In 2011, statistics showed that one in four Glynn County residents is considered to be illiterate.

That's 25 percent of the county that is unable to read above a third-grade level. Carmichael says the Literary Festival, which will market reading in a fun, exciting way, is just the way to reach the population.

"I think that, especially with the literacy rates, it's important to get people involved and not just kids. It's important for adults too," Carmichael said.

"That's why this festival is important. It's a way for everyone to get involved."

Release Date: 11/8/2012
Source: The Brunswick News