Novelist Margaret McMullan taught a writing workshop to the seventh-grade class at West Feliciana Middle School Feb. 19.
McMullan’s visit was sponsored by a Celebration of Literature and Art, an arts organization in West Feliciana Parish, and organized by CLA member Cheryl Singer with the help of Principal Javanka Ganes. Both attended the workshop, along with CLA President Olivia Pass and English-language arts teachers Tracey Brock and Cassie Hendry.
McMullan discussed her craft, the challenges of writing prose and gave a PowerPoint presentation to the students, sharing photographs of a ravaged Mississippi Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina that noted the impact of the storm on her family, her family’s home and herself.
In “Aftermath Lounge,” McMullan interlaces short stories, creating a fictional version of the people and events she witnessed after the hurricane, according to Singer.
“She advised the students to show, not tell, in their writing,” Singer said.
“Her advice reinforced and made pertinent elements of the standardized tests that the students take and are evaluated on,” Pass said.
McMullan also shared with the students the organizational process she uses when writing fiction and nonfiction.
“She writes a brief encapsulation of each scene from the book on a separate sheet of paper and clips the pages on a clothesline in an order that develops her novel from beginning to end,” Singer said. “As her characters develop through her writing, she’ll often have to change the positions of the pieces of paper, adding or subtracting some.”
Also the author of several award-winning young adult novels, McMullan told the students her inspiration for writing the books is gleaned from life, photographs and often family members.
“Margaret McMullan is a knowledgeable and charismatic speaker who inspires young people,” Singer said.
Her book, “Sources of Light,” is about the civil rights era in Mississippi as seen through the eyes of a teen girl.
“McMullan captures the irrationality and anger of those times, allowing the young people of today to see what happened back then. Hopefully, the youth who read it can appreciate that struggle, as well as the freedoms we have due to many brave people at that time,” Pass said.
McMullan told Singer and Pass she was impressed with the students.
“They were so attentive and curious, not just about me, but about the craft of writing. They listened and asked good, relevant questions, which is a reflection of how much they consider their own work and writing assignments,” McMullan said. “These are intelligent students, and their teachers have clearly provided them with a rich environment that fosters reading, writing and curiosity.”