Updated: Mar 23
Alexandria LaFaye introduced me to the 2021 students enrolled in Greenville University's capstone course, Experience First. The Illinois Christian Liberal Arts College takes a service project-based idea to organizations outside of the classroom to gain real-world experience and networking for post-grad opportunities.
"One of the internal purposes is to group students from multiple disciplines to work on a project together, to display the strengths of different majors uniting for one cause," says team leader Kendall Farr. "In our group, we have English, Biology, Music Business, Digital Media, and Business Management majors represented."
Pictured above from left to right: Garren Hughes, Gina Zbinden, Desiree Lesicko, Sabrina Favela, Kendall Farr. When asked for a bit of info about each student, they sent us their favorite books, hometowns, and majors. Greenville is not too far from St. Louis, they shared. Garren Hughes, a music major, is from Springfield, MO, and his favorite book is The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Gina Zbinden, Highland, IL, is an English major, and her fave book right now is From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Desiree Lesick, Staunton, IL, is a Marketing and Digital Media major; her favorite book is The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Sabrina Favela, O'Fallon, IL, is an English major, and her favorite book is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Kendall Farr, Chattanooga, TN, is a Biology major, and her favorite book is Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.
The team has been working under Professor Jane Bell's guidance to develop a marketing-based project that could help propel a business' outreach. Flying Ketchup Press is so thankful for their creative ingenuity to help us design a podcast. Adding to the design work by our 2020 intern (Haley Rene Brown, Kansas City Art Institute) they have been working all semester to create creative copy, sound recordings, including a jingle-- the works for our idea. We named it Ketchupedia. Thanks to the combined creative efforts of these students, we are at the early stages of creating an outreach program to writers and creatives by Flying Ketchup Press.
First, we started with just a simple list of resources for writers for our region. We noticed that despite having so many writing groups, non-profits, and libraries in the Kansas City area, there was no central place for writers to find out what was going on in different parts of the city. Writers often call looking for classes or ways to learn about writing and publishing, especially poetry. Due to the Covid19 Shutdown, many of our city's programs, publications, or art resources were shut down or discontinued. So we decided to do what we could to reach out to writers and encourage them. We also decided to start collecting terms and ideas writers would often discuss with us or at our events for a quick dictionary-styled approach to writing, one word at a time. This is expanding as each of our editors from different cities take on the task. We now have a resources page for Seattle. Look for our San Francisco Resources and Teen Resources will be added.
Second, we decided to launch a podcast where we could highlight this work. Rather than long courses and workshops, we'd offer light and simple concepts and insight from writers and creatives in the writing life, like our blog, but more fun and personal. We put out a call for writers on submittable, and we started getting entries. "It's all about words. Submit Your Best Writing Terms to Ketchupedia. Ketchupedia is a space for words for writers. Have you coined a new term you use to help writers? Or do you have a favorite? We are building a database of words for writers, and you are welcome to submit yours! Please send your term, its definition, how you use it to help writers, and where you first discovered or invented that term. You could be invited to be on our upcoming podcast or be a guest on our Relishing our Writers blog!" Why not send your own?
Third, we discovered that our local radio station was looking for shows. We will be LIVE here in Kansas City at KONN 100.1 FM. Look out for us to start in April at 6 pm CST on Sundays sometime during National Poetry Month, we will have our first show. "One KCRadio unites the multicultural voices in the Kansas City Urban Core through programming and community services that entertain, educate, inform and inspire." Our one-hour show will feature the word of the day, as well as interviews with writers, songwriters, poets, and creatives. The show will focus completely on Poetry and poets both regional, local and national. Myself and Poet tl sanders, our 2019 poet in residence, will be the cohosts, and I'm sure we will have guests, guest hosts, and even onsite visits of live performance.
How did this all begin? In a small lecture hall with an old piano, a southwestern tapestry, and a vase of fresh flowers, I took my first two summers of Master's Degree classes on craft at Hamline University's Low Residence Program in St. Paul, MN. For the me, the degree was important enough to move across the country to be nearer to family and the twice a year drive to St. Paul from Kansas City. There I met Alexandria LaFaye, now a professor at Greenville University, among a host of great writers whose interest in writing was more about their heart for the next-gen more than anything else being that this program focused on writing for children and young adults. Thinking back, that was the time I began to collect writing terms. Not because I loved words. No, taking notes was my coping mechanism as a student.
Focusing on schoolwork can be daunting at any time. But if you've ever pursued a degree, you may have noticed it tends to be when all hell breaks loose. During those three years, while I had a toddler and then suddenly a new baby on the way, I also lived in a hotel due to a house fire. If that weren't enough, I took on a lot of community ed gigs and added a host of other responsibilities between church, home, and volunteering. To this, I also worked on my degree about twenty or more hours a week. So the time I spent studying and writing was really important to me. I wanted to write books that would inspire imagination and caring for the planet, maybe even inspire a career or two.
When I started my coursework, I thought craftsmanship was my specialty. I could oil paint, sew, sing, even do my own taxes. I had studied ballet and theater. So, the craft of writing challenged me more than I thought possible. In art, you could see with your eyes if things were going well. You could paint over mistakes. In writing, there seemed to be a thousand variables surrounding every word and its placement. The story was a monstrous octopus, gelatinous and impossible to control, a mystery I couldn't crack. It was like I was working blind.
Thanks to the professors and guest lecturers at my University, slowly, one word at a time, I began to understand what the craft of writing was all about, something my love for literature hadn't been able to translate. Since I had studied art in college, I felt out of the loop during writing lectures. Reading a lot of classics couldn't prepare me for the lingo of writing itself. Words were tossed around like confetti, and sometimes I just wasn't sure what they meant. I knew I could just ignore that and move on, but I decided to learn the meaning of every word that anyone said in any class, lecture, coffee talk, or cocktail hour. And so I did. I remember even having a massive dictionary with me for some reason (although I have a vivid imagination, I may have used the internet-- this was only 2010 or so. No, wait. I remember. I think I borrowed one).
In three years, I had 200 terms typed up along with all my other craft notes, and the habit stuck with me. Each word represented one thing I had learned, and often they were coined or used by one particular person who helped open up my eyes to something I still use today as an editor. Those terms and the stories behind them made writing a craft I could see as well as any painting or ballet. I never thought they'd be good for anything else but my personal use. I've had them in a drawer, but now something special is happening.
So why have I developed a newfound interest in words? You could blame the fact that the SAT was canceled this year, or that my HS student told me the PSAT didn't have any vocabulary questions. You could blame the fact that my college students in English 80 couldn't define the word "patriotic," any form of it–even with clues. You could blame these incidents or the writers who call me on the phone on a given Sunday because they can't find anything to help them learn more about writing and publishing. I know how they feel.
Learning about writing is something that, despite the web, is just as hard as ever. Now I've got a lot to do: books to write, children to raise, a publishing company to launch, dinner to burn on the stove. But what I do have, I'm going to share. I have some words. And now that I think about it, words are powerful. So this last summer we searched through the "power thesaurus," for a word to help us talk about words. In the office, last fall, while working on our blog, the ever intrepid Hope Houtwed and I noticed even the regular online thesaurus was suddenly offering fewer words.
"Thesaurus just means Treasure House," Hope said to me. "What if we just help them, one word, one treasure at a time?" I offered. And when Haley Brown offered the name Ketchupedia, our outreach project was born. It's a lot to do, but the one-word-at-a-time is a good method. Find out more on our website.
Write on. Your voice is important.
Polly Alice McCann,