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FridayJune 2012

How appropriate it feels today — EXACTLY seven years (to the day!) after we opened our doors! — to launch a brand-new blog. Call it the seven-year itch. Chalk it up to the fact that a body — or, in this case, a non-profit — renews itself at the cellular level every seven years. We’ve also heard that it’s a good idea to cancel one’s debts at that same interval, or so Deuteronomy says. (One thing we can rule out, FOR SURE, is pon farr.)

For the last seven years, the 826 Amys (Sumerton from the start, Wilson for the last year or so or thereabouts) have served as The Voice of 826michigan. Today, we are excited to become the editors to The MANY Voices of 826michigan. Consider our itches scratched, our debts cancelled — and our cells, most definitely, renewed.

What is The Staple? It’s our new special-interest site. An e-magazine, if you will (and we hope you will). It’s a catch-all for opinions, advice, and information about our education system and education reform; creativity and innovation; and writing and literature. It’s local, but it’s also national, global, and even perhaps at times a touch interstellar. We’ll feature reading recommendations, first-hand accounts of clever initiatives, and humorous tidbits. It’s a bunch of different people, a bunch of different ideas, and a bunch of different thoughts, all held together on this website.

The Staple. We hope it will become a staple of your web-browsing!

And so, we leave you in the capable hands of Ms. Susan LaMoreaux. We quite literally can not remember a time when Susan, an exceptional young writer, was not a staple of our workshops — and now, we are honored to introduce her as our inaugural Stapler as she shares her thoughts on the life of the sixteen-year-old writer.

Take it away, Susan! And, dear reader, watch this space for more from The Staple.

— Editors Amy —

Reach Editors Amy and the Staplers at TheStaple@826michigan.org! The Staple: Holding It Together Since June 2012.

In Short, How I Became a Writer
by Susan LaMoreaux

Even before I was old enough to spell properly, I always told stories. I loved journal assignments in first grade — I’d write about my stuffed animals, telling about our treasure hunts and other adventures, recording all of my ideas for games we could play together. Sometimes I would sit on the floor at home and tell stories, drawing illustrations while my mom typed up my words. Later we would scan the pictures and arrange them within the text.

As I got older, I learned to type. Then I got faster at typing, (though I was still much slower than my mom). And I filled hundreds of megabytes’ worth of Word files. By the time I was eleven, and 100+ pages — single-spaced, by the way — into a story about dragons, I wasn’t just telling stories anymore. I was writing. I was discovering a world with each word that I put down, and with each word, the world was advancing, the characters and the plot changing and evolving and showing me what needed to happen next.

And it’s funny, because I didn’t think of myself so much as a “writer” when I was working on that dragon story. I didn’t magically become a “writer” when I set it aside and started — and later finished — another dragon story, or when I wrote over twenty-five chapters about wolves. I was just telling the stories that were floating around in my head. Throughout middle school, I scrawled my ideas — character sketches and world outlines and vague ideas for plots — across yellow legal pads. I sat on my bed for hours, letting the story unfold before my eyes. I experimented with point-of-view, with descriptions, with tenses, mostly without even realizing it. I discovered that I liked third-person past tense, but then I found that first-person allowed me to get right inside a character’s head, and present tense was also more immediate.

I started writing stories as birthday presents for my next-door neighbor. When she turned six, I wrote about a pegasus and a unicorn and a magical mountain range. As she got older — and as I gained more experience — my stories became grander. Ancient prophecies and slumbering powers were pulled into play, and my characters were up against odds that they — that I — had never seen the likes of before. But I kept writing, and though I didn’t always have time to polish the stories I wrote for my neighbor, she still enjoyed them. And, for the past couple of years, whenever my birthday rolls around, she comes over with a story for me.

During those middle school years, I didn’t just write prose, either. I wrote book reports, and kept a diary, and had fun with poetry. And, of course, I attended workshops at 826michigan. The workshops are wonderful because they are always short and sweet — the longest one I attended lasted maybe two hours — and, over the years, they managed to cover a huge variety of writing topics. From experimenting with different styles of poetry to learning different ways to outline a story to studying and reinterpreting creation myths to — once — writing and acting in an infomercial, the workshops I attended were never boring and always thoroughly enjoyable. In one, we made signs and went out to protest against nothing at all. In another, we wrote the script for a play that we later performed at 826michigan’s first ever 24-Hour Theater event. And, in yet another, my friend and I donned our Journalism Hats and went out into the world to find article topics for 826’s student-run newspaper, which ended production around 2008.

Now, I get to go to the 826 headquarters — cleverly disguised behind the Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair — every Wednesday to meet with a group of other young writers. For an hour and a half we critique one another’s work — well, if we manage to stay on-topic — and we give each other feedback and suggestions about how a piece could be improved. Through the group, which is known as Story Problems, I’ve learned about grammatical things like the dangling metaphor and the overuse of adverbs in pop lit. (Twilight, anyone?)

But the most important thing that Story Problems has taught me is that my stories are okay. They’re half-decent, even. They can stand on their own — well, for the most part — and they’re enjoyable for other people to read. It’s fun for others to follow my characters through their adventures, fun for the readers to watch the world and the story unfold. Maybe even as much fun as it is for me, the first time I put those words down on the page and see the story open up around me.

Susan LaMoreaux is a junior at Community High School and an aspiring young writer. She has lived in Ann Arbor all of her life, and has been involved with 826michigan since before LSRS&R even existed. As mentioned above, she is currently a member of Story Problems. Aside from writing, Susan enjoys drawing, painting, and sewing, and recently managed to complete her first quilt.

Liberty Street Robot
Supply & Repair
115 East Liberty Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 761-3463
Detroit Robot Factory
1351 Winder
Detroit, MI 48207
(313) 818-0255