Stopping in Eastern Kentucky on the #WriteAcrossAmerica Virtual Writing Marathon

On July 7 writers, many of them educators associated with the National Writing Project, visited Eastern Kentucky for a virtual writing marathon. In all, about 90 writers from across the United States and throughout the world, attended a 75-minute writing and sharing session while many others who could not attend the schedule session have already accessed the prompt created for the session – Eastern Kentucky: A feast for the senses. As the #WriteAcrossAmerica program is also intended to support classroom instruction in the fall it is expected that hundreds of writers will experience a virtual visit to Eastern Kentucky over the coming months.

A Writing Marathon is the realization of writing as a “moveable feast,” blending writing, a community of writers, and a journey through “place.” This summer, when many of us are staying home, eight local National Writing Project sites worked to host a writers’ road trip through the NWP network’s Virtual Writing Marathon.

The Morehead Writing Project hosted the fourth stop of the journey following the Greater Madison Writing Project in Wisconsin, the Central Arizona Writing Project, and the South Mississippi Writing Project. Sessions offered by the Red River Valley Writing Project in North Dakota, the Hudson Valley Writing Project in New York followed the Kentucky stop and there is still time for writers interested in joining the virtual writing marathon to sign up for sessions planned for the Minnesota Writing Project, the New Hampshire Writing Project, and the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project.

“Writing marathons have a long tradition at the Morehead Writing Project although they look very different based on the event,” said Site Director Deanna Mascle. “The writing walkabout is a mainstay of our Invitational Summer Institute and so much writing is generated as we walk in small groups around our campus and adjacent neighborhood locations that our fellows often spontaneously decide to create another walkabout in another community in our region.”

Mascle notes that Morehead WP also engages in a Teen Writers Day marathon that can include gathering as many as 300 high school writers and their MoreheadWP teachers together on campus for a day. In addition to the Teen Writers event, the site also offers regular writing retreats either on campus or another location in the region, such as Cave Run State Resort Park. “We joined this enterprise, the virtual writing marathon or #WriteAcrossAmerica, because it seemed a natural extension of the work we began in March when our planned spring writing retreat suddenly shifted online and became Dispatches From Home.”

Mascle said: “Our goal for our stop was to provide a feast for the senses and multiple writing inspirations located in Eastern Kentucky. We offered up some of the sights and sounds of our region and hoped that our selected images and words evoked scent, taste, and touch from the writer’s own experience and memory.”

MoreheadWP also offered a selection of traditional music to inspire the writers. “We really wanted to share music from the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music because some of our favorite songs are great writing prompts and we thought their tribute to Morehead State was fun to share.> She said they also offered some instrumental Bluegrass musical compilations for background writing music, a choice of soothing and peppy, to give writers the flavor of Kentucky music.

Recent Morehead University grad, Alora Chesney, has participated in multiple MoreheadWP writing marathons and worked with Mascle to host the event. Chesney was selected as a fellow for the MoreheadWP Online Summer Institute this summer and will teaching English at Fleming County High School for the 2020-2021 school year. She said the experience has been fun offering her the opportunity to explore new places and meet writers from around the country.

Mascle notes they are already looking forward to next year’s Virtual Writing Marathon, but hopes that others will join in for the final 2020 stops by signing up at #WriteAcrossAmerica.