Students in Ms. Anna Cain's creative writing class work on their stories.

Finding their voices through creative writing

When our young alumni visit campus, a common refrain is that they have been exceptionally well prepared for college writing. The Gregory School has long been dedicated to building strong writers, as evidenced not only through our cohesive, grades 5 - 12, cross-curricular writing emphasis, but through experiences and programs such as the 5th grade newsletter, the Junior Critical Paper, our Gregorian Chant newspaper and Middle and Upper School literary magazines, and the TGS Writing Center.

Over the last several years, our faculty and administration have worked to develop another facet of our writing curriculum: a creative writing program. Students can take creative writing electives every year from grades 6 through 12, with exciting new offerings for the 2022-23 academic year. 

In Fantasy Writing, students in grades 6 - 8 embark on a long-term fantasy writing project. Many of the students who take Fantasy Writing have been writing stories on their own for years, outside of school. They are passionate about the characters and worlds they have created. When I give them class time to work, their stories balloon out into novels. I usually have at least one student per year with a 200 or 300 page manuscript,” teacher Ms. Anna Cain said. While the class touches on technical aspects of the craft, the focus is on learning to love writing for its own sake. 

The Art of the Short Story, previously called Intermediate Creative Writing, is open to students in grades 8 - 10. This course is divided between reading and writing short stories. Students begin by studying and discussing literature, both classic and contemporary, and then finding inspiration to write their own stories. After reading a story written in a non-traditional style, Jack Borens ‘25 wrote “Plastic,” which experiments with fractured writing. The story won Scholastic’s Silver Key Award, an award previously won by Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King, among others. 

Juniors and seniors will have two opportunities for creative writing electives in 2022-23. Mrs. Elizabeth Young and Poet-in-residence Ms. Joni Wallace will co-teach The Art of Telling the Truth, a course focusing on creative non-fiction, from personal essay to lyric essay to micro-memoir to documentary poetry, and a course called Literary Ekphrasis. Ekphrasis means creative work that examines, describes, or “speaks out of” another piece of art.

“Creative writing classes often remove the tension and apprehension that students associate with academic writing, returning them to the playfulness of expression,” Mrs. Young said. Poet-in-residence Joni Wallace has added to that playful process and steady calm. We are so lucky to have her!”

The addition of Ms. Wallace to our faculty in 2021 has also enabled TGS to expand our creative writing offerings during Friday Explorations. Ms. Wallace and Mrs. Young have hosted several opportunities for Upper School students to meet and explore the work of contemporary American poets. This week, students met with award-winning Denver-based poet Mathias Svalina to talk about neo-surrealism and Svalina's nationwide Dream Poetry Delivery Service, which has recently been featured on NPR and BBC News.

On February 18, up to 100 students are invited to a talk, "Beyond the Data: Poetry and Science,"  by renowned poet and naturalist Elizabeth Bradfield. 

Jack Borens’ mom, Amanda Jackson, is grateful for her son’s exposure to creative writing at The Gregory School. “I don't think any of us, including Jack, knew this voice was inside him until Ms. Cain coaxed it out and helped him find it.” 

3231 N. Craycroft Road, Tucson, AZ 85712
Phone: (520) 327-6395
Fax: (520) 327-8276
The Gregory School is an independent, private,
non-profit 501(C)(3), coed day school for grades 5-12.