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Finding your voice

Finding your voice

This month, the tables were turned on me...suddenly, the places I usually sit, among the crowd, were filled with students who were looking at me instead of me cheering and watching them. The 8th grade language arts teachers at Bay Creek Middle School invited me to speak to their classes on the subject of Finding Your Voice in Writing.

Beth Volpert

I accepted and proceeded to create the obligatory slide presentation, gather props and, write my script. The rest, I left to St. Francis that my words would be true and guide the students to find my presentation useful.

After my introduction, we jumped directly into the slides. These ran the timeline though my experiences as a writer over the years. I touched on how I define my voice, which is considered extremely familiar. In fact, I shared with my students the words of my Journalism 101 professor who once told me, “Your writing is entirely too familiar; you will never write for publication.” That tidbit really grabbed their attention.

After I had their full attention, we discussed why my “familiar” style might be appealing to readers of a local publication. I shared with them the road that led me to becoming a lead features writer for a newspaper that was centered on their community. To summarize the presentation, I spoke to them about their own voices among the community, how important students are, and why the next generation would be considered enough for an entire column to be written month after month for The Gwinnett Citizen. For the most part, they were amazed that anyone would care that much about “what kids do”.

One student, Lesley Edwards, sent some very kind words following the day’s presentation. “Mrs. Johansen’s enlightening presentation allowed us a professional insight on how to become the next generation of journalists and authors. While incorporating her story, she captivated her audience with words and a presence that 13-14 year old teenagers would understand. Her presentation has added confidence to young writers in my school community and has instilled comfort and courage to the otherwise shy young author who felt like they did not or could not have a voice.”

Lovely statements like Lesley’s following a long day of public speaking are priceless. Although I did enjoy speaking to the students, I have to say that my place in the bleachers, watching them use their talents for all manner of entertaining endeavors is far more comfortable. So, young friends, keep on doing what you do. You never know if I am in the audience watching…You might just find yourself the next subject of…From the Bleachers.