A different 'stimulus' package

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By Ben Carlson

Want to get stimulated without waiting for the federal government's so-called "economic stimulus package" to hit your mailbox in May?

Then check out a group of Anderson County High School students who will use the power of their pens and voices to stimulate minds April 10 at the public library.

The group, called Stimulating, Ink, is the brainchild of Melanie Givan, who teaches freshmen English at the high school. She said the idea to start a writing club formed while attending last summer's Bluegrass Writing Project, designed for teachers to hone their own skills and to teach students to be better writers.

"We focused on the idea that writing is fun," said Givan, who formed the club this year to share that message with students.

The event, scheduled for April 10 from 6 to 8 p.m., is open to anyone willing to share original poetry or short stories in a coffeehouse-styled setting that harkens back to the days when beatniks gathered to hear other like-minded writers espouse their thoughts and feelings through the written and spoken word.

Givan said that's the setting her club is shooting for that night.

"They will have the lights down low and there will be a stool and a microphone," she said, along with coffee and snacks.

The event will be the group's first foray into public reading. Members have read in what was billed as a "Bearcat Coffeehouse" in the school library.

"That was the librarian's idea," Givan said. "One of my students, Angel Hudson, came up with the idea to bring it to the public library to see if we could make it a bigger event."

Givan said she hopes adults in the community will participate.

"I really want the kids to see adults writing because it's something they want to do, not because it's an assignment," she said.

Givan asked that those willing to read limit their selection to original works only.

"Nothing that takes half an hour," she said. "A short story or poem that takes about five minutes to read would be best."

Having worked with the club over the past several months, Givan said she is continually amazed at the writing produced by her students.

"The last time we did this, it was very interesting to hear what the kids are writing," she said.

"It's really gone beyond my expectations and it's something they really look forward to," she said, adding that 10 to 15 students attend meetings each Tuesday and about 25 students have participated overall.

The club's popularity stems from students having fun while honing their skills.

"We write on our own, but we have fun group writing activities, too," she said.

One exercise has a student begin a story with one line. It is passed around and each student adds his or her own line until the story is finished.

Another is assembling a line from words Givan has cut from magazines.

"I put them in a basket and they pull them out and put them together," she said. "They picked out the words fungus and tongue and put them together to describe bad breath.

"They come up with stuff that's really fun, plus they're in a group writing together, so it's not such an isolated event anymore. That's why I love this club so much."