By Menasha Leport
Last fall, Annemarie Ralph launched a young-authors project at the West Tisbury School, and asked the MV Times if we would be interested in publishing the works of middle school writers. The Times will, when possible, run these stories in print, and will feature them online. This week, Menasha Leport, a seventh grader, writes about visiting Noepe Center for Literary Arts in Edgartown.
Do you know the feeling of peace? The feeling of complete and utter calmness, filling your mind with an at-ease buzzing of creativity? The joy of spending consecutive days of relaxation in a house with people like you? When the only work required is writing tales of adventures and life lessons?
If you’ve ever been to the Noepe Center for Literary Arts, you know exactly what I mean.
This center is a retreat for authors. It’s a place where they can spend two to six weeks surrounded by fellow writers, be enveloped in the sense of overflowing ideas that comes with a stay on Martha’s Vineyard, and continue to work on their current masterpieces. It’s a house in Edgartown, Massachusetts, where storytellers come to write their stories.
When my seventh grade class visited the center, it was astonishing. The minute we set foot onto the property, everyone began talking about how Zen it was. Plants of all shapes and sizes lined the pathway, our footsteps echoed in the silence (save the twittering and chirping of songbirds), and the house of a million stories loomed welcomingly in front of us.
Inside, red decorations were vibrant, modern art sculptures and paintings hung on walls with an aura of authority and inspiration, and the sense of old-fashioned living blended with a 21st century vibe.
We met Justen Ahren at the door, and he gave us the grand tour of the first floor. There was a bright and open dining room for mingling, and many cozy nooks for sitting and writing.
He introduced us to two of the writers who were residing at the retreat. They both were kind enough to teach us about their writing techniques and tricks, answer our questions about the books they were writing, recalled memories of their childhoods as young writers, and gave us a good idea of how their stay at the retreat positively affected them.
They spoke of how at the end of every day of writing, all of the residents came together and listened to one another’s work. They told us how when one person finished reading, everyone would give out tips on how to improve it.
Later on, after we’d learned a great deal on how to write like a professional, we sat around the dining room and wrote like professionals.
Justen had everyone choose a book from an assortment ― most of which were beautiful poems and autobiographies ― that were written by previous retreat authors, and pick a sentence from it to use as the first line in our own poem.
Here is mine:
Ten steps away our words evaporate.
The sun pours murky shadows over my toes.
A tree of ideas, just out of reach.
Ten minutes away from the start of everything.
Imaginative water pools behind a rocky barricade.
My paper is growing eager.
Ten eons away, it seems by now.
Our footfalls fall short, feet unconsciously hesitant.
We’re afraid of ideas, or the idea of none.
Ten drafts away from beginning my first.
Flowers bloom words at the tip of my tongue.
A mile of pink, gray, orange, and beyond stretches effortlessly overhead.
Ten words away from the end of a story.
I wish the day was longer.
The moon, full and illuminating my mind and face, speaks softly to me,
“We’ll be here tomorrow.”
Ten hours away from repeat.
Before we left ― before we got onto the bus that would take us back to school and away from the flowing creative juices of the Noepe Center for Literary Arts ― the whole class stood with our backs to a garden and our eyes turned up to the blazing sun, posing for a memento that would remind us of our adventure.