A flood of curious and eager individuals enter the brightly lit room and are handed a canary yellow card with the words “Change Cannot be Tamed” boldly written in large red letters. Inside are around 50 chairs, all of which are neatly arranged in rows. As more start to enter, seats quickly begin to fill up as the time ticks closer and closer to 2:15 pm. Anticipation persists in the air as excited chatter swirls around the room. Suddenly the echo of voices quickly comes to a halt as a woman walks to the front of the room, introducing herself as the Director of Youth Programs. She begins by thanking everyone for attending the November 10, 2018 WITS Student Anthology held by the Portland Book Festival, and after explaining how 11 Portland high school students worked tirelessly with professional writers towards preparing for this event, she swiftly moves onto introducing the first reader. The event flows smoothly as writers from various Portland high schools fill the room with their creative and diverse pieces. Yet two readers in particular stand out. Their names are Jovita Luna Luke and Bianca Plowman, both astounding writers representing Franklin High School.
For Jovita Luna Luke (10), the idea of presenting her writing to a crowd of strangers was a foreign and daunting idea. Yet her passion for writing motivated her to join the WITS (Writers In The Schools) program. “I learned about WITS through my English class and through creative writing,” states Luke. Through becoming a part of the program, she was able to work directly with professional writers who guided her along the way when it came to editing and polishing her piece. On the experience, she says that “it was quite interesting to be able to get professional help on my writing; they showed me how to form my sentences better and what I should and should not keep.” After months of preparation, it was finally time for Luke to present her piece entitled “Change” during the Portland Book Festival. Focused around the idea that change is inevitable and cannot be controlled, Luke’s poem begins with describing a young boy and how he had been misperceived by his surroundings. “We have known him as one person and only one. We have known him as the glassy-eyed nerd to whom we have given swirley’s and gotten away with it. We were jerks, and we see that now. Now that it is too late.” Looking back at her accomplishments, Luke’s advice for anyone who is interested in joining WITS is to be courageous and “show confidence, don’t let the fear of a massive amount of people get in the way of doing what you love.”
Bianca Plowman (11) also participated in the youth reading as well after learning about the program through her creative writing class. Having written her poem “Needle and Thread,” Plowman was incredibly proud of her work and longed to express her voice and portray who she is as a writer. “I wanted to share my experience with others so when I heard about the opportunity to join WITS, I immediately signed up,” states Plowman. Being able to work with a professional writer taught Plowman how to edit her poem without feeling pressured or discouraged. “Working with a professional writer was incredibly rewarding. They put a lot of emphasis on not judging our raw work.” When it came to presenting her piece, Plowman was incredibly nervous to share her poem which focuses on the behind the scenes of her depression. “‘Needle and Thread’ was an attempt to describe how depression looms over my life. I constantly struggle with how it controls me,” Plowman says. Inspired by a Youtube video she saw of a man sharing a personal poem on his relationship with his own depression, she decided that “everyone’s experience with depression [is] different, and [she] wanted to express [her] own experience.” A deeply personal piece, Plowman’s writing captures the struggle of dealing with depression.
“Creeping, curling my fingers around the jar in the back of your mind, keeping my face out of view so you can’t place the blame on me. My fingers brush the hair from your face, grasp your throat and turn away thinking everything is alright.” Plowman’s advice for anyone interested in participating in WITS is to join despite any doubt you might feel. “It’s so much fun and worth every ounce of anxiety I ever felt while doing it!”
Both Luke and Plowman demonstrate what it means to persevere through personal doubt and struggle. Through overcoming their own difficulties with creating and presenting their work, the two show just how powerful they can be as writers.
Jovita Luna Luke (10) is one of the three Franklin High School students participating in the event as a youth reader for the WITS “Change Cannot Be Tamed” Student Anthology.
Photo credit: Ashly Anthony