Inspiring Young Writers

When English major Laura Schmitt was a freshman, she got involved with Illumination, an undergraduate literary journal run through the Wisconsin Union Directorate Publications Committee. It was there that she saw how powerful it could be for a young author to be published.

This gave Schmitt an idea: What if young writers back in Green Bay had this same opportunity?

“I think young writers are often neglected because people might not take them seriously,” said Schmitt, “Which is a shame, because they have a lot of talent.”

Schmitt’s idea was chosen by the new Wisconsin Open Education Community Fellowship, a collaboration between the Morgridge Center for Public Service, the Division of Continuing Studies and UW-Madison’s Educational Innovation initiative. The fellowship program challenges students to identify needs in Wisconsin communities, and work with community partners and faculty mentors to develop projects that move toward solutions.

During summer 2015, Schmitt returned to Green Bay to work with Mosaic Artsa Green Bay nonprofit dedicated to the arts, and launched The Quill, a literary magazine for middle and high school writers. The project was a success beyond Schmitt’s expectations: the print edition of The Quill featured 12 poems and stories. The web version featured 42 pieces. At the 2015 Artstreet festival in Green Bay, which drew 75,000 visitors, the young authors presented their pieces.

As part of the project, Schmitt and Kevin Mullen, assistant director of the UW Odyssey Project at UW-Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies, taught a writing workshop for young writers in Green Bay.

“I think for the students, having a professor to work with just gave it more credibility,” said Schmitt. “It was really impressive to them. He was awesome.”

Thinking of the future, Schmitt forged a partnership with Mosaic Arts, to ensure the project will continue long into the future.

“We see a lot of students at UW with big ideas,” says political science Professor Kathy Cramer, who directs the Morgridge Center for Public Service. “And when they link those ideas to community expertise and resources, some really important things can happen.”