Saint Mary’s welcomes Jacqueline Woodson for annual conference on Christian culture // The Observer


This year’s annual Christian Culture Conference featured author Jacqueline Woodson, who spoke about the power literature has over children and participated in a question-and-answer session with College President Katie Conboy.

Saint Mary’s President Katie Conboy (left) moderated a conversation with author Jacqueline Woodson about her writings and advice to young people at this year’s Christian Culture Conference.

Conboy introduced Woodson, who as a child was known to write about places like on walls and in books it would get him into trouble with adults.

But how lucky for all of us that she didn’t get past the writing instinct, ”said Conboy. Those little stories and confident signings inevitably spawned her prolific writing career and when I say prolific I mean she has produced a title every year for the past three decades.

Conboy has developed Woodson’s many accolades including the National Book Award, Newberry Honor Medal, Hans Christian Anderson Award, and MacArthur Genius Award.

Woodson began by reading his picture book Show Away, ”which detailed her matrilineal ancestry. Thinking back to the time when she knew she wanted to be a writer as a child, Woodson remembered the wonder she felt when creating literature.

I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was seven and loved how words made me feel, ”said Woodson.

Woodson shared that a teacher changed her perspective on writing stories after Woodson became infamous for lying in his youth.

I had a teacher who said to me, “Instead of lying, write it down because if you write it down, it’s no longer a lie. It’s fiction, ”she said. It was a green light for this world and the fact that this thing that I was doing on the one hand could be seen as so deeply morally wrong and on the other hand could be celebrated.

In addition, Woodson thought of Show Away ”as a story about resistance to the vagaries of oppressive systems.

It’s her own story of survival, ”she said. The fact that I’m here because someone persevered, then someone else persevered, then someone else persevered – in the same way that I’m sure so many of you are here when you think back to the struggles of your ancestors… We are here because someone was willing to do the job and push back the systems that were trying to erase us.

Regarding the concept of forbidden books, Woodson described the importance of remembering the difficult parts of history in order to create a better world.

When you look at the importance of knowing the story I always think of this idea that if you know where you are from you will know where you are going and if you know what happened before you will not repeat it. “, she said. If we keep trying to erase the history that makes us uncomfortable in this country, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.

Woodson made a clear distinction between what she called the navel “- or the shallow writing – and the writing about the greater good. She noted that her writing often stems from having questions, not answers.

Speaking directly to young members of the public, Woodson urged them to take on work that they feel is worthwhile.

If I don’t tell you anything else tonight, let the work you choose to do make sense and let it bring you joy, because if that happens, your joy will help change the world ”, a- she declared.

Woodson then recalled his childhood and noted his mother’s skepticism about Woodson’s writing career and how Woodson had to come to terms with his own daughter’s aspirations to become an actor. Because of his experience in both roles, Woodson advised parents and young adults not to make choices they will later regret, especially at this time of the pandemic.

“Parents, support the young people, even if they want to do sketch comedy,” she said. “Young people, think about what brings you joy and do it, while it is legal. “

Prior to the pandemic, Woodson made visits to schools where she noticed a marked difference in the imaginative dreams of elementary school students compared to the apathy of middle school students.

I wondered where the dream had shattered – where they realized that what they wanted to do was not right and it always saddened me, ”she said.

Woodson read an excerpt from his novel Another Brooklyn ”and explained how she deliberately incorporated the grieving traditions of other cultures to counter traditions in America, which do not allow individuals enough time to mourn after the death of a loved one, a- she declared.

Woodson concluded her lecture by reading selected poems from her book “Brown Girl Dreaming” and reflected on her family as she grew up.

Conboy then asked Woodson about his response to the intense changes young people are going through during the pandemic.

I think it’s a very difficult time in this country in many ways and as long as we do the little bit we can do to make it better for ourselves and for others when we get to the other side, I promise it’s going to be worth the struggle, ”said Woodson.

Woodson then explained his idea generation process and walked the audience through reading like a writer in order to grow as one.

It means reading the text slowly and deeply, so that when you get to a point and it makes you cry, come back into the reading and find out exactly what words the author used to make you feel that way. she said.

To wrap up the evening, Woodson explained that by reading fairy tales and classic fables as a child, she knew how she wanted to tell stories on her own.

I wanted to tell stories that made me feel a certain way and a lot of times people talk about how you intend to make your reader feel and I don’t think of the reader, ”she said. I think about myself and how I feel.

Tags: Forbidden Books, Christian Culture Conference, Creative Writing, Jacqueline Woodson, President Katie Conboy, Reading, Saint Mary’s College

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