An Artful Ally to Parents: Jennifer Trafton

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Almost nothing is as refreshing to parents as someone who will come alongside you in the fight to love and shape your children. This informs the mission we’re on at Story Warren, so I try to be attuned to this happening. But life gets hectic and heavy, and our kids can suffer in the tumult. When we feel besieged, there’s nothing like the feeling of allies arriving.

Many of you know that Jennifer Trafton teaches creative writing classes for kids. We have wanted to have our kids in the on-line version since it became available, but have only just now been able to do it. (We don’t live close to Nashville.) The six-week class just wrapped and I wanted to share some things about it.

First off, I didn’t get to be in on all the details. Like many dads, I got to hear excited updates and tantalizing summaries, but didn’t really dig in like I had hoped I would. My experience was as an interested observer, albeit a heavily-invested one. My wife and I have been talking about the class and what it’s meant for our kids and here are some thoughts that came out of our experience.  

Jennifer Models Creativity

She is a wonderful writer and our whole family are fans of her debut novel, The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic. Jennifer’s writing and her approach to teaching are obvious evidence of her abundant creativity. Her approach involves far more than the passing on of information, but the sharing of her life and loves. She is sharing more than a class, but herself.

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Jennifer Inspires Creativity

She has the cleverest and funnest (yes, funnest) ways of engaging the kids in projects. I don’t want to give away her trade secrets, but our kids were giggling with glee and bubbling with excitement as each new assignment came out. Our kids are homeschoolers, and they have a bent toward writing and drawing, but still, these were assignments with deadlines and our kids were eager to do them. The kids felt free, happy to be doing this work. It was a window into possible futures for them. It was an answer to prayer and the fruit of time invested. Jennifer drew so much out of them that was there but needed her touch to bloom.

We didn’t really help the kids at all. Their stories and maps and artwork were all from their own minds, drawn out by an excellent teacher.

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Jennifer Shapes Creativity

It’s all well and good to model and inspire, but she has done more. Jennifer shapes children’s creativity. She provides banks for their energetic flood of inspiration to be bound in and channeled through. She gives direction, focus, and clarity. She channels their imaginations in ways that serve the children and the parents who are working to give their creativity shape. Her assignments are hard enough to challenge, but accessible enough to stave off deflation.

We are delighted with how Jennifer’s work has given our kids a model who is inspiring and has been instrumental in shaping their imaginations. Jennifer is a real ally.

Jennifer and Community

The format she has chosen to use and the methods she employs allows a positive community of children who are excitedly working individually on their projects, but with group isights and encouragement. It’s a positive writing group, where kids can be kids and use a thousand exclamation points to say that this or that book is “aaaaaaawwwwwessssooooommmmeeee!!!!!!!!!” or mention it’s their birthday today, but can also comment on each other’s art and stories. For our kids, this was a first foray into any kind of on-line interaction like that. It was safe, positive, uplifting, and fun. Jennifer has fostered a community of optimistic, young sub-creators.

Jennifer and Kindness

She has been kind to our children. She has listened to their tales. She has encouraged them.

Artful Allies

Being a parent is hard. Let’s be honest and say that being a mom is very, very hard. I am so proud of my wife, Gina. She homeschools our kids and, like everything in her life, she works very hard at it. She always has a to-do list miles long and is almost never “off the clock.” In school this year, our oldest daughter, 11 years old (and Gina), worked hard to achieve a noble distinction in the area of memory work. This came at the close of the school year when the finish line felt like it couldn’t come soon enough. Jennifer’s class meant so much to Gina as the school year wound down. To have an encouraging, intelligent, competent, and creative ally investing wisdom and inspiring creativity in these kids was a real gift. Our eight-year-old son also loved the class. And it seemed to come at a perfect time for him. While a lot of attention (and justified praise) came to his big sister, he got positive attention and encouragement and was able to do something special that tracked with his deep desire to tell and illustrate stories. I have seen smiles from these two kids, and their mother, over and over during this class. To me, that’s better than silver and gold.

So, I want to say a hearty “well-done” to my friend, Jennifer. Thank you for what you do. God bless you as you carry on this wonderful work. We are grateful.

And to my fellow-parents. Do consider giving your children the gift of being included in one of Jennifer’s classes. You won’t regret it. It’s aaaaawwwwweeessoooooooooome!!!!!!!!!!

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9 Comments

  1. Jennifer K.

    I took Jennifer’s “Painting with Words” for big kids (I mean adults…at least that’s what we’re pretending we are!). If kids have half as much fun as we had by the end of the class, they’d travel to Alpha Centauri and back fueled by the joy of it. Actually, they’d probably have more joy to begin with – we all came to Lesson 1 with our hang-ups and self-doubts and Jennifer just encouraged us to find that inner child and let her imagination run free. Muchos kudos for a great writing teacher!!

  2. Loren Warnemuende

    I’ll happily second Jennifer Kennedy’s comment–I’m so thankful I had the chance to try out Jennifer’s Painting with Words class firsthand. I was definitely stretched in good ways, and I’m hoping the day won’t be too far off when I can have my kids take that class or another from her as well. Thank you, Jennifer!

  3. David

    Wonderful, Sam. You have a knack for bringing out the unique hues in good things. This article has no obvious practical significance for me, yet reading it edified me. Thank you.

  4. Peter B

    I third the “big kids” recommendation. Even though (due to an unexpected life-sucking project at work) I disappeared from reality halfway through the class and didn’t re-emerge until it was over, I delighted in my weeks in the virtual company of Jennifer and my fellow students.

    Once summer hits, I’m pushing this with our kids. Not that I wasn’t already planning to do that, mind you.

  5. Profile photo of S. D. Smith

    S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    I would really enjoy doing her adult class. Ask anyone, I could use some class.

    Thanks for your kind words, David. I’m disappointed that the other three commentors didn’t say such nice things about me.

  6. Loren Warnemuende

    Sam! Poor neglected you. See, we are crying for you. Now get over yourself.

    And I’m thankful for you that you wrote this post to highlight Jennifer’s awesomeness.

    Is that better? 😉

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