Sandy woman prompts virtual creativity
Bree Bender of Sandy and a teacher for the North Clackamas School District, launched a creative writing workshop in late February at the Sandy Public Library.
The response was positive.
But then the coronavirus pandemic came into full focus, bringing the monthly workshop to an abrupt end as the public library closed in compliance with social-distancing limitations.
Bender, however, simply pivoted.
On Wednesday, March 18, she published her first blog post to breebender.com, promising to continue the workshop she started online by posting new writing prompts daily until schools reopen (and possibly even after). These prompts are not only for her North Clackamas students and writing workshop attendees, but anyone and everyone who wants them.
"I don't have access to my students right now," Bender said. "A lot of them are super creative and need that outlet. Some of them have mental health issues and use it to cope. I thought the least I could do is post some prompts."
Prompts published so far ask young writers to pull their creative minds out of their current situation and into new settings — like space or 1890s London — work on craft elements like character development and/or do timed writes on a variety of topics to "get your creative muscles working."
She has also posted lists of other resources she's found offering lessons in history, science and math and book recommendations.
"Growing up, writing was a coping mechanism for me," Bender explained. "I used it daily to process things happening in my life. I also struggle with mental health issues and I often say writing saved my life. Writing helped just get the words out, so they didn't build up inside me."
Bender added that especially in a time like this, with a global pandemic keeping people isolated and many are afraid and confused, that outlet is all the more important.
"I think during times of chaos and uncertainty, creativity can help us all cope," Bender explained. "Right now, with the world being an uncertain place, writing can help students put thoughts and feelings out on paper and get them out."
As a mother, Bender said the benefit to parents seeking engaging educational resources are not lost on her. When school is in session, Bender teaches a creative writing after-school program in North Clackamas, where she's worked for three years. She has been writing "seriously" for 15 years.
"I'm a parent myself with three kids at home," Bender said. "I know for myself I've been looking for things for them to do. I know this is new territory for all of us. Any way I can help parents and students with educational options was my goal."
This project, Bender noted, also helps her because she's missing her own regular routine.
"I absolutely think this (task of posting prompts) is beneficial for me too," she said. "I miss my students and teaching. It gives me an outlet to be creative as well. I love what I do. I'm super passionate about teaching and writing."
Bender's website is free to access and those wishing to get updates about when she posts can subscribe to her blog page.
"I work with low-income students and families," she noted. "I wanted to make sure my resources were accessible for them as well. This gives me purpose. The more I can help and share with others, the better it is for me, too."
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