National Day on Writing gets the word out

October 21, 2016 / by / 0 Comment


From the left, freshmen Jaenna Morgan, Nicole Shaheem and Naquia Varner add a line to a community story during National Day on Writing.

Story and photos by Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau

If Grand Canyon University’s National Day on Writing was a story, it would be filled with colorful characters, multiple plotlines and a happily-ever-after ending.

“It went beautifully — fantastic participation and creativity,” said Kimbel Westerson, English instructor for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “We’re delighted.”

College of Humanities and Social Sciences faculty members Heather Brody, left, and Dr. Diane Goodman read a chalk poem.

College of Humanities and Social Sciences faculty members Heather Brody (left) and Dr. Diane Goodman read a chalk poem written by two student writers.

That she used few words to describe the celebration of writing Thursday was a reflection of one of the fun exercises offered — writing an autobiography in six words.

In a second activity, passersby were encouraged to pick up a red, green, yellow or blue Sharpie and add a new line to one of several “extenda-stories” being written by the community on pads of paper on two tables.

A poetry reading was scheduled for later in the day.

Those in more of a hurry opted to scribble down their six-word (well, approximately six-word!) personal stories on pastel Post-It notes they then affixed to two large bulletin boards for public consumption.

Here are some examples:

  • “I love sleep. I love food.”
  • “Exploring my heart and world forever.”
  • “No groceries — eggs for dinner again.”
  • “Striving to be closer to God.”
  • “Aspiring feminist and pizza lover.”
  • “Confused, looking around without knowing why.”
  • “Chocolate cereal for breakfast.”
  • “Jesus, Coffee, Peru, Hat, Coffee, Jesus.”


    Six-word autobiographies were part of the writing challenge.

Brisa Castro, a freshman elementary education major, paused thoughtfully before jotting down her six words, then smiled serenely as she posted them on the board.

“Broken home. Found God. Made complete,” she had written in a message both profound and concise.

GCU Provost Dr. Hank Radda stopped by en route to another responsibility and joked that he wasn’t an English major. But he nonetheless wrote: “Math guy there is an answer.”

The first line of one extenda-story was, “They were lost,” followed by, “for five days in Disneyland”. The jumbo paper page was covered with multi-colored sentences by the time three freshmen — Naquia Varner and her friends Jaenna Morgan and Nicole Shaheem — showed up.

The science majors turned to science fiction in two lines they added, invoking both Yoda and Darth Vader.


Adding lines to community extenda-stories was part of the National Day on Writing fun.

Some of the community story subjects were silly, some were sweet, and some were both, such as this line written by sophomore English major Shyann Haines:

“Cold and forgotten on the ground, the Snickers bar shed one peanut-scented tear.”

Senior Tim Dombroski and junior Cymelle Edwards used chalk on concrete to create two poems. One, written on a sidewalk, was about a journey, and the other, written on a stairwell, was about a climb.

“I want to be a writer — I want to get my Masters of Fine Arts — and I’d like to be a professor one day,” said Edwards, who, like Dombroski, has had work published in StartleBloom, the GCU Literary Review.


Part of the chalk poem

Among English faculty who participated in the event were Dr. Diane Goodman, Heather Brody, Maria Zafonte, Dr. Tom Skeen, Brian Raftery, Dr. Jen Santos and Dr. Jim Helfers.

Westerson, who chaired the committee that organized GCU’s activities, said the National Day on Writing “is about celebrating how we use language and the written word to enrich our lives.”

Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or



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