Saturday, September 24, 2011
Somerville Writer Alan Ball: Working with kids after work and after-school.
Interview with Doug Holder.
Alan Ball has worked 25 years as a medical journalist. He moved from NYC to Somerville in 1978. Since then he has worked with school kids by organizing after school creative writing groups at the A.D. Healey School, and formed the student newspaper. He founded the print and online magazine Happening Now!everywhere-- run by a collective of young writers that produces an online and print magazine of literature and art that is read worldwide. I talked with Ball on my Somerville Community Access TV Show " Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer."
Doug Holder: You started your first novel at age 12. What was it about?
Alan Ball: Well I wrote one page and that was it. It was about an abandoned house that kids took over. I never finished it.
DH: Did you come from a bookish-literary background?
AB: I grew up in Freeport, N.Y. I didn't come from a bookish family. My dad was a supermarket worker--my mom was stay-at-home. I later figured out that she was an artist but there was no outlet for women then. I remember reading E.E. Cummings in school and he made me realize you could become a writer and not have to worry about all the formalities--you could experiment.
DH: You said you were grateful for the education your kids got in Somerville, Mass. A popular misconception is that Somerville schools are less competitive than some of our more affluent neighbors. How do you answer that?
AB: My kids got a great education here, and I am grateful. It had to do with me wanting to give back to the community. I know the controversy--it is a big misconception. The high school has always been a fine place. A lot of high powered people have come out of Somerville High. My kids did well-- both got into Boston College--and they are able to pursue their chosen careers.
DH: As we have mentioned you have taught creative writing to young children. Aren't kids natural creative writers--they view the world through fresh eyes--and there is still that fascination with everything?
AB: Absolutely. That is why it is enjoyable. The creative writing classes I teach are part of an after school program centered around the school newspaper. We teach creative writing mostly from the point of view of journalism. We jump around a lot. I look forward to do more "classroom" stuff but right now I am focused on publications. The kids do it all: read, write and research.
DH: Tell me about your magazine HappeningNow!everywhere--which consists of a collective of young writers.
AB: We started out in print, but we wanted to extend our reach. So we went online because the Internet is worldwide.
The print arm of our project is much smaller--we print around 100 copies of the magazine. The kids sell it--we go to public events like The Somerville News Writers Festival last year to sell our publications. We also have published poetry books. We published a small collection: " Poets for Haiti." It was a response to the tragedy that befell Haiti--we raised 800 dollars.
DH: Where does your funding come from?
AB: We recycle old print cartridges. We take donations--or we ask people to buy any number of our books.
TO find out more about this project go to: http://12zine.com