The History of Front Street Writers

The Beginnings

When National Writers Series co-founder Doug Stanton was a young student and aspiring author, a local benefactor offered to help fund his final year at Interlochen Arts Academy, where he was a creative writing and theater major. “Having such an experience when I was a teenager,” says Stanton, “literally changed my life. I’ve never forgotten how fortunate I was to be taken seriously by practicing writers at such a young age.” He also never forgot the generous goodwill of the benefactor, Mrs. Helen Osterlin.

Motivated by a belief that “we can pitch in and, inexpensively, make our public schools richer places,” Stanton announced to a sold-out 2010 National Writers Series audience that he wanted to create, in downtown Traverse City, a free creative writing program for high school students. NWS had just awarded its first scholarships to college-bound high school students (during the 2012-2013 academic year, these awards will total more than $20,000). Traverse City Area Public Schools board president Gary Appel was in the audience and immediately expressed his support. He assisted in initiating important conversations with other TCAPS officials, including superintendent Stephen Cousins, who offered key support. Cousins asked Traverse City West High School assistant principal Stephanie Long to form an inaugural steering committee. Thus was born the Front Street Writers Studio Program in creative writing.

The Journey

Just two years after Stanton announced his idea the National Writers Series and Traverse City Area Public Schools launched Front Street Writers, a for-credit, tuition-free, rigorous creative writing program for public high school students, originally located on Front Street. (Thus the name!)

The program found a home for several years with Traverse Bay Intermediate School District’s Career Tech Center (now called Northwest Education Services). Led by publishing writers-in-residence, enthusiastic teachers, and NWS’s nationally renowned guest authors who conduct master classes with the students, the program treated the young writer as a serious artist and as a working professional. This was done with the belief that the creation of literature is an important, stimulating way of life and a way to forge a rewarding livelihood.

Where We Are Now

Today, the National Writers Series continues to support creative writing endeavors at Northwest Education Services, where students can enroll in a for-credit creative writing program, and has expanded Front Street Writers to reach more young writers than ever. We’re proud to offer three pillars of Front Street Writers: a semester-long Creative Writing Studio for high school juniors and seniors; monthly Writing Workshops for students in grades 7-12; and Author Masterclasses with visiting National Writers Series authors.

About the Creative Writing Studio
This semester-long program is modeled off a Master of Fine Arts, with a small cohort of 11th and 12th grade students meeting in the fall semester and another in the spring semester. These students dive into three core competencies—poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction—as they work toward completing writing projects throughout the semester. The students will also practice peer review techniques in addition to getting feedback on their work from their instructor. At the conclusion of the semester, one piece from each student will be selected for the National Writers Series Literary Journal. Along the way, they get to connect with working authors locally and across the country.

About the Writing Workshops
Throughout the school year, 1- and 2-day creative writing workshops are offered virtually or at the Traverse Area District Library. Classes are taught by Michigan writers and qualified educators, and will be geared toward different age groups: beginners (ages 11-13), intermediate (ages 13-15), and advanced (ages 16-18). At the conclusion of each workshop, one standout piece will be selected for the National Writers Series Literary Journal.

About Author Masterclasses
We’re thrilled to have the amazing authors who grace the National Writers Series stage also offer classes for area students. Authors offer these classes virtually and in person to discuss life as a working writer, creativity, and the art of the written word.

Front Street Writers will be bringing you two masterclasses during fall 2021, one with bestselling author Mary Roach, who is known for her incredible ability to combine humor, science, and story; and one with Angeline Boulley, acclaimed author of the breakout bestseller Firekeeper’s Daughter. Stay tuned for more information on class dates, times, and locations!

Thank You

We’re incredibly grateful to our major donors, the Dragonfly Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Michigan Arts and Culture Council. Thanks to their generosity, we are able to provide all of these programs free of charge to students in our community. Thank you for making these programs accessible to everyone!

Front Street Writers has been supported over the years by Traverse City Area Public Schools, Northwest Education Services (formerly TBAISD), and countless amazing donors, grantors, and sponsors. A grassroots movement, led by volunteers and created specifically for northern Michigan students, blossomed into a program that has connected and empowered hundreds of talented young writers. We can’t thank our supports enough for making this dream a reality.