previous story next story

a week of writing and art

The Red River Valley Writing Project at NDSU held a weeklong art and writing workshop in Belcourt, North Dakota. The workshop, organized by NDSU’s Kelly Sassi, was for students in grades 7-12 who attend Turtle Mountain Community Schools.

The students tried out all kinds of genres—poetry, short fiction, memoir, oral narratives, printmaking, photography, quillwork, slam poetry. The sessions were led by Native American artists and writers, including Lise Erdrich; Denise Lajimodiere, an NDSU faculty member; Hannabah Blue, an NDSU staff member; and Caitlin Johnson, an NDSU graduate student.

image of girl writing

By the end of the workshop, the students created enough writing to fill a chapbook and enough artwork to host an exhibition. They also held an Open Mic night for the community.

They will submit their best work to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, a prestigious national competition that has identified some of the nation’s most accomplished writers and artists, including Andy Warhol, Kay WalkingStick, Truman Capote, Joyce Carol Oates and Robert Redford.

Last year was the first time North Dakota had its own state affiliate for the competition. The Red River Valley Writing Project and the Plains Art Museum partnered to serve as an affiliate, with the goal of increasing participation from North Dakota students. The affiliate also identifies state winners eligible to compete at the national level, where millions of dollars in scholarships are awarded each year.

North Dakota made a good showing its first year, with two students winning at the national level. As the state affiliate gains momentum, the organizers expect to see even more of North Dakota’s talented students get national recognition and scholarship money.

A few poems from the project:

  My Special Place

Jeryn Marcellais // grade 8

I walk through those doors. I look down where I can see everything. This is where I take a pause, every time. It will always take my breath away. Every basketball court has the same smell; hard work, dedication, sweat, and tears. That is my favorite smell. Every time I walk in, I can't resist myself. I have to take in a deep breath before I walk down those maroon and grey bleacher steps. The basketball court is so beautiful it could make me cry. On that short walk, I admire the beautiful black, red, maroon, and gold colors on the hardwood floor. I admire every line; the three-point line, the free-throw line, and everything in between. My favorite sight is, though, is the Braves logo right in the middle of the court, reminding me that I represent my hometown and my tribe.

The backboards are the best rectangles in the world. What more can I say? The feeling of a hardwood floor underneath your feet is something I will never forget. It's the most memorable feeling I can get. The sound of crowds going for you or going against you is one of the most reassuring things you will feel during a game. Well, besides your coach telling you you played a good game. I can't help but smile when a call goes my way. The referee's whistle sends a chill down my spine, though. You never know if you're the one who the whistle is picking on today. The squeaking of shoes is music to my ears. I always try to make a song with the squeaking of my shoes. The song will either be beautiful or horrible, there is no in between. Some people think the only thing you taste on a basketball court is when you face plant and hit the floor. Well, those people are mistaken. The only tastes on a basketball court are the sweet taste of victory and the bitter taste of defeat. The basketball court is a place where I am free. I can show everything I have. It's my second home. The basketball court reminds me I will always be a Bravette, no matter where I go or what I do. This is truly my special place.

  Grandma Jeanne

Tanaiah Charbonneau // grade 10

Grandma Jeanne is so nice.
She makes me feel like sugar and spice.
I love her with all my heart
and she makes me feel ever so smart.
Grandma Jeanne is my world.
I would do anything for her,
even if she asked me to rock the world.
She always puts a smile on my face
when she takes me by the hand
to make me dance,
and she gives me that happy glance.
I LOVE Grandma Jeanne
I will do anything and everything
she needs me to do.
Always and forever
she will be loved.

  I Come From

Tehya Azure // grade 7

I come from a family who teaches me about my culture.
I come from my grandpa who teaches me how to make gallete.
I come from a family who teaches me how to sing traditional songs.
I come from a place where there are sweats and powwows.
I come from a grandma who teaches me how to bead.
I come from a grandma who teaches me how to dance.
I come from a mother who teaches me how to cook.
I come from a dad who teaches me how to hunt.
I come from a family who teaches me how to love.


Seth Belgarde // grade 7

A marshmallow is cylindrical and white.
It has a grainy texture.
It has no sound.
It smells like gelatin.
It tastes like gelatin mixed with sugar.
What a perfect creation.

Photo: Logan Davis

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.