Our last names are the same, but Logan Stark and I had never met before Thursday. Nor, upon exchanging pleasantries, did we have any reason to believe we were relatives.
It was just one of those it’s-a-small-world coincidences that we were both speakers at a breakfast honoring 16 high school students in The Joplin Globe’s inaugural writing contest.
Logan is a student at Crowder College, the Globe’s Newspapers in Education sponsor for the contest. He’s also the editor of the Sentry, the junior college’s newspaper, and a member of the staff of the Quill, a magazine written and published by Crowder students.
No, Logan and I aren’t related, but when he took his turn at the lectern, I instantly recognized a kindred spirit.
The unassuming, quiet young man turned into an impassioned advocate for the written word as he dared the high school students to make writing a part of their daily lives.
“Writing is not easy. It can be time consuming. For me, words are all pieces of a puzzle, and my challenge is to find the way they fit together,” he told his young audience.
“But if you love to write, then it’s something you must do. Find one hour a day and spend it writing. By the end of a week, you will have accumulated seven hours worth of writing. The more you write, the better you will get.”
This kid was preaching my mantra, I thought as I listened to him. Then he imparted the best advice of all.
“This might sound kind of odd, but if you want to write, you need to read. If you want to write science fiction, then read science fiction. If you want to write about fantasy, read fantasy,” he continued.
I watched the students closely. I’m sure they had heard that speech from their teachers, but because Logan was just a few years older than them, they were hanging on his every word.
Logan’s dream is to have his book published, he told the students. He engages readers online with blogs and Facebook to help advance his ideas. But his dream is to write a book that people will hold in their hands.
After he sat down, I asked Logan what he was writing about. It turns out he has spent much of his time since May 22, 2011, volunteering with members of his church helping with Joplin’s cleanup and recovery.
Along the way, he’s met people who have stories of courage, despair and inspiration. He’s using his box of puzzle-piece words to help people put their lives back together.
I was humbled, but more than that, I could hardly wait to get back to my keyboard and tell you about Logan Stark. You see, he had given me a subject that inspired me to write. Logan had given something of himself in his speech. I am very sure that he does the same with his writing.
It’s young adults like him, as well as the high-school students in Joplin, Carl Junction, Carthage, Monett, Mount Vernon, Seneca, Verona, Webb City, Columbus, Kan., Riverton, Kan., and Grove, Okla., who submitted 51 entries in our first creative writing contest who will be our nation’s next poets and storytellers.
They are a testament to the power of words.
Carol Stark is editor of The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to her, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Carol Stark on Twitter @carolstark30.