All students in grades 9 through 12, including those in public and parochial schools, alternative programs and those who are home schooled, are invited to participate in the Ernest J. Gaines Young Writer Apprentice Program. Twelve to 15 students will be chosen to attend sessions at the Gaines Center on the UL Lafayette campus, where professional writers will help them improve their skills.
"This program will help identify and cultivate talent," said Jordan Kellman, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at UL Lafayette. "It will also extend some of the university's resources into the community and increase awareness of our creative writing program."
The idea for the apprentice program originated with the Ernest J. Gaines Center's Board of Directors, which includes Dr. Darrell Bourque, a professor emeritus of English at UL Lafayette and former Louisiana poet laureate. Bourque is one of the instructors who will work with students.
During five, three-hour sessions, students will complete exercises in traditional storytelling, memoirs, folklore and other genres to complete an original story. They will also view selected materials from the center's archives, which hold the only complete collection of Ernest J. Gaines' papers and manuscripts.
Gaines was the university's writer-in-residence from 1983 to 2005. He was nominated two times for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction — for his 1971 novel, "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" and for "A Lesson Before Dying," which was published in 1991. Gaines was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature in 2004.
To be considered for the apprenticeship program, a student must submit a short story and a letter of recommendation. There is no fee to participate. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 10. The writing sessions are scheduled to begin in February. Additional information is available at the center's web site: http://library.louisiana.edu/Gaines/.