Posted by: csdailyblog | November 19, 2009

Student Writers Speak with Award-Winning Author and Adventurer

“Writing is the hardest way of earning a living,” it has been said, “with the possible exception of wrestling alligators.”  

Mark Jenkins

Students in Conserve’s Advanced Composition class got a peek into the real world of professional writing during a conference call with National Geographic Staff Writer Mark Jenkins. Jenkins, who has done everything but wrestle alligators, is the author of four award-winning books including Off the Map: Bicycling Across Siberia, To Timbuktu and A Man’s Life. From clandestine journeys across Tibet to mountaineering in Bolivia, sea kayaking around Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula to canyoneering in Australia, Jenkins covers the globe in search of adventure, history and human understanding. Jenkins’ story about his secret journeys into Burma, “Ghost Road,” was selected for inclusion in The Best American Travel Writing anthology. He has written on everything from the mountain gorillas of the Congo to spelunking for the National Geographic. Still, it wasn’t the exotic locations that this world-traveler stressed to the Conserve students, it was the craft of storytelling. “Always remember,” he told the young writers, “it is all about the story. You are first and foremost a writer. It is about craft and language and discipline and telling a good story, even if that is sometimes difficult to remember when you are on your thirteen draft of a manuscript and up against a tight deadline.” Prior to the conference call with Jenkins, each student was assigned an essay written by the Wyoming-based writer to read and study, preparing questions to ask. After the questions on the writing, the discussion ranged from how he stays in shape for high adventure to the impact of his busy traveling schedule on his family. It is a busy, but gratifying life, Jenkins told the young writers before saying goodbye and heading off on assignment to do a story on the ravages of left-over landmines, a story that will appear in a future issue of National Geographic magazine. When it comes out, at least one group of Conserve students will understand a little better the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into bringing a story to print.

Photo courtesy of Mark Jenkins, www.thehardway.com

Post contributed by Jeff Rennicke, Conserve School English Teacher

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