MY ART STORY by

Norene Cashen

Detroit
Michigan

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Woman in classroom full of students.

InsideOut Writer-in-Residence Norene Cashen with second-graders from Bennett Elementary School in Detroit. Photo by Suzanne Ledda

Since 2008, I've been a writer-in-residence with the InsideOut Literary Arts Project in Detroit. My job is to join Detroit Public School classrooms and teach children how to write poems. We also publish their poems and drawings in an annual journal. Most of the time, the students teach me much more than I teach them. When I ask them to step outside the realm of the literal and invite them to enter a new and completely creative space, something magical happens. They take chances. Our mottos are "trust yourself" and "keep on writing." We stand up and raise our hands to the sky to reach for an idea. We make crazy word lists. We make wild metaphors. We turn into superheroes. We say, "My heart is a river, my heart is a moon, my heart is an airplane." We follow those ideas to powerful places. Through our words, we are always going somewhere or transforming ourselves. By the end of the school year, I see a light in the students' faces I didn't see before. I see more of the courage needed to put the pencil to the page. When I am in a difficult place in my own life, I have learned to say, "This problem is a tunnel I am traveling through. This sadness is a rainstorm that will pass over me." And yes, at times I even imagine I am a superhero with all the powers I need to make a difference in the world.

Norene Cashen
Detroit, MI