Local student is selected to attend two prestigious writing seminars this summer
By Ron VandenBoom
Glenda Eagleman Wells just needed a few extra credits when she decided to sign up for a mass media class at Stone Child College.
Her decision may have seemed insignificant at the time, but her choice became a spark that kindled a passion a passion to write, to express her feelings, and to recognize in herself a hidden talent that opened doors and presented possibilities.
Eagleman Wells came to recognize that writing is a way to put her feelings on paper.
"I've always liked to write," she said. "I just never took it seriously. By writing you have power at your fingertips."
Once ignited, her passion drove her to accept her instructor's suggestion that she apply to attend a month-long, six-credit class in journalism at the American Indian Journalism Institute in Vermillion, S.D.
More than 100 students applied for the chance to attend the Freedom Forum-sponsored workshop. Eagleman Wells was the only student of three Stone Child applicants accepted, and on June 2, she joined 41 other would-be journalists from 15 states and 24 tribes on the campus of the University of South Dakota.
"They said my application was one of the strongest," she said.
She also called several times to find out whether she had been accepted. The calls, she believes, demonstrated her interest and determination to attend.
Eagleman Wells, a 27-year-old mother of three children Elmina, 8, Ira, 3, and Isaac, 2, said she was also encouraged to apply by the fact that day care was offered by the institute, which allowed her to take her children along. Her husband, Wesley Wells, is a firefighter.
The Freedom Forum is a nonpartisan international foundation that, in addition to supporting a free press and freedom of speech, supports the idea that minorities are under-represented in the media and that minority reporters can have a significant impact on their people by becoming involved in the media.
"Their goal," Eagleman Wells said, "is to get more diversity in the newsroom."
A typical day at the institute started with classroom instruction, and the afternoons were for labs, Eagleman Wells said. The labs were divided into three sections covering photo journalism, editing and writing.
The class was divided into three sections with each section assigned to a different lab. Labs would last for a week each before students would rotate to the next course of study.
Eagleman Wells spent her first week in the photography lab, where she was required to take a variety of pictures and learned the importance of shooting her subjects at close range, she said.
The second week, Eagleman Wells participated in the writing lab and traveled to Rapid City, S.D., to interview several government officials. The third week she went to a baseball game and reported and wrote on sports.
In addition to classroom study and lab work, she was required to turn in daily assignments, or briefs, and to attend occasional evening dinners that featured guest speakers. She would take notes at the dinners and write briefs on the speeches.
The final week of school she was allowed to choose a lab that delved into the activity she enjoyed the most. Eagleman Wells picked writing, she said, because she wanted to develop her writing skills.
A month of intensive education in journalism would be enough schooling for most people, but within days of returning from South Dakota, she was off again. She headed to a nine-day National Book Foundation summer writing camp at Simon's Rock College in Great Barrington, Mass.
This time the Rocky Boy's native was rubbing shoulders with more than 40 minority students and would-be writers.
National Book Award fiction finalist Norma Fox Mazer and award-winning poet and playwright Cornelius Eady were two of the noteworthy writers who were featured at the camp.
The camp's program was similar to that of the Journalism Institute, Eagleman Wells said, in that it was divided into groups that spent each of two days working on subjects like poetry, short stories, and writing plays.
Looking back on more than a month of intense training has not given Eaglemaan Wells a clear vision of what kind of writing she most enjoys.
"I like all forms of writing," she said. "They kept telling me I hadn't found my voice, or that my voice was this or that. Finally the directors said, Well, why don't you do it all.' So that's what I'm going to do."
While she is now considering a career in journalism, she also said she also would like to write a book about her family and a book on the history of Rocky Boy's Reservation.
"I know it's going to take a lot of work and years," she said. "I'll have to do a lot of research and (conduct) interviews with the elders while they're still here. But I want to tell our story through our eyes."