When Doug Stanton was a young student and aspiring author, a local benefactor offered to help fund his final year at Interlochen Arts Academy, where he was a creative writing and theater major. “Having such an experience when I was a teenager,” says Stanton, “literally changed my life. I’ve never forgotten how fortunate I was to be taken seriously by practicing writers at such a young age.” He also never forgot the generous goodwill of the benefactor, Mrs. Helen Osterlin.
Motivated by a belief that “we can pitch in and, inexpensively, make our public schools richer places,” Stanton announced to a sold-out 2010 National Writers Series audience that he wanted to create, in downtown Traverse City, a free creative writing program for high school students. NWS had just awarded its first scholarships to college-bound high school students (during the 2012-2013 academic year, these awards will total more than $20,000). Traverse City Area Public Schools board president Gary Appel was in the audience and immediately expressed his support. He assisted in initiating important conversations with other TCAPS officials, including superintendent Stephen Cousins, who offered key support. Cousins asked Traverse City West High School assistant principal Stephanie Long to form an inaugural steering committee. Thus was born the Front Street Writers Studio Program in creative writing.
Just two years after Stanton announced his idea the National Writers Series and Traverse City Area Public Schools launched Front Street Writers, a for-credit, tuition-free, rigorous creative writing program for public high school students, originally located on Front Street. Led by publishing writers-in-residence, enthusiastic Traverse City Area Public School teachers, and NWS’s nationally renowned guest authors who conduct master classes with the students, the program treats the young writer as a serious artist and as a working professional. This is done with the belief that the creation of literature is an important, stimulating way of life and a way to forge a rewarding livelihood.