Write to the Point!

A Neighborhood Studios Program at the Mark Twain House

Archive for the tag “Meaghan Szilagyi”

Twain Studios 2013 Anthology

Anthology cover

This is the cover of the 48-page anthology of work by the Writing Apprentices of Twain Studios. You can see the whole thing by following the link below.

For six weeks in July and August, 2013, a dozen teenagers from diverse backgrounds, different schools and towns, came together as a group at The Mark Twain House & Museum.

This group, the newest of the Neighborhood Studios of the Greater Hartford Arts Council, originated with a great conversation between the arts council and Julia Pistell, who is part of the Mark Twain House communications team.

Led by Master Teaching Artist Jackie Majerus, the teens practiced reporting, interviewing and writing creative non-fiction. They learned about Mark Twain, his Nook Farm neighborhood and neighbors past and present and about each other. Lasting friendships formed. They explored Nook Farm and the state Capitol and learned from an array of guest speakers.

The program was called Write to the Point! and the students, who were writing apprentices, called themselves The Jakes, their shorthand for “Journalism Kids.”

The teens, who ranged from age 14 to 18, worked individually and cooperatively on all sorts of non-fiction writing. They wrote a lot. Most of it is on this blog. Much of their best work was printed in a 48-page anthology – their crowning achievement distributed at their showcase last month, where the youth read their work aloud to an audience of family, friends and others interested in the arts.

Besides the written work, and some artwork of the youth in the studio, the anthology also includes many photographs of these wonderful young people throughout their summer adventure. It is impossible to fully capture a lively group of creative young people on a blog or on a printed page, but this blog, and the anthology, should offer a glimpse into an amazing summer experience.

Thank you for taking time to explore this blog and the anthology.  Comments are welcome, too!

To see the anthology in PDF form, follow this link:

 Twain Studios 2013 Anthology

Sam Clemens AKA Mark Twain

By Meaghan Szilagyi

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Who was Mark Twain? A novelist? A newspaper reporter? A famous author? A popular speaker?

Mark Twain was a “persona” in the eyes of Patti Philippon, chief curator of The Mark Twain House & Museum. He was a mask that was worn by a man named Samuel Clemens.

Samuel Clemens was a real person: family man, father, son, husband.

Philippon said that Clemens’ daughters disliked Mark Twain. The world saw their father as the humorist he presented himself to be, when he was really so much more than that. He was caring and loving. Clemens would do anything for his family but when people saw Mark Twain, they didn’t see the family man he truly was.

Sam made mistakes. Any real person makes mistakes. A few times, before his years as a husband, Clemens spent a few nights in jail for disruptive behavior and disorderly conduct, according to a Ken Burns documentary about Twain.

Clemens grew up as a rowdy young fellow and had no trouble seeking out adventure. He had many memories of his childhood friends that he later used in his stories.

Samuel Clemens traveled the world during Mark Twain’s great lectures. Samuel Clemens fell in love with and married Olivia Langdon. And Samuel Clemens became the mastermind behind Mark Twain.

While leading a tour of the Mark Twain House, Grace Belanger, assistant manager of visitor services at the museum, said that when the Clemens’ had guests over, Mark Twain was present.

Samuel Clemens treated Mark Twain as his job, nothing more.

Mark Twain was a one-dimensional character. Sure, you could go to the theater and watch him in 3D but it wouldn’t really be him, would it?

Twain presented himself as a humorist – that much is clear.

Twain House publicist Steve Courtney even goes as far to call him a “stand-up comedian.” But was he anything more than that?

Could Samuel Clemens have had multiple personality disorder?

Philippon and Courtney think not. Since it was common for people to have pen names in the Gilded Age, they believe that Clemens was a person with a pen name and that’s it.

So who was Mark Twain, really?

Now that he is long gone, I guess we’ll never know the real story. But that’s part of the fun, isn’t it? Mystery adds intrigue and who was Mark Twain, if not a man of mystery?

Meaghan Szilagyi and Her Tireless Pursuit of Happiness

By June Tran

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

A bubbly and compulsive 15-year-old born and raised in downtown Hartford, Meaghan Szilagyi was a weak baby born five months premature.

Raised into a family with a rich history rooted in Hungry, her grandfather was a prominent governor there where the family name is both well-known and respected. It was Szilagyi’s father’s trip to the United States after the wake of communism in Hungry that really ties into the story of Szilagyi’s life today.

Meaghan and Ambriel

Meaghan Szilagyi, left, and her Twain Studios friend, Ambriel Johnson, sometimes shared music while they wrote over the summer.

Her Sicilian grandmother cared for Szilagyi after she was born. 

Later, her older sister, Kaitlyn exposed Szilagyi to writing. Often she expressed envy for her sister’s work, feeling that her own work “did not compare.”

The insecurities did not stop there. Entering middle school, Szilagyi began to hate writing prompts and essays. Teachers often assigned ridiculous topics such as essays about “intergenerational relationships” or the reason why To Kill a Mockingbird is an American classic.

Boring subjects weren’t the only hurdle. Grades on writing assignments were also a problem.

Although she began to enjoy writing research papers and essays, she said, she “kept getting C’s.”

Szilagyi saw herself as someone who “sucked at writing essays.”

It was during an afterschool makeup session that Szilagyi met Cheryl Ryba, an eccentric English teacher who believed in the idea of “being with your inner self.”

Ryba inspired Szilagyi to keep writing and envelope herself in the art.

She now keeps herself busy with writing journals and poetry. While journaling, Szilagyi writes to an imaginary friend called “Phil.” In this journal, she records her daily activities and feelings.

Szilagyi is indecisive about which career she wants to pursue.

“I do but I don’t,” she said, when asked if she has a career plan for the future. In her mind, there are two paths that she’s planning to take, one that “cannot be written about” and the other a double major in sociology and psychology.

For someone who describes herself as having a “contradictory personality,” Szilagyi possesses an inexorable desire to pursue never-ending happiness.

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