“You guys have a great future ahead of you,” said former Crimson Tide and Steelers cornerback Anthony Madison, addressing the newly published writers from the Writing Our Stories (WOS) program at the Lurleen B. Wallace School on the Department of Youth Services (DYS) Mt. Meigs campus. “I read your book, and you are intelligent.”
Held in the campus chapel, the Ocober 24 event marked the release of Open the Door 15, an anthology of poems and stories from the student writers. Students, guests, and DYS faculty, staff, and administrators filled the chapel to capacity. “Optimism” was the theme of the day.
“When I played ball at the University of Alabama I had my doubts because of my size, and I had naysayers who said I couldn’t make it,” said Madison. “Well, I made it. Same naysayers at the Steelers, and I played for seven years.”
Madison played on the Pittsburg Steelers’ Super Bowl XLIII championship team that defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 27-23 to close out the 2008 NFL season.
Madison shared five tips for success with the students—“attitude, environment, education, choices, and faith.”
“Have the right attitude,” he said. “It doesn’t take talent to have a good attitude. Create a good environment. The people you have around you now will have an influence on you for the next five years. Be careful who you hang out with. Educate yourself. Without an education, you’ll never be able to make logical decisions about what is right and what is wrong. Make the right choices. Right now at your age the decisions you make will determine the outcome of your entire life. Have faith, pray. I feel that this is the reason I am what I am today. I always knew there was something bigger.”
Introducing his students, teaching writer Marlin “Bart” Barton read “A Dream Life,” a poem by a recently deceased student. “I think you will hear intelligence and honesty in these students’ work,” he remarked.
With that, thirteen students—three of whom returned to campus for the event—read selections from their poems and short stories.
At the conclusion of the event, Madison shared stories, signed autographs, and passed around his Super Bowl ring.
Writing Our Stories is an award-winning creative writing collaborative program whose partners include the Department of Youth Services, the ABSOP project, and the Alabama Writers’ Forum. Additional funding has been provided by the Alabama State Council on the Arts. The Children’s Trust Fund provided funds for the WOS Curriculum Guide.
Copies of this year’s anthologies are available from the Forum for a $5 shipping and handling charge for each book. To order, contact the Forum at 334-265-7728, toll free at 866-901-1117, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“A Dream Life” by J.L.
In my world
life has meaning,
like a painting for an artist
who understands his images
of crisp, white clouds.
Streams of crystal blue water
wind along back roads,
and an old man sits
in his oak rocking chair
whittling wood blocks into figures.
The field is plowed
so the cotton can cover the ground
like the silk white snow blanketing
the Appalachians of West Virginia.
Photo: Photo: Anthony Madison swaps stories with WOS students. (photo by Julie Bennett)