About The Shire
The Shire, a cultural project of the nonprofit StoryArk, nurtures youth in their literary efforts, supports their creative writing goals and provides a welcoming environment for students to connect with teachers, mentors, writers and each other. The Shire is meant to be student inspired, relationship driven, community supported, and inter-generational in its leadership. The Shire provides a safe place for kids to challenge themselves, spark their imaginations and learn about the art of storytelling. The Shire also seeks to connect creative writing with other art forms including, but not limited to, drawing, painting, domestic arts, music and dance. Through The Shire, students in grades six through twelve pursue their passion for storytelling through classes, workshops, writing clubs and a literary journal while developing communication, collaboration and leadership skills
The Shire Literary Center began as a concept the summer of 2015 by offering three creative writing classes to middle school students in the classroom space of ArtReach St. Croix. Those classes, along with the vision of a literary center in Stillwater, generated so much interest that The Shire offered a well attended suspense workshop. At the beginning of 2016, The Shire began a radio show called Voices in the Valley aired every Saturday morning at 10:00 on KLBB 1220 AM. The radio show took off, and The Shire offered an audio drama class to create an audio play to be aired on Voices in the Valley. That became the prompt for #HUSHpodcast, an original sci-fi series written, performed and produced by The Shire’s Audio Drama Team. Bringing together an eclectic set of artists, The Shire's Audio Drama Team provides a sense of belonging to a team of writers, composers, foley artists, actors and illustrators as they collaborate to create HUSH episodes that are aired on Voices in the Valley before being uploaded onto iTunes as a podcast.
In August of 2016, the energy of The Shire, Voices in the Valley and #HUSHpodcast organized itself within the nonprofit StoryArk. StoryArk officially gained 501(c)(3) status with the IRS in December of 2016. Currently, a “Youth Advisory Board" and a parent group called the “Guardians” meet monthly to brainstorm and develop future project ideas for The Shire. The Shire, Voices in the Valley and #HUSHpodcast are supported by StoryArk executive director Stephani Atkins and overseen by the StoryArk Board of Directors.
Stillwater is home to all kinds of imagination feeders: steps and vistas, lively streets, the old prison walls and Indian battleground, historic caves, Victorian houses, the St. Croix river and its iconic lift bridge.
With it’s creative outlets and community of published authors, Stillwater offers a distinct advantage to The Shire and makes the literary center unique. While “the Shire” is a J.R.R. Tolkien reference, the name also acknowledges that we have our own little Shire right here in the St. Croix Valley. As part of the learning process, our classes field trip to different Stillwater settings and often include a much anticipated visit to Candyland to write using all five senses.
Unless otherwise stated, all classes take place at the Zephyr Studio, 421 S. Main Street in Stillwater and are geared towards either middle or high school students. Larger classes take advantage of the beautiful meeting space both indoors and out offered by the Stillwater Public Library. The library is just one of many non-profits the Shire handshakes with to provide an enriched experience to our students.