For Searsport District High School junior Alivia Cross, writing poetry comes as naturally to her as carrying on a conversation with an old friend.

Now, thanks to her recent trip to the New England Young Writer's Conference at Bread Loaf, Cross has many more new friends who, like her, are passionate about their chosen styles of writing.

"After the first two hours we had our friends," said Cross. "It didn't take long, and we were all so sad to leave."

The conference, which took place in Middlebury, Vt., included young writers from all over New England, and also hosted student writers from California and London.

Cross departed for the conference Thursday, May 15 and returned Sunday, May 18. During her time there she worked with several published writers and English teachers, and had the chance to share her own writing with other students to gain constructive feedback.

Cross said students broke off into small groups of up to 10 people, and benefited from the guidance of a published writer — Cross' group worked with poet Alison Moncrief. During this phase of the conference the students shared and critiqued their own pieces. Cross also worked in larger groups, which were arranged by the type of writing in which the students were most interested, including poetry, fiction and nonfiction.

Cross also participated in an open mic style poetry reading — something she is no stranger to as a participant in her school's Poetry Out Loud contests and a regular at Bell the Cat in Belfast, which also hosts open mic nights. This occasion was different for Cross, however, as she rarely has the chance to read her poetry alongside participants in the same age group, who love writing as much as she does.

"That's hard to find in a small school," she said.

During one exercise, the students in her poetry group were presented with a photograph and instructed to write poems about what the image meant to them. After returning to the group and sharing all of their works, Cross said they had difficulty deciding whose poem was the best.

"So we took a line from every poem, edited it, and put it all together," she said. "… The theme was still the same. And that was in the first hour of knowing each other. It made our group so much more open, and it made us closer."

And while the conference kept the student writers busy, Cross said the organizers made time for fun events like nature walks, a campfire reading and a dance involving all of the 2014 participants.

Cross said she has always enjoyed writing since she was old enough to put words on paper, and she credited her fifth grade teacher, Charlene Farris, for igniting her interest in poetry. Cross continued to sharpen her skills as she grew older, and this year, the 17-year-old junior said her English teacher, Kathleen Jenkins, encouraged her to send some of her work in to the conference organizers. Cross said Jenkins showed her the works of students who were admitted to the conference in past years, and assisted Cross with perfecting her own entry, the final draft of which is titled, "The Tide."

"Basically the poem talks about the ocean, and talks about life," said Cross.

Working with Jenkins, Cross said, she made some changes to make the tide symbolic of life, and that was the piece she sent in for consideration last January. A few months later, Cross said, she received notification the she was accepted to the conference, and had earned a full scholarship to attend and represent her school.

Looking forward, Cross said she would like to one day publish a book of her poems, but she also wants to pursue her interests in all aspects of the performing arts. These days, Cross volunteers for the Penobscot Theater Company in Bangor and the Belfast Masker's Cold Comfort Theater, where she helps with sets and all other backstage aspects of productions. She enjoys being on stage, too, but Cross said for her, that's not the most important aspect of those activities.

"Theatrics is definitely a big thing for me," she said. "I could care less if I'm the star, I just like to be in the presence of it."

In the meantime, Cross said the lessons she learned from all the new friends she made at the conference will stay with her, and be evident in her writing, from here on out.

"What I've written since then definitely has more minds put into it than just mine," said Cross.


The Tide

My life is but the tide.

Sometimes shallow and deceiving,

other times deep and forgiving,

pushing ashore what is,

washing away what was,

and carrying in what is to be.


It comes and goes like clockwork,

the time that I hurry to keep up with,

the tide makes seem so effortless,

as if there is no stress, no strain.


Change inevitably occurs,

as up comes a riptide,

lingering for a moment, long enough,

and pulls my world out of balance.

Then fades away, like it was never there.


Unseen by me, in silence,

washing up bits of the past,

things I want to learn about,

things I wish to forget.


My life is but the tide,

Taking away with it,


memories of little feet tiptoeing in the shallows,

too young, too scared to venture too far.


The tide leads to obstacles,

things I fear,

but must someday overcome.


Memories of sandcastles washed away,

before I can snap a photo.


The tide shows how quickly years come and go.

I can’t hold on,

just watch it fade with all its glory.


I simply remember,

Remember the way the tide ebbs and flows,

the way it brings life ashore,

as easy as it can take it away,


The tide is but my life,

so gentle,

so seemingly in control,

yet somehow

a raging hurricane,

that sometimes, somewhere,

I never predict.


The tide is my life,

fragmented and pieced together

a thousand times,

so trivial, yet meaningful enough

to endure.