A new season of the "Writing Wizards" workshops at Thurber House for children in grades two through eight will kick off on Saturday, Jan. 28.

A new season of the "Writing Wizards" workshops at Thurber House for children in grades two through eight will kick off on Saturday, Jan. 28.

The workshops, which are held for five consecutive Saturdays through Feb. 25 in the former home of writer and cartoonist James Thurber, 91 Jefferson Ave., provide a "unique opportunity for young people to discover the wonders of the written word," according to the announcement from Thurber House.

Two of the instructors said the program provides them with an opportunity to not only help children, but also do something they greatly enjoy.

"I like writing, because it's based on self-expression and it's so teachable," said Clintonville resident Paul Hammock, retired from a 30-year career as a teacher with Columbus City Schools, the last 20 at Duxberry Park Alternative School.

"I know that it provides an opportunity for children who do have a special interest in writing to have an avenue to explore outside the confines of a general classroom," commented Sylvia Jackson, a fourth-grade teacher at Indianola K-8 Alternative School. "It's like an open door for those children."

Also, though, Writing Wizards can be of benefit to children who are reluctant to put words on paper, said Jackson, who has been an Indianola K-8 teacher for 36 years in several different buildings. She encourages parents to send children who don't particularly like writing to the workshops, because they can pick up on the excitement of those who do.

"Even if they didn't write anything, they're experiencing a certain energy about writing that will benefit them as they move forward in writing," Jackson said.

Hammock, who retired in 2001, and his late wife and fellow Duxberry Park teacher, Jan, were involved in the beginning of Thurber House programs to encourage writing in children.

"Writing has been something I've loved to do," Hammock said.

This year's six classes at the nonprofit literary center and museum include:

• Mad Scientists: A Laboratory for Story Creation" with Sylvia Jackson for grades two and three.

• "Animal Stories, from Aardvarks to Zebras" with Jan Williams for grades two and three.

• "Enter the Exciting World of 'Warriors' with Linda Forte-Spearing for grades four and five.

• "So You Want to Be a Writer" with Paul Hammock for grades four and five.

• "The Amazing Writing Race" with Sarah Magill for grades six through eight.

• "Attack of the Killer Plot Device" with Kathy Matthews and Dan Mushalko for grades six through eight.

"Fourth and fifth (grades are) just natural for me," Hammock said. "I know how they think, what they want to do, what they like to do, so it's very natural for me to teach those levels."

"My favorite technique is actually drama because it allows them to speak through other personalities and other voices," Jackson said. "It gives them a chance to empathize with positions they might never take. It kind of also gives them situations that they would probably not ever find themselves in."

The "Mad Scientists" approach for her workshop, she added, will spur the imagination of her young charges while at the same time requiring them to do some research into different branches of science.

"You start to give these techniques and the kids adapt to them," Hammock said.

Both Hammock and Jackson said they hope that one day some of the young people they will lead in "Writing Wizards" will go on to become famous writers.

"First of all, it's my favorite thing to work with kids, because you get to find what's inside of them and it allows them to find self-expression," Jackson said. "Through writing, you can get to so many other things. It's kind of the avenue to get to every other discipline.

"It allows them to hear their own rhythm."

"I have seen my kids go on to become college professors, writers," Hammock said. "Is a James Thurber going to pop out? Absolutely, yes.

"The expectations that I give for the class are extremely high. I believe that those kids I'm looking at are going to do great things."