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Ex-Shirley student holds poetry contest for the next generation

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SHIRLEY — Paula Lambert always tries to find a way to bring something out of other people, former Lura A. White school teacher Alfred Yesue said.

Coincidentally, Lambert, who now resides in Ohio, credits Yesue as one of the big reasons she’s a “real” writer today.

Growing up in Shirley, Lambert began writing at the age of 11.

”I wanted someone to take me seriously, and someone did,” Lambert wrote on the home page she designed for a poetry contest she has organized for Shirley students. That someone, said Lambert, was Yesue, her eighth grade teacher.

When Lambert told Yesue of her idea to give Shirley students an opportunity to display their writing, Yesue said he wasn’t surprised at all.

A resident of Maine, Yesue taught in the Shirley school district for over 30 years. He said he is proud of Lambert for a number of reasons, among them her writing and professionalism.

As an eighth grade teacher, Yesue said he wished to encourage writing in the classroom, and found that students were receptive to a plan that would allow them to submit creative writing anonymously. Students were allowed to leave unsigned samples for Yesue to review and make commentary on. Afterwards, students could find their work in a stack on his desk.

With that plan, Yesue said he received writing from Lambert for the first time.

”It was beyond its years in its maturity level,” he said.

While sitting on the stairs at the school years ago, Yesue learned that Lambert was behind the mature writings he found on his desk.

”It’s me,” Lambert said to him one day, according to Yesue.

”What’s you, Paula?”

She then revealed that she had been one of the students turning in writings under Yesue’s conditions of anonymity.

Since that day, Lambert has earned her master’s degree in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a master of fine arts degree in creative writing at Bowling Green University in Ohio.

Yesue influenced Lambert by just taking the extra time with her, she said.

Regarding her idea to hold a poetry contest for Shirley students, Lambert said Yesue told her, “If you connect with just one person it will be worth it.”

For 13 years, Lambert has taught on the college level, but recently took time off to write her memoirs for publication. A number of Lambert’s poems, stories and essays have been published in magazines such as The Hawaii Review, Other Voices and the Ohioana Quarterly.

”Silver Girl,” a creative nonfiction written by Lambert is nearly complete, she said.

For the memoirs, Lambert received the Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship.

”There surely isn’t another thing I would rather do,” Lambert said.

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