After the Curtain Drops, Clara Finds Herself
in the Ocean, Firelight
Anchorage Daily News
HOMER -- Clara Noomah was surrounded by rhinos. Acting in an absurdist
play on the Homer Spit left the 13-year-old in a fine state of
dizziness. There were the questions of individuality raised in
Ionesco's "Rhinoceros," the play she'd performed in as part of Pier
One's summer stock program. And there was the wonderful spell of losing
her own identity in the group production, a feeling that lingered when
the show was through. Where had the real Clara gone?
| Clarah Noomah
Clara, a home-schooled eighth-grader in Homer, tried to sort it all out
in writing. It took several wholesale revisions, with her writing tutor
and parents telling her each time to push deeper. The result was an
essay that raised precocious questions of identity, winning Clara the
Editor's Choice award in the Anchorage Daily News creative writing
The winning essay didn't exactly spill onto the page. It was a
hard-crafted effort. What spilled on to the page, in fact, was a poem,
"It wasn't a very good poem," she said.
Clara then turned her poem into a piece of nonfiction prose,
concentrating on physical and sensual descriptions of her evening in
the theater and afterward on the beach. It was part of her course work
for a class, Crafting the Essay, she was taking through the Center for
Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University. The correspondence class is
demanding and requires students qualify by getting a good score on the
SAT. Clara took the test as a seventh-grader and came close to beating
the results her mom got as a senior.
"She tests well," said her mother and home-school teacher, Wendy Noomah.
Clara was born and grew up in Homer. Her mother grew up in Homer,
too, and met her father when she went to college in Portland, Ore.
Clara attended public school at McNeil Canyon Elementary in Homer
through sixth grade. Her father, Bill, is a teacher there. They decided
to home-school Clara starting in seventh grade because of local
school-budget cuts, Wendy Noomah said.
"The middle school is understaffed, and they couldn't meet her needs there," she said.
The CTY essay class linked her with a tutor who read Clara's
nonfiction and pushed her for revisions. Her tutor, who lived somewhere
on the East Coast, had written 52 pulp novels, some of them about
vampires. She wanted Clara to develop her own voice.
"Sometimes her critiques were longer than my essays," Clara said.
Her tutor pushed her to do another draft and develop what Clara
refers to now as the "mind things." The descriptions were nice, but
what was she really writing about? Her parents gave a little push as
well, Wendy Noomah said.
"Some of it was, 'Hmm, I need something deep to write about in this
essay,' " said Clara, who is now 14. So she did another complete
Clara plans to continue home-schooling at least through ninth grade,
using the Kenai Peninsula's Connections program. Meanwhile she'll
continue with theater -- she's directing a one-act play this summer and
attending a youth writing workshop in connection with the Kachemak Bay
She's also been working in film, having made a movie with friends that
won a school district prize this year. She said her experience with
Ionesco may have helped them come up with the idea, which was Wizard of
Oz characters playing Clue.
Clara hesitated, then gave away the ending. "Dorothy did it with the house in Munchkinland," she said.