Students Pen Stories Inspired by Ominous Door Built by West Chester’s Pine Street Carpenters


Judging by the stories being created by a crop of new young writers, the next J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, or C.S. Lewis may not be from England, but rather from Aston … Pennsylvania.

For the past eight years, Sun Valley High School students have been writing stories as part of an innovative community writing initiative called The Tyler Arboretum Writing Project. The latest batch of stories from these young writers was just published at the start of the New Year.

The project is the result of a unique partnership among Sun Valley High School creative writing teacher Paul Carboni, Tyler Arboretum in Media, and Pine Street Carpenters, a remodeling firm based in West Chester.

In 2010, Pine Street Carpenters built a mysterious and ominous door leading underground for Tyler Arboretum as part of the exhibit Nature’s Enchantment. Pine Street’s contribution to the exhibit – called “What Lies Beneath?” – was designed to be an interactive writing prompt, inspiring visitors to write a story inspired by the cryptic door.

For the past eight years, visitors young and old have been doing just that, with their stories collectively published online here.

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Carboni has made the writing exercise part of his annual curriculum, and it has become a favorite assignment among his students.

“It’s sometimes difficult to teach writing to diverse personalities, but this project is appealing to everyone,” he said. “This type of writer’s prompt inspires all creative writers to channel their individual writer’s voices as they see fit.

“Over the years, I’ve found that stories can be written based in reality or fantasy. Nobody is pigeonholed into writing a genre with which he or she is uncomfortable.”

“As a freshman, it (the writing exercise) was intimidating as much as it was exciting, as it gave me the ability to create something truly unique and special,” said DariaRose Mariotti, a senior at Sun Valley. “Three years later, as I offer feedback and peer edits to those also in this class, I recognize that the entire process of crafting these stories is rewarding and uplifting.”

Mariotti is among the Sun Valley students whose work has been published on the project’s website. Contributions have come from visitors throughout the region, representing all age groups – from pre-school-aged children to retirees – and from more than a dozen towns and cities.

“We’re thrilled that this exhibit keeps inspiring budding writers,” said Michael Dolan, Director of Marketing for Pine Street Carpenters. “It’s been a wonderful partnership with Sun Valley High School, and we look forward to reading and publishing their students’ imaginative stories each year.”

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