St. John Brebeuf Regional Secondary creative writing teacher Joshua Palmarin is promoting student literary talent with The Bombadillion, a journal featuring the school’s most capable writers. Photo by Nicholas Elbers

Journal showcases students’ hidden talents

By  NICHOLAS ELBERS, Canadian Catholic News
  • January 26, 2022

VANCOUVER -- A B.C. Catholic school teacher has created a journal to promote the literary skill of his school’s most capable writers.

At Abbotsford’s St. John Brebeuf Regional Secondary, creative writing teacher Joshua Palmarin created The Bombadillion to showcase the unrecognized skill sets of its creative students.

“I’ve noticed that there is some really fine, excellent talent, and I wanted that to be visible to the community,” said Palmarin. “You know athletics will get celebrated: they are very visible. If a kid is awesome at basketball, there is an assembly and there is a spotlight and their name gets chanted. But these (writers), this is like a hidden talent that nobody knows.”

At first glance it might seem like The Bombadillion is a simple high school publication, but the journal is designed to elevate the students beyond their high school context. Palmarin emphasizes the professional nature of the publication, and it is easy to forget the stories are written by high school students.

The journal’s Catholicity is emphasized by its namesake, J.R.R. Tolkien character Tom Bombadil. Bombadil is characterized by his joy and delight, and his sacramental appreciation for nature and life. His literary home, The Lord of the Rings, is well known for its emphasis on redemptive themes.

In keeping with this influence, Palmarin isn’t interested in publishing any old teenage angst: he expects submissions to be uplifting. This can be a challenge for young writers, but he is firm.

“I am looking for a redemptive theme,” Palmarin said.

Additionally, he sets a high bar for any student seeking publication. There is a rigorous review process that includes a face-to-face meeting, and students are expected to submit multiple revisions of prospective work.

“Most of the submissions don’t make it to the final cut,” he said, but the process is worth it because the committed “end up with something that is very high quality that they can be proud of.”

The first issue was compiled with submissions from Palmarin’s Creative Writing 12 class during the 2019-20 academic year.

“I did the first one secretly (and once it was done) I showed it to my principal and he was blown away,” said Palmarin.

The school now funds the journal (which is sold for $5 an issue), and last year’s edition was a resounding success, selling out almost immediately.

The creative writing class offers a challenging environment for students to develop their writing skills. Bombadillion contributor Andrea Ocon likes the open-ended nature of the class assignments, and she believes there is special value in the way students can develop their own views through writing prompts.

Students also appreciate that the class allows them to focus on creativity despite their busy academic schedules.

“The class gave me space to give attention to my writing and get critiques from my peers,” Bombadillion writer Luca Abballe said.

It has also helped students develop their sense of beauty and truth as well as navigate life decisions. For Ocon, this meant recognizing the fundamental connection between truth and reality. The class helped her find “truth in writing,” and she gives her favourite authors, the Brontë sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne, as examples of this reality.

For alumna Ruthie Lindl, a nursing student at Trinity Western University, the experience with creative writing has influenced her approach toward her future profession. Writing helped Lindl see the value of constant reflection, while her love of creating characters taught her to see her patients as more than just “snapshots of a medical diagnosis,” but as “human beings with context” and “an entire story that reflects their inherent worth and dignity.

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.