Samantha Williams is the kind of teenage girl who can make you cry.
It’s not that she’s a drama queen, rather the opposite. The shy 18-year-old pours everything she’s got into her writing and sometimes the emotions are so raw and the stories are so compelling, the tears fall.
That’s what happened when Williams performed recently in the annual Poetry Slam, co-sponsored by the Alberta Bair Theater and Venture Theatre. She wrote a poem about the suicide last year of her best friend, another Colstrip teenager. Before she finished performing the poem in her own quiet way, cheeks were wet. Williams was able to hold back her own, but others sitting in the theater could not.
“I had a guy come up to me and he got on his knees and said ‘That was the most amazing poem I’ve ever heard,’” Williams said.
The poem about her good friend Yancey helped Williams deal with her grief. She’s also written poems about the genocide in Darfur and the judicial system’s leniency toward offenders. She recently wrote a second poem about Yancy, which is the one she plans to read at the ABT on Tuesday when she opens for the a cappella group InPulse.
Writing isn’t an option for Williams, it’s her escape.
“For me, it lets me get everything out. I can say more on paper than in person,” she said.
Williams said she started keeping a journal when she was 12 and it provided some constancy in her life, which involved many moves across several states, including Texas, Wyoming and Montana. Williams graduated from Colstrip High School in 2010 at age 17, working hard right up to the end to make sure she graduated with her class, her high school English teacher Tara Derenburger said.
Williams was a top student in Derenburger’s advanced placement English class and her creative writing class.
“I’ve taught in high school and at the college level for 14-15 years now and I’ve never see a more talented writer,” Derenburger said. “Her writing will bring you to tears.”
Williams, who works at Rosebud Foods in Colstrip, hopes to pursue a degree in law and plans to start school in the fall at Montana State University Billings or Concordia. She still gets nervous in front of crowds and holds herself back when she’s in a conversation. But give her something to write on and she is a determined and gifted writer who follows no one, Derenburger said.
“She is one of those who isn’t swayed by other people,” Derenburger said. “Her writing shows that. She always has these wonderful ideas and she makes her own path.”