I am a longtime fan of Girls Write Now, so I couldn’t have been more thrilled when their amazing mentor Lynn Melnick asked me to join them for a Saturday workshop. One of the things that delights me so much about the organization is their intricate mentorship model, where young writers are mentored by more established writers. When you work with a mentor and build a relationship with that person, the process of becoming a writer becomes demystified. And all writers, young and old, should feel connected to each other, because being a writer is all about being human.
When I walked into the workshop room that morning, I was immediately struck by the immense positive energy in the room. Tons of young writers were sitting with their mentors, laughing and talking and writing, as one of the Girls Write Now staff members stood in the front of the room, dressed in a long purple and silver cloak and holding a bunch of bells. Everyone giggled and clapped as she made jokes and went through a writing activity. Everyone was having so much fun!
The focus of the workshop was narrative poetry, so I read some narrative poems and brought in an exercise focusing on translating stories across languages and genres. All of the writers were so warm and welcoming, chuckling at my dumb jokes and engaging with my exercise. I felt immediately as if I were part of a big family. I am still sad that I had to leave, and can’t wait to visit again.
I grew up with privilege, both in my race and social class, but I too have felt the misogyny that permeates through many writing communities. I can’t even imagine how empowered I would feel right now if I had an experience like Girls Write Now growing up. The girls there are lucky to have such a tremendous group of mentors to learn and draw from. But we are also lucky to have these girls, because they are going to grow up strong, brave and changing literature for the better.
Wondering about Dorothea’s own poetry? Here’s a teaser that inspired a great exercise at the workshop.
If I believed in genius, then I’d say
Yes I am one
But I don’t believe, believe in it
Why? Because it is fostered
It is not born
It is not a magical spell
There is no muse
There are only the wild wild forces
That are allowed in
The strange angels
The cold head
The cold head of the poem
Blown right off
Into another’s head…