This post was written by Christina Drill, Program Coordinator.
I think one of the most difficult things about being a young writer is having the ability to recognize whether or not whatever you wrote is actually good. It’s hard to separate yourself from, say, a love poem you are writing about your high school crush called AMOR ETERNAL when your senses are warped, your palms sweat at the thought of their name, and in that moment, rhyming “now and forever” with “your comfortable sweater” seems like the only way to adequately express the intense feelings you feel.
And then a few years later you’ve read more, written more, written better — and you stumble upon AMOR ETERNAL in an old notebook, reread it, and don’t know whether to laugh at yourself or stick your head out the window and scream in embarrassment. What to do with this relic of your past self, a self that was still you, just… younger? Inexperienced, but courageous?
Last Friday, Girls Write Now’s incredible Youth Board hosted its first annual CRINGEFEST, a reading event where current and former mentors and mentees read aloud embarrassing work from their early days as writers.
Those who were brave enough to read wrote their name on a piece of paper and dropped it into this “hat.” From there, the hosts of the Cringefest, Youth Board members, mentees Mennen and Tiffani, invited those chosen from the hat on stage to perform (or try to perform– through the laughter–) excerpts from things they wrote a long time ago.
Youth Board co-chair Natalia read an epic about all of the phases her hair went through, which she had originally published as a Facebook Note in 2011. Mentor Frankie read a hilarious mystery she wrote at age eight about two friends who stumble upon a dolphin who had recently been stabbed by a mystery person. I read a “Stress List” I wrote in my diary when in the seventh grade (yikes!) and mentee Dezire, who wasn’t sure if she wanted to read at first, eventually texted home to send her photos from her old notebook. She read us a glorious vampire story in which everyone was named “John.” I am so happy she decided to read.
Aside from the fact that everyone in the room was unbelievably BRAVE for getting up there and embarrassing themselves, it was also impressive that the Youth Board put #Cringefest together all on their own. The playlist was perfectly sweet and nostalgic, our “Off the Page” board was filled with hilarious questions (“What was your most embarrassing screen name?”) and answers (“babybubblelove69”) — everything was, as Youth Board Manager and DMP Coordinator Sarah would say, “on fleek!” AMAZING JOB, Y’ALL!
At the end of the night, Mennen hit play on “Graduation (Friends Forever)” by Vitamin C while Sarah handed everybody who read a Cringefest diploma as recognition for their bravery.
The next day, I had the courage to Google my old FictionPress from high school, something I hadn’t had the courage to do for years. It was as mortifying as I thought it would be, but at least I was able to keep my eyes open. It’s a start. Thanks Cringefest! Maybe I’ll even read something from it at Cringefest 2.0.