This blog post was written by Amelie Lyons, Girls Write Now Program Intern
Here at Girls Write Now, we know finding your voice is crucial, but so is figuring out how to share it. That’s why mentees in our Writing & Mentoring and Digital Media Mentoring Programs explored this year’s theme of Voice to Voice in our monthly workshops. Thanks to a comprehensive curriculum and with the aid of expert guest authors and digital facilitators, our class of 2014-2015 mentees developed and expanded their voices through various genres and media.
Writing & Mentoring Program
This year’s workshops kicked off with fiction, and within that, the perfect small-scale fiction case study: short stories. Guest author Hasanthika Sirisena discussed using conflict while Alexandra Kleeman explained the importance of openings. Mentees crafted their own characters, but then-plot twist!- had to write their characters into a conflict that one of their peers had created.
We then shifted from the world of fiction to reality, tackling memoirs. This year we focused on grounding memoirs in place, and Suki Kim and Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn shared tactics they found useful in writing about their experiences in North Korea and Jamaica, respectively.
Next we focused on writing for the silver screen! To guide our writers off the page and onto the screen, we had them work on adaptations, both from their own work and from the classic story of Cinderella. Gillian Robespierre shared how she adapted her short film into the award-winning, full-length screenplay Obvious Child. Laura Maria Censabella walked mentees through the process of making a movie, from initial inspiration, to short story, to screenplay.
Thinking about movies awoke the inner actresses in all of us, so our mentees next explored taking on other personas, via persona poetry. Rachel Eliza Griffiths gave our mentees tips about writing poetry from different perspectives, and Vanessa Jimenez Gabb spoke about giving a voice to the voiceless. This workshop helped mentees further explore the form of poetry, as well as the art of character development.
Our writers then adopted a new persona themselves; book critic. With the help of New York Times’ Children’s Review Editor Maria Russo and our FlavorWire Panelists Jillian Mapes, Sarah Seltzer, and Pilot Viruet, mentees learned the art of book reviewing — that thinking critically about what they read, and how they write about what they read, are necessary to develop their writing and voice.
We capped off the year with our Wildcard Workshop, which, just for awesome alliteration, was centered on the World Wide Web! Since Web presence is crucial in today’s hyper-digital world, Bridget Todd from MSNBC.com and Tracy Clayton from Buzzfeed introduced our mentees to building an online persona. Following their lead, mentees wrote online bios that reflected their own voices as writers.
Digital Media Mentoring Program
The first workshop of the year was all about creating digital personal statements. With help from our friends at Urban Word, our mentees wrote poems which were filmed and edited together with images or text of our mentees’ choosing. By using so many elements: their own text, their physical person, their voice, images, etc. they were able to create truly unique videos.
The next workshop used videos too, but to a different purpose; our pairs made compilation films created by cut-ups and splices. To start we looked at two short films a mentor and mentee pair had created using stock footage and open source audio, transforming it into their own narrative pieces. Using that as inspiration, our writers spliced their own writing, before going to The New School’s computer labs, where the facilitators helped give us the scoop on film and digital editing, and the basics of Adobe Premiere.
Our Documentary Journalism workshop came next. Once again our mentees looked at films, but this time they worked with DCTV to develop their ideas into storyboards and then actual footage. By focusing on topics that were interesting to them, they learned how documentaries can be just as much about a personal voice as the topic itself.
The next workshop did not work with video. Instead, our mentees looked at Songwriting and Scoring. With help from Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, our mentees learned how to write and edit music. Our participants worked in teams to create songs, which they later edited using the program Audacity.
Next on the agenda was “Writing with Machines” where our mentors and mentees used their writing skills to create poetry, and their digital skills to be programmers. By thinking about the differences and similarities between these skills, they saw how these elements can come together and ultimately create something really amazing.
Finally, our mentees learned niche blogging using WordPress. They brainstormed about their specific interests and researched user testing before creating their own blogs. By making them niche blogs, they got to explore some less-common interests, while finding a community of people who are also interested in those topics!
It’s been awesome listening to voices grow!