This blog post was written by Girls Write Now Communications Advisor and Editor Molly MacDermot.
The Writing and Mentoring Program (WMP) kicked off the workshop series with a popular theme: dystopian flash fiction. The goal? Embrace a dystopian theme and write a short (short!) story — in 500 words or less. Craft talk speakers Kamy Wicoff, the author of Wishful Thinking, and Helen Phillips, the author of And Yet They Were Happy, and The Beautiful Bureaucrat were ready for the challenge and led the mentees on a deep dive exploration of super-concise storytelling.
To tell your story concisely is a challenge. To tell your story in 140 characters, also known as Twitterature, which is a subgenre of tweeting, is practically an extreme sport, and this lesson in brevity was tackled with fearless determination by our mentees. With their mentors by their side, our mentees embraced the WMP’s kick-off workshop series, dystopian flash fiction, with great results. Craft talk speakers Kamy and Helen navigated the group of young writers through new terrain and the words uttered by our mentees included “Interesting,” “fun,” “great to share,” and “I’m a dystopian convert, and never thought I’d like dystopian flash fiction.”
Flash fiction is usually under 1,000 words, but craft talk speakers Kamy and Helen proposed the writers try writing a flash fiction piece with a dystopian theme in 500 words and 340 words, respectively. In a twenty-first century way, our girls learned how to boil down their stories from three paragraphs to five tweets, capture the dystopian overlay and focus on key words, feelings and setting.
Feedback from their peers and craft talk speakers buoyed their confidence and one mentee took her enthusiasm to another level. After the workshop, mentee Laura Cardona went home and finished her piece and submitted it to an online flash fiction writing contests before the midnight deadline. Laura’s piece was a winning finalist. From Laura’s mentor, Kathleen Scheiner, “It was a fantastic first workshop, and afterward, my mentee Laura went home and wrote more so she could enter a flash fiction contest that ended that day at midnight. She just found out that she won first prize for her dystopian flash fiction piece “Keep Your Enemies Closer” in Black Ink’s Halloween Flash Fiction Contest, and she’s sooooo excited.”
Says Kamy, who is working on a new book: “Teaching the workshop was one of the best experiences I’ve had with Girls Write Now. The girls quickly saw the power of dystopian fiction to critique the social issues presented by the world they live in, and even to inspire change. Their comments and their words were thoughtful, provocative and inspiring. Not only that, but a lot of the girls and their mentors generously volunteered to be in touch about a YA book I’m working on now!”
For more on craft talk speaker Helen Phillips and her own powerful journey, which she shared with our girls, please see this poignant piece, written through the lens of Mentor Alum and WMP Curriculum Committee Member, Kate Schmier.