This fall’s successful workshop series included record-breaking attendance, non-stop writing and creating, and inspiring craft talks. Here are highlights from both our Digital Media Mentoring Program and Writing Mentoring Program. Plus, feedback from our mentees and mentors.
Updates from Girls Write Now’s Digital Media Mentoring Program
“On the day of [the workshop] I entered feeling a little wary, already assuming I’d hate whatever I wrote, but because I love to challenge myself and trust Girls Write Now, I was still excited.” Mentee Lissa Sangree-Calabrese’s words express exactly what the Girls Write Now Digital Media Mentoring Program is about. This genre bending, multimedia program pushes mentees out of their comfort zones to explore new styles of writing as well as media. This semester, we’ve had a workshop in Audio Slam Poetry, where mentees explored rhythm in slam poetry and took that knowledge to the lab where they mixed sounds with their poems to create powerful pieces. In the second workshop, mentees took a deep dive into character development with Sitcom Screenwriting and learned Celtx, a screenwriting software commonly used by people who write screenplays professionally. In our final workshop of 2016, we worked with Mockumentary Journalism, and learned all about satire and how to set up shot lists. We then took that knowledge and worked with YouTube’s video editing to create polished works. I don’t want to give TOO much away, but next semester, we’ll be diving into coding — that’s all I’m going to say for now!
— Isabel Abrams, Girls Write Now’s Senior Program Coordinator
Pair Spotlight: Kara and Kaelah
I learned about Girls Write Now eight years ago and immediately thought, I can’t wait to grow in my career to the point where I can mentor with this fantastic organization. My mentee, Kaelah, and I have had fun experimenting with digital media like audio and screenwriting software, and have especially found a lot of inspiration in reading poems aloud. Our “pair card” on the first day of Girls Write Now orientation was Jacqueline Woodson, and we took turns reading verses from Brown Girl Dreaming. Next, we’re reading Woodson’s Another Brooklyn together. What amazes me about Kaelah is her willingness to put an idea on paper without overthinking it, to jump right into a story and give her characters high stakes. She’s willing to take risks in her writing, and also eager to learn about different tools and frameworks to broaden the context of her work. She’s also taught me a lot about candy. Watermelon Ice Breakers? Delicious. The Jelly Belly Bean Boozled Challenge? Terrifying. Do not attempt.
— Kara Rota, Girls Write Now Mentor and Editor at Flatiron Books/Macmillan
Meet the Craft Talk Speakers from the Writing and Mentoring Workshops!
Girls Write Now’s Writing and Mentoring Workshops provide a safe space with a supportive community to fine-tune existing work and explore new ideas and writing — often pushing the envelope for mentees and mentors alike. The fall workshops included incredible craft talk speakers who spoke honestly about their craft and the challenges that come with sharing your truth.
Annie Daly, former Buzzfeed Travel Editor joined our Travel Writing workshop in October. Annie shared with our mentees that her interest in travel writing was found in college when she majored in American Studies at Dickinson College and spent semesters studying abroad. Annie encouraged our mentees to “connect yourself to any sort of place — that’s travel writing.”
Sarah Ellison, Vanity Fair journalist and former writer for The Wall Street Journal spoke to our mentees and mentors for our Travel Writing Workshop about her experiences staying balanced and honest in the journalism field. Sarah’s best advice for writing journalism pieces was to remember that “you always know less than what you’re writing about” and “interview as many people as you can so that you can created an informed opinion.”
Mara Wilson, Non-fiction writer, playwright, and actor boosted our mentees and mentors self-esteem at our Family Memoir Workshop by sharing her perspective that “comedy is tragedy plus time.” To get started with a memoir piece Mara suggested that writers should think about the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to them. Once you own that moment in writing then you have it, and it turns from an embarrassment to a great piece of writing. Mara also generously donated copies of her book Where Am I Now? published by Penguin Random House for all of our mentees. Thank you, Mara!
Jennifer Baker, writer, editor, panel organizer, and podcaster, Jennifer talked to our community at our Family Memoir Workshop about diversity and identity in writing. Jennifer’s work with We Need Diverse Books and her podcast, Minorities in Publishing, led to a discussion about how to start change through writing. Jennifer reminded our mentees and mentors to be conscious of privilege and that “diverse is not a trend” and that we should “start with the people who are young because they will change the world.”
Rupi Kaur, poet, activist, and artist led her own writing activity at our Found Poetry workshop. Rupi performed two of her spoken word pieces and shared her experiences about becoming a New York Times bestselling author at 24. Rupi also generously donated copies of her book milk and honey for our mentees and stayed at the workshop to do a book signing and meet and greet! Rupi’s talk was inspirational and she explained to our community that it is simply “In our DNA to be poets and creative.”
Morgan Parker, poet, author, educator and activist was candid in the Q&A at our Found Poetry Workshop. Morgan shared that she often writes about things that can upset a larger audience, but she’s not afraid of that. Morgan confided in our mentees that her experiences with mental health and identity shape every aspect of her writing and that “individuality, that is important. The world is missing your voice. Whatever you’re doing, you’re meant to do.” Morgan Parker’s next release is There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé (Tin House, February 14, 2017).
Mahogany Browne, spoken word poet, educator, and director was profound in her performances of her poetry, including her piece Black Girl Magic and Working Title (How to write a poem about Ferguson.) Mahogany said that “community helped me find who I wanted to be in the world and who I want to serve — people in schools, prisons — there are few wings in that world but one is enough.” She also reminded our mentees that when they are feeling stuck in writing that she doesn’t “make the poem, the poem makes itself.” While Mahogany was coordinating the 2016 Women of the World Poetry Slam at New York’s Brooklyn campus of Pratt Institute, PBS NewsHour featured her poem, a Brief But Spectacular take on “Black Girl Magic” and the struggles facing African-American women in modern society.
More highlights from our Writing and Mentoring Workshops, including the Family Memoir Workshop with Mara Wilson, here.