The 2017 Girls Write Now March CHAPTERS Reading, hosted by N-Y Historical Society, and sponsored in part by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is where Grace, a second year mentee, and Karina, a fourth-year mentee, were first-time emcees. Grace and Karina cannot thank Girls Write Now enough for the opportunities the program has given them to delve into their passions for writing and for the support in — as Grace said during CHAPTERS — “keeping a full head of healthy hair” while applying to colleges!
Q: First impressions of that night?
Grace: The second I walked through the doors of the New-York Historical Society, I knew it was going to be the “start of something new”— for those of you who were at the March CHAPTERS Reading, you know the subtle reference to the High School Musical song. Hint, hint, Emily, wink, wink.
In all honesty, I had no idea what to expect that night: I had never emceed, had only met my co-emcee Karina once in our Emcee Briefing before D-Day, and had only been to two other CHAPTERS Readings last year as a first-year mentee.
Everything fell into place for me when I walked up the second floor and was handed my name tag that had written on it: Grace Han, Emcee. The puzzle pieces of my pounding, nervous heart fell into place when I, who just a few minutes before thought the scaled statue of Frederick Douglass was cool (which it really is), saw the room in which the March CHAPTERS was to take place. Needless to say, I was speechless, and for a while (a long minute, to be precise), my mouth made an outline of the most perfect ‘O’ ever, as I fell in awe of the paintings of the City’s skyline, boats, and families that decorated the high walls of the room.
Karina: I thought I was prepared, but as soon as I walked through the front doors of the New-York Historical Society and it all became real, my heart began to hurt. Usually, the idea of a hurting heart is a negative one, but for me what it meant was sweaty palms and bouncing knees and fluttering butterflies within me. It meant something unfamiliar, not something bad.
The large room had rows of chairs and large paintings flanking the sides of the aisles. The girls crowded in the green room, laughing and speaking and trying to settle the butterflies in their stomachs. It was a sight for sore eyes. Sure, I’ve done CHAPTERS three times, but this was something different. I was on the other side this time.
I think that kind of set the tone of the evening for me. I mean, I could feel it in the air. It was going to be one of those nights that I’d remember.
Q: How was emceeing?
Grace: So much fun! I really am so grateful to everyone in the room that night who actually laughed at my jokes — I know they were very bad, cheesy jokes, but it meant the world to me that they still laughed with me and not at me.
At first, I had to literally remind myself to breathe because I was so nervous. I didn’t want to stumble on my words nor did I want to come off nervous even though I was. But, I remember just looking at Karina and feeling so much better knowing that I wasn’t up there alone.
Karina: I don’t know. I wish that I could describe it better, but being up at that podium with all those eyes staring down at me was a lot less intimidating than I thought it’d be. I suppose it was thrilling and surreal and all those words you use when you are trying to describe a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
I was initially worried about reciting the script without stumbling over any words. It’s a good thing that I had Grace up there with me. She’s a lot less awkward than me and I think that together we lit up the room. All in all, it was a lot of fun.
Q: How was meeting the keynote speaker, Hala Alyan?
Grace: She’s amazing! Need I say more? I fell in love with her name the first time Emily said it to me while briefing me on her up-and-coming book, Salt Houses — which comes out May 2nd. I fell in love with her writing that focuses a lot on family — particularly an immigrant family — a theme that resonates with me personally.
She’s just about the coolest, most relatable human being on earth.
Karina: Hala was normal and I mean that in the best way. As soon as she approached me and Grace she greeted us warmly and openly. The pressure that had been residing on my shoulders just faded away and I could not have been more excited to interview her. She opened up to us about her writing and what inspired her book Salt Houses and I think that by the end of the conversation she definitely made writing seem more tangible. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but she inspired me in a way that I don’t think anyone can be until they meet the person behind the book they’ve spent the past week reading.
Grace: Hala, if you’re reading this, see you at the June CHAPTERS!
Q: What would you take away from the 2017 March CHAPTERS?
Grace: The support and love that resonate in the Girls Write Now community is out of this world — it is like no other. I would not want any other girls to “…rise up, speak our truths, advocate for change…” than the girls of Girls Write Now. March CHAPTERS was the epitome of not only powerful voices but also a heart yearning for a change, and Girls Write Now is that change.
Karina: There’s something about being in a room full of strong young women, each with distinct and clear voices that leaves me feeling hopeful. And that’s essentially what I believe March CHAPTERS was, as well as Girls Write Now in general. We are the next generation of storytellers and filmmakers and artists. Our voices are one of, if not the strongest, tool at our disposal. At CHAPTERS, we ignite the fire within ourselves and society. Our voices create the first spark of change. What an awe-inspiring experience for the audience to witness.