This blog post was written by Spencer George, Communications Intern.
The Girls Write Now CHAPTERS Reading Series opens up an empowering space for our mentees to come together and share their strongest pieces from the academic year. CHAPTERS also features keynote speeches from noted writers, celebrating both the power of creative writing and the importance of a unifying and passionate community. If you were unable to attend one of our CHAPTERS readings in 2017 but want to be able to experience some of the incredible moments from the evenings, you can find recaps of the events below:
Hala Alyan, author of Salt Houses (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 2017), kicked off March’s CHAPTERS with a keynote discussion of the seven things she wished someone had told her when she was a young girl. Some of her words of wisdom included reminding the audience that they are different and that difference is okay — that difference is what allows each person to tell her own unique story. She also told us that self-doubt is only another part of the process and that the key to writing is to dismantle the daunting project of it and instead take it word by word, day by day. Alyan ended her speech with the reminder that we live in a world of borders and labels, but creative expression holds the power to transcend those borders, a notion mentee Gianny Guzman discussed in her piece “Nine Year Old Feminist.” In it, she recounts her experience of moving past the connotations of the labels feminist, bipolar, and lesbian. Other highlights included “Lucius,” mentee Samantha Verdugo and her mentor Lucy Frank’s ode to their journey together, and Leslie Pantaleon’s “It Is Time” on the power of words and learning to be unapologetic with them.
Emma Cline, author of The Girls (Random House, 2016) led the April CHAPTERS with a speech on the unique relationship between reader and book and the importance of carving out space for oneself in the world. She touched upon her relationship with her own writing mentor in high school and how her mentor helped her feel that writing was not only a possibility but also something she could actually go on to do. Moreover, Cline reiterated that there is freedom and pleasure in writing — that there is a desire, as a writer, to make a mark on the world. Mentee Luna Diaz also covered the theme of taking up space in her piece on minority mental illness and longing, “An Introduction”. Smeily Rodriguez and her mentor Lisa Schwarzbaum touched upon the topic of being afraid to share oneself and overcoming that fear in their piece, “The Courage to Speak Up.” Other memorable moments included Eden Staten’s poem “A Prophecy” on the minimization of racism in America and Alondra Jimenez’s “My Parents’ Dream” on owning up to her dream of acting, even against her parents’ wishes.
Former Girls Write Now mentor Emma Straub, author of Modern Lovers (Riverhead Books, May 2016), opened May’s CHAPTERS with a keynote on her involvement with Girls Write Now and how her favorite part of mentoring was the community of varying perspectives offered by workshops and events. She then went on to read a short piece about a teenage girl named Ruby and her struggles with balancing the expectations of adulthood with her interests and desire to have a community, a place she feels she truly belongs. This notion of belonging was further touched upon by mentee Sarah Kearns and her piece, “Where the Borders Lie”, about experiencing a protest against the Muslim Ban and how it shifted her view of borders and communities, and mentor Heather Kristin’s piece “No One Is Alone”, where she recounted her childhood as a young, homeless girl and how she had to seek out community on her own. Further highlights from the night included Dayna Wilks’ “Flowers”, on differing perceptions of beauty and coming into oneself, and Abby Fisher’s “The Color of Melania’s Plagiarism”, which focused on racism in America and our ability to help others despite our initial differences.
June’s CHAPTERS began with Karina Glaser, author of the forthcoming children’s book The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2017), who gave a thought-provoking keynote on the role of diversity and experience on literature, especially on children’s literature. Glaser remarked upon her love for books growing up, but how she struggled with the fact that the books she loved failed to reflect her heritage. In the years since, this problem has slowly begun to improve, but it is no way solved; we must encourage young writers– especially women of color– to share their stories and not limit their creative voices to certain tropes or stories that already exist. She dared mentees to venture out of their comfort zones and to not be afraid to feel in different ways; as she said during the keynote, “experience everything you can and write it down”. Other highlights from the evening included mentee Laura Rose’s piece on coming into her own and embracing herself against her parents’ beliefs and mentee Regina’s spoken-word poem on femininity and how she will always be proud to be a woman, which closed the evening on a powerful note.