Notes From an Anxious Camper by Bianca Turetsky, Brooklyn Regional Coordinator

Camps are already filling up their early spots for the summer. And the yearly debate between parents hoping their kids will open up to new adventures and kids nervous to leave home has come hot on its heels. I was one of the nervous kids. In fact I had my first panic attack when I was in the 7th grade. I didn’t know what it was at the time, I just assumed I was dying. It wasn’t until I was in college at Tufts and saw my first therapist that I realized these symptoms had a diagnosis and a name, anxiety disorder.

By that point I was already an English major; writing stories in my notebooks during class was the only way I could get through some lectures without feeling like I needed to escape the room. I never shared these stories with anyone at the time–I didn’t have a safe place to do that. Instead I had closets stacked with these secret notebooks, my history, written in tight blue ballpoint pen. Some of these notebooks ultimately turned into my three Time-Traveling Fashionista books, fantasy books, about a girl from CT who wants to escape her life, not so unlike myself. (Unfortunately I never got to time travel my way out of Fairfield Woods Middle School!) Continue reading “Notes From an Anxious Camper by Bianca Turetsky, Brooklyn Regional Coordinator”

Madeleine L’Engle’s Granddaughter Lena Roy on Listening as a Creative Act

“Because we fail to listen to people’s stories, we are becoming a fragmented human race.”
— Madeleine L’Engle, Sold into Egypt: Journeys Into Being Human

Listening is a creative act: it takes great imagination to be able to step into someone else’s world, into their truth. We not only need stories to survive, we need witnesses. Listening to someone else’s story is a form of intimacy, of generosity, of connecting, of piecing our own fragments back together.

November brings not only Thanksgiving, but Gran’s birthday. She would have been 99 this November 29th,  so at this time of the year I look to her words and her legacy for inspiration. Continue reading “Madeleine L’Engle’s Granddaughter Lena Roy on Listening as a Creative Act”

Personal Reflections on a Safe Space to Heal and to Write by Lyndsay Hall

The Sojourn Domestic Abuse Shelter’s second-home, where mothers and their children flee and hide from violent households, sits on a cul-de-sac without signage. When I’d started leading Writopia workshops here, nobody gave me an address. A woman on the phone directed me through stop signs and traffic lights. I’ve taught workshops here for a few months now, and still I don’t know the address, only how to get here. I buzz in and unhook the front gate’s latch. Some days, kids chase each other on tricycles across the lawn. Today’s quiet, and I sign in at the office, seeing only the receptionist. The rest of the home looks like a home: a kitchen; a living room, at which a baby often sits in his high chair, watching television; bedrooms and bathrooms. You wouldn’t know this home was different from the others in the neighborhood but for this office. Continue reading “Personal Reflections on a Safe Space to Heal and to Write by Lyndsay Hall”

On Being a Present Black Writer

by Janelle Williams, In-School and Outreach Lead Instructor

In the first year, first semester of my MFA in creative writing program, we discussed a short story by African American writer Dana Johnson, “Melvin in the Sixth Grade.” One of my favorite professors, a white man who lives on the Upper West Side, largely praised the story with one small aside- Johnson’s lyrical reference to Peabo Bryson, a Rhythm and Blues artist now in his late sixties.

“Raise your hand if you know who Peabo Bryson is,” my professor said in an effort to prove his point. I scanned the third floor room of the college’s epicenter, and decidedly raised my hand. I looked for *Matthew, who was older than me but younger than my dad, shades lighter than both of us, a high yellow that resembled chewy caramels, sitting at the far end of the long rectangular table. Matthew managed to reference Smokey Robinson and Snoop Dogg in his work, and we found each other quickly, smiling. Along with one other black writer, we were three hands raised, three out of twelve, the minority in our majority white common space. Continue reading “On Being a Present Black Writer”

In Response to The NYTimes

By Rebecca Wallace-Segall, Danielle Sheeler, and Yael Schick

As literacy curriculum developers, we enjoyed the New York Times article “Why Kids Can’t Write.” But we were surprised by the limited view it provided into the cultural landscape of literacy education. While the writer acknowledged the importance of the synthesis of personal voice and direct grammar lessons, she profiled only educators who either resist teaching direct grammar lessons altogether or, on the other extreme, who flat out reject student-centered learning that promotes joy and the development of personal vision and voice. Continue reading “In Response to The NYTimes”

Glitter

by Madeline L. Taylor, Registration Coordinator and Instructor

Pride parades of the past may have been lacking in many things: equal rights for the people marching, societal acceptance, a sense of community, even inclusion of certain groups of people. But I doubt a Pride parade has ever been lacking in glitter. When Writopia staff and teens walked in this year’s parade, our assigned block was certainly no exception to this rule. On faces, on t-shirts with embossed slogans, on banners, on the sidewalk where our writers sat. Tubes of glitter, in every color of our proverbial rainbow and then some, filled the concrete and the air. The writers chatted and laughed, dousing themselves in glitter like there was no tomorrow when they would have to wash the sparkly dust out of their hair and go back to normal life. Continue reading “Glitter”