This summer I had the privilege of working at Writopia, a non-profit that runs writing workshops for kids ages 6 to 18, in Katonah/Hartsdale, New York, and I wrote a list summarizing what I learned there.
I was a teaching and editorial intern– basically I got to assistant teach (and occasionally teach on my own!) workshops in creative writing, including poetry, fiction, etc. as well as essay writing. I spent a lot of time in workshop, editing and helping kids with their own work. I also was the editor-in-chief (and sort of managing editor) of their literary magazines, The Ellipsis… and The (Parenthetical), so I read and copy edited creative work that kids had submitted from all around the country.
It was a busy summer, but it was so much fun. I learned about writing as a craft in such a real way, not even close to how I’m learning about writing at college. I learned about teaching by watching and doing. I learned about myself as a writer, as an individual, as someone who is a part of a team.
My Writopia family taught me, inspired me, and supported me and I am so appreciative of that and for them. Thank you Lena, Rob, Gaby, Scott, Donna, Kristin, Alexa, Eden, Julia, Emeline, Dani, and all of the other Writopia interns and teachers– I am so grateful to all of you and I miss you all already!
- You get as much out of something as you put into it.
- We become better by opening up.
- Treat life like an adventure or you’ll never have any fun.
- The universal is in the specific. (This especially goes for essay writing.)
- When teaching (and with wifi) patience is key.
- If you think you type slow, it’s not that, it’s just that “your brain moves faster than you can type.”
- Hugs are important! Believe in the power of hugs!
- In order to write about something, you have to care about it in some way, shape or form.
- Always be open to suggestions. (Edits, revisions, subjects to write about, etc.)
- Ask questions rather than criticize.
- If someone is having a hard time concentrating, focus on their needs and try something different.
- Sometimes students won’t want to share or workshop their work. That’s okay– as long as they’re writing.
- Be as present as possible, and be as enthusiastic and encouraging as possible. Kids will be more into what they’re doing/writing if you are too.
- Creative writing can be a LOT harder than academic writing.
- There’s always a way to turn something around and make what you or someone else is working on into something that can be worked with.
- Parents are difficult to deal with sometimes, but they usually have their kids’ best interest at heart.
- Be as open minded as possible. (About story ideas, people, opinions.)
- People are allowed to have their own opinions! Let them think for themselves– don’t force your own beliefs on them.
- Everything a story needs (COW)— character, what the character wants, and an obstacle in their way.
- Sometimes kids just need someone to show that they support them, even just a little bit, in order for them to grow. (Me too.)
- Spelling/grammar isn’t writing. Spelling/grammar is spelling/grammar. (</3)
- You have to kind of grow up and learn how to be independent at some point. (Driving to work, leading a group workshop, making my own lunch, etc.)
- Knowing when to ask for help when you need it is really important.
- Even if it’s from the same prompt, a story can go a million different ways.
- It’s important for kids to feel like they matter and that their voices are being heard, understood and appreciated.