JSYWP Day 3

I’ll be doing a writing workshop session for the children, 12 years old and younger, who make use of the public library. This is an extension of the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project, made possible through the sponsorship funds contributed by Aisha Ralph and Brenda Lee Browne (and you, if you still wish to contribute), and participants will be coordinated through the Public Library. So, I’m awaiting the numbers from them but will try to go ahead and plan ideas for an age group I don’t usually work with.

If you’ll remember my day 1 post, I decided to consider doing this after the low response to my call for participants and the library’s indication that there were regular users who could benefit from the programme. Problem was they didn’t fit the age group of the content I’d put together.

So that’ll be JSYWP 2015 2.0

Meantime, today was the wrap as far as the original is concerned. And just as I wound up my awkward farewell to my one and only participant, he said, “I actually have one more piece I want you to critique”. That’s déjà vu you’re feeling if you read yesterday’s account. And I have to tell you, the genuine interest he has shown in the process of improving his writing makes up for the low turnout; I’d rather work with one of him than a roomful of people who really don’t want to be there.

The official survey is yet to be mailed to him (normally I have participants fill them out anonymously to encourage candor but as it was just him, so much for anonymity; I decided instead of doing it on the spot to give him the option of mailing or not mailing it in…his choice). So I don’t know what his total verdict is on the experience is at this point, but I do know that when I asked him today if he enjoyed the stories and poems we’d dissected, his response was an enthusiastic yes, “especially Quiet” (that’s the Danielle Boodoo Fortune poem that surprised a “wow” out of him just yesterday). I asked him if he had any second favourites, and I shouldn’t have been surprised, though I was when he mentioned Haitian-American writer M. J. Fievre’s April. Not surprised because it’s not good; it’s most decidedly good, that’s why I included it in the first place. But he’s a teenager and it’s creative non-fiction from the point of view of the teacher, not the student, would he get it get it. Plus it was the impetus for the writing challenge, I think, he found to be most challenging (“the hardest thing was…” was not a complaint I’d heard with other assignments). I shouldn’t have been surprised though because as he read it out loud, preliminary to our discussion of it, he interrupted himself a couple of times (“damn…damn!”) like he couldn’t believe what he was reading. Obviously, he was responding to it. So, no surprise I suppose that his second favourite was “between April and Settlement 4” (that’s The King of Settlement 4 by Kevin Jared Hosein, Commonwealth Award winning writer out of Trinidad).

One of the other stories we read today was Jumbie Daddy by Neala Bhagwansingh, which I chose for point of view, challenging him to take the same story and write from another character’s point of view – difficult to do on the fly without knowing the character fully but he made a faaaaiiiir go of it. In the in-between, we also watched and discussed the short-short (really short, like one minute short) film Maybe Another Time *insert requisite trigger warning which is impossible to do without giving away spoilers*  ….took him a minute to get past that twist. And no, he wasn’t traumatized by it. In fact, one of the things that’s difficult to gauge with any writer, but young writers especially, is how far they’re willing/able to go… he was relentlessly brave, in his willingness to be vulnerable, going so far as to write about some of his personal pain and the emotional toll after our reading and discussion of Sharon Millar’s Guava Jelly which, as this why it works article says, dares to go “where it hurts…where it feels real”.

It was tricky territory that had to be tread carefully but one of the things that I liked about him was he was always game to push himself past where it was comfortable.

He has work to do still but he knows it, and my hope is that I passed on some tools and strategies to help him do the work.

So, that’s it, day 3, the end…well, until next week’s 2.0

If you have someone 12 and younger and you wish to participate, contact the library. If you wish to support (euphemism for contribute money),  Contact me

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