Another amazing Young Authors’ Workshop in the books

By Kathy Nim, Educational Programming Intern

On Friday, August 10, voices echoed in the Tenderloin Center as students in the ten-day intensive writing camp, the Young Authors’ Workshop (YAW), prepared for their performances. For the past two weeks, these high school students from all over the Bay Area had collaborated with each other alongside a team of interns and volunteer mentors to craft and workshop literary pieces that varied from poetry to fiction.
 
To kickstart each day of the program, we began with icebreaker games such as “telephone” or improv walks, to name a few. Each day was filled with morning and afternoon writing activities curated and led by guest speakers or interns. For example, one guest speaker, Lila Cutter, facilitated a portrait-writing workshop where students paired together to draw a portrait of their partner and practiced creating detailed pieces. To end our days, reflections were facilitated by interns, varying from “six-word memoirs” to “shout-outs” or appreciations.
 
Slowly, on that final Friday afternoon, family members, friends, and 826 staff members entered the Tenderloin Center to celebrate with the YAW team and students. Patiently sitting in their seats, students waited to read their final products aloud. Their pieces had gone through multiple phases of revision for this exact moment. The stage was adorned with a mic and a speaker so the audience could hear each piece loud and clear. The treehouse behind the stage was decorated with collages that students created during a field trip and posters with community agreements collaboratively created on the first day of programming. A great sense of accomplishment enveloped the room. Intern Nataly Madrid perfectly explained this sentiment: “We are so proud of the students!”

Eleventh-grade student Lilian D. opened the celebration with her mystically detailed piece inspired by a picture of a boarded-up window in which she described as having “a sense of a hazy, empty hope.” An array of topics were read aloud, from personal narratives about having to leave home to fictional stories of living in a dream world, all of which were praised with cheers, claps, and snaps. Eleventh-grade student, Zachary E., who returned to YAW for the second year in a row, closed our celebration with his eclectic social commentary piece. His wordplay bounced off the walls as he proclaimed, “Goodbye reality. / Hello to casualties. / Hello to bad government breaking families.”
 
As our celebration came to a close, hugs and thanks were given, and many pictures were taken to commemorate this day as well as the past two weeks as a community. Besides learning about different writing styles, both the YAW team and students were able to learn more about each other. Eleventh-grade student Simone S. reflected on her time with YAW and expressed, “I learned how to express and write in a clearer way, I became fond of other ways I can write (poetry, etc.). I also got to learn about others and information about their opinions, thoughts, and lives.” Although the program was only two weeks, the small ratio of students-to-tutor created an intimate space to learn about each other’s stories, both personal and writing-related.
 
All of this would not have been possible without the dedication of interns, volunteers, 826 staff Dana and Molly, and most importantly, the students who worked tirelessly each day to challenge their writing abilities. Keep a lookout for this year’s YAW chapbook, Life Once Again Fills my Lungs to see the students’ pieces!