March 3, 2021
The dreary winter weather and the pandemic have kept many of us confined indoors this month, but 826’s Boston’s February Workshops reminded us that students’ creativity has no limits! In the workshops last week, students had a blast unveiling their superhero personas, narrating their space travels, reviving their past pieces, and more!
Workshop Snapshot: Writing the REAL You!
How much can you learn about yourself through just an hour and a half of writing? An infinite amount! In “Writing the REAL You,” our students showed us what it means to find your voice, take writing risks, and use the power of the pen to open up to others.
With support from journalist Candace McDuffie, 826 Boston staff, and interns, students revealed their fascinating and unique personal stories through a series of writing prompts. After a brief introduction in which a few students provided updates on fun things they’ve been doing during quarantine (one student has read 30 books—WOW!!), we jumped right into celebrating ourselves as writers and as people.
With prompts that included “What is something that makes you different that you’re proud of?” and “Write a poem about yourself in which nothing is true,” students could get as creative, emotional, and genuine as they wanted about their backgrounds, hopes, and fears. One student, Lavinia, articulated how all of her unique interests and hobbies have affected her life:
“I’ve learned to tell myself that my personality is one-of-a-kind….I had some difficulty liking my personality because I thought my interests were kind of weird. For a while, I tried to be another person, and that just made me unhappy and sad. Now, I embrace the real me!”
Another student, Lucy, wrote about a powerful moment from her life and showed us that you don’t have to know people well for them to have an impact on you:
“The most beautiful smile I ever saw was the genuine smiles of an Israeli couple sitting in a car with a baby. Nothing could be as beautiful as the family’s optimism, hope, and cohesiveness. It made me believe that peace would one day be everywhere.”
In addition to responding to writing prompts, the group read an article out loud together called “A Guide to Help You Write Courageously” and discussed what writing without fear meant to them. Students gave thoughtful insights on the value of writing with courage, even when you’re scared. Mattea encouraged everyone “to not be afraid to write what you truly believe and to be open to the people reading it.”
On the staff side, what was it like to help students generate ideas and share their personal stories? Candace McDuffie told us about her experience leading the workshop:
“Getting students to open up and share their real, lived experiences is incredibly powerful. It’s important to create and elevate safe spaces where writers can dig a little deeper into who they really are without judgment or fear. It’s also valuable to have students center themselves in their own narratives. By putting their lives front and center, they are able to build meaningful relationships with other writers in these workshops, grow and heal.”
Even though participants were meeting virtually from different locations throughout Boston, there was an incredible sense of community and belonging in the Zoom meeting. Writing about your own life can be challenging, but students met this challenge with boldness and enthusiasm.
While the snow fell and the breeze blew in Boston, six other captivating workshops drew in participants between 1st grade and high school. The other workshops that took place this week were “Words I Wish I Didn’t Give Up On,” “Write to the Future,” “Flash Fiction Fort Party,” “Into the Writer-Verse: Creating Comic Book Characters,” “Astronaut Training 101,” and “Creature Lab 3000” (pictured above!) With all of the wonderful creative energy radiating from students this week, we can’t wait for the April workshops. Stay tuned!