Last week I spent an hour at Our Sisters’ School in New Bedford, MA talking to young writers about storytelling. What I wanted them to understand about writing can be said in ten minutes or ten hours. There are lots of books and articles about writing. Some of the advice is useful: use a pen, pencil, computer; don’t let your inner critic get the best of you, just keep on writing; if you have enough room, set aside a space to write; write something every day;
The problem is that, while certain aspects can be taught—what I suppose is meant by the “craft” of writing—such as plotting, points of view, use of telling detail—the heart of it is very personal, and while I truly believe that anyone, with enough time and practice and reading, can learn to write well, there is something ineffable that makes a person a writer. It starts with a love of stories, a bright imagination, enough self-confidence to believe what you’ve written is worthwhile and (ahem) a tolerance for rejection.
The group, all of whom meet on their own time weekly after school hours, was bright, a little shy, and engaging. As soon as I get permission, I will quote from some of what they wrote during the session. Meanwhile, this is a brief description of what OSS is all about:
In 2007, the concept of a middle school to serve the inner-city girls of New Bedford was little more than a vague dream edging toward an evolving hope. Today — thanks to the dedication and generosity of the entire Greater New Bedford community — it is a thrilling and established reality. The past seven years have demonstrated beyond doubt that a determined community can come together and achieve what some thought was impossible: starting an all-girl middle school to serve students who show promise, potential and a deep desire to achieve in a safe, supportive and challenging environment.