Teaching Young Writers at Our Sisters’ School

Back row, l to r:  Mia Vaughan, Daphnee Desire, Marian Andrade, Shana Silva (teacher), Jayden Adesso, Nadia Tavares; Front:  Jael Costa, Alexis Popik, Meaghan Grant

Back row, l to r: Mia Vaughan, Daphnee Desire, Mariah Andrade, Shana Silver (teacher), Jayden Adesso, Nadia Tavares; Front: Jael Costa, Alexis Popik, Meaghan Grant

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.

Just because....

And because writing is fun….



About Alexis

Alexis Rankin Popik, author of Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, is an award-winning short story writer whose work has appeared in The Berkshire Review and Potpourri Magazine. She has penned numerous articles about local history that have been published in Connecticut Explored and the University of Connecticut School of Law and The Hartford Seminary publications. A former union organizer, Popik traveled the country educating shipyard workers about health and safety and founded a labor-management health plan before turning to writing fiction full-time. She lives with her husband in New England.
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