I vividly remember the excitement and weirdness of being a teenage writer, and so when amazing fiction writer Erica Lorraine Scheidt , author of Uses for Boys, asked me to lead another poetry workshop at the Berkeley YMCA Teen Center for their Summer Workshops writer camp, the only appropriate response was a resounding HELL YEAH.
So in mid-July, I stepped into a small room filled with a handful of teenagers who were genuinely eager to write. When I first arrived, they were collaboratively constructing an outline for a short story about a woman named Patricia (named after me, actually) who forms a life-changing relationship with a lobster (not actually based on my real life, at least not yet). After focusing on the skeleton-making aspects of writing, however, I asked the young writers to, instead, generate some messy, no-frills poetry based on several workshop exercises I've created over the years. The whole experience was stimulating, hilarious, and moving all at the same time.
I want to say a lot of things: mostly that working with teenagers is amazing because they remind me of the sheer excitement and possibility that I once had when I was a young writer, and that they helped me get back in touch with WHY I write, which has little to do with publication credits and everything to do with the pure pleasure of swimming through languages.
I want to say, too, that the writing generated during the YMCA Teen Summer Workshops is actually pretty damn good. Some of their work is available online in the e-magazine they published shortly after the workshops ended. It's called TWENTY-ONE ELEVEN: A Berkeley Writer's Workshop Production, and it's definitely worth checking out. It's raw. It's intense. It's honest. And I'm grateful to have played a small part in these young writers' lives, even if only for a day.