Running Writing Workshops for Teens Day 3

Workshop 3

This day my support person showed up or my watcher. It was a full group. E. showed up and I was delighted. I think I had about eleven kids. S girl, didn’t show up again and a boy, D. came in, he hadn’t really been to the other workshops. He started off the workshop great. People donate journals to the group, and by the 3rd workshop they are all gone. 

“I’m happy you’ve joined, but I don’t have a journal today, I can bring you one next week, today I can give you some paper.” I said to D.

“You don’t gotta journal I’ll come back next week.”- D

Full of indifferent attitude. My guess he was told he had to attend in order to get out of something else. The worst part for me was I get to have this, very typical teenage, interaction in front of my watcher. He stayed for about 15 mins then said, I gotta go to the bathroom and never came back. What was I going to do about it? Chase after him?

Then my students, K and I, decided they didn’t feel like writing anymore, and decided to talk about a boy, but they were talking over everyone.

I am not trained to work with youth, I just seem to get them, and I hate- hate, discipline. Personally, I don’t think it’s my responsibility to discipline a teen who is really almost an adult, and smart enough to know how to be respectful. I am not an authority figure, I’m just leading a workshop. Plus I don’t get paid. Still how did I deal with them because the rest of the group wanted to write?

I kind of just ignored them. I asked them to keep their voices down while people read, and then I asked them if they wrote or if they wanted to contribute, stuff like that but not much more. I figured, if my watcher is unhappy with me then, hell what’s the worse that will happen?  Sometimes I forget about what I’m doing, and I get stressed that I’m not doing well, and that people will be disappointed then I remember, wait, I’m f’n volunteering! I do this for free, I’ve lost opportunities for paid work because I am committed to this. I volunteer my skills for free at a time when I can barely pay my rent. Then I relax when I realize the worst that will happen is they wont ask me to volunteer again.

Even with the attitudes there were some great breakthroughs.


We began with our usual 3 min warm up writes- I gave them four prompts to choose from:

His/her eyes…

I’m a person who…(this was a popular pick)

On the street where I live…(this was also a popular pick)

The best thing ever…

We shared our work and R., who never speaks gave E., the best feedback I’ve heard so far. She said his work was so vivid it put her there on the street. Breakthrough 1. E read every time, breakthrough 2.

This workshop was about character, and writing from different perspectives. I gave them a guided writing. To start, I asked them to think about someone they cared about. I told them to write as I gave them a list of things to think about. For example: To describe their character’s hands, and try to think of their hands in great detail. What are they doing with their hands? Can you see that person? How do they move? How do their clothes move around them as they walk. Imagine they came up to you. How do you see each other? Are they taller than you, do you look up at them or look down or are you eye level? Imagine you asked that person a question. They answer but they don’t answer the whole question because they didn’t hear you.

This got some really great stuff from both K and E. The rest of the group had some wonderful stuff from this exercise too.

We took our 15 min break and everyone came back. Yea.

We read a piece from Ceremony and then I asked questions in regard to the characters. I asked if the piece reviled anything about the author. If you have read Ceremony then you know that the only things, Leslie Marmon Silko has in common with Tayo is that they are both Native Americans from New Mexico. (There could always be internal similarities but as readers we don’t know and it’s none of our business anyway.) We talked about the ability to be anyone as a writer.

I placed several pictures from magazines of images of people of all ages and places in the world. I told the kids to pick an image that appealed to them and then with these two prompts: [ With nowhere else to go, people like us] to get started I had them write for ten minutes on the picture.

K. got a text from a boy during this and I lost her, and I, at that point.

In the last 5 mins, I stood up and said,- let’s write the scariest story ever. And they started yelling out scary places and what the story was going to be about and that pulled the energy up and took up the final minutes.

Watcher said, it was a good workshop. So I guess I survived another workshop.


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