Writing Workshops for Teens Day 4

A. First the bad news:

  • This workshop was disappointing on the attendance end. I had five students. A new student was let into the group in the fourth week although the principal said that the course was closed. The problem with putting people in late is that it is difficult to maintain the trust that you build among the earlier group, not that trust had actually been established.
  • A fight broke out during the break. I’m not sure how bad it was, but I don’t believe any kids from my group were involved. T saw the fight and gave a review of the action. I noticed he had a hickie, none of my business, but I wanted to talk about it and make some comment about a vacuum hose and other teasing. Had to make a mental reminder- I am not 16 and therefore should not make fun of the 16 year old like you would your friend.
  • I, doesn’t participate in the group at all. I’m not sure why she comes. My supervisor say’s I need to “have a talk’ with her. I hate “having talks”. All this delicate balance makes me tired.
  • Only two came back from break. I mentioned this in a letter to a friend, but just as if you are a performer and there are only two people in the audience, those two people came so you still have to give it the same energy as you would a sold out performance.

B. The good News:

  • D came again (he must have just got back from the bathroom) this time he stayed for a full hour, I think it may be a breakthrough for him. His is like a tight rope walker, I’m not sure if he is going to fall or not but he is pretty funny on the line. He is a talented writer.
  • The new kid, Ey is also very talented. He puts a lot of thought into one sentence.
  • R still doesn’t share her work but she is more animated in the group.
  • J and TS came back and we worked on dialogue because it was so small I was able to write too (which is generally the idea in the workshop that I write with them.) it was a pretty funny second half with just the three of us.

C. The Structure of the Workshop

  • As usual we started with a 5 min warm up, using these four prompts:
  1. Going home
    If I could get out of here
    beginning today
    What you don’t know– D had a great piece with this one.
  • We did an exercise called the first line- where I cut out the first line from a story or poem from a published author than the kids pick a line they like and then start their story from that line. Here are a few examples- See of you can guess who wrote them- they’re famous…

Then there was the weather.

They’re out there.

I am tired of work; I am tired of building up somebody else’s civilization.

Beware thoughts that come in the night.

Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.

I read it in the paper, on the subway on my way to work.

I am an invisible man.

Dark spruce forest frowned on either side the frozen water way.

It was late in the evening when K. arrived.

I’m a sick man… I am a spiteful man.



We read from To Kill a Mockingbird then talked about how dialogue moves the action and then we used this exercise which I borrowed from here. But I modified the directions a bit.

Rewrite (or add too) the following dialogue:



Where were you?


I have a vague memory of doing something like that when I was in some writing class.


On a personal note- The results were posted for the NYC Short Story Challenge, I came in 3rd in my heat. So I didn’t make it to the final round but I was pretty close.

It’s snowing in March.


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