It is an extraordinary thing watching talented teens take kernels of creativity and build them into compelling, imaginative stories. I have had the benefit of doing just that as an English teacher overseeing Yavneh Academy’s literary magazine, Scribe. As we closed out a very unusual school year and headed towards an uncertain summer, I knew there were other students who would benefit from sharing their stories and finding their voice—now more than ever. With that in mind, I launched All Write, a four-week, immersive summer creative writing camp for teens. With virtual meetings three times weekly during the month of July, there is plenty of time to write, but also plenty of freedom to enjoy a much-deserved, relaxed summer.
Overseeing a middle school literary magazine, I have been consistently amazed by teen writers—their surprising confidence, the way they feel everything so strongly and the way they infuse their writing with those two elements. With this year’s theme of “Out of this World,” I had expected we’d be reading about aliens and space, but as the world turned upside down, and we finished our work on Zoom, the theme took on a whole new meaning. My students created fabulous and meaningful stories that—while having their fair share of extraterrestrials—spotlighted the resolve of the human spirit to step out of comfort zones, adapt to unprecedented challenges, and explore all that is new and strange and beautiful.
This summer, teens will continue to face uncertainty. All Write will be a place where they can tell their stories, find their voice, and work towards something exciting. Each participant will write a complete story, benefitting from writing circles and collaboration, feedback and coaching. Along the way, we’ll chat about what makes some stories fantastic and dive into fun writing prompts and challenges. I am blessed to know many wonderfully talented authors and publishers who have agreed to join us throughout the program to speak about their experiences and share their insight. All Write will culminate with a virtual story slam where participants will read parts of their stories for friends and family—providing a platform for their passionate and inventive voices. And, of course, we will publish the stories in the inaugural All Write journal. It’s going to be such a fabulous experience for any young writer, and one I believe is perfectly suited for this unusual summer.
Working with teens on a literary magazine showed me that they have so much to say. Amazing things happen when we give teens avenues to explore their thoughts and feelings and a platform to express them. During this particularly challenging time of isolation and uncertainty, I also saw how writing can be a lifeline. I have encouraged my students to keep a journal of their experiences during this period and have received such positive feedback about how that work has helped them cope with our current reality. For my Scribe students, writing their stories and collaborating through writing circles allowed them to maintain normalcy, work towards a goal they found exciting and personally meaningful and stay connected to friends in a non-academic setting. They were especially proud of what we were able to produce this year.
Once the idea of All Write began to formulate, I have not been able to get it out of my head. For me, writing—and talking about writing—has always given me so much, and I cannot wait to share that passion with young writers who are just beginning to explore their own talents and ideas. Registration is limited but there are still openings for this program. For more information, you can contact me at [email protected]. I can’t wait to meet the first-ever All Write team and start writing together!
By Eitan Novick