September 2012 Newsletter

A Vision for the Year Ahead

Happy New Year! I hope that your return to school last week inspired some new writing ideas and that you will be joining us for our first Saturday session of the year on September 15th. As I went about the work of designing the school year program, I found myself reflecting on some common themes and needs that have emerged over the last five years. This led to some purposeful decision-making and some shifts in how our sessions will unfold.

For years, we have been eager to support writers in producing pieces of increasingly higher quality far more often. For this reason, we've moved to monthly sessions this year, and each session will provide writers the opportunity to craft directed writing pieces as well as choice-based pieces. Snapshots of each program will accompany this newsletter when it is sent home via email.

We have also come to value the power of shared expertise, as evidenced by our dedication to quality peer review processes and our end of the year celebration, which positions all writers as experts within our community. This year, I'm committing to this further by pushing our anthology publication dates forward quite a bit and extending levels of support so that all writers and teachers are able to contribute pieces that they are proud of and reflections relevant to the learning and work that happened behind the scenes. I'm working diligently to create opportunities for our writers to connect with those beyond Studio as well. Look forward to information about open readings at local coffee houses later this year, as well as a pumped up end of the year celebration in June, which will include sessions hosted by professional writers who live and work within and beyond Western New York.

Finally, I've recommitted once again to the notion of helping all writers at Studio discover who they are and how they can use their experiences and the things that they are most passionate about to give back to others. Studio writers will be working together on a very special community-wide giving project this year. In addition to this, all writers will be exploring how they can use their words to make a difference, and they will pursue this with high levels of dedication and support from Studio teachers and fellow writers.

We have so much to look forward to this year, and I am so grateful to have this group of writers and teachers to turn to--and return to--month after month this year. Please feel free to contact me with any ideas that you might have for how to make this year our best yet! And remember, we enroll year-round and cost should never prevent anyone from writing and learning with us. If you know a teacher or young person who would like to join us, please let me know. See you soon!


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Sarah Hanson Reflects on the Evolution of the Mentorship Program

The revamped mentorship program that started this summer has been a very exciting endeavor to take on. As a former mentor myself, it is invaluable for me to be able to utilize my previous experience to enhance the program for the better. Angela asked me to provide feedback on the program as it has unfolded, and I enjoyed being able to reflect on this and use my own ideas to strengthen the experience for our aspiring teen writers.

This year we are focusing on developing sustaining relationships between our mentors and their mentees. It is a common belief at Studio that if we create meaningful bonds between writers of different levels of expertise, those writers will be able to learn from one another and feel comfortable in a safe community environment. My personal goal for the mentorship program is to help the mentors effectively put their ideas to work regarding how to form these kinds of relationships with students.

In order for us to reflect and connect with one another, I have enacted a reflective blogging requirement, where the mentors are provided prompts to respond to. They center around ideas how their work with writers went, defining what a “relationship” means to them, and other thought-provoking assignments. My hope is that those who are thinking of entering some sort of teaching or human service career will get a better grasp on making people feel like they are part of a safe and welcoming community, wherever that community may be.

Throughout the school year sessions, I’m hoping to continue charting future prompts and having the mentors look back upon them to recognize their growth as mentors and the impact they’ve had in the growth of the young writers.

Finally, I would like to share what I think is an especially important bond that was shared between a specific mentor and her mentee throughout the summer week session of Studio. This seasoned mentor is especially skilled in reflecting on her actions and relating it to Studio ideals, so I would like to share her reflection and my response back to her on her mentor blog.

She shared that the writer she was working with “came to Studio without her friends and was a bit nervous upon arriving. Since then, she definitely became a lot more comfortable with the other kids at Studio. For example, she built an extension to her fort that connected it to other people’s forts, and has generally become more interactive with the other girls whose forts are around hers. This experience seems to really help her become more aware and attentive to the community aspect of Studio. She seems to be interacting a lot more with the other writers, rather than just those she was friends with outside of Studio. She has grown a great deal this week in her understanding of the roles that she and others play in building an effective Studio community.”

My response to her followed: “I remember when Angela described to us how the writing forts are sort of like the rough drafts of writing pieces. We can add more detail, conventions, et cetera to our writing to create a final piece. However, I envision that the forts are the writing place that the students came from recreated into their special place. When the writers realize it would be beneficial to extend their fort to connect to the others’, it’s as if they’re finally joining the Studio community. Ideas can be shared and everyone is willing to talk about their love of something similar.” Such a fun and creative Studio activity led to a great discovery when the different members of our community collaborated around it.

I feel that our mentorship program is slowly growing into the desired vision we had for it. However, the great part of these strong, creative writers is that they always have ideas to improve their involvement, and we are constantly working to incorporate the mentors’ new additions to our vision. Flexibility and willingness for change is necessary for growth in a community such as Studio. I am just forever grateful that I get to have such a great part in watching it progress.

Memories from Our Summer Fun

WNY Young Writers' Studio September Session

Saturday, Sep. 15th 2012 at 9am-4pm

3550 Union Road

Buffalo, NY

Elementary Writers 9am-12pm

Secondary Writers 1pm-4pm

Mentors: Please Arrive by 8am

Teachers: Please Arrive by 8:30am