Category Archives: Your highest potential

Our 3rd Teen Story Slam was AMAZING

A year ago, a few writers and I tried something daring. We asked local teens to come out and read something they’d written to a live audience. It could be a poem, a confession, a chapter from a novel in progress, or a short story. Our only rules: Five minutes of reading, PG content only. We thought we’d have an intimate circle of intrepid readers, and we were cool with that. Well, our literary event, Teen Story Slam, WENT OFF! We packed a giant house wall to wall, on the night of the World Series no less. It was a historic outpouring of enthusiasm for the spoken word. Naturally, the writers begged us to do it again.
todayWith the support of Westside Pizza and the Kitsap Regional Library, we threw another Teen Story Slam and packed the house again. Local high school teacher (and playwright) Noah Barfield was a fabulous emcee. Parents, teachers, and adults lined the back of the restaurant, while every table was packed with teen writers and their friends. The peer support was phenomenal. The stories, poems, chapters and essays read were among the finest we’ve had. Around the room, tears were shed for poignant pieces about gender roles, the loss of love, and facing grief head-on. Conversely, there were comedians among our writers, earning cheers, hoots of laughter, and huge rounds of applause. It was incredible. Each time we present Teen Story Slam, our community of student writers elevates the event beyond our dreams, displaying talent, maturity, insight, and bravery.
We allow each reader to sign his or her name impermanently on a whiteboard with a dry erase marker. Throughout the slam, teens can strike their name, nominate a friend, or move their name higher or lower on the list. With the encouragement of friends and the awesome vibes coming from the audience, a few who’d sworn they wouldn’t read pulled up stories on their phones and took to the mic for an impromptu reading. One made up a fantastic story on the spot, and others read twice! 
Westside Pizza offered half the receipts of the evening in support of our annual Teen Writing Camp Intensive in the summer. Thanks to manager Maureen and her team, 22 teens will attend writing camp next summer.
As a teen writing instructor, I’m so thankful to each student for making this special event happen–again. It gives me a such a warm heart to see these young women and men choose to come out with their parents and friends and share their creativity.
If you’re looking for a fun, community-positive way to raise funds, chat with me about how to host your own Story Slam!
Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under For the love of writing, Your highest potential

Reading Opens Minds selects Radio Head as a book club pick!

I’m thrilled to announce that Reading Opens Minds has chosen my novel RADIO HEAD for book club participants, thanks in part to a generous donation from the John Aaroe Group. 

Reading Opens Mindsa non-profit organization, brings the book club experience to at-risk adults and children in the Los Angeles area through county jails, halfway houses, and schools.
The mission of Reading Opens Minds is to promote literacy in at-risk communities through book clubs, empowering individuals, building relationships, and inspiring hope.
Thank you to Colin Kelly and the John Aaroe Group for their generous award! The first club to receive copies of RADIO HEAD was the Sun Valley Magnet School Leadership Book Club. Colin was kind enough to present the award to the Book Club!

 

Designed to reach those most in need, Reading Opens Minds book clubs encourage the shared experience of reading and discussion to nurture self-worth, foster empathy, encourage meaningful communication and increase sense of community. By providing new books and mentors we envision comprehensive literacy as a gateway to success and an opportunity to expand understanding, benefiting individuals and the greater good. Learn more at www.readingopensminds.org.

Leave a comment

Filed under For the love of writing, Your highest potential

Teen Story Slam is back! Write a story, read it aloud, get a prize

TeenStorySlam Oct2017The teen writers asked for it, so we’re bringing it back! On October 25, 2017, the Teen Story Slam returns to Westside Pizza!

Teen creative writers in grades 7-12 are invited to step up to the mic to read their own prose for 5 minutes. Anything goes: a short story, a scene from their novel or screenplay, poetry, or wild and wacky true stories. Just keep it PG, please. Every writer who participates gets a prize! No competition, no memorization, just pure storytelling awesomeness.

In partnership with Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network (BARN), the Kitsap Regional Library, and Westside Pizza, benefits from the event will support our Teen Writers Workshop afterschool writing program, and Teen Creative Writing Summer Camp.

Beloved Bainbridge High School English teacher Noah Barfield will serve as master of ceremonies once again. Mr. Barfield is known in the community for his achievements as a playwright, and among his students as a comedian.

At the inaugural Teen Story Slam we had 23 intrepid writers who kept the standing-room-only audience rapt. Teens, sign up now! Registration is encouraged. Family and friends are welcome to come cheer on the writers!

WHEN: Wednesday, October 25, from 6:30 – 8:30 pm

WHERE: Westside Pizza, 323 High School Rd NE, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

SIGN UP at the Reference Desk at the Bainbridge Library, or by calling 206-842-4162

*Can’t wait? Drop in to Teen Writers Workshop–it’s free! Facilitated by me and author Margaret Nevinski, MFA, students in grades 7-12 meet at the library on the 2nd Thursday of every month during the school year, from 3:30-5:00 pm.

Leave a comment

Filed under Best Writer Tips, For the love of writing, Your highest potential

My latest on HuffPo: How Sharing Stories Helps Kids (To Help Other Kids)

Storybooth Worksheet

Want to write your own storybooth.com story? Here is the memoir lesson handout used at the creative writers’ camp for teens.

Please read my latest article on Huffington Post:

storybooth: How Sharing Stories Helps Kids (To Help Other Kids)

Seventh-grade student Carissa carried a painful memory around with her, but it wasn’t a secret. There were plenty of kids who witnessed (her now ex) boyfriend humiliate and verbally abuse her in the hallway at school. While the scene replayed in her head every day for the next year, she wouldn’t talk about it openly with anyone.

Carissa does have a secret, however. She’s a talented writer, and she explores her thoughts and personal challenges through short stories. This summer, she attended a free creative writers’ camp for teens at her local library. Every day, the students were provided writing prompts and mini lessons to create stories, poems, and scenes for novels-in-progress. This year, the students were introduced to storybooth (storybooth.com), a website that collects real stories from kids in their own words and brings them to life through animation. Kids of all ages are welcome to record their own personal experiences that made a lasting impact on their lives, whether positive, negative, or downright hilarious. It’s free, easy, and has the power to relieve a weighty burden – something that no other platforms for young people are doing. The act of recording a story is an effective means of letting it go, and not only that, the kids have a supportive community behind them.

The team at storybooth looks for stories that will make viewers laugh, think, and feel, and has a way of showing us how we are all connected through our shared stories. The award-winning site has over 100 million views, with multi-ethnic, compassionate and often humorous animations. But the most significant part of storybooth is the community response. As a digital platform unlike other social media sites, storybooth is an overwhelmingly supportive and safe place for kids to share their personal journeys. The peer comments are encouraging, understanding and uplifting.

When participants in the teen writing camp viewed several stories and took part in a short lesson on memoir writing, several felt empowered to put their own experiences into words. One student wrote about her family moving several times throughout her life and how difficult it is to say goodbye. Another talked about crashing a car through the family’s garage on his first day of driving school. (He’s still afraid to test for his license.) Carissa dared to read her story about the very public embarrassment that haunted her for months, discovering a sense of peace by dissolving the memory of its power. When kids reveal their authentic feelings, it can help other kids gain a fresh perspective on their own struggles.

What makes a good storybooth story?

  • The storyteller allows him or herself to be vulnerable. They’re not afraid to go into the details of an experience.
  • The storyteller looks at him or herself honestly. They expose their own truth, knowing they are anonymous and no one is judging.
  • The storyteller takes the fear out of telling their story because they know it will help others.
  • The storyteller comes across naturally. They are authentic, have dignity in owning their own mistakes, and just let themselves go.

For teens who are interested in visiting storybooth.com and sharing the story that’s been replaying through their head, simply visit storybooth.com, hit “record” – and then let it go. Those looking for some extra guidance can consider writing out the story ahead of time – the memoir writing exercise developed by the creative writers’ camp for teens is available here. If the story is chosen by the storybooth team, it’ll be animated and posted to the website. Other kids will have a chance to see the story and comment, and perhaps be inspired to write and record their own story.

See the article here!

Leave a comment

Filed under Freelance Writing, Your highest potential

Writer love: 2nd Teen Story Slam was amazing

Last November, a small circle of writers and I tried something daring. We asked local teens to come out and read something they’d written to a live audience. It could be a poem, a confession, a chapter from a novel in progress, or a short story. The uber-talented (and literary award-winning!) teens in our after school program weren’t so sure about standing in front of a bunch of strangers, but a handful signed up. We thought we’d have an intimate circle of intrepid readers, and we were cool with that. Well, our literary event, Teen Story Slam, WENT OFF! We packed a giant house wall to wall,  on the night of the World Series no less. It was an historic outpouring of enthusiasm for the spoken word. Naturally, the students begged us to do it again.
With the support of Island Cool Frozen Yogurt, the Kitsap Regional Library, and the Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network, we threw another lit party, and packed another venue. The stories were outstanding!
As a teen writing mentor, I’m so thankful to each teen for making this special event happen–again. It gives me a such a warm heart to see these young women and men choose to come out with their parents and friends and share their creativity.
The peer support was overwhelming. Local teens and their friends came early and grabbed the couches and floor space directly in front of the mic. They demonstrated such love, encouragement and acceptance of one another’s words and efforts. Wow! I’m just so thankful for them and for our Teen Story Slam team of organizers. It’s a privilege to share these kids’ writing journeys. Teen Story Slam is good for the heart!

Teen writing co-mentor Margaret Nevinski said, “What a wonderful evening! Our teens are so incredible. So wonderful to see families and other teen supporters show up. These community events are so cool.” There were teens who came to listen but not participate. With the encouragement of friends and the support of a rapt audience, a few pulled up stories on their phones and took to the mic for an impromptu reading. “Nick F. decided to read because his friends did,” Margaret noted. “So proud of our teens.”

Will there be a Teen Story Slam 3? Definitely! We will return in the fall to Westside Pizza for another slam. If you’re considering fun ways to raise funds for non-profit programming, I’d be happy to provide info about organizing your own Story Slam. Just comment below!

Leave a comment

Filed under Best Writer Tips, For the love of writing, Your highest potential

My HuffPo: Five ways Parents can Help Prevent Cyberbullying

Please read my latest article on Huffington Post:

Five ways Parents can Help Prevent Cyberbullying

barkIt’s difficult for parents to know if their teen is a victim of cyberbullying. Many teens choose not to tell, worried their device will be taken away. Instead, your daughter might complain of “drama at school.” Or maybe your son feels embarrassed or ashamed. Bullying makes most people feel weak and powerless.

Cyberbullying refers to internet bullying, an act of bullying through electronic devices such as smartphones and computers. Cyberbullying may take the form of sending aggressive or mean messages, or posting embarrassing photos or information about another person. Common platforms used for cyberbullying include text messages, social media and messaging apps.

According to Bark, an algorithm that scans for indications of cyberbullying, sexting, drug-related content and signs of depression, one in three children have experienced cyberbullying.

BullyingStatistics.org reports that cyberbullying affects many adolescents and teens on a daily basis. The Cyberbullying Research Center emphasizes that cyberbullying affects all races, and can be very damaging to adolescents and teens. Chad Rose, an assistant professor of special education in the MU College of Education found that bullying rates for teens with disabilities remained consistently higher than those without disabilities.

Worse, once an image or post is circulated on the internet, it may never disappear, resurfacing at later times to renew the victim’s suffering, or affect college or work applications. Cyberbullying can lead to anxiety, depression and even suicide.

 

Did you like this? Read my piece about how music lessons can help get your teen into college here!

Leave a comment

Filed under Freelance Writing, Your highest potential

My HuffPo: Teens, Music & The Sober Curious Movement

Please read my latest article on Huffington Post:

Is the Sober Curious Movement the End of Teen Binge Drinking?

Created by JAVI_INDY – Freepik.com

For many teens, social activities never stop. With a smart device in hand, texts, posts, likes and shares are vital components of modern peer interaction. Parents often complain of adolescents glued to their screens, maintaining friendships, ironically, in a state of isolation.

When teens turn off their screens to join friends and peers for get-togethers and parties on weekends, many parents worry about the possibility of underage drinking – and for good reason. Social media has been linked to binge drinking, according to several new studies. On social media, young people can get unrealistic ideas about their peers’ seemingly “fabulous” lives, and posting of photos depicting drunken revelry serves to increase of the appeal of alcohol consumption.

Is underage binge drinking a problem? Let’s look at the statistics:

  • 1 in 6 teens binge drink
  • 90% of alcohol consumed by teens involves binge drinking
  • 4,300 underage deaths are caused by excessive drinking each year
  • Binge drinkers don’t drink alone. It generally requires peer pressure

“With neuroscience now showing that the human brain develops well into the mid 20’s, we can deduct that the introduction of alcohol into a teenage brain can cause permanent changes to its growth and function,” said Kristin Wilson, National Director of Clinical Outreach at Newport Academy, a teen treatment center. “Because of underdeveloped executive functioning, teens are often very easily influenced by peer pressure and are more willing to engage in high-risk behaviors.”

Dance Raves, Drinking and Drugs

The need to belong and experience social connections is a fundamental human characteristic, and while raves and teen parties have a long-held reputation for underage drinking, young people assert that the fundamental rewards of attending these events include meeting new friends and sharing one of the most highly valued aspects of teen life: music.

Fortunately, a shift toward a healthy lifestyle is trending. Over the last few years, there has been a decline in alcohol consumption for teens. Teens are experimenting with remaining sober while engaging in social activities that once highlighted alcohol use. The Sober Curious Movement includes day rave dances and juice bar crawls infused with the increased dopamine levels caused by up-tempo music and positive social interaction.

“If you’re used to hiding or escaping with alcohol, and then you discover that you can have genuine fun and make meaningful connections without it, that’s really empowering,” explained Annie Fabricant, coproducer of Morning Gloryville, a series of sober rave parties.

The Sober Curious Movement’s Impact on Teens

It’s all about building authentic relationships. “The Sober Curious Movement is a great step toward healthy living and overall wellness for teens. At fun, wellness-focused, sober events, teens can feel free to create face-to-face, authentic connections with one another, without the pressure to drink,” continued Kristin Wilson. “The relationships that are established within the Sober Curious community are based on mindfulness and a shared passion for healthy lifestyles.” The trend is proving universal among teens and millennials, building momentum across the US and around the world.

“Conscious clubbing” parties are popping up in cities all over the globe, encouraging dance fans to rave without alcohol, drugs or judgment. Parties are held in industrial clubs featuring mega sound systems and hipster DJs, and bars are stocked with raw coconut juice, water and green smoothies only. While many young people traditionally turn to alcohol to break the ice in social situations, today more teens are choosing to bust a move instead. The most common benefit cited by Sober Curious devotees: when sober friendships are formed, people remember making them.

Generation Z music fan Alexsys Chesnut has been in the Seattle rave scene since age sixteen. “A lot of my friends and I participate soberly. It’s about the music and losing yourself in dancing in an environment where you can be yourself, and dress like you want. It’s about all the new friends you make.”

Matthew Brimer and Radha Agrawal, creators of Daybreaker raves welcoming an average of 400 to 500 attendees said, “We want to take out all the bad stuff associated with raving – the drinking and self-destructive behavior – and just bring people together.” Healthy, sober fun translates into honesty at home. “There’s no guilt whatsoever here,” they added. “You can tell your grandmother about Daybreaker.”

Ready to Party Sober?

Here are Newport Academy’s tips for teens interested in creating positive social experiences without alcohol:

1. Surround yourself with friends who are living a healthy lifestyle, and like you sober.

2. Get outside. Plan a beach day, go on a hike, or try a juice bar crawl. Just being in the daylight helps increase serotonin levels, a brain chemical that boosts mood and creates feelings of overall happiness.

3. Listen to music. Music not only creates connection but can help you relax. Listening to music you love has also been shown to increase dopamine levels, a neurotransmitter that allows us to feel pleasure.

The more time young people use social media, the more likely they are to be depressed, according to new research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. In fact, “engaging in activities of little meaning on social media gives many teens a feeling of ‘time wasted’ that negatively influences mood,” reported researcher Lui yi Lin. Music allows isolated teens to establish real friendships, crush the dangers involved with binge drinking and be their authentic themselves.

Did you like this? Read my piece about how music lessons can help get your teen into college here!

Leave a comment

Filed under Freelance Writing, Your highest potential