January is National Mentoring Month. In honor of the occasion, we take a look at mentoring organization, WriteGirl.
BY KARI ADWELL
Current WriteGirl mentees. Photo by Thomas Hargis.
This is my first year working as a staff member and writing mentor for WriteGirl – a creative writing and mentoring organization for teen girls, ages 13-18.
Every week, more than 75 professional women writers work one-on-one with girls on creative writing projects.
Every month, WriteGirl hosts a creative writing workshop for over 150 girls and professional women writers in all genres, including poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, songwriting, journalism, screenwriting, playwriting, persuasive writing, journal-writing, editing and more.
Every year, WriteGirl publishes an anthology of outstanding work, compiled throughout the school year, by both the mentees and their mentors.
On Sunday, January 15th, we launched our award-winning, 10-year anniversary anthology, Intensity. In this new book, more than 140 teen girls and women writers from the L.A. area share their creative stories, poetry, lyrics, novel excerpts and perspectives.
“I know this girl. Her name
is Joanna, Mexican-Honduran
Beauty Queen, mother of one at fourteen
I know this girl. She made me chorizos,
she introduced me to my first pupusa,
she was the first girl I kissed.
I know her; she’s walking up right now
in a skin-tight black V-neck, skinny jeans
and Vans, eyeliner, a precise silhouette of her
top lid. I know Iris, palms sweaty,
hair crinkled with Aquanet hairspray and mousse.
I know mi hermana, my tan sister, a subdued,
superb shade of brown. I know Coralia, she
has Jose tattooed on her neck, her Baby Daddy, her love.
I know Barbie/Eeyore/Droopy/Bianca/Flaca/
Skittles, I know how R’s roll off her tongue,
I know the sound of one dollar rosaries
hitting her chest, I know the click clack
clang bang of her silver hoops, I know her.
She is my best friend; she is my childhood confidante.
She is old news, new tears.
Forgotten girl, formed by corroding,
rooftops, infantile screams,
menudo and premature motherhood.”
– J. Curtis, age 15 (excerpt from Intensity)
We are going, boldly, into our 11th season with many awards under our belt and a 100% success rate of our senior girls going to college!
On a personal note, our girls continue to be an endless inspiration to me. Shining when they read aloud, they find a place in the world.
Current WriteGirl mentees and alumna. Photo by Thomas Hargis.
When we held our mentee interview day in November, I was so pleased to see the girls come in, sit down, take an object to write about and work quietly. They were respectful of one another’s space and, when it came time to read their work, they all listened patiently, applauding when each reader concluded.
It gives me chills to recount that experience, for we have all been young, awkward teens, competing for space, and we all know how girls can be exceedingly cruel; however, there is something about WriteGirl that inspires camaraderie and human appreciation like I have never seen before. I dare say it is like they are on sacred ground.
Kids want guidance. They need mentors. No matter how much they may look at you like you are crazy, when their friends aren’t looking they will soften and say things like, “Is this good enough? I want to make sure it’s right.” To which I respond, “I let that question hold me back from experiencing my own writing for a long, long time. I don’t want you to fall into the same trap. There is no right, and there is no good enough. There is only what is right for YOU. If it comes out of YOU, it is right, and it is always good enough.”
This was a specific incident. The girl was a talented writer with beautiful penmanship and a want in her eyes to express herself. To be heard. All she needed was a little cajoling.
And, most times, a little cajoling is all it takes. It is amazing how quickly the girls can go from being reticent, hiding behind their journals and saying they don’t have anything to say, to having a (friendly) rap battle across the room. I have seen it take less than 20 minutes! And THAT makes mentoring fun and rewarding for us all.
Mentoring has changed my life for the better. I found WriteGirl by doing a Volunteer Match search. If you feel you have any wisdom to impart or just time to give someone an ear, I highly suggest being a mentor. You’ll be glad you did it.
Happy Mentoring Month!
Kari Adwell is the Events Coordinator at WriteGirl. She mentors (when time allows) with the In-Schools program offered by WriteGirl at Camp Scudder in Santa Clarita, CA. She is also an essayist and aspiring screenwriter. She too loves to read aloud. [Photo by Brad Carter Photography.]