I have a chance to "blog" right now because my amazing mentee with Girls Write Now had to cancel our regular Monday 2PM meeting because of (ugh) mid-terms. (Math, yikes!) So what better opportunity than to write about this fabulous non-profit organization that pairs volunteer professional writers with high school age urban teens? Indeed, it is a large part of my lit life this year! My sister Charlotte is the responsible party for turning me onto them. GWN had called the foundation where she works asking for a donation, but although they are fabulous, GWN didn't fit within the parameters of the foundation. Charlotte is awesome at thinking outside the box and she thought, hmmmm, "this would be perfect for Léna!" She emailed me the link to their website and I went to one of their events, readings of mentors and mentees down at the New School. I was so moved not only by the writing, but by the passion and sense of community and generosity that I wanted to sign up right away!
But first I had to go through an extensive application process. Girls Write Now is no joke: they want to make sure their volunteers are committed, passionate and possess at least some modicum of writing savvy. I had to provide writing samples as well as a resume, professional recommendations, and an outline for a workshop. Then there was the interview and the finger printing to make sure that potential volunteers have no criminal record.
Fortunately, after months of being vetted, I became part of the Girls Write Now team. We have a workshop once a month, led by mentors, and once we got paired with our mentees, we meet once a week to write and to practice the revision process. (So painful, I know, but necessary!) Part of a mentor's job at GWN is to either lead a workshop, or help set up the reading series. Now I have quite a bit of experience with creating and leading workshops, but none whatsoever with reading events, (and as my own book is coming out next December, I wanted to get more comfortable with this!) so I became part of the Reading Committee.
This committee hasn't met yet, but when I opened my email yesterday, sure enough, there was not only a reminder about the February meeting, but a PDF file of fifty reading submissions! I have started reading through them, and am blown away by the quality and the emotional depth. We are going to have five readings down at the Center for Fiction (17 East 47th Street between fifth and Madison) all on Friday evenings from 6pm until 8pm, on February 26th, March 26th, April 23rd, May 21st and June 18th. (You are all personally invited, heh, heh) I'm so excited! Not only do we get to hear mentors and mentees read their work from a variety of genres, but we have a different special guest writer each night. Some mentees have chosen to read on their own, while other mentor/mentee pairs will read together, either separate pieces with a similar theme, or something co-written. My mentee and I had so much fun writing something together. We had several sessions of starting each other off with a prompt and then writing for five minutes and then trading notebooks back and forth. We both liked The How-To Guide for Inhabiting Two-Legged Animals the best, so we are looking forward to reading that together.
I will keep you (ahem) posted! Until next time . . .