"Julia Child cut off one of her fingers while she was cooking," one of my Writopia students exclaimed gleefully during class today. We were having a conversation about the blogger Julie Powell, and her success eventuating with the movie Julie and Julia.
"Okay, put a cut off finger in each of your stories!" I said, wanting to get them back on track, back into the world of imagination. There are five fifth grade girls in this class, two writing realistic fiction, another two writing fantasy, and the last working with both satire and mystery.
"Really?" They say gleefully.
"Yeah - have fun with it - you can always cut it out later."
These kids are amazing. Last night three of them made their debut at a WRITOPIA reading at the Barnes and Noble on 66th Street. They spoke well, made eye contact, and were confident. They blew me away. And the thirteen other kids in different classes had the same level of passion.
It was luck and a snowstorm that brought me to this event - I had a previous commitment with Girls Write Now (see other posts!) and was at first very disappointed when I found out that it had been canceled. Yet it quickly dawned on me that I would be able to hear my student Writopians, and i adjusted my feelings.
I've been trying to wait to post about Writopia until I could find the time to interview my exceptional boss, Rebecca Wallace-Segall, but it has so seeped it's way into the fabric of my being, that I find myself mentioning it all of the time!
Rebecca founded Writopia in April of 2007, and I will shamelessly lift her bio from the writopialab website to brag about her. "Previously, Rebecca established the creative writing program at the Abraham Joshua Heschel Middle School on the Upper West Side of Manhattan as a consultant. While she was there, the program outperformed every other school in the city (including every elite public and private institution) in Scholastic's prestigious Art & Writing Awards competition. She was awarded recognition from The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards as an "outstanding educator" in 2006, 2007, and 2008. (Writopia won Scholastic's official endorsement in 2007.) Rebecca was also nominated by students and selected to be entered into the 11th Edition of Who's Who Among American Teachers."
I am incredibly honored to be a part of of Rebecca's team and am thrilled to help execute her vision of creating thriving communities of young writers. As with Girls Write NOw, I wish that I had something like this when I was growing up!