Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What Does an Award Mean Anyway?

Greetings and salutations!

I still have a grin on my face from our first ever award ceremony as the regional affiliate for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards where we were shown what a sincere and warm community we really are. Reid Castle at Manhattanville College was the perfect venue, and it was a thrill to see each writer come up to the mic and say their names. Our keynote speaker, Rachel Vail, spoke to us writer to writer and moved us so much that she received a standing ovation.
I had the privilege of making the closing remarks, and I thought I would share them with you . . .

I have a student who, after winning a silver key, keeps asking me what winning an award really means. I love this question. You've won an award, you've been recognized, and now what?

It would really mean more if I won a gold key, wouldn’t it? But then, If I won a gold, would I have reached my peak? If I didn’t win anything, does that mean I’m not a writer?

Is art about winning and losing?

No grasshopper, it isn’t.

Kurt Vonnegut said: “The arts are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”  

You are making your soul grow, you are daring to have a voice, to share and shine your light with the world. You are making your mark.

It’s not about winning or losing . . . but that doesn’t mean I’m not proud of you for putting yourself out there, and it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t celebrate all of our successes along the way. After all, you may win a gold next year, or an honorable mention. Or nothing!

And that’s not only the life of a writer, that’s life.

So don’t let the award define you. Instead, use it as inspiration and affirmation to keep writing, to keep discovering, to keep developing your inner life.

Let it motivate you to solidify and expand your creative community, to find mentors and peers who both support and push you to the edges of what you think you can do.

You have found a nurturing writing community that cares about your writing. You all took a risk and made yourselves vulnerable by submitting, and now we have become this new Hudson-to-Housatonic Writing Community.

Let's close tonight with promising to continue this conversation about art and the artist and what it all means. An award is a bright light on the journey, to keep us going, but it doesn’t change our intrinsic value as artists and humans. It reminds us that we can achieve greatness, and that we can develop wings with which to fly.

Keep writing; see you all soon!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Six Word Memoirs: Girls2Greatness

I was invited by Girls2Greatness to participate in a book event for Women's History Month last weekend in Mt. Vernon, NY. I say yes if I can to these events, not so much to sell books, but to meet other writers.

At first, I was uncomfortable because I didn't know anybody, and all of the other authors seemed to know each other. I was also the only non African-American woman there. Did they make a mistake in inviting me? (My old unempowered and terribly insecure self rearing her head. Fight it!)

That thought quickly disappeared as I started talking to people, engaging in conversation about the power of the written word. My table was next to Kai Storm's, an author who writes with an edge and a huge smile.

I had brought pads of paper and some pens because I had planned to try to get all of the authors to write a six-word memoir as a way to engage myself in their community.

I started: Words build community in my house.

Then I nervously asked the other authors to play with me. And they did!

I write, therefor I am. Period.
Mother, sister, friend, foe, student, authoress
Live Life! And be free always!
Mother, friend, God, sister, daughter, aunt
Passionate, teacher, author, loyal friend, blessed!
Blessed! Fortunate! Humble! Determined! Loving writer.
Dedicated, strong, determined, kind, loving, motivated
Resilient, timeless, determined, beautiful, humbled
Passionate writer loves writing for people
Art and dreams keeps us alive

And finally Kai wrote: Da hustle moves toward success always!

We all ended up reading excerpts from our books, and the true grit with which these women write was awesome to behold.

I left there feeling awesome being a part of girls2greatness, invigorated and empowered by all of these other woman with whom I have so much in common!