By Stephanie K. Taylor - WriteGirl Workshop Leader
You could hear a pen drop as the girls filled the school library. It was the first day of the Season 18 WriteGirl workshop at Ramona Opportunity High School, December 12, 2018. Although it was the third year WriteGirl has hosted its workshop at the school, many of the girls were new to WriteGirl and unsure of what to expect.
Throughout the season, the girls explored different genres of writing, including poetry, memoir, songwriting, sci-fi/fantasy and fiction. Three WriteGirl staff and a mix of 17 new and returning volunteers came together over the course of six months to the Boyle Heights-area high school to facilitate the workshop twice a month on Wednesday mornings, come rain or shine.
An average of 30 girls attended each workshop, alongside their teachers, Ms. Stephanie Pearson and Ms. Ewa Pietrasak. On the first day, the girls were able to choose journals that would be theirs to keep for the entire season. They were given time to dedicate their journals to someone important in their lives and decorate them to showcase their personal style.
Each workshop started with a check-in question to break the ice and get the girls warmed up for writing. WriteGirl volunteers introduced the genre of the day with a group discussion and a brainstorming session. Through the workshop, the girls were given different writing experiments to explore that day’s writing style and to express their creativity.
March’s Songwriting Workshop was a particular hit for the girls and the volunteers. Professional songwriters Louise Goffin, Holly Palmer and Mai Bloomfield came out to participate in leading the girls in songwriting.
The first writing experiment in lyric writing asked the girls to write about a significant memory using the five senses and whatever emotions they felt during that moment. Then, the students picked their favorite line or few words from what they had written. With the help of the songwriters and the volunteers, the groups combined lines from individual pieces to create a group song. The guest songwriters then set the words to music and created a song on the spot.
“The students were amazed by how each songwriter was able to come up with a melody as they were going, especially since they did not practice beforehand,” said student Valeria Morales in an article in the school newspaper, Ramona Times. “They really showed their true talents and passion for what they do.”
“WriteGirl has dramatically improved our writing skills at Ramona High School,” said Morales. “These writing experiences bring out the creativity that some students did not know they even had.”
Every workshop ends with a WriteGirl tradition, “Threads,” where girls write down one thing they liked, loved or learned during the workshop.
Here is what some of the students at Ramona had to say:
“One of my favorite things about WriteGirl is that it is a judge FREE zone.”
"I really liked how everyone was respectful and open-minded."
"I liked how we got to write about whatever we were thinking. It showed me how writing is a good way of getting your feelings out."
"I loved imagining a world with no borders."
"I got to talk about my mom and my sister. It’s been hard because I haven’t been able to talk or think about it. So this workshop helped me."
"I liked how these activities sparked creativity and encouraged our imaginations to run wild."
"I liked how calm this session was."
"I learned today that our writing perfects us."
"I like how each time WriteGirl comes, they never have negative things to say. It’s a healthy, positive environment with WriteGirl. I learned that I like writing way more than I thought."
By the end of the WriteGirl workshop at Ramona, it was evident how much the girls had warmed up to writing and recognized the potential in their own budding creativity. By the end, the awkward silence from the first session had been replaced by the laughter and joy of young artists excited to use the power of their pens.