The Young Artists and Writers Project

young artists and writers project otherwise known as y'all is a program for middle and high school students that is sponsored by stony brook Southampton's MFA in creative writing and literature we're one of the premier writing programs in the country we specialize in fiction poetry creative nonfiction memoir and now we've expanded into theatre film visual arts and we want to bring these programs to Europe as well this is the same kind of curriculum that graduate level students are exploring tailor-made for high school and middle school students with your playwrights teach play writing fiction writers teach fiction poets teach poetry and visual artists teach printmaking which isn't what students normally get they get an English teacher that has so many things that they have to cover the curriculum design is managed by the senior faculty members of the MFA in writing and literature Julie Sheehan who is a whiting award-winning poet is creating for them at poetry curriculum that is as exciting and creatively stimulating as it could possibly be the same is true of the fiction and the personal essay programs that curriculum is written by LuAnn Walker rest selling author and esteemed professor here at Stony Brook Southampton the playwriting curriculum is developed by me and my colleague will Chandler and we both have professional background in theater as well as being writers ourselves the screen writing curriculum is developed by a net Handley Chandler who is a professional screen writer and teacher of screenwriting and the printmaking workshops are led by artist Scott sandell who runs the almost beachfront digital printmaking studio here on campus the quality of the curriculum that these students are exposed to is off the charts in terms of its strength and its interest in its challenge sometimes they surprise themselves that they know more than they think they know don't you have any board games I have tons if Brandon mania who wants to be mad pation czechoslovakian scrabble extreme bottle and of course my new favorite are you smarter than a 5th grader no a nuclear physicist sometimes they surprise themselves because they reach into something that is more important than they thought it was my heart pounded each vibration painful I felt as if my body were made out of marble too heavy to move or react in any way my brain was a war as my fingers extended around the phone my body acting solely on impulse we're teaching them creative problem-solving where they almost don't even realize that they've already learned something by the time class is done I think it's important for young people to know that when they write a story or a poem or an essay or create a work of art that they have the same opportunity to succeed as any of the artists and writers in our program who include some of the most famous artists in the world it's an amazing opportunity to dissolve all boundaries between kids of all cultures backgrounds it just blows away all those differences students are more aware of the world and of emotions in the heart then you think they are sheehan really care about schoolwork she was a light tan and never burned in the Sun boys liked her the popular girls wanted to hang out with her that scared Cassie more than anything she had know how she would cope if her best friend were to stop hanging out with her but she knew in the very back of her mind that someday it would happen once they find out that they're being invited to write or to create art that stems from what's in their hearts they are tremendously liberated they're pushing the boundaries and discovering their own voices and how they can contribute to the future of the world there's no such thing as a student writer or a student artist there is only the blank page and the blank canvas and the opportunity it represents and that is an empowering idea that they are entering the adult community of artists they're pushing the boundaries and they're discovering their voices and discovering what they care about and what they're passionate about in ways that may surprise each other as themselves at this time I got forced to leave I wasn't even given time to grieve I got brought into a new home a place to make Restless hateful thoughts Rome so now I had a new place to live now I had a lot more to give an important part of that is that we don't censor what the students write or create you can't actually be free to be creative if you're starting from a place of know if somebody starts using very mature language we won't tell them to take it out but what we'll do is we'll ask them is this necessary and will let them know that every time a writer uses profanity you have a risk of losing your audience and then you have to win your audience back again I'm not sure how I feel about that detail because I loved where you're going up until then but that kind of takes the funny out of it because then it becomes sort of serious and of course we emphasize this is just within the confines of the op classroom and in the end I think they're making much more thoughtful choices than they would if we were starting from a place of restriction when writing or art are honest it just jumps right out at you that's what makes it effective you have to know what real life is like to reach out to the people that live in it so guess what you're out of here because my voice is mine and no one else's obviously it's wonderful for a student who is already writing to have this kind of enrichment but equally the kind of student that is really served by yop is the student who has been struggling for whatever reason in the traditional academic environment we've seen students who have been bullied suddenly become social suddenly discover a new world of peers and friends and respect as a result of being a playwright or being a poet or being a short story writer yop can help not just English language arts skills but self-esteem skills and confidence as they progress in other areas I may act differently in the spotlight and say things that reflect my role but my true character is not what it seems to be if you look closely you'll know it's little things that give my / true personality away I'll give you a hint you won't need a magnifying glass only the need to care kids who didn't think they were going to go to college decide to go to college kids on the verge of dropping out become re-engaged we've seen kids get scholarships because they're writing was so strengthened by these kinds of experiences this middle school program that has just is just concluding tonight had was it was an enormous success we had close to 200 students in six different schools participating and each one of those students wrote a play I was in a school last year there was a young man and his classroom teacher came up to me afterward and said he never does his homework but he did this he doesn't participate in class but he had to make sure his play was read we are now serving most of the school districts out here on the east end and even some schools in New York City we have a special relationship with the Foreign Language Academy of global studies in the Bronx and those students come out to us for our retreat program those students generally speaking have never been out of New York City and they are interacting with other students and peers from other school districts and it's a game changer for them as well as for the students out here they discover a great deal about themselves as well as a new sense of compassion when you see the result of the poems that are written in these classes the stories and the plays and the performances it is just so conspicuously worthwhile all the best pieces of student writing are then published online yup easing calm so that the students have an opportunity for their transcripts to have that creative experience documented and saved in perpetuity writing indeed all forms of art and creative inquiry is among the best uses of your time that you're given here there is no higher calling there's no more complicated engagement with the world and to introduce them to that is an opportunity that you can't pass up

1 thought on “The Young Artists and Writers Project

  1. This is very impressive because young adults and children need to use their imagination more.  I have been publishing Beginnings ( a writing journal that exclusively publishes new writers since 1999), and have been pleasantly surprised by some of the incredible poetry and fiction I've received. I wish there was a magazine like Beginnings when I was nine or ten!   Bottom line:  kids need to channel their creativity in a productive way especially in this distracting age of video games and technology.  

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