18th Jan 2012
Intensity: The 10th Anniversary Anthology from WriteGirl
“WriteGirl is essential to helping our young women know how important their thoughts and feelings, not just their looks and bodies, are. Right on, girls – WriteGirls!”
- Nikki Giovanni, poet
Since 2001, WriteGirl has been pairing professional women writers with teenage girls in creative, supportive mentoring relationships. Only six months after Keren Taylor founded the project to “empower girls through mentorship and self-expression”, the first anthology of members’ work was released; to date the WriteGirl anthologies have won over 33 literary awards. Through one-to-one sessions, workshops and events, girls are given the techniques and encouragement to explore their own creativity and find their written voice, be it in prose or poetry. Taylor explains how WriteGirl came about:
“As a songwriter, poet, and freelance writer, I appreciate the power and versatility of the craft of language. While living in New York City, I helped establish a creative writing and mentoring organization for girls and I saw first-hand what a tremendous impact it had on both the girls and the women involved – giving them self-confidence, new skills, new friends, and expanding their dreams and goals. When I moved to Los Angeles a few years ago, I wanted to continue to combine my love of writing with my community work. I put a notice out by email to various writers groups, gathered an initial leadership group of about 10 women, and launched WriteGirl in December 2001.”
Taylor describes the programme as creating “a safe, supportive environment that cultivates strong communication skills.” The programme runs for 9 months, alongside the school year, and involves girls from diverse cultures, neighbourhoods, family units and social backgrounds. Some of the goals of WriteGirl are to introduce the girls to a wide variety of writing genres, teach a robust set of writing and critical analysis skills, encourage them to explore their creative talents, equip them with confidence and communication skills and to assist, inspire and empower them to express themselves and pursue the education and careers they want.
The positive results of the project can be seen in its longevity, in the publication of well received anthologies, and also in the fact that a high percentage of girls who take part in WriteGirl go on to college despite many being from ‘at-risk’ communities where they are not expected to even complete high school.
Intensity is a celebration of everything that makes WriteGirl so special. With work from 140 writers (both mentees and mentors), it demonstrates the power of language, the importance of having the freedom to express yourself and the raw talent that can be uncovered when young people are given support and opportunities. The anthology is split into themes, covering everything from identity (‘I Am Complex’) and family (‘I Borrow All Your Clothes’) to portraits (‘Crooked Jaw’) and mystery (‘Behind the Glass’). There is also a section on writing experiments (‘Sing Your Word Song’) and the book contains a number of the exercises used in the WriteGirl workshops and mentoring sessions. It would be easy to say this anthology is worth reading because it’s a celebration of an important project and leave it at that, but the honesty and skill with which the young women write is incredible and the anthology contains a number of pieces that would stand up alongside any established writer’s work.
As Terry Wolverton, author of Insurgent Muse: Life and Art at the Woman’s Building says, “The work of these young women reminds me what it’s like to be young. Their voices are clear and passionate, carefully observant and exuberant. They celebrate their friends, their neughbourhoods, new love, and mourn the losses from which their youth can’t shield them. They tell the truth.”
Intensity: The 10th Anniversary Anthology from WriteGirl celebrates the accomplishments of the young women, mentors and organisers involved in what is a truly inspiring organisation. It is available to buy for $19.95.
Recommended for: Young writers and the people who work with them; anyone interested in new writing and the power of creative writing as a tool for expression, engagement and education.
Other recommended reading: All the WriteGirl publications are available via the website, and 100% of revenue generated by the sales goes straight back in to the programme. You can discover some amazing fresh talent and support the future work of the organisation!