Recently the extraordinary teens in my creating writing class read from their work in a public forum. It’s true the audience was mostly made up of the teens’ relatives, but even that’s meaningful. Some of my students had never allowed their parents to see their work before. And trust me, their writing is worth sharing.
When I agreed to teach teens creative writing at my local library, I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t have teens, and haven’t spent much time with teens since I was one. In fact, the only teens I’ve spent any time with were my husband’s and my two nieces and two nephews.
I teach creative writing in numerous locations—to students decades older than these teens. In my first meeting with the group a year or so ago, I brought along my usual lesson plans. I’m glad I listened to them read their work before I got started teaching, because after I became familiar with their writing in that first class, I told them, “You don’t need any of this stuff,” and I tossed my plans.
These teens were well beyond my introductory material.
What they needed from me were those tools and tactics published writers use to keep readers engaged; reminders to avoid cliches in favor of sharp, original wording; ways to shape a story so that is flows well; and methods for making their ideas as clear as possible.
They also needed a place where they felt comfortable revealing their work. I’m amazed at how considerate they are in offering feedback to their classmates, and how willing they are to help one another come up with a title or a name for a character.
They write dystopian and fantasy/SF fiction. One writes mainstream novels. Another writes brilliantly intellectual, yet thoroughly accessible short fiction. And one of them even undertook the ambitious writing of a villanelle, a highly-structured, 19-line poem. (Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” is a villanelle.)
While I listened to my students read their work to the public yesterday, I was as proud as their parents.
Linda Gartz says
A wonderful outcome to your writing workshop. To give teens a voice to express themselves could be the salvation for many and at least a creative outlet for all. I used to teach writing and poetry to sixth graders. We used photos and even the lyrics to songs for inspiration. What many came up with was truly extraordinary. No wonder you’re proud!
Maybe teens haven’t had their internal voices “squashed” yet but the harsh realities of life. I find most teens are very creative and I love to hear their collective voices. What a great forum you have provided for them!
Uh – oh. I meant “by” the harsh realities of life. (so sorry for the typo!)
Gene Pool Diva says
What a wonderful way to enrich teens and give back to the community. -Kelly
Lynette Benton says
Thank you, Kelly.
Denise Murphy says
I got chills reading this. Lynette you are an amazing writing instructor and those teens are lucky to have your guidance. I have been writing since I could hold a pen! I became serious as a teenager, so teenage writers hold a special place in my heart. That is the age when you write at your most innocent, most creative, rough, unpolished but passionate. Your teens are so lucky to have you to help them harness and hone their passion and develop their talent. I wish I had had someone like you as mentor during my teen years! The writing thet are doing sounds fantastic. Go teens! You’ll rule the world someday so keep writing !
Lynette Benton says
Denise, your comment is typical of your generous attitude towards others—in this instance, towards the teens and me. Thank you for your praises, and I’ll be sure to continue urging the teens to take advantage of this stage of their lives. They’re not very hampered by lack of faith in their ideas, as we become as we mature!