Local writers are working to inspire future writers to uncover their voice.
Two years ago, as writers Kerry Gilbert and Natalie Appleton were talking about a 16-year-old who was struggling in high school but getting through it in part because she’d discovered writing, they realized young women can’t take creative writing classes the way they can sign up for basketball or drama, and they wondered: What if young women had the tools, inspiration and mentoring they needed to uncover their voice, unstuck their writing and become writers?
“Both of us immediately remembered what it was like to discover writing as teenagers, and what it would have meant for us to have had that interest nurtured,” said Gilbert, a poet and creative writing instructor at Okanagan College.
Within weeks of that conversation, she and Appleton had founded Storymakers and were hosting their first creative writing workshops for teenage girls in Vernon at the Caetani Cultural Centre.
“It was kind of magical watching these bright, talented young women gather and find the way to their unique writing voices and some really powerful, beautiful work,” said Appleton, who focuses on memoir and literary non-fiction.
The workshops were so successful and impactful, the pair recently took Storymakers online and, in June, launched Raise Your Voice, a self-paced online creative writing workshop that focuses on helping students feel inspired, and make their writing “gutsy, gorgeous and urgent.”
“There’s such an amazing creative momentum and energy out there among women artists, and summer can be such a pensive, tense time for both teenagers and twenty-somethings—it’s the perfect space for writing through angst,” said Gilbert.
But a lot of writers have trouble getting past the notorious blank screen, and a lot of high school and college reading lists aren’t always inspiring or relatable for young women.
“We wanted to introduce students to a real range of writers who are pushing boundaries in all kinds of ways and who students may not be familiar with. We wanted to focus not on devices like plot, but themes that are really relevant to them: courage, love, vulnerability, et cetera, and give them the creativity tools to harness that electric creative energy young women,” said Appleton.
Each of the 12 Raise Your Voice thematic lessons includes writing prompts, creativity challenges, writing exercises and readings and interviews with edgy authors across genres and via multi-media. Each lesson could take a few hours to complete and can be done at each student’s own pace. While the lessons are downloaded online, students are encouraged to go offline to do the exercises and tap into their creativity free of screens and distractions.
“We’ve had a great response from parents who want to nurture this healthy, powerful interest of their daughters’, and we’re nearing that time when summer boredom starts to set in,” said Gilbert.
For more information or to enrol, visit www.ourstorymakers.com.