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WriteGirl organization gives teen girls all around L.A. a voice

Writegirls respond to a prompt given by Alexandria McCale at the LACMA workshop.

Writegirls respond to a prompt given by Alexandria McCale at the LACMA workshop.

Nicole Ortega

Writegirls respond to a prompt given by Alexandria McCale at the LACMA workshop.

Nicole Ortega

Nicole Ortega

Writegirls respond to a prompt given by Alexandria McCale at the LACMA workshop.

WriteGirl organization gives teen girls all around L.A. a voice

Empowering teen girls with the chance to demonstrate their love for writing

June 4, 2019

“Without creative writing, we’d have no books; without books we wouldn’t have language, and creative writing is as important as language,” says Clark senior and president of Creative Writing Club, Naomi Beach. “Creative writing gives representation to the lives which are often silenced.”

Of course, high school students nowadays are so consumed in work that they barely have enough time to engage in their hobbies. This is why organizations and local programs are beneficial to keep those hobbies alive. “I love being a part of WriteGirl [because] it allows me to release my creativity that in some part during school I don’t allow myself to because I’m unable to,” said freshman Hyla E*. “Sometimes when I’m so caught up in homework and school work, and I don’t save enough time for my own personal work, that’s where WriteGirl came in.”

WriteGirl is a free-of-charge program for teenage girls between the ages of thirteen and eighteen who are interested in pursuing or learning about careers related to writing, whether it be in relation to creative writing, like songwriting or nonfiction writing, like journalism. WriteGirl has held monthly workshops from October through June each year since its founding in 2001. Each workshop takes place in a different location in Los Angeles County: from the Huntington Library in Pasadena to the Writer’s Guild Theater in Beverly Hills.

Nicole Ortega
Group photo of all the mentors and mentees before the season end of WriteGirl.

In hopes of finding time to do what I and all the other writegirls love to do most — write — I joined WriteGirl in February of 2019. Like Hyla, I have also had personal struggles with creative expression, and I took the recommendation of a chairwoman of an organization I volunteered for to give myself some type of media to release my innermost thoughts. So far, I have only been to four total events.

The first workshop I attended was songwriting in February. We were handed packets that took us through all the important components of songwriting, including using unique rhymes and knowing the structure of songs as well. Afterwards, some of the girls’ written songs were performed by invited professional singers and songwriters. The next one I attended was the screenwriting/dialogue workshop in March. The girls were divided into groups, then taken to different stations to practice and develop a certain storyline. Actors and actresses acted out my short dialogue — a story of how a mother and daughter shopping for clothes goes awry; it was an incredibly proud moment!

The third was the opulent “Lights, Camera, WriteGirl!” event in April. This event was public but also required a formal dress code, or as indicated in the email, “Cocktail or business attire required. No jeans, sneakers or backpacks.” It was certainly different from other events WriteGirl hosted. Many successful celebrities and screenwriters attended, including host Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls), actress Kirby Howell-Baptiste (The Good Place), and actor Seth Rogen (Superbad). The event was sponsored by Descendents screenwriter Josann McGibbon. The fourth workshop I attended in May was a shorter event taught by Los Angeles-based writer Alexandria McCale, regarding how to add humor to memoir writing, using examples from female comedians.

Having only been to four events, it’s safe for me to say that I feel at home in WriteGirl; it really is a place to let loose and have fun writing. But how do other “writegirls” feel about the organization?

“One of my favorite WriteGirl events was the journalism workshop that WriteGirl hosted last year. I’m not a journalism writer, and I had almost zero experience until I went to that workshop,” said freshman Sam K. “I also really like the songwriting and screenwriting workshops because you’re able to have your work performed by professional songwriters/actors. While your work isn’t always chosen, it’s really cool to see the different interpretations of a work and to see the talent that all of the girls at WriteGirl have.”

Freshman Kate L. says that WriteGirl helped her discover her writing style. “I really enjoy the Writegirl organization. They are organized, and try to throw a lot of tips and tricks at you so that you can go home a better writer,” she said when asked to describe her style and inspirations. “I do enjoy that I don’t have the pressure to write something phenomenal, but just something I can work on.”

“WriteGirl has opened me up to so many different writing styles,” Kate said. “They have taught me how to refine my pieces of work, how to be brave when reading your piece of writing in front of a large crowd, and how to write like a girl.”

WriteGirl’s main motives have always been to inspire. In a 2011 interview with the Los Angeles Times, executive director and founder Keren Taylor said, “To give young people confidence in that skill set is huge… writing is not only an academic and professional skill, it’s also a window into the way we understand ourselves as individuals and express who we are to the world,” she said. “The most powerful mentor you can have is your own self voice.”

“I think this society is based on ideas and the ability to express those ideas, and without writing, there would be no way to express your ideas and expanding our society to become a better developed species,” said eighth-grader Jane H. She says that Writegirl has inspired her as well. “WriteGirl has pushed me to think harder, showed me how to format my words to make a better impact, and it has shown me how even a few words can change people’s minds and hearts.”

Anna Arutunian
Some celebrities attend the Lights, Camera, WriteGirl! event in April.

“I would recommend that other teen girls join Writegirl if they’re interested in writing or simply want to give it a go, but I would warn them that once you’re in you never get out,” says senior Samantha C., who is on her final season of Writegirl. In terms of how WriteGirl has personally benefited her, she said, “Writegirl has helped me become a better writer by connecting me with people that have wanted to see me improve and succeed, but specifically my writing mentor Lauren who has helped me tremendously in the last four years.”

WriteGirl’s goal to inspire LA teen girls was recognized in 2013, when Michelle Obama recognized the organization with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, and praised the organization’s efforts to help teens succeed and graduate high school. In fact, they have had a 100 percent success rate in doing this.

Despite empowering young women, WriteGirl is making an effort to avoid gender favoritism. They also have a program for boys as well entitled Bold Ink Writers, which does the same for teenage boys as it does for girls.

In addition to WriteGirl, other organizations are also trying to achieve similar goals. Some of these organizations include the inaugural LA Youth Poet Laureate Program, the non-profit organization Writopia based in New York, and individual private creative writing lessons by the Word Up Kids organization.

 

*Last names are omitted in this story due to restrictions from WriteGirl.

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