My First Week at Writopia

After almost five weeks of living on my own and working in New York City, I can confidently say that accepting an internship position at Writopia Lab in Manhattan was the perfect choice for a summer job at the midpoint of my college career.

Writopialogo

Writopia is a non-profit organization that facilitates creative writing workshops for students ages 6-18. During the school year, workshops usually take place in the afternoons. In the summer, however, the Manhattan headquarters is much busier, hosting around 40 students each week for half-day morning/afternoon workshops or all-day summer camp. Each writer finishes the week with at least one polished piece of writing, which they are then encouraged to submit to Writopia’s online literary magazines.

Writopia ultimately provides writers with a positive, safe place to express themselves intellectually and creatively, regardless of their previous writing experience. It is a diverse community of young writers who are invited to write about whatever they want without fear of censorship or not being taken seriously. Writopia writers are encouraged to challenge and empower one another through their writing, and have a lot of fun doing so.

Editing a Writopia writer's story in a morning workshop
Editing a Writopia writer’s story in a morning workshop

Interns like myself mainly work with the all-day campers. I am assigned to a workshop group of around seven writers each week, and in the mornings assist the head instructor by giving feedback on campers’ writing pieces, helping to lead writing-based games and activities, and offering typing help to those who need it (each camper is provided a Google chromebook and their own personal Writopia e-mail address so they can easily share their writing with and offer comments to their peers). Then, we break for lunch in Central Park, where interns and instructors lead the kids in writing-themed outdoor games like “character kickball.” After lunch, campers select two electives for the last portion of the camp day, with options ranging from film making to songwriting to comedy writing.

I intern in the graphic noveling elective each afternoon. In this elective, campers begin character sketches in pencil, then map out a page-long comic or story about this character, eventually inking their final work on comic book-style panels that we provide. These ink drawings are then scanned, and the graphic noveling teacher and I help the campers digitally color their work with an online program. I am also a photography intern, in charge of getting at least one photo of every camper each week and uploading them all to Facebook by the end of the week. In weeks to come, I will also be interning at two of Writopia’s outreach programs—I will assist weekly public workshops at the New York Public Library in the afternoons, and will also help with weekly workshops for homeless and at-risk youth through the Homes for the Homeless organization. Through working with these programs and the many Writopia Manhattan students, I have been exposed to an incredibly diverse and inspiring group of young writers, and I am so impressed by their creativity and talent.

This summer, I hope to expand my knowledge of creative arts and writing education, and feel more confident in my abilities as a teacher. I came into this internship with a love of writing and an interest in mentoring and inspiring kids and teens, but had little formal teaching experience. I initially was nervous about how I would pick up the teaching skills and if it would be something I truly enjoyed and could see myself doing for a future career. I am excited to report that I already have learned so much from the 2-week training period and my first two weeks as an intern, and am eager to continue to polish my teaching techniques. Interning at Writopia has solidified my interest in someday working for an organization that empowers children and teens through creative practices like creative writing, visual art, dance, and theater, and working for them is simply a dream come true.

– Rachel Dillon ’17

2 thoughts on “My First Week at Writopia”

  1. After observing your work with young people for many years, I can say with assurance that the NYC children are very lucky to have you as a mentor. Your kindness, acceptance, creativity and intellect are a gift you share with an open heart. For many children, connecting to literature and writing can not be accomplished in overcrowded classrooms where standardized test scores are the priority. A place like Writopia may be the only place some children get a chance to express themselves freely and with support. I am very proud of you.

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