On Tuesday, July 8, the 67th Street Library kicked off its third annual Imagination Academy. This special writing workshop brings 12 different published authors to the branch over 4 weeks to work with kids ages 8-13. Children’s Librarian Jacqueline Schector, along with interns Amber and Nicole, began this summer with a week dedicated to writing fiction.
Our first guest was Lisa Greenwald, author of several novels for tweens and teens. In her presentation, she spoke about her life growing up as a writer and shared her life-long struggles with constructing plots. In the workshop, the kids shared several stories - one resulting from the prompt: “It all started when I ate the enchilada”, and one about any object in the room. After hearing about talking enchiladas and superhero trash cans. The day wrapped up with a discussion about the difficulties of writing and sharing work about ourselves.
On Wednesday, we welcomed Courtney Sheinmel, author of the popular Stella Batts series, among other works. Ms. Sheinmel told the group that she used to be a lawyer until she realized that she should be doing what she loved - writing! She advised the kids to "show up" for the things they love and to take their writing seriously, even if others do not. Later in the afternoon, the kids played a collaborative game, adding an “unfortunately” or “fortunately” plot twist to the previous person’s sentence. This led to a hilarious story in which Jackie the librarian tried to ride a fire-breathing dragon by feeding him cupcakes! The kids also wrote plots about being trapped in a room, based on the part of Ms. Sheinmel’s book (and real-life experience) “Sincerely”, where characters are locked in a stairwell.
Danette Vigilante joined us on Thursday for an inspirational presentation titled “How I Went From a Poor Reader to a Published Writer”. At age 11, her elementary school teacher wrote on the back of her report card that “Danette needs to work on her reading skills”. This upset her, and inspired Ms. Vigilante to read more and improve her reading skills. After developing a love of books by visiting her local library, she later began working on her first book “The Trouble With Half a Moon”, which received many rejections by publishers before finally being accepted. The writing workshop featured advice and exercises about revising one’s first draft. They also worked on character sketches, vivid language, and story organization.
Fridays are led by Jackie the Librarian. The afternoon began with more writing games. First was a simile game where the group improved clichéd phrases like "as stubborn as a mule"; highlights were "as slow as rush hour traffic" and "as stubborn as a teenager who refuses to stop texting".
Next up was a collaborative story game where kids wrote 16 different stories at once by each writing a sentence on a sheet of paper continuing a story and then passing that story to the right.
The final game had everyone come up with a setting, character, and problem. Interns Amber and Nicole then collected those and shuffled them up and handed them out. Kids then wrote stories with their mixed up character/problem/setting sets. Chloe's story about a detective in new york who missed her best friend was the group’s favorite. The second half of the day gave the participants a chance to edit the work they’ve done into a finished product.
Week 2 will also be dedicated studying fiction writing, but with three different authors. Stay tuned!