Chaudhuri, Nasser organize writing workshops for kids

Writing has always interested Inklings President Anushree Chaudhuri (10). Ever since she attended Scholastic writing workshops in New York during middle school, where she had the opportunity to collaborate with other young writers, she said she has enjoyed writing poetry and short stories.

Through years of practice, Chaudhuri’s passion grew alongside her skills. She began to strive towards recreating that welcoming environment in which her love for writing began for local middle-schoolers to develop their writing skills in.

In order to attain that goal, Chaudhuri planned this year to set up her very own writing workshop at the Rancho Penasquitos library, independent from Inklings. As she began to develop her idea, Chaudhuri learned that the Inklings Vice President Rehana Nasser (12) was in the process of organizing a very similar program with the same library.

After meeting to discuss their plans, the pair decided it would be best if they collaborated. Seeing as Inklings is a literary magazine club, the pair went on to invite Inklings members, and eventually creative writing club Word Innovations members, to get involved, making for a well-rounded writing experience for potential workshop-goers.

Planning to arrange workshops every two or three weeks each spring, the group set the date for March 10 for their kickoff workshop, “The Writers Guild”. Once they confirmed the date with the library, Chaudhuri, Nasser and the handful of interested Inklings and Word Innovations members got to work.

They met several times prior to the kickoff event to plan for the big day, arranging a variety of writing exercises and passages for the kids to engage in.

“[During planning sessions] we considered several forms of writing but settled on spoken word, collaborative poetry and playwriting,  because [the students] have likely never worked in [those areas] before.” Chauduri said. “We aimed to show students that there’s a huge variety of possibilities with creative writing and hat it’s not just limited to traditional rhyme and meter in poetry or short stories.”

The group emerged from the organizing sessions with a clear idea of what they wanted the workshops to look like, making the rest of the process fairly easy.

“We’re focused on creative writing, so [we] teach more through example and give them free reign,” Chaudhuri said. “[It’s] more about playing with words and seeing where that can take you.”

Since there are many types of creative writing, the workshop is designed to let the kids explore many literary styles, from poetry to screenwriting.

By setting up the workshop to cover different forms of writing, the kids are able to get a taste of each one and can more easily find one that resonates with them. This is a crucial aspect of the workshop to Chaudhuri, because of the impact it has on the kids.

“It’s amazing to be able to explore more complex forms of creative writing and to have the privilege to be the ones exposing kids to it, possibly for the first time” Chaudhuri said. “You can make a pretty big impact on kids, and creating that first impression is a real responsibility that we all take seriously.”

Chaudhuri was most excited to try playwriting, while Nasser couldn’t wait to incorporate her love of spoken word poetry.

“I fell in love with [spoken word poetry] when I first read it when I went to [a] writers camp,” Nasser said. “I really want to expose kids to that, because you don’t really hear a lot about spoken word poetry on your own, especially in the classroom, so that’s something that I want to include [in the workshops].”

With roughly twenty kids in attendance, Nasser and Chaudhuri were pleased with the turnout. In fact, although the workshop officially ran from 12:30 to 2 P.M., it went a little overtime because of the kids excitement.

Collaborating in groups and participating in discussions, Chaudhuri said that the kids showed great enthusiasm during  the workshop. One standout moment to her was when the kids participated in a character creating activity, in which their imaginations were set free and they became extremely engaged.

According to Chaudhuri, the kids brought so many unique perspectives to the table that they even taught the high schoolers a thing or two, and they came up with profound ideas that blew both her and Nasser away.

Nasser said she believes that part of the reason the workshop was so popular is that it was the first of its kind. According to her, the only large-scale writing-based event in the area prior to “The Writers Guild” workshop was the CCA Writers Conference, where published authors and literary agents speak to high-school students, but it’s only held once a year.

By offering a more regular event that is aimed at a middle-school audience, Nasser said she hopes to offer a new generation an outlet to explore the realm of writing. Chaudhuri, on the other hand, credits the workshops’ popularity to the lack of creative writing programs in the area that are available to kids, as Rancho Penasquitos is a mostly STEM-driven community.

“When I was in middle school I would’ve really enjoyed a program like this, because I was always writing by myself, but guidance and examples are great, so I think it’s really important to get that out there,” Chaudhuri said. “We’re also in a pretty STEM-focused area so focusing on creative writing and that power it gives you is really important to me.”

Eager to continue with their workshops, Chaudhuri and Nasser have already brainstormed three future workshops, and are beginning to more thoroughly plan them out now that the workshop launch is over.

At the end of the day, the main goal in developing these workshops is to offer middle-schoolers more opportunities to explore an often overlooked subject, according to Nasser.

“I’m hoping [during the various workshops] they first of all can find a community of like-minded people who also really love writing and words and what you can do with that,” Nasser said. “Hopefully we can [continue to] create a welcoming place where they’re not afraid to develop their ideas.”

With Nasser set to graduate this spring, it’ll be up to Chaudhuri and the rest of the Inklings and Word Innovations volunteers to keep these workshops going and keep young students interested in and exposed to different literary styles.

Rising to the challenge, Chaudhuri has big hopes for the future of these workshops, and plans to incorporate a few new ideas next year, including collaborations with other Westview clubs  so that the kids would be exposure to more skills.

“My favorite part of these workshops are the discussions, initiating lightbulb moments, and the collective feeling of community and discovery that makes everyone feel like they’re part of something bigger.” Chaudhuri said. “Personally, that’s something I want to develop with these workshops. I want to continue to keep going with [the workshops], making [them] an annual program.”