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Young Writers

A few weeks ago, I volunteered to meet and encourage a young writer or two at PEN, one of the organizations I belong to, down on lower Broadway in Manhattan. Stacy Leigh, the director of “Readers and Writers,” had sent out an email blast asking for some help. I’ll quote the PEN blurb here:

“Established in 1990, Readers & Writers serves low-income populations that have limited access to writers and a diverse range of literary culture. Working with these groups, Readers & Writers aims to inspire both adults and children to read more regularly and more critically, and to encourage them to explore writers from various cultures and regions. Each year the program sends 60 authors and their books to literacy programs, community centers, schools, and other sites nationwide, reaching out to Americans who can read but may not have a relationship with literature.”

When I arrived, Caitlin, a junior in high school, was still working on her manuscript. I understood the impulse to perfect a draft before letting anyone read it, much less a stranger who is a professional writer. I waited patiently and chatted to Stacy about various PEN issues, including a library that could use some volunteer action. Then Caitlin arrived and Stacy left. I began by asking questions about her process, how the story—it was piece of fiction—unfolds, how she drafts, the nature of revision. Caitlin was full of ideas and enthusiasm which I found completely refreshing. It’s why I enjoy teaching so much.

Readers & Writers also runs during the year. If you are interested in participating, contact Stacy @ PEN: 212 334-1660 stacyleigh@pen.org.

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