Last Saturday, on July 7th, over 40 youth writers braved the heat wave and showed up to kick off the Fort Greene Park Summer Workshops. This marks the first year we’re also offering a separate creative writing workshop for parents of the youth writers. Nearly a dozen parents participated in the inaugural workshops and we were delighted to see parents and children spending their Saturday morning writing in Fort Greene Park. At the end of the six week series, the youth writers will read their work at the Fort Greene Park Summer Literary Festival alongside this year’s headliners, Jessica Hagedorn, Tayari Jones, and Earl Lovelace. We’ll be featuring writing from both the children and parents for the next six weeks. This week’s post comes from one of our veteran teen writers, Najaya Royal. Najaya shares a poem that describes the birth of her name and another poem that captures how two friends want a moment to linger. Check back next week to see what else our youth writers create. – The Editors
Today was the first day of writing in the park with New York Writers Coalition. While walking through the familiar streets of Fort Greene listening to no one other than Chris Brown, OfWG, and Drake to follow, I kept trying to guess the number of old faces and new faces I may see. Upon approaching the Fort Greene Visitor Center, I had to walk up two steep hills and as you may know, it was 97 degrees. Today, of all days, I despised those hills, but it’s not always easy getting to a place you want to be. When I arrived, I saw both new and old faces but all were very anxious. I saw some “Writing in the Park” veterans explaining to new faces about what we may write about and our annual show at the end which I must say is one of my favorite parts. I was greeted by Ms. Nancy Weber and she brought the amazing idea of doing a blog about the classes and I agreed 105%. So here I am.
Minutes ticked by and it seemed like everyone was ready to begin. Finally, they gathered each age groups 7-9 , 10-13, and my group 14-18. We began by introducing ourselves saying our names, ages, and the schools we attend. Then our group leader suggested that we begin writing about the history of our names, such as the meaning, whether the meaning reflects in our personality, and more. But this prompt had a twist, we had the choice to include one fib and our fellow participants have to guess whether there is something false and if so what is it. We were given thirty minutes and as soon as we began, pens were flowing with raw ideas straight from our memories and stories told to us about our names. My pen would flow then stop allowing myself to add most of the tale about my name.
From the streets in Morocco
My name was born
Being used to describe someone like a hero
I always wondered how it found its way from overseas to me
I’ve enjoyed this warm up because it allowed me to tell the story of my rare name. Oh, if you are wondering if the story about my name is true, don’t worry it is. Our next prompt was based on two quotes from a book our group leader was reading. But at this point my mind was so crowded with ideas I was unsure which direction to take. I waited a few minutes and that’s when my phone vibrated with a text message from a friend of mine, so I decided to write about him.
while sirens flare outside your window
and planes soar over mine
So far apart but I can hear your heartbeat
Eyes half shut
Arguing about who should hang up first
1..2..3.. but neither of us moved our fingers toward the end button
By time we shared our pieces, ate some cookies, and shared our positive comments , sadly time was up for today. We all left eager for next Saturday to come.
Najaya Royal is 15 years old and attends Benjamin Banneker Academy for Community Development. She has been on the Adobe Youth Voices Panel 2012 with author Wes Moore, featured on Bloomberg Radio’s Honor Roll, was just recently published in the Remix Girls Write Now 2012 Anthology, and she has many more accomplishments. This is her sixth summer participating in New York Writers Coalition’s Fort Greene Summer Youth Writing Workshops. She wants to be a music journalist because she is able to combine her overflowing love for music and writing.