A Weekend Trip to the Moon: My Perfect Summer Saturdays in Fort Greene Park

by Jen Weitsen

Jen Weitsen volunteered for the past two summers at the NY Writers Coalition’s Fort Greene Park Summer Creative Writing Workshops for youth. She lives in Manhattan, and is working on her first novel.

Over the summer, I spent six incredible Saturday mornings volunteering at the NY Writers Coalition Fort Greene Youth Writing workshops.  And on Saturday, August 18, the young writers ranging from 6 to 18 years old read their pieces at the Fort Greene Literary Festival.

I wanted to share my experience from one of my perfect summer Saturdays.

At around 9:30am, I hop off the 4 train at Atlantic Avenue and weave past all the weekenders grabbing the Long Island Railroad to the shore. Summer has arrived and arms are packed with coolers and small beach chairs.

Outside, it’s a bit overcast this Saturday morning, but like the beachgoers, I have faith the rain will hold off.  I always walk down South Portland Avenue on my route to Fort Greene Park.  The block is lined with brownstones and I love the way the trees canapé over the street.  It’s like a warm embrace welcoming me into the park.

I make my way up “the hill.”  It’s a semi-steep path and a great scenic warm-up to get the creative juices flowing.  The tennis court is already jiving with the sounds of squeaky sneakers and the pop of the ball off of racquet strings.  The birds are singing their morning tunes.  And wagging tailed dogs are sitting faithfully next to their owners, who are sipping coffee while reading the morning paper.

My fellow workshop leaders and volunteers soon arrive with cheerful good mornings and smiles. They are excited to be here and begin sharing writing prompts and what worked well with the kids from last Saturday’s workshop. Together, we all pitch in and begin setting up shop – spreading out the notebooks, pens and blankets, and stashing the snacks under the magnificent cool shaded trees.

The kids and parents start arriving by foot, bicycles and scooters. Eight-year-old Oni arrives with her mom. She pulls up on her bicycle, takes off her helmet, sips some water, grabs her notebook and is ready to write.  We may have a future screenwriter here. Last week she turned our group’s observation of a fearless squirrel into a dialogue scene.

It’s one example of how the beauty, energy and critters of Fort Greene Park inspire creativity.  Gathering together under the trees, with a slight breeze in the air is such a pleasant writing environment.  This summer, a run in with a squirrel or a caterpillar often became an impromptu writing prompt that both the kids and the workshop leaders had fun with.

I worked with the 7 to 9 year olds group and I was so impressed by the creativity and talent of these youngsters. In the course of 15 to 20 minutes, nine-year-olds Veronica and Emanuel wrote poetry and haikus.  Rocky and Tristan had a flare for using imagination, adventure and science fiction in their storytelling.  Amanda and Chelsea shared a lot of pieces with honesty and charm of what it is like to be a young person today.  Keirnan, Pierce and Oni wrote and added pictures to the words of their stories.

And Tayon wrote this great piece about a character wishing for super speed. Ironically, the character’s wish gave him super slow speed and he was late coming home for dinner by two days.  It made me so happy when Tayon asked if he could take his notebook home to share his writing with his family.

Seven-year-old Lucia was the youngest member of our workshop and truly held her own.  We had a writing prompt on creating a brownie recipe. Before writing, the kids picked ingredients that included tree bark, mud, car tire rubber, bricks, flowers, acorns, cherry, chocolate, quicksand, cookies and cream, coconut, walnuts and mint leaves.

Lucia came up with a great story about how a girl didn’t know how to make brownies so she used all these ingredients and called the brownies “Mint Mud.”

Lucia was brave when it came to writing and always shared her writing with the group. I wish I still had some of that 7-year-old spirit.

For me, as I got older, I became more guarded about my writing.  I don’t always share what I write.  And sometimes, I don’t even write.  But this summer, on those Saturdays, I was inspired by these young writers.  I remembered what it was like to be eight years old and rediscovered imagination, the sense of adventure and that anything can be possible.  I wrote about taking a weekend trip to the moon, ten wishes, and about finding an invisibility cloak.  I wrote and I shared.

Twenty-six years ago, I turned eight.  It was a good year. It was the year my sister Laura was born.  It was the year I met my best friend Nicole, who this past June sang at my sister’s wedding. It was the year I joined the soccer team and got my bird Bambi for my birthday.

It was the year I first read Judy Blume, got a journal and discovered that I enjoyed writing.

Over the course of this summer, it was amazing to watch these kids create, read and share their writing.

 

 

Comments

  1. Also, you took great photos!

  2. Aaron Zimmerman says:

    Beautiful piece! You did an amazing job this summer!