Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Congratulations on an Award-Winning Year!


282848_10150855170961139_167431060_n 4Of the 25,000 submissions from across the country, 
our Writopia writer won the top scholarship! Congratulations...
  • Isabella Giovannini for winning the Scholastic Award's National Gold Medal Portfolio and $10,000 scholarship!
Congratulations to all of Writopia's 2013 National Medalists, grades 7-12:  Olivia Alcabes, Rachel Calnek-Sugin, Sarah Cooke, Gillian Page,  Lillie Lainoff,  Clara Olshansky, Eva Shapiro,  Katherine Snoddy, Altana Elings-Haynie, John Lhota, Alec Montgomery, Allegra Brogard, Emma Koosis, Alice Markham-Cantor, and Clea Woodbury.

"Amid Dropping Test Scores, Teen Writers' Creativity Soars":  a wonderful article about the awards on NPR by a Writopia dad and daughter team.

Read some of the winning stories in our literary magazine, 

And congratulations to the 146 Writopia writers who won recognition on the regional level, and to every single writer of all ages at Writopia who inspire and entertain us each day--we love you for it!
  • Alice Markham-Cantor, "Best of Borough"  in  Poetry.
  • May Treuhaft-Ali, Honorable Mention in Poetry. 
Our college essay students won admissions to top schools along with top scholarships!
Congratulations: May Treuhaft-Ali, Yale; Layla Treuhaft-AliWesleyan; Matthew Arbess, Brown;  Julie Byrnes, winner of a Questbridge 
college logos 1resize 3 scholarship and admittance to Vassar;  Katie Hartman, University of Pennsylvania; Nora Miller, Hampshire College; Isabella Giovannini, Yale; Sarah Cooke, Brown; Lillie Lainoff, Yale; Cecilia Laguarda, Princeton;Alice Markham-Cantor, Weslyan; Fard Shabazz, BMCC; Akiva Schick, Yeshiva University; Jessica Zeng, Bennington College, and to so many more of you!!


 Please welcome Writopia Chicago! Writopia workshops will appear for the first time in the midwest this August. We are thrilled that author Trish Cooke is spearheading this branch. 

Please welcome Writopia Long Island! Workshops began this past spring, run by comedy writer Whitney Meers. Donna Sheeler (yes; Danielle's mother) is the branch manager.

Please welcome Writopia Hudson Valley! Veteran Writopia instructor, Rachel Ephraim is spearheading this branch. Camps in this area begin this August! 


Writopia was featured in a segment for Voice of America! 
VoiceofAmerica 2


StephenDubnerWe did it! At our annual benefit in March, we raised $50,000 to expand our outreach and scholarship programs. 
Thank you to Stephen Dubner and Nicole Krauss, who read, spoke, and led our fundraising efforts. 


The Worldwide Plays Festival has grown! Over the 2012-2013 school-year, we produced over 80 plays in our series of staged readings, and in our Off-Broadway festival May 8th through May 12th
Congratulations to our accomplished playwrights! Several playwrights received media attention for their works:
Kyle AbrahamsThe New York Times
Zania CousinsThe Bronx Times 
Sienna MalmadJersey City Independent 


In 2012, Writopia began a new partnership with theNew York Public Library. We now run free workshops in public libraries throughout New York City. Enrichment doesn't end the last day of those workshops. Writopia's Driven to Write initiative ensures that we commit to chaparoning at least one writer from each NYPL workshop to Writopia's NYC locations on a regular basis. 
This summer, we will run a writing camp withHomes for the Homeless at the Saratoga Family Inn, conducting a full summer of workshops for children and teens who reside at this shelter.
In addition to our sliding-scale fees, 18% of writers who participated in Writopia workshops attended using full scholarships. 
Support from our wonderful community allows all of these programs to develop. If you would like to get involved, please contact us! 


2013AwardsAt Writopia's Annual Benefit, we honored several of our young writers for their incredible writing and for their work with the Writopia community.  

Isabella Giovannini and Alice Markham-Cantor (High School) -- The Susan Cain Award for Humility, Commitment, and Outstanding Work
Grant Gordon (Middle School)-- The Susan Cain Award for Humility, Commitment, and Outstanding Work
Annelie Hyatt (Elementary School)-- The Susan Cain Award for Humility, Commitment, and Outstanding Work
Katie Hartman and Rebecca Teich -- Outstanding Dedication to Craft, Service, and Excellence Award
Teddy Becker-Jacobs-- Community and Development Award
Rachel Calnek-Sugin, Akiva Schick, and Clea Woodbury-- Community and Mentorship Award
Margaret Heftler, Abigail Sylvor Greenberg, and Jaiden Robinson  -- Changing Worlds with Poetry Award
Matt Arbess -- Changing Worlds with Personal, Outstanding Work 
Ian Sherman and Ali Levinson-- Changing Worlds with Exemplary Dramatic Scripts.  


Alice Markham-Cantor
Alice Markham-Cantor, who has been writing at Writopia since 2008, was honored by Mayor Bloomberg at the inaugural NYC Literary Honors, along with Toni Morrison, John Ashbery, Calvin Trillin, Jon Scieszka, and Jules Feiffer

, for the excellence and breadth of her writing collection. Congratulations, Alice! 


The Larry Neal Writers' Competition commemorates the artistic legacy and vision of Larry Neal, the renowned author, academic, and former Executive Director of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH). Congratulations to our DC writers and instructors who were honored with these awards! 
Poetry Finalist: Sophia Diggs-Galligan
Fiction Finalists: Celia DohertyNaomi Steinglass
 Essay Finalist: Raya Kenney 
Fiction Finalists: Bridget DeaseLucy Rose Freshour 
Fiction Finalist: Kathy Crutcher (Writopia Lab DC director & instructor)
 Dramatic Writing Finalist: Norman Allen (Writopia instructor)
Congratulations to our teens on these accomplishments: 
  • Rebecca Teich recipient of the  Telluride Association Summer Program Scholarship (TASP)--a full scholarship to attend a 6 week seminar at the University of Michigan sponsored by the Telluride Association. Rebecca was also awarded the Knopf Poetry Prize (Honorable Mention City College of New York, Poetry Outreach Center), as part of their City-Wide Poetry Contest and Festival.     
  • Ian Sherman attended the New England's Young Writers Conference at Bread Loaf this past spring. Ian will also be published in Ginosko's 13th e-mag issue this year, and the Creative Communications Spring 2013 Anthology 2013, and was the Silver Award Winner of YVNV's 2013 "Write a Dream." As a result, his play "Finding My Voice" is being produced at the 201Alliance 3 Theatre Education Black Box at the Woodruff Arts Center in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. 
  • Congratulations to Riley Pearsall and Joe Polsky for their acceptance into the Iowa Young Writers' Studio! And to Ian Sherman and Rachel Calnek-Sugin who will be attending Kenyon's Young Writer's Studio Workshop this summer. 
  • Congratulations to Annelie Hyatt for writing an award winning essay on "What the American Flag means to me" for the Forest Hills Gardens Corporations.  


  • Jordana Frankel's debut novel, The Wardwas published in April. 
  • Stephanie Strohm's new novel Confederates Don't Wear Couture, will be released on June 4th
  • Jane Kelly will be the Thurber House Children's Writer in Residence of 2013. 
  • Dan Kitrosser's play The Mumblings will be part of the New York International Fringe Festival this summer. 
  • Playwright Stephen Cedars, Winner of Theater Masters Visionary Playwright Award and a finalist for Stella Adler Playwright-in-Residence Program.
  • Hannah Wolf, teaching assistant and the Associate Artistic Director of the Worldwide Plays Fetival, will be spending 2013-14 in Bucharest, Romania on a Fulbright Grant, awarded by the US State Department.  There she'll be directing new plays and collaborating with emerging Romanian playwrights to translate new American plays in Romanian, and will be creating new works with these emerging Romanian playwrights. 
  • Chris Tarry's short story collection How to Carry Bigfoot Home will be published by Red Hen Press in early 2015.
  • Cristin Terrill's debut young adult novel All Our Yesterdays, will be published by Disney-Hyperion on September 3rd. The book recentely received a starred review from Kirkus, and has been optioned for film by Gold Circle Films and Global Produce.
  • Kathleen McCleary’s third novel, Leaving Haven is due out Oct. 1, 2013 from HarperCollins. Her second novel, A Simple Thing (HarperCollins 2012) was recently nominated for the Library of Virginia Literary Awards in fiction.
  • Tony Mancus has two forthcoming chapbooks: Bye Sea (Tree Light Books) and Diplomancy (Horse Less Press), and his poems have appeared this year or are forthcoming in numerous literary magazine, including Radioactive Moat, Horse Less Review, Phantom Limb, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Thrush Poetry Journal, and others.
  • Jessica Spotswood went on a Penguin Books for Young Readers East Coast tour in February to celebrate the paperback release of Born Wicked: Book One in the Cahill Witch Chronicles. Book Two, Star Cursed, will be out in hardback on June 18.
  • Christie Hauser's debut novel, Maritime,will be published by William Morrow in 2014. 


525334_10150627624836139_1997150618_nOver the past year, Writopia Lab has joined in on the national debate on writing education and the new common core standards. Rebecca Wallace-Segall, Writopia Lab's Executive Director Founder, wrote op-eds for The Atlantic and for TakePart. She has also made the case for the value of creative writing instruction in schools in her TedxYouth talk, and in her TedxDESA talk. 


We have loved every moment of this past school year (check out the pictures!), and we are looking forward to a fantastic summer of writing workshops and camps. Join us! 
SummerCamp 3
 L1110262Thank you to all Writopians for inspiring us with your writing every day. And thank you parents, guardians, and community supporters for reading and celebrating our news with us, and for helping us blossom into the most socioeconomically diverse creative writing youth community in New York--and the most exciting writing program in the country! 

Read more!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Writopia's NYC Children's Poetry Festival at the 3rd Annual NYC Poetry Festival

By Lily Gellman

Writopia Lab authors/instructors and interns ferried out to Governor's Island to run the annual children's poetry event on both Saturday and Sunday, and it was an absolute blast! Young adult author Jordana Frankel spun poetry gardens and origami poetry tents and more; it was incredible to be so much a part of the creative magic there.

Sam, Writopia intern, sets up at one of our three poetry stations. 

The Children's Festival area was across from the White Horse and next to Spontaneous Generation House. In this area, Writopia hosted four main stations. We set up one called Blackout Poetry, one called Origami Prompt Poetry, Group Poetry, and an additional one called Five Senses Poetry. Young poets creating blackout poetry took pages recycled from existing literature, and carefully selected which words to omit -- to "black out" -- and which to keep and thus transform into an entirely new piece out of old words.

Meanwhile, upon finishing their poems, origami-minded poets would fold their works into paper tulips and plant them in the adjacent Poetry Garden.

                                                       Kids' Finished Origami Poetry Tulips

And just a few steps away at the third station, kids enjoyed such exercises meant to stimulate descriptions from all five of their senses such as picking a random object out of a box and describing it, without ever fully revealing what the object was. In additional prompts poems asked themselves what the color red might smell like, and tried waxing poetic from the perspective of a missing cat.

New poet works on a blackout poem.

One of the most wonderful parts of the station setup overseen by our staff and interns was that it allowed even young people who had never explored poetry before to create. One five-year-old girl who had not yet had the chance to develop her reading and writing skills to the point of independent composition dictated her poem to a Writopia intern. The girl's older sister later took the poem that the intern had written down, and performed it before an audience of the whole festival.

We also witnessed powerful work from our returning poets -- so much that it would be impossible to describe all of it. Both Annelie and Marin H. read wonderfully, Annelie reading her favorite, "Don't Read So Much." Jack R. performed a poem that Asya, one of our interns, described simply as "one of the most beautiful spoken word pieces I've ever heard from anyone ever." Rebecca read aloud from one of Maxanne's poems about love and pancakes. And Simone wrote about truth and how Writopia was one of the only spaces she felt taken seriously, saying, "Writopia made me like writing when school didn't." Kids wrote about relationships, and who we are as individuals to the rest of the world, and beautifully poignant subjects.

One writer reads aloud from her piece, glowing.

Writopia poets old and new also had fun writing and performing in a group poetry section. Poets would workshop their pieces together, and every 20 or 30 minutes new poets would get up on our own Writopia mini-stage to share. Nearby, we hosted a reading tent with blankets on the ground for kids who wanted to relax and listen for a while, read each other's art, picture books, and a smattering of more well-known works as well. The whole atmosphere was enriched by the ever-present backdrop of spoken word poetry, and the context of joining together with so many other schools and organizations in this shared love.

Rebecca shares poetry with two more young poets.

At the end of the day, Writopians took to the big stage to read at Algonquin Stage over on the other side of the fest. This meant reading and performing not just for the Writopia group, but for the festival-goers at large! From families to adult poets without kids in tow, the broader community of listeners there was super supportive and appreciative of our kids' work.

Afterwards, most of us left at the end of the day at 5pm, but some of us were so enchanted that we stayed until the gloaming hour.

Many poets working side by side on their creations

A huge thank-you to Jordana who coordinated the whole thing, hand-painted signs, billowing and fabric-festooned tents, overall Burning Man-esque decor, and all! And another enormous thank-you to Rebecca, Jeremy, Danielle, Taylor, Sam, Asya, Angelica, Rachel C-S, Rachel B. and the many staff and interns who made Writopia's presence at the event possible.

We will definitely be back next year! In the meantime, we have plenty of inspiration to tide us over. Time to finish up this post and write a poem with the prompt: first word "salty," last word "hopeful."

Read more!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Write & Perform Slam Poetry with
Reg E. Gaines

Three Saturdays in February
Two-time Tony Award nominee, Grammy nominee and Bessie Award winner, Reg E. Gaines, has invited Writopia poets to write and perform with him!

1) February 2, 2:00 PM-3:30 PM: Write and rehearse slam poetry with Writopia instructors. Ages 10-18. (Free.)

2) February 9, 2:00 PM-3:30 PM: Write and rehearse slam poetry with Reg E. Gaines. He will choose several Writopia poets to perform with him the following week at Art House Productions. Ages 10-18. (Free.)

3) February 16, 2 PM: Performance with Reg E. Gaines at Art House Productions, 1 McWilliams Pl., Jersey City, N.J. (We will arrange carpools and/or travel buddies.) (Performance poets, ages 10-18, go free; $10 per ticket for guests.)

Please RSVP to to enroll in one or both of the free Writopia workshops, and for the session with Reg Gaines.

And here is the rest of it. Read more!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Competition and Scholarships Prizes!

Worldwide Plays Festival Competition

Thank you Worldwide Pants and Playscripts, Inc., who are each offering a $2,500 scholarship to a winner of Writopia's 2013 Worldwide Plays Festival Competition!

Writers around the country (and Writopia resident playwrights) are invited to submit their plays! We welcome submissions in our elementary school, middle school, and high school categories. The first 250 submissions will receive a written critique by one of our playwriting judges. Two winners in each category will be produced at our theater festival in May!

  • Playscripts Award and Scholarship. High school seniors and juniors are also eligible for our Playscripts Award & Scholarship. The publishing house, Playscripts, has sponsored a $2500 scholarship to the winner (juniors and seniors only) of the 2013 Worldwide Plays Competition. The winning play will also be produced in our festival in May.
  • WPF Humor Award and Scholarship.
  • David Letterman's production house, Worldwide Pants, has sponsored a $2500 scholarship to the playwright who writes the funniest play of the 2013 Worldwide Plays Competition. Playwrights, 6-18, who live in the United States are eligible. The winning play will also be produced in New York City in May.

The Guidelines:
Playwrights must be in 1st-12th grade.
Maximum 12 pages (in standard format)
No more than two collaborators
1 to 12 characters
No fanfiction
Musicals are accepted!
Cover sheet with the following information is required: Title, full name of writer, birthdate, grade, address, two phone numbers

Submissions must be postmarked by Friday, January 25th, and mailed to:
Writopia Lab
155 West 81st Street, Suite A
New York, NY 10024
Read more!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Passionate, Unapologetic Plea for Creative Writing in Schools

A Passionate, Unapologetic Plea for Creative Writing in Schools
By Rebecca Wallace-Segall

"I'm not sure if eight-year-olds should be permitted to have death or murder references in their short stories," said a New York City public school principal to me at the end of the day today. "But I'll set a meeting with my teachers tomorrow to discuss your views and theirs and see where we get."

Three hours later, I am still moved and humbled by the principal's thoughtful consideration of a topic so new and strange to her. We had just started a residency in her school. We had discussed a no-censorship approach for this workshop and the children had immediately come to life when they were told they could write a fictional story about anything they wanted.
Education Debate bug
But by week two, some of the teachers were concerned to see the heavy material that emerged, here and there, throughout the grade, from the special ed class to the "gifted and talented." Human beings young and old love exploring dark, fantastical themes. But what are we supposed to think when our youngest members do it? When should our admiration turn to worry, and when does it become a school's responsibility?

It is not easy to teach creative writing within the confinement of school. It is not easy to tackle the issues that arise, and it's not easy to learn how to teach fiction and memoir writing well. But it is possible. And many teachers are doing it, and doing it well, across the country.

David Coleman, the cynical architect of the new curriculum that will be imposed on public schools in 46 states over the next two years, is trying to reverse an education trend "that favors self-expression and emotion over lucid communication." But skilled teachers of creative genres have always known that all good writing requires lucid communication. It is impossible to teach any form of writing without applying and celebrating analytic concepts and mechanical precision.

If young people are not learning to write while exploring personal narratives and short fiction, it is because we as educators need more training -- or the specifics of the curriculum need development. It is not because those forms of writing in themselves are of no use.

There's a reason fiction and narrative nonfictionoutsell all other genres in the U.S. It's the same reason there are 56 million WordPress blogs and 76 million Tumblrs. Human beings yearn to share, reflect, and understand one another, and they use these reflections to improve the state of things, both personal and public. If we want our students to have this kind of impact, we have to teach them to express themselves with both precision and passion.

My own non-profit partners with schools on serious fiction and memoir writing programs. We know it is possible to implement high-level creative writing instruction for young people because our students win more Scholastic Writing Awards each year than any other group of children and teens in the nation. Not all creative writing curricula are created equal, and we stay true to our vision as we help eight-year-olds learn to write compelling, coherent short stories with creative transitions, character wants, obstacles, climax, dialogue, and resolve.

In our work, we're reminded again and again that fiction writing is as important as any other genre for children and teens as they learn to write. It not only provides them with a safe space to make sense of the human dynamics around them, but it teaches them writing at the highest level, going beyond lucidity into the realm of literary tension, and then further into humor, narrative complexity, abstraction, and metaphor.

Our writers put arguments forth, embedded within well-organized, linear narratives in various voices. The themes of their fiction then inspire the deepest of dialogues in the classroom, spur debates about race and class assumptions and other social issues, and invite empathy. As we like to say at Writopia, plot builds character. This type of dynamic discourse helps our students grow as people and thinkers -- and of course, as writers.

And, on top of it all, it's engaging. When we work with students on creative pieces, they become riveted by their stories before the end of the first lesson. Children with class-based literacy issues love trying their hand at fiction; elite children of famous authors love it as well. Students across America should write fiction before anything else, and they should continue to work on it side-by-side with academic writing. They should be given creative assignments as a reward for writing a fabulous research paper.

What's more, a piece of fiction can be persuasive, and a memoir can be informative. Educators who are serious about this kind of writing make sure each piece is workshopped until it is compelling. And honest. And revealing of human nature. And sometimes funny, but always surprisingly complex to the outsider. As at New Dorp, the high school profiled in a recentAtlantic article, our students learn transition words, or "coordinating conjunctions," as they write. In some cases, they begin to grasp these concepts as young as eight years old.

Creative writing can be vulnerable work, so we usually dive into story first and analyze sentences and structure toward the end. But literacy issues necessarily come up along the way, and they are addressed. How can one write an impactful story without properly using "although," "but," and "unless," or without considering if/then, why, and how? How can anyone write an award-winning or even publishable story without establishing a strong sense of character or providing illustrative evidence?

Creative writing also provides something that no number of expository assignments can. The insights and challenges that arise when we face when teaching uncensored fiction are surpassed only when we teach uncensored memoir writing. When I first started teaching creative writing in schools, Rami, one of my light-hearted 7th grade boys, had been working on a memoir with me for a month and finally decided to share it with a small workshop of his peers. It was about not feeling masculine. We were all stunned. I caught sight of one girl holding his hand for support.

These moments of self-awareness are rare in a typical classroom, and all it takes is one adult to shatter them. When the principal of Rami's school became privy to the memoir, she simply scoffed, "Oh, Rami, trying to get attention again." Rami turned pale; he didn't write again for months. Thankfully, later that year, he won a regional Scholastic Award for his memoir.

When David Coleman remarked that "no one gives a shit" about how kids think and feel, perhaps he was only exaggerating to make his point -- which was that thoughts and feelings don't make an impact unless they're bolstered by skill and evidence. But there truly areeducators, like Rami's principal, who don't care about self-expression. Their detachment is not helping students become better writers. Instead, it is sending a message that nothing they have to say is worthwhile, especially if it is about something personal.

For now, children across the country continue to write personal narratives within schools. Some of them are engaged in it, some are bored by it, and some hate it. Some write well-crafted, reflective pieces, while others speak superficially about the minute details of their lives. Some struggle with basic literacy issues. Others struggle with psychological barriers that keep them from writing. Some teachers have made an art of teaching narratives. Others are frustrated because they've been stuck with a curriculum that they know is not best for their students.

Coleman and others may have this last kind of classroom in mind when they argue that writing memoir is a waste of young people's time. But while depriving young people of basic writing skills does them a disservice, silencing their personal voices may hold them back as well. How much harder will it be for a student who has only written academic prose to write a fluid, reflective, and engaging personal essay for college admittance?

And where will we be as a nation if we graduate a generation of young people who can write an academic paper on the Civil War but have no power to convey the human experience? If Frederick Douglass had stopped writing his narrative on slavery because he felt he could not be at once a lucid communicator and an expressive, emotional being, where would this world be? Read more!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Graphic Noveling at Writopia

Writopia's full-day summer camps gave our students the opportunity to work with professional graphic novelist and Writopia dad, Steve Ross, and with Mei Kazama, a Writopia grad and art major at La Guardia High School, who will be starting at Williams College in the fall.

Our writers were able to bring their stories to life, and show us their own creative visions. Just look at some of what they produced:

Read more!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer at Writopia

For the first time in its 5-year life, Writopia is offering full-day summer programs for writers and playwrights. Campers spend the morning in workshop, writing and refining their pieces. In the afternoon, writers and playwrights can choose from 13 different electives, including illustrating their stories with a professional graphic novelist, playing outdoor sports like kickball but with a Writopia-twist, and even song writing with our music staff. Full-day campers also get to go on a trip once a week--a publishing house for Fiction&Fun camps or an off-Broadway play for Playwriting&Performance camps.

Last week our Fiction&Fun teens visited Penguin Books Publishing House.

...And our young poets visited Poets House, one of the "most comprehensive, open-stacks collections of poetry in the United States."

Playwriting&Performance camps culminated in a performance at Stand Up New York, a comedy club in the neighborhood.

Between four full camp groups and our half-day intensives, Writopia had a record 84 students in attendance last week! Read more!