Wednesday, July 16, 2014

 LogoPink (1)
Congratulations on an Award-Winning Year!

Scholastic Writing AwardsYoungArts ScholarPublications and AwardsCollege Essay SuccessesYoung PlaywrightsOur InstructorsFundraising • Worldwide Plays Festival Writopia AwardsNew Grants, Programs, and OutreachNew Initiatives• Summer Thank You! 


Nationals2014 Of the 25,000 submissions from across the country, our Writopia writers won top national medals for their senior portfolios. Congratulations...
  • For her portfolio, Clara Olshansky was the recepient of a Silver Medal with Distinction, and a $1,000 scholarship. 
  • Andres Vaamonde, Val Bodurtha, Michal Liebowitz, and Diana Mellow, all won Silver Medals for their portfolios.
  • Instructors: Rebecca Wallace-Segall, Yael Schick, and Lena Roy were recognized as outstanding instructors for their support of these portfolio medalists. 
Congratulations to all of Writopia's 2014 National Medalists, grades 7-12:  Kai Williams, Ali Levinson, Lily Goldberg, Laura Glesby, Lily Davis, Cali Greenbaum, Julia Smith, Callie Zola, Elizabeth Engel, Emily Birnbaum, and Alex Mountfield. (Nationally Recognized Writopia Instructors: Courtney Sheinmel, Amy Dupcak, Genna Kohlhardt, Alex Henderson, Rachel Snyder, Yael Schick, Rebecca Wallace-Segall.) And congratulations to the 215 Writopia writers who won recognition on the regional level, and to all the writers at Writopia who inspire and entertain us each day--we love you for it!
CollegeEssayLetter2 2In a recent survey of our alumni (to be published soon), 100% of our college essay students said that writing college essays at Writopia was "an authentic investigation into self-expression" and that the experience made me feel better about the college application process. And in 2014, our college essay students won admissions to top schools along with top scholarships again!
Congratulations to our college essay writers: Teddy Becker-Jacob and Tori Testa, Stanford; Rebecca Teich, Columbia; Lily Calcagnini, Harvard; Diana Mellow, winner of the Thomas Wolfe Scholarship at UNC Chapel Hill; Clara Olshansky, Yale; Ian Sherman, Northwestern; Olivia Stein, NYU, Tisch School of Dramatic Writing; Sasha Bronfman, Duke; and Jenan Jacobson, Carleton. Also, a special shoutout to additional graduating seniors: Andres Vaamonde, Cornell; Lennarsha Prescod, Hunter College; Michal Liebowitz, Stanford; Sarah Fisher, Georgetown and to so many more of you!
  • Rebecca Teich, Honorable Mention, Memoir
  • Diana Mellow, Artist Recongnition, Fiction and Drama
  • Sabrina Castillo, Honorable Mention, Fiction and Drama 


Congratulations to the Writopian winners of the 2014 Write a Play! Competition: 
  • Sierra BlancoThe Drill, Elementary School Winner
  • Leo LionThe Internet Island Project, Middle School Finalist
  • Hannah RealeFight Dragons with Hot Chocolate, High School Winner
  • Charlotte RaunerBasketball, High School Finalist


Thank you, David Letterman and Worldwide Pants, Inc.! Thanks to our funders, over the 2013-2014 school year, more than 80 Writopia playwrights were produced as part of our festival, inluding 48 Off-Broadway productions. Watch out, this video will make you cry. It was an amazing year. (See our list of competition winners.)


Thank you to our 2014 Benefit Committee and to you, our incredible community for an impactful year of fundraising: 
  • Thank you to Adam Gopnik, A.J. Jacobs, Gretchen Rubin, Ophira Eisenberg, Jonathan Gottschall, and Taylor Mali who each spoke or performed at a Writopia fundraiser throughout the year helping us raise over $65,000 toward our outreach and scholarship programs! Thank you Candice Braun, Kim Hartman, and  Lanie McNulty for hosting a series of intimate fundraisers at their homes!
  • Thank you, Heather Demetrios, Brooklyn-based author, who spearheaded a campaign that raised the funds to support scholarships for six teen writers from the Cristo Rey Brooklyn School. Thank you to all who donated!
  • MayaV's Letter
    Thank you to the hundreds of families who joined us in our fundraising efforts. Many of our young writers contributed as well... thank you Maya Vydareny!
  • Thank you, Joel and Lauren Rutkowski, the directors and owners of Indian Head Camp, who have generously sponsored ten of our young writers for a full sleepaway camp experience. We are thrilled to be bringing Writopia's 2014 Sleepaway Camp to their beautiful site in Honesdale Pennsylvania. We are looking forward to this exciting new partnership! 


At Writopia's Annual Benefit, we honored Julie-Jamora-Photography_049_Writopia_HR_136_DSC_1207 2several of our young writers for their incredible writing and for their work with the Writopia community.  
Susan Cain Award for Humility, Commitment, and Outstanding Work
Teddy Becker-Jacob
Ian Sherman
Rebecca Teich
Community and Mentorship Award
Charlotte Rauner
Jane Herz
Fard Shabazz
Changing Our World with Personal, Powerful Work Award
Annelie Hyatt
Simone Rubin-Underdown
Changing Our World with Exemplary Dramatic Scripts Award
Sarah Fisher
Amelia Sylvor Greenberg
Changing Our World with Poetry Award
Rachel Calnek-Sugin
Eleanor Mammen
Jack Braun
The Social Impact through Fiction Award
Waseem Khundkar
The Writopia Citizenship Award
Clea Woodbury
The Award for Outstanding Poetry
Clara Olshansky
The Emerging Playwright Award
Jaela Ali

Congratulations to Writopia Los Angeles' Isabel DeBre, the first Writopian ever to be named a YoungArts Scholar! In January, Isabel joined 170 of the nation's top young literary, performing, visual, and design artists for a week of showcases and readings in Miami. 
Congratulations to our writers on these accomplishments! Thank youm Abby Coleman, Writopia's Submissions Coordinator, for reasearching opportunities for young writers and guiding our young writers through the submissions process. 
  • Kai Williams' (age 16) short story, "Nat and Sophia," will be featured in the Scholastic Awards' 2014 Best Teen Writing anthology. 
  • Annalee Tai's (age 16) poem, "Detox," was selected for publication in The Apprentice Writer and it is due out in August 2014.
  • Rachel Calnek-Sugin (age 17) won the second place Knopf Poetry Prize at the CCNY Poetry Festival for her poem "My Mother Makes an Apple Cake.
  • Raya Kenney (age 12) was a finalist in the 31st Larry Neal Writers Award Competition for her piece Missing Smile.
  • Mrinalini Wadhwa (age 12) was a winner of the Creative Communication Poetry Contest for her poem "Time."
  • Michal Liebowitz (age 17) won the grand prize in the Fresh Ink for Teens Writing Contest for her piece This Strange in Between: We are not broken, we are something new and different and beautifulMichal Liebowitz was also the winner of the Columbia College Chicago Young Authors Competition. 
  • Juliana Yu (age 11) was the elementary school winner in NASA’s Spring 2014 Cassini Scientist for a Day Essay Contest. Juliana Yu was also the 5th and 6th Grade Prose Winner in the New York Society Young Writers Award for her story Salmini's Story
  • Sophie Nadel (age 13) was the winner of the 34th Annual Friends of the Chappaqua Library Young Writers Contest for her story Mittens
  • Christina Poulin was a winner of The Washington Posts' Kid's Post Competition for her poem "Internal Zoo."
  • Jessica Rosenblatt's (age 12) piece, "The Search for Excitement," was published in Creative Kids Magazine
  • Clea Woodbury (age 17) won Honorable Mention in the Leonard Milberg '53 Secondary School Poetry Contest for her poem "Confirmation."
  • Lea Pichardo (age 11) was the recipient of the 2013 Outstanding Student Author Award (Celebrate New Jersey) for her piece, "Mighty Mike is Back!" Also, Lea Pichardo's story, "The Hero," was published in The Oakland Journal
  • Natalie Panitkin's (age 9) story Storm of the Seas was published on
  • Charlotte Rauner (age 17) was the National Winner/Best of Issue Nominee for the American High School Poets “Just Poetry” at The National Poetry Quarterly.
  • Yuna Shprecher (age 11) won the Award of Excellence for her story The Voice of North in the National PTA Reflections Art Program.
  • Matthew Li (age 8) won 1st Place in the WETA KIDS Writers Contest.


We are delighted to announce that the Pinkerton Foundation has granted Writopia Lab $100,000 for our new program called "Write to Recognition." 
Write to Recognition will allow for our PoetryFestivalscholarship writers from low literacy backgrounds in need of extra writing support to benefit from extra private sessions throughout the year. At the end of each semester, Abby Coleman will help each and every one of these writers to submit to publications and competitons. All Writopia writers have the Write to Recognition!
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! 


  • Sarah Bernstein has an upcoming production of The Narrow Gate, at the Source Festival in DC this month.
  • Abby Coleman, Molly Haas-Hooven, Alex Henderson, Khadijah Johnson, and Dan Kitrosser all completed their MFAs this semester! 
  • Jessica Dall's new novel The Copper Witch was released in March.
  • Michelle Meyers' play, The Last Temptation of Paula Deen, will be featured in the Hollywood Fringe Festival this June.
  • Kara Ayn Napolitano's play, Leah in Vegas, will be featured in the 2014 NYC Fringe Festival. 
  • Kira Piekoff's second novel No Time to Die will be relased on September 2nd.
  • Adrienne Scherger's short story is going to be featured in the Fall '14 issue of Brain, Child magazine.
  • Michelle Schusterman's new novel Sleepovers, Solos, and Sheetmusic was released on May 15. 
  • Courtney Sheinmel's new book, Stella Batts, Something Bluewas released in April. The next book in the series None of Your Beeswax will be released next April. 
  • Taylor Sykes was a Finalist for the Brooklyn Film and Arts Non-Fiction Contest.
  • Brigit Young has an upcoming piece in The Uncommon
  • New Program: Writopia's essay writing program, developed by Danielle Sheeler, has flourished into a robust, impactful program. In a recent survey (to be published shortly), parents of Writopia's essay writers overwhelmingly reported that the program positively impacted their children's academic success.
  • New Program: Writopia's Language Play program, developed by Writopia's core staff, has taken off! Our very own Yael Schick and Eunju Namkung ran Montclare's Children's School first filmmaking class five year olds. Writopia instructors lead over a dozen workshops for children ages 2-5 throughout the year across the country.
  • New Management Initiative: This May, Rebecca Wallace-Segall attended Harvard Business School's week-long seminar for Nonprofit Executives called "Performance Measurement of Nonprofit Organizations." Writopia has begun the process of measuring the impact of our programs on our youths and on our schools. We will begin publishing our findings soon. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or suggestions.   


We have loved every moment of this past school year (check out the pictures!), and we are looking forward to a fantstic summer of teen writing workshops and workshops for kids, full day camps for all ages, and sleepaway camp for all ages. Join us! 

SummerCamp 3


Thank 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 prolific and socioeconomically diverse creative writing youth community in our citiesand the most exciting writing program in the country! 
Read more!

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!