Thursday, August 28, 2008

Our First Fall Reading!

Come hear our writers read the original works they developed during summer workshops at a reading series that will take place throughout the fall at bookstores across Manhattan!

The first one is around the corner at Housing Works Bookstore located at 126 Crosby Street. Please arrive at 6:30pm for quiche, knishes, and soup! (All profits from food and book sales help Housing Works, Inc. provide housing, health care, social, legal, and other supportive services to homeless people fighting AIDS.)

The reading will run from 7:00pm-8:15pm.

See you all there!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Jamie Maffeo: Here's a Little R-E-S-P-E-C-T

This week, award-winning Writopia writer, Jamie Maffeo, 15, shared her thoughts on Hilary Clinton's role in the upcoming Democratic National Convention on the popular blog, Girl w/Pen. Jamie developed this piece in a Writopia workshop with author and popular blogger Deborah Siegel. Deborah was so impressed by her workshop participants that she invited them to post their pieces on her blog. Congrats to you all! (Jamie's piece below)

Hail to the Runner-Up!

By Jamie Maffeo

In a recent writing workshop when Debbie asked me to write down three things, no matter how minor or grand, that I would like to change, only one thing came to mind. With each tap of my pencil I came to the realization that it was the only significant matter I wanted to write down. Quickly I wrote, “I would like to change the fact that Barack Obama became the presumptive democratic nominee-I wish Hillary Clinton had won instead.”

Over the past months I have become enraptured with Hillary Clinton’s intelligence, experience, and ability to continue fighting even with the bellicose nature of the press coverage. Not only was the press treating Barack Obama with obvious delicacy but they were also treating Hillary Clinton appallingly. For example, whereas Hillary Clinton was harshly criticized for showing emotion at a press conference, Barack Obama came out smelling like a rose after using the same words that Massachusetts Governor Patrick Deval used in one of his speeches as if they were his own. Regardless of what I saw as the clear press bias towards Obama, I was not and am not captivated by his empty speeches no matter how grandiloquent.

Many of my friends, however, were. After watching late night primaries, caucuses and debates I began to voice my opinion in school. I had never been as interested in politics and former elections as I was now: getting into arguments with close friends and shouting out in history class. I was tired of hearing the same mantras:

“But Obama wants change.”
“I’m sick of the Clintons.”
“Hillary has no personality.”

I would return their attacks with equal aggression saying, “Yes I get that Obama wants change but how is he going to make change? All of his speeches were bombastic and eloquent but they had no substance to them!” I would continue, wistfully, “She is just so intelligent. She has so much more experience then Obama. I just wish Obama had waited until 2012 or 2016 to run.”

I would emphasize the issues. I agreed with her universal health care plan. Hillary wanted to stop health care providers from turning away clients due to pre-existing conditions. She wanted mental illness to be covered. I also liked her plan to solve health care problems by starting now as a senator and not waiting until 2009. Hillary had great ideas about fighting global warming by using cars that run on fuel cells, bio fuels, and electricity. She wanted cars to get more mileage to the gallon then ever before so that the cost of driving will diminish. To conserve energy Hillary wanted buildings to be constructed that are more energy efficient. How can you argue with that?

Hillary talks facts and her solutions are realistic. She has had the motivation and dedication and after Obama became the presumptive democratic nominee I felt somewhat cheated as her supporter, wishing the press had been more just. With Hillary no longer in the race, my interest waned and I began to only casually glimpse at newspaper articles here and there. Slowly my day-to-day Obama versus Hillary arguments died down as the race turned to Obama versus McCain.

Now, days away from the August 26th National Democratic Convention, I’m getting excited again, because Hillary Clinton will speak at the convention.

I look forward to a count at the convention and am thrilled that Hillary Clinton’s name will be put on the ballot. A delegate count will give Hillary’s delegates the opportunity to cast their vote for this outstanding woman and will give me, a young Hillary supporter who cannot yet vote, the chance to honor my presumptive candidate with some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
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Friday, August 15, 2008

Jessica Zalph Posted on Girl w/Pen!

Writopia writer, Jessica Zalph (left), 14, developed a provoking blog post on vegetarianism (with a "dish of feminism") during her summer workshop with Writopia teacher, author, and popular blogger, Deborah Siegel (below, left). Jessica's piece is the first this summer to be posted on Deborah's blog. Check it out on Girl W/Pen and below!

October is Vegetarian Awareness Month. If only people knew about it.
By Jessical Zalph, 14

“Among men [vegetarianism is] regarded as, if not a girl thing, then at least a girlie thing — an anemic regimen for sensitive souls subsisting on rabbit food and tofurkey,” says Holly Brubach in her recent New York Times article “Real Men Eat Meat.” If the male gender sees vegetarianism as a “girl thing,” then that’s got to be our hardest obstacle to overcome. Whenever compassion and eating “rabbit food” became a girl thing, it became taboo for boys, because sexism is rooted so deeply in our society that girls are seen as weaker overall. But maybe making a harder decision wouldn’t be weak at all. Maybe it’d be more macho, if that’s what you’re after, to overcome the stereotypes. Overcoming the expectations society has of you could be “manly,” no?

I’ve been a vegetarian for the fourteen years of my existence – my parents stopped eating meat four years before I was born. They were told by a number of smug acquaintances that, just wait, I would become all “teenager-y” and start eating meat once I became obsessed with fitting in and defying my parents out of spite. We’re still waiting.

Probably the reason I’ve stuck with vegetarianism and animal rights is because it’s not just an arbitrary ritual I inherited, but is based on the unfortunate reality that the thing on the plate is the same as the cute little thing on the farm. I know I must have adopted this concept at an early age, because I recall feeling appalled fury at a boy in my preschool class who took the unsuspecting snails out of their tank and stepped on them.

Most of the attitudes I’ve encountered haven’t seemed to change much over time.

“Vegetarians are stupid” is the bluntest of the accusations I’ve received – this one coming just recently in our eighth grade hallway from a guy flaunting an anti-Wendy’s flyer, sparking the debate that flares up every now and again at school. It’s only in hindsight that I realize that these heated I-wish-they-were-discussions-not-shouting-matches are generally divided by gender. Girls my age tend to be considerably more tolerant, even if they don’t adopt the practice of not eating meat themselves, because boys, in general, have macho stereotypes driven into their heads from babyhood.

The anti-Wendy’s flyer is waved tauntingly. “Meat is good,” comes the challenge, which lingers in the air. Whatever futile hope has caused me to take this bait all these years rises in me again. And so it begins. Detailed description – the cruelty the animals face, the fact that they can feel emotions and pain, even if they don’t have your intellect, thank-you-very-much. Wild rebuttal – ending with “Vegetarians are stupid,” and exasperated disappointment from me. It’s not worth it.

And yet, in a grasping-at-straws way, it is. It’s a success any time that you can make someone confront the cruelty involved in butchering animals, because getting people to face the truth is the hardest thing you can make someone do, and possibly the first step toward creating a change.

I’m not sure when vegetarianism became seen as a sign of weakness. Maybe it always has been. “It’s human nature to eat meat. The food chain and all that,” says my friend. And maybe it is human nature to eat meat, but it’s also human nature to use violence to get and keep political power, and yet many countries have incorporated democracy to overcome this problem. If we can overcome our natural tendency to physically fight for power, surely this October we can overcome the meat-eating part of our omnivore selves as well.

Chew on that.
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Friday, August 8, 2008

Congratulations Nicole Maffeo, Rebecca Teich, and Leslie Wong!

Writopia writers Nicole Maffeo, 16, and Leslie Wong, 13, were published this month in Teen Ink! Nicole's poems, "Adam and Eve; Ten Years Later" and "The Hourglass" are in print; her short story, "Field of Fallen Dreams," appears on the website. Four of Leslie's non fiction and fiction pieces appear in Teen Ink as well here: 1 , 2, 3, 4.

Rebecca Teich, 12, will be published in the magazine, "Creative Kids" in the coming months. Look out for her poem: "The Path of My Mind"!

Please help these accomplished, precocious writers celebrate by reading their poems and pieces!

(Leslie Wong, Left)

(Rebecca Teich reading her poetry at Bryant Park, Left) Read more!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

NY's Award-Winning Young Poets and Rising Stars Read at Bryant Park!

Posted by Rebecca Wallace-Segall

On a warm Tuesday evening in July, Writopia had the pleasure of hosting a poetry reading celebrating the works of New York City's award-winning teen poets and rising stars with an audience of over 75 family members, friends, fans, and passersby.

The best moment of the event probably occurred at the very end of our Question & Answer session when a five-year-old girl asked the panel of young poets how old they were when they began writing. "Your age," responded Stephen Piccarella, 17, a 2008 National Gold Key Recipient of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. The little girl beamed as eight others took the mic to share funny and encouraging words.

More photos below of award-winning writers and rising stars: Julia Dratel, 17, Emma Fiske-Dobell, 16, Mary Gilbert, 16, En-Szu Hu-Van Wright, 17, Isabel Marcus, 14, Maxine McGredy, 13, Pearl Mutnick, 14, Stephen Piccarella, 17, Genevieve Sambrook, 11, Rebecca Teich, 12, Jessica Zalph, 14. (These writers read their own award-winning or new poetry along with the works of the following award-winning and, in some cases, published young poets: Noa Bendit-Shtull, 16, Louis Evans, 17, Nadya Kronis, 13, Jamie Maffeo, 14, and Nicole Maffeo, 16.

Thank you to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for helping us gather such a spectacular group of young writers, and for the invaluable work they do in inspiring and celebrating the emergence of new creative works across the country.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Writopia on CBS!

Posted by Rebecca Wallace-Segall

Earlier this summer, CBS invited Writopia kids to the live taping of the Saturday Early Show. They had initially told us that they were just looking to fill their audience with kids from NYC's arts programs. But once they saw our bright and beautiful young writers they decided to interview them about their creative endeavors on national television! Above, Julia Prestfelder is being pre-interviewed for her first interview on the big screen. More photos below.

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Writopia's Family Memoir Workshop Series at Bryant Park

Posted by Rebecca Wallace-Segall

Writopia held its annual family workshop at Bryant Park over three Saturdays in July. At these hour and half workshops, a small group of kids and teens discussed quietly with their parents (or sometimes with an aunt or uncle) a shared experience they each wished to write about.

Some families chose to write about an earthquake they survived together, others wrote about a young family member's ordeal with a broken bone, others wrote about a family member's dreamy 8th birthday party. Each family wrote about the same event from their own point of view. At the end, as each participant read their memoir aloud, the group was brought to laughter over and over again, and sometimes to tears. It is an event we look forward to year after year!

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