Workshop Brings Middle School Writers Together
The eight students sharing a few tables in John Jay Middle School’s library classroom had just closed their laptops after a four-hour online workshop. Yet, they all looked energized and fresh. What was going on …?
The students had found their happy place—a conference for middle school students organized by Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES’ Curriculum Center called Writing with Grit: Young Authors Middle Level Colloquium.
It brought together middle school students who love to write from across the region, including Beacon, Croton, Hastings, Katonah-Lewisboro, Lakeland, Ossining and Pawling school districts. “All of the participants were recommended by their English language arts teacher,” said teacher Kathy O’Neil. “These are students with a gift for writing.”
O’Neil was in the library, too. She and District Staff Developer Catherine Graybosch had been teaching a workshop on writing graphic novels, one of seven on point programs taught by regional teachers that the students could choose from, after a kick-off keynote with Lindsay Currie, author of spooky middle grade novels including “What Lives in the Woods.”
Eighth grader Cara McPartland highlighted Crafting Fictional Characters with Character as one of her favorite workshops of the day. “I love coming up with characters,” she said, opening her sketchbook to her current drawing—a red-headed anime girl with wings and fish-net stockings. “That class was made for me.”
Her tablemate, seventh grade Ethan Mishler, was enthusiastic about The Four Plot Types and Fairytales. “I was pretty much in the dark about fairytales,” he said. “It was a fun group of people, too.”
Four John Jay students had signed up for the workshop Well, that Was Awkward! How to Talk (and Write) About the Hard, the Weird and the Uncomfortable Things in Life. “We talked about why it’s important for everyday life topics like queer identities, religion and climate change to be talked about in writing,’ said eighth-grader Sophia Cheng.
“They all said they want to do it again next year,” said O’Neil. That’s a rave review from middle school students.