Good evening everyone. I am fresh, well a week fresh, back from my writing journey in Italy. The picture here is from when I was granted an opportunity to work the garden on my final evening in San Marco. I have never had better tomatoes AND I picked them! I also got to come back and start making homemade pizza for all the people I was staying with.

As you can tell, I was excited and feeling very blessed to have the opportunity to visit this beautiful country. However, what I was more excited about was to come back and work with some amazing teens.

It has been a very hot and SHORT week and a half with them. We have two teens who have returned from last year and are used to my craziness, three new teens, and finally, two beautiful young ladies that I have worked with before at NE High School in Philadelphia.

The ranges of writing experience are vast and to be honest, too academic. As a teacher, I find myself giggling at this, but it’s true. This translates into the teens wondering if their poetry is good, or if it makes sense, or should it rhyme. It also translates into absolutely no writing getting done.

So, I had to change up my approach with them in many ways. The first is, the art teacher asked if we could add words to their beautiful works of art about rebuilding. Done. The second was to get inside of what their art said and why they chose the theme, the colors, the textures, the shapes, the amount of “slides” used in their pieces, and of course, what does it say about them.

From here we passed their works around and each teen spent some time free-writing about what their peer’s work meant to them. They had to use dialogue, point-of-view, and prose to flesh out those works deeper. We also discussed the term rebuilding. The teens shared some similar ideas about rebuilding, such as happiness. A term that was brought up a lot. So, we then examined what it means to be happy and what if your happiness if different than someone else’s happiness. What does that mean? And of course, we wrote about it and then each day, everyone read aloud and shared what they wrote that day, even if it was “bad” or didn’t “rhyme”.

The next step was to have each teen tell the journey of their own piece in their own words. I had them write an obituary about their piece as a way to practice writing about death and then a life. Translation – if you read an obituary, you will find that a good one will have celebrated the person’s life. Just as in the theme rebuilding, we have the teens celebrating their pieces.

I can’t tell if they are excited, nervous, or just plain old tired from a long emotional week and for the performance tomorrow. We had a lot of them today asking if they had to read their piece and what it meant if they did or didn’t. I really didn’t give them a choice, they have to read. They have to read because the small things they say in both their art and their poems are worth hearing about.

Any person, any country, any family, any community, any religion experiences conflict and rebuilding… and so have these teens. I tell you all, you have to come out and experience what the very near future holds and be witness to the creative ways in which these awesome teens are opening our eyes to what they value.

Thanks for your time and see you all tomorrow!

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