When asked what has made the Kids Short Story Connection (KSSC) writing group a nearly 25 year-long success, Sarah Bracey White, Director of the Town of Greenburgh’s Arts and Culture Committee and KSSC’s founder, says it in a word: “Passion. If teachers really love what they teach,” says White, “then students will love it too.”
No better proof of this contagious enthusiasm are the more than 400 kids who through the year, have gotten out of bed twice a month on a Saturday morning just to be part of this nurturing community of young (and not-as-young) people who share a deep love of the art of writing. KSSC provides these participants with a safe place to share their feelings, thoughts and ideas, giving them more of an opportunity to be more creative than time and teachers allow them to be in school.
A published author herself, Sarah Bracey White originally created Kids Short Story Connection to provide the Westchester community with what she did not have as a young writer: to provide writers with “an outlet” by forming “a community of kids who get rewards” for what they find joy in doing. Originally, White envisioned only one class of writers. However, she found among the applicants a wide range of both abilities and emotional readiness for the rigors of the writing process. KSSC can now support three levels of classes: beginner (ages 9-11); intermediate (ages 12-14); and advanced (ages 15-17), in part due to the support of ArtsWestchester’s Arts Alive grants program.
It is this conscious balance kept between ability and maturity that White points to as another key to the program’s success. It allows small groups of writers to have the targeted attention they need to thrive. Each age level of the 14-session workshop follows the same format —participants write from prompts (which can include artwork and poetry), share and critique each other’s work and do writing and thinking exercises. There are also mini-lessons on basic writing principles and techniques. Contributing to the effectiveness of the program, its founder expects the adult teachers she selects to share her passion for the writer’s craft. KSSC’s teachers do more than just teach; they involve students in the entire creative process with which they are personally familiar. All come from having already been published and/or having worked in the publishing world. These master writers in turn encourage their young mentees to submit their work to suggested publications or websites whenever possible. Each year KSSC publishes an anthology of stories, Stories by Me, written by both students and teachers. Each program semester offers two public readings as well. The next reading will take place on June 2.
White is thrilled with the success of KSSC, but she never expected the enduring effect it would have on some participants long after they left the program. She says that many former participants, as well as their parents, have come to her, sometimes years later, to thank her for the valuable opportunity for them to grow creatively. Those who have moved onto writing careers have thanked KSSC for giving them the courage and tools to start. White also never anticipated that the appeal of KSSC would extend beyond Westchester. The program has attracted participants of different socioeconomic and cultural groups, and immigrants who see KSSC as a way of giving their children the edge they need to succeed.
Since Kids Short Story Connection’s inception in 1994, White’s mission has been to create a place that would foster the love of writing for enthusiastic young writers. “I love it,” says White. “I want young people to know that what they feel about writing is right—and to resist all that is around them that says it is not. You have a message to share that no one else has, and that is important!”
Kids Short Story Connection meets on alternate Saturdays. Participants can sign up for the full program or attend individual classes. Remaining spring classes take place on April 21, May 5, May 19 and June 2. Fall 2018 KSSC Dates: September 22, October 6, October 20, November 3, November 17 and December 1.
Linda S. Mancia is a retired teacher from the Pelham Public Schools, where she taught for 24 years. She previously held a career as a developmental editor and then a freelance writer in educational publishing. Now she devotes her time to contributing to the teaching-learning community, either as a mentor to graduate students at Manhattanville’s School of Education or as a volunteer to organizations that support the well-being of children through educational outreach initiatives.
Ambassador’s Corner: This blog post is written by one of ArtsWestchester’s Arts Ambassador volunteers. As part of the Arts Ambassador Program, volunteers observe, and participate in the support of, innovative programs, cultural activities and events. This actively assists ArtsWestchester in maintaining its mission to ensure the ever-growing cultural enrichment of Westchester County. For information, contact Judith at firstname.lastname@example.org.