The Western New York Young Writers’ Studio is a program for students in elementary through high school to come together in a group setting and share ideas with those who share a mutual interest – writing.
The Writers’ Studio, which currently has 40 students enrolled, meets for a week in the summer and once each month following the summer session. The group meets at Union East Elementary School in Cheektowaga.
“At Studio, teachers and young people come together to discover what good writing is, how to create it and how to inspire others to do the same,” said the Writers’ Studio founder Angela Stockman. “What makes us a little different is that we aren’t a camp, a workshop or an institute.”
The group has two separate sessions, one for elementary writers and one for middle school and high school writers, and writers of all ability levels and teachers of all experience levels are invited to join.
“We can all express ourselves and embrace each other’s personalities,” said Miranda Lefebvre, an eighth-grader at Sweet Home Middle School. “We don’t just talk as writers but we [also] talk as friends.”
One activity the students participate in is Peer Review, when writers share their writing pieces, receive feedback on what they have been working on and critique others’ writings as well.
Anna Kane, a freshman at Wilson High School, says, “It focuses on the positive and negative things that you have done, and prohibits using things such as ‘I like’ or ‘I didn’t like it.’ It focuses more on ‘I wonder if you could.’ ”
Anna has been a member of the Writers’ Studio for three years. She says her favorite part is hanging out with friends and getting ideas and inspiration for her work.
Many of the members agree that the Writers’ Studio is much different than school.
“In school, there are maybe two classes we enjoy,” said Melanie Izard, sophomore at Sweet Home High School. “Here, it’s our favorite class for the whole time.”
The Writers’ Studio is less structured than school and more relaxed.
“In Studio, it’s how you can do better and not what you did wrong,” said Stockman’s daughter Laura, a sophomore at Kenmore West High School. “Instead of a teacher teaching you, everyone is teaching each other.”
Members provide each other with advice on things that they are striving to accomplish in their writing and improve on other things that they may be struggling with.
Middle and high school writers who are interested in teaching can become involved in the mentorship program. Mentors participate in the elementary writing session as well as their own.
“Young people who want to become teachers need places where they can learn about and test good teaching practices before they commit to this career path,” Angela Stockman said. “It helps them determine whether or not they truly want to do this sort of work long-term, and it also prepares them to begin doing it well even before they go to college.”
Tish Albro, a senior at Lockport High School, said she decided to become a mentor partly to give back to the studio since the studio had given so much to her.
And, “it’s what confirmed my wanting to be a teacher,” Tish said.
Mentors are paired with younger students and they assist them in brainstorming story ideas and encouraging them in the writing process.
Alyssa Kramer, a sophomore at Starpoint High school, said: “I am learning how to branch off of what little kids think and help them grow into more sophisticated writers.”
Since elementary-level students have different personalities and writing abilities, mentoring helps the older students learn how to teach children who learn at different levels.
Faith Westgate is enjoying her first year as a mentor. The sixth-grader at Newfane Middle School says her favorite part of being a mentor at the studio is teaching kids as well as learning from other mentors.
“I’m learning how to handle kids, interact with others better and more writing strategies from the other mentors,” Faith said.
Elyse Cinquino is a freshman at Kenmore East High School.