Ah, Valentine’s Day. Is there any day more polarizing for high-school-age writers? Every year around this time we see our youth fall to one side of the love/hate fence with the holiday. Many of our kids love this time of year: after all, it’s a time for us to specifically tell the people we care about how much we care. Others, however, take a different perspective and aim to drag the holiday through the mud. “Sometimes,” to quote one Podium writer named Aaron in his talking about today, “we even try to make new mud with tears and just a little bit of blood.” How vivid.
It’s gotten to be a trend to host a workshop on these complex feelings around this time. Some years we’ve had youth write a love poem without cliches like hearts and colors; others we’ve had them write stories about the types of love we don’t think about every day, such as that between families or pets. This year, we’re talking about first and last loves in our programs. Yesterday was our first day running the program at Thomas Jefferson High School, and, boy, did we get some diverse pieces. The overall goal of the workshop is to balance your unique voice and your relationship to the person, place, or thing you love, and the conventions of writing in formatting and structure. In order to do so, youth were given free-reign to organize their pieces in whatever way possible, including totally abandoning those conventions, in order to convey their special messages to either their first or last loves.
If I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I am so consistently impressed by the creativity of Podium youth. From writing in a circle to represent love’s eternal power to writing in the shape of elementary school notes on scrap paper, to a creating game that offers the player different questions based on their responses about love, our kids excelled in representing their unique relationships. Ultimately they did recognize that certain conventions are necessary for conveying ideas; sometimes, however, in order to speak most clearly to one’s audience, you have to think outside the box. As a writer, a conductor of thoughts, you have the power to utilize visuals, utilize sounds and movements, utilize all five sense (and sometimes even a few extra) in order to convey meaning exactly how your audience needs to understand it. Be the hero of words they deserve.