A message for the next generation of writers.
Last weekend, Jennifer Schramm and I hosted five writers at a magical Writing With Horses retreat. In the mornings, I taught, while Jenn meditated and prepared for the day. In the afternoons, the writers worked with Jenn and the horses while I rested and reflected.
Everyone experienced a breakthrough. It was incredible.
When the weekend was over, I checked my phone for the first time.
So much had happened. I felt sick as I scrolled through the news.
Today, I’m thinking about all the difficult conversations that took place this week at breakfast tables and in classrooms around the world.
How are our children processing what they see on TV or read online?
How are young people learning to make their voices heard?
Seeking clarity, I turned to Mary Oliver’s essay on reading, “Staying Alive.” She writes:
“Adults can change their circumstances; children cannot. Children are powerless, and in difficult situations they are the victims of every sorrow and mischance and rage around them, for children feel all of these things but without any of the ability that adults have to change them. Whatever can take a child beyond such circumstances, therefore, is an alleviation and a blessing.
I read my books with diligence, and mounting skill, and gathering certainty. I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life. I wrote that way too…I saw the difference between doing nothing, or doing a little, and the redemptive act of true effort.”
Turning to art to find solace and to express our beliefs is not limited by our age. Young people can, and should, join the movement of writers taking this time to connect to humanity.
This March, we’re offering a Young Writers March Break Camp for writers ages 15-18. If you have a young writer in your life, please send them a link to this letter.
If you are a teacher or work somewhere where there are a lot of young people or parents of young people, please consider printing out this flyer and posting it up:
If you are connected to young people or their parents on social media, please consider sharing this page.
We will be teaching these young writers the skills they need to go deep with their writing. We will be giving them an outlet. We will be nurturing art that can — and will — make an impact on the world.
Because as Mary Oliver says, “the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion, that standing within this otherness — the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books — can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.”
[Editor’s note: this post contains information, dates, and links which are no longer relevant. For current offerings, see here.]