Summit County Library’s Teen writing Club based on ‘authentic expression’
Any writer ages 12-18 can join
Rachel Spohn knows how important self-expression is for teens.
As Summit County Library’s teen services and social media librarian, she sees it in how they dress and what they listen to — but Spohn also senses some uncertainty in teens when it comes to writing.
With those things in mind, Spohn has created the Summit County Library Teen Writing Club that is open to people aged 12 to 18.
The club, which will start in January and operate on the belief that everyone can write, is designed to be a safe place where teens can express themselves and share ideas, Spohn said.
“It’s open to any type of writer, whether they already have a novel in progress or are thinking about writing down some funny family stories,” she said. “Writing can be the gateway to bigger ideas about yourself and the world, and I want to empower teens in Summit County to tell their stories. This is a good place to start, because they can write what they know.”
Each Thursday Spohn will post writing prompts and advice on the library’s Facebook page, facebook.com/SummitCountyLibrary.
These prompts are structured around different ideas and topics that aim to get teens thinking outside the box, she said.
“One idea that I want them to explore is what if the presidential age requirement is lowered from 35 to 16,” Spohn said. “Would they run for president? If so, how would they run?”
Another topic may ask the teens to design their ideal society.
“I want the prompts to engage those who think visually, especially those who like graphic novels,” she said.
The prompts will remain on the Facebook page indefinitely so teens will be able to participate when they can. For now, that’s where the process will end.
“We haven’t set up a meeting time, yet,” she said. “I’m weary of doing one through Zoom, because I feel the teens have been doing a lot of Zoom for school. And since it can be scary for some teens to share their writing in general, I feel it’s even more difficult to build trust virtually.”
Still, Spohn plans for the club to meet in person when it’s safe to do so.
“I feel the collaborative nature of a writing club works best if everyone is together,” she said. “Teens thrive when they are together. They feed off of each other, and the best ideas are generated in person.”
Spohn, who has a master’s degree in creative writing, conceived the Teen Writing Club this past February.
“The first meeting was supposed to be in March, but due to COVID-19 that didn’t happen,” she said with a laugh. “Since then, I’ve had a few patrons ask me about starting up a new writing club, and since we’ve had a few virtual programs under our belt, I felt it would be something we could introduce in our winter programming that we have starting in January.”
The club was inspired in part by author Jason Reynolds, the current national ambassador for young people’s literature, who encourages “authentic expression” rather than relying on correct grammar and spelling, Spohn said.
“It can be daunting if you are thrown a set of rules on how to express yourself,” she said. “I want the teens to write as who they are, and we’ll go from there.”
Spohn also wants the club to grow organically like the library’s other teen-oriented programs.
“The Summit County Library has a long history of developing programs for teens to show their work,” she said. “We’ve done open-mic nights and started a literary magazine, and I want the club to continue that trend. I want to be guided by what the teens in the community need. This is their program. I’m just here to make sure they get what they need.”
Spohn’s interest in writing reaches back to her teens.
“I was lucky to have an amazing poetry and creative writing teacher in high school, who told me my words mattered,” she said. “He also emphasized writing what I knew, and told us not to worry about rules. He called it ‘getting your poetic license,’ and that was an inspiring place to start.”
When: 10:30 a.m. Thursdays, starting in January
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