Tonawanda News

August 5, 2013

KENMORE: WNY Young Writers' Studio teaches love for language.

By Ed Adamczyk lifestyle@gnnewspaper.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Writing, that most solitary of arts, ironically seeks community, and writers rely on writer’s groups for advice and response.

The WNY Young Writers’ Studio, recently moved to Kenmore, offers precisely what its name implies: a place for writers in grades 5-12, and their teachers, to convene and learn in a welcoming and comfortable environment, a Delaware Avenue storefront.

The former cellphone store has been converted to a kid-friendly oasis with inspirational quotes on the wall and plenty of space to hone the writing skills. It offers year-long affiliations called fellowships, as well as shorter workshops and teacher training. Costs are flexible.

Founder and director Angela Stockman, a Kenmore resident, is a former teacher, and as a staff developer and independent literacy consultant, knows how to impart the joy of creative writing, for expression and for a career, to novice writers.

“We think of things kids like to do, then fold writing into it,” she said. “If I can help kids see that writing is relevant, it makes it better. It empowers them.”

Thus do obligatory and tiresome assignments, about famous people or how I spent my summer vacation, make way for exciting exploratory projects in which writing is combined with sports or hip-hop music. Thus does the Studio curriculum offer innovative ways to nail down the details of expression.

Now in its sixth year, the studio attracts between 150-200 aspiring writers, teachers and aspiring teachers. Its enrollment includes plenty of people from Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda, but Stockman lists Hamburg, Orchard Park, Newfane and faraway Ripley, near Fredonia, as writers’ hometowns. A summer program, an “adult writing circle” capped at 10 members, is also available.

Notably, it is a community, what she calls a “sustained writing community,” with more opportunities for feedback in the comprehensive and lengthy time frame.

The décor is a remarkable blend of comfort, friendliness and serious business. Tables and pencils are at the ready, and the room currently features pairs of shorts, hung in the windows on a clothesline. A recent writing project involved character studies on the adventures of who might have worn the shorts (the clothes will eventually be brought down, laundered and donated).

The fellowships typically involve weekend sessions throughout the year, with a one-week residency in the summer.

“You make better writers in an extended time”, Stockman says.

The summer catalog includes workshops for writers age 5-8 in the collaborative writing of a book, attaching plots and character development to sock puppets and writing in the style of “Magic Tree House” author Mary Pope Osborne. Older learners delve into blogging, social networking and “Writing to Change the World”, learning to write with persuasion.

The core of the Studio, though, is the fellowship, one solid and sustained year of a kid turning him- or herself into a writer. It has similarities to a music or dance school; growth through instruction and the feedback of peers and teachers, and practice, practice, practice.

This joyful intensity, in learning and practicing the methods of written expression, is potentially life-changing stuff for any young person, whether or not a writing career is in the future. The participants seem primed, though, to take advantage of the seismic changes recently seen in the publishing and newspaper industries. In a business not known for riches, it’s harder to get wealthy, easier now to find the channels to get one’s message out.

“Writers define their own audiences, find their own pathways. You don’t need a publisher to make decisions for you,” Stockman notes.

The WNY Young Writers’ Studio, at 3062 Delaware Avenue in Kenmore, can be reached at 418-3730 and www.wnyyws.org.

IF YOU GO WHAT: The WNY Young Writers' Studio WHERE: 3062 Delaware Ave., Kenmore