Teaching During a Pandemic: YAWP's Writing Arts Program For Teens Goes Virtual This Summer - 27 East

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Teaching During a Pandemic: YAWP’s Writing Arts Program For Teens Goes Virtual This Summer

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A YAWP production from 2015.

A YAWP production from 2015.

Pierson High School students Yanni Bitis and Lola Lama in a 2018 YAWP performance.

Pierson High School students Yanni Bitis and Lola Lama in a 2018 YAWP performance.

Marisa Valentino on Jun 29, 2020

The Young Artists and Writers Project (YAWP) at the Southampton Campus of Stony Brook University was created by as part of the university’s MFA in Writing and Literature program, and it typically runs workshops each summer in creative writing and scriptwriting for students aged 13 to 18.

But this year, COVID1-19 got in the way.

“This year, given the pandemic and the need to keep students and faculty safe, all of our summer workshops will be presented online via Zoom,” said YAWP program director Will Chandler.

Even during the pandemic, however YAWP will remain dedicated to “mentoring young people in the development of creative expression and critical thinking through writing,” according to its website.

“To better accommodate students’ and families’ schedules, we have added more creative writing and scriptwriting workshops,” Chandler explained. “We have also reduced our fees, to make it more affordable for families who might be watching expenses.”

For that reason, YAWP is offering double the number of workshops for summer 2020 as well as a new YouTube boot camp.

“Ultimately we’d love to have everybody who wants to participate, be able to participate,” said Chandler.

Though the classes are virtual — offered via Zoom — the content of the writing workshops remains unchanged from previous years. What will be different, however, is the conclusion of each workshop, that typically ended with a live, reading or onstage performance of student work.

During YAWP Creative Writing Workshops, students are guided through prompts in fiction, poetry and personal narrative and will have several pieces of completed work by the end of the workshop.

But this year, due to COVID-19, instead of doing a final presentation of their work during an in-person staged reading at the Southampton Writers Summer Conference, each student will record himself or herself reading their work. Then all of the recordings will be strung together creating an online presentation that can be shared with friends and family.

Similar changes have also occurred with YAWP’s Scriptwriting Workshop. In this course, each student creates a short script for the stage or screen featuring two characters which in the past has ended with a live rehearsal of the script.

Alternatively, this year students will work in groups to rehearse the script via a recorded Zoom session. This will then be showcased on YouTube as well. Every script written over the summer is still eligible to be produced in one or both of YAWPs two yearly playwriting festivals for middle schoolers and high schoolers.

Writing from both workshops is also eligible to be published in the EZine, YAWP’s online magazine.

In addition to these two workshops, YAWP will also offer a new course for this summer — the YouTube boot camp “Telling Your Story in the Digital Landscape.” This virtual course will teach students how to create compelling visual stories about the issues that matter to them. They will learn how to share their work via YouTube, how to gain followers and follow the platform’s etiquette.

Chandler explains that this boot camp was created because “YAWP has witnessed the impact of recent events concerning Black Lives Matter. We have noticed how involved young people are with the world around them and with those areas of society that need to be looked at and changed.”

Whether virtually or in person, Chandler said the goal of YAWP is always to help students to improve and advance their writing craft.

“We are able to accomplish this with these classes,” said Chandler, who added that teaching the workshops is tremendously rewarding. “I am a very lucky man. I get to help young people find their voices, to develop them and to speak it out.”

The YAWP Creative Writing Workshop runs two five-day sessions — July 6 to July 10, or August 3 to August 7, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. The cost is $295 per session.

The YAWP Scriptwriting Workshop runs two five-day sessions — July 13 to 17, or August 10 to 14.

The three-day YouTube boot camp is open to ages 15 and over and will meet Thursday and Friday, July 30 and 31, and Monday, August 3 — giving students the weekend to shoot their video projects.

The cost of all workshops is $295 per session. Partial scholarships are available.

For more information about these workshops, contact William Chandler at william.chandler@stonybrook.edu, Tyler Allen Penny at tyler.penny@stonybrook.edu or call 310-614-1217 and 601-756-1185. Or visit stonybrook.edu for details.

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