After-School Writing Lab (AWL), is a free writing community for students, hosted at 826DC! Here’s what a day at AWL looks like, as described by 826DC intern Colby Sennick, who sat in on a recent session.
Their creative space
The students began to trickle into the 826DC writing center around 3:30 PM, dropping their bags and making themselves right at home.
They spent the first thirty minutes settling in and catching up with their friends and staff; because of the holidays, it had been over a week since the group had met! While they reconnected and decompressed from a long day at school, some of the students chose to kick off the creative process by drawing. They drew pokémon, their favorite cars, and different types of cheeses!
After everyone got settled in, 826DC’s Community Programs Manager, Dominique Doonquah, gathered all of the students and adult mentors into a circle on the ground. There, we had everyone take turns sharing something about their day (the good and the not-so-good) to get them warmed up to begin their storytelling.
After their warm up, the students pulled out the stories that they had been working on for the past few sessions. Once they added the finishing touches, it was time to review and edit! Dominique and the other mentors asked the students to identify what they liked about the details they used and where they could use even more description.
What they wrote about
One student wrote about a civilization of tigers that speak both English and Korean and are plotting to take over the world! She drew her inspiration from her pet orange cat and her Korean lessons.
Another wrote about Mr. Mcflooflepants and his unfortunate rise to the presidency due to his mothers’ collusion. The Mcflooflepants saga continued with another student writing a spinoff featuring Mr. Mcflooflepants’ less fortunate twin brother, who lives in the shadow of his presidential twin.
Building confidence, about and through writing
826DC publishes After-School Writing Lab students’ writing in a chapbook, printed and bound in our very own bookbinding studio. This gives all of the students the opportunity to become published writers! They leave each semester with a book that they all helped write, revise, and title.
These books are a huge source of pride, about themselves and about their writing skills. One student pulled a staff member to the side to show a story that she had published three years ago with 826DC (when she was in third grade). She explained that she was excited to see her new story published in another 826DC chapbook later this school year.
Another student, after finishing their story, said they were scared that people wouldn’t like it. But, immediately their friend replied, “I love your story! And even if others don’t, you write for yourself!”
By the time the students headed home for the day, the students could hardly contain their excitement. With their stories’ finishing touches nearly complete, they were almost ready to begin the bookbinding process!
What you can do
If you’re interested in volunteering as a mentor, we’d love to have you. You can learn more about that here.
Buy a book
You can purchase published collections of the stories written by our students, from After-School Writing Lab and from our other programs, at our online store! You can also come in-person to Tivoli’s Outstanding Magic Supply Co. in Columbia Heights, any Saturday from 10 AM to 6 PM.
Another great way to help is to donate! Your support helps 826DC keep writing with young writers from all across the city. You can give online here.