The Tupelo Press Teen Writing Center provides a home for young writers, and connect them as a part of the larger writing community. We are a non-profit literary organization, offering writing workshops, mentorship, retreats, readings and fellowship for teen writers. We believe young writers are artists with a capacity to change our world with their vision.
On one blossoming spring day in 2013, three writers and a director of a poetry press met to discuss creative opportunities for teen writers in Charlottesville, suggested as an educational outreach of Tupelo Press, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, by its founder and Editor in Chief, Jeffrey Levine. Over dark espressos, they swapped stories of pivotal moments in their own writing lives, including the creative potential unlocked by readings, workshops, and community support. So the idea for a Charlottesville teen writing center was born.
We have been given encouragement, independence and utter discretion for this program of Tupelo Press, and thus been able to respond to our charter students and the local writing community as we developed those early ideas.
The fledgling Tupelo Press Teen Writing Center (TWC) invited a few 11 & 12th grade students from each private and public local high school to spend our first month as charter members. As TPTWC began collaborating with local organizations, including WriterHouse, which provided initial meeting space, our charter students helped us develop and design a comprehensive program. They requested more writing workshops, including generative work and revision, opportunities to meet writers and authors and learn about the field, and chances to read in public.
In short, they said, “We want to know we are not alone.” To make it happen, the TWC solicited requests and needs from local English departments and creative writing teachers. We found that only 1 in 8 local high schools had a creative writing program, and only a few others had creative writing classes. Though local schools offer truly excellent English programs and teachers, they welcomed more writing offerings for teens.
In August we hosted a fall series of weekly writing workshops, visiting authors and writers, were invited to a letterpress printing workshop, a tailored tour of the UVa special collections library, and more. The year culminated in a winter chapbook and first annual teen anthology, with covers designed and letterpressed by our teens.
Since then, TWC was asked to create a calendar of all local teen writing opportunities and contests. We’ve included links to local contest, and developed partnerships with UVA and Hollins Universities providing mentorships for seniors creating writing portfolios for submission to colleges and contests. We welcome interns in the summer and during the school year, providing leadership and publication experience.
The TWC also connects these young writers to one another and the larger writing community. Our weekly writing workshops continue with a monthly visiting author or writer who provides generative opportunities, a safe place for peer revision, and a new monthly book club at our students’ request. We began our fall in 2014 with a writing retreat in the home of a local artist, followed by several more writing retreats led by authors in their homes.
Our Tupelo Press TWC was invited by The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities to participate in the development of the first panel for teens, led by Sarah McGuire, creative writing teacher at Western Albemarle High School, now offered for its second year in 2015 In 2014 we were invited to manage the high school submissions of the Virginia Festival of the Book Teen Writing Contest, and will publish our second annual Crossroads III Anthology in time for the Festival.
For the 2015/2016 school year we’ll debut a fall full of opportunities to work with authors in a myriad of styles, kicked off by a writing retreat, with mentorships for seniors, readings and more, followed by a winter and spring of editorial opportunities culminating in the Virginia Festival of the Book Teen Contest and reading. If you are a high-school-age teen, come join us! If you love writing, consider supporting a young author, sponsoring a writing workshop or mentorship. Help us show our young writers the worth of their craft!