This week’s L.A. Weekly cover story looks at WriteGirl– the local mentoring organization that inspires young female voices to be heard through the written word via workshops, events and published release of their work.
With International Women’s Day taking place tomorrow (see our guide to events here), and the entirety of March now deemed Women’s Month, it is especially fitting that we celebrate the female voices of the future. It is also the 100th anniversary of a woman’s right to vote this year and in light of how the presidential race has shaped up this week, encouraging young women to express themselves is clearly more necessary than ever.
Here, we share excerpts from the book This Moment: Bold Voices from WriteGirl, referenced in the print story. Get it at writegirl.org.
Maya, age 14
Basketball is my favorite sport, so I get really proud when I have done something amazing while playing it. One time I made a game-winning shot — a buzzer beater. I was only nine.
It was a tied game: 18-18. About 15 seconds on the clock.
The point guard dribbled up, avoiding the defense coming after them. They passed to my other teammate. As the defender went up to them, the perfect chance appeared.
7 seconds. They turned.
5 seconds. They passed the ball to me.
3 seconds. I was at the block. I shot: 2, 1, BAMMMMM. I made the basket a millisecond before the buzzer went off.
Everything was a blur. I heard a bunch of cheering, someone saying “hooray.” Teammates hugged me. Even the coach jumped like one of those freeze frames at the end of an ’80s movie.
As the other team sulked in defeat, I was the MVP. I will never forget the day that I made a buzzer beater.
Juliana, age 16
Social media is the new norm for my generation, and I wanted to show how it has changed the way we see things.
The internet: a place of narcissism, negativity, fakeness.
A place of creation, positivity, connection.
Real life: a constant high of new experiences, chances, authenticity.
A constant low of stress, expectations and sustainability.
We turn to social media for escapism, yet we still find traces of reality,
like your reflection staring back at you from a computer screen.
We turn to reality to form a connection with people not possible anywhere else.
With both, we have the power to make an impact.
We have the power to spread negativity, positivity, creativity.
So let’s use this power wisely.
Lauren, age 19
The title of this piece means “Not from here, nor from there.” I wrote this when I was drafting essays for college admissions. I reflected on my past and tried to pull out what it means to be biracial.
Ni de aquí, ni de allá
I was eight years old when I first became aware of my background and the fact that I didn’t quite resemble either of my parents. My mom is an immigrant from Mexico, and my dad has British-German ancestry. So that makes me a chilaquile — a blend of flavors, stuck in limbo between murky identities.
With every standardized test, I was forced to check a single box to illustrate my race and ethnicity. Was I considered “white”? But I’m a brown girl, so maybe I should have just checked “Latina” instead. There was no other option except to dissect my in-betweenness and confine it to small graphite boxes, and it reminded me of how society will view me as only a partial member of both groups.
I don’t want to choose any longer. I am connected to both sides of my heritage and feel pride in knowing that I am wholly Xicana, British, German, American and Purépecha. I refuse to be put in a box.
Kumari, age 16
I wrote this piece while I was sitting on the train. I had a bad day at school and felt like I just wanted to give up on writing. I wrote this to empower myself and other people that may feel the same way.
I used to tell my mama that I want to be a writer.
I wanted to pour my heart onto a page so that little girls like me
could engulf their minds in the red flames of words
and say, “I’m not alone.”
I told my mama that I want to be a singer.
I wanted to sing songs so beautiful that the angels from heaven
and the demons from hell would meet together in limbo
and dance until their legs were dead.
I wanted so badly to be something. Anything but myself.
I used to be confident.
But the likes on my post didn’t compare to the likes on my peers’
and I looked at every photo
and wondered, “What is it that is not there?”
“What am I missing?”
I used to want to be a writer.
But the demons in hell and the angels in heaven met in limbo
and whispered in my ear as they danced to the music I made
and wept to the words I wrote,
“You cannot want to be something you already are.”
Sabrina, age 18
After a hard bout of writer’s fever spontaneously hit me at around midnight, I got the sudden urge to write something down — fingers twitching and all. It strangely resembled the feeling of a fever.
Nobody likes being sick. Stuffy noses, sticky coughs, explosive sneezes. But there is one disease I like, one illness that I wholeheartedly invite. It’s called the writer’s fever.
Symptoms include a painfully severe desire to create. A fiery heat in the abdominal center. Antsy fingers, knocking knee and a carnal want for a pen and paper. When struck by it, I cannot rest. I long for relief as desperately as one flails for a drop of water in the desert.
It’s torturous and yet inexplicably enticing. Heart heaving, brain churning, to not forget that one brilliant piece or sentence, gracing us in a flash of white-hot lightning, repeating over and over, like a mindless bot until we can lay it down in stone and collapse in sweet peace.
As time continues on, this safe refuge betrays us. Another deep instinctive wave clutches on, and once again we are sick. Feverish. The desire to show, not for money, fame or approval. Just the sheer practice of sharing, or perhaps the sheer avoidance of regret from not doing so. It’s a terrible thing.
Writer’s fever. A truly devastating disease that overwhelms you in the best of ways. Immensely and voluptuously satisfying once you can set it down and leave.
I wanted to use code to write about the code I see in the world.
– ●● – ●-●●●
The world is complex.
A pattern inside a pattern,
a story inside a word,
a song behind a sound.
Most are overlooked,
In a world where we strive to simplify everything,
where we look for “quick and easy,”
we blur its true nature.
Only when a wanderer decides to stop and smell the fowers,
stop and watch the birds,
stop and think,
Will we truly unlock its -●●●●●- ●●- – -●- –
This piece was written at a WriteGirl Poetry Workshop at The National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, where there was an exhibit of photos of people who fought during WWII. One of the pictures I looked at was of African American pilots. I love history and I wanted to share their story the best way I know how: writing.
The Nonexistent Divide Between Land and Air
Back home, there are rules.
The life-or-death type of rules.
Can’t use the white water fountain,
can’t eat at the white restaurant,
can’t use that doorway.
But once you’re in the sky,
all that don’t matter.
I can fly as high as I want,
go as fast as I want.
There ain’t no “whites only” sky!
This beautiful, calming place
belongs to everyone.
I can look down and see farms, cities.
There ain’t no lines on the ground,
separating black from white.
It’s just land.
You can try to segregate housing.
But you can’t segregate air.