How to Write With Moxie

Kathy’s table-top manifesto

“We write to be read, not to be liked on Facebook” explains Kathy Y Wilson, CityBeat columnist and Western Hills resident, “you have to talk to people with great truth, care and empathy.”

In a tone that demands attention and respect, Wilson spoke with WordUP:Summer students on Thursday about staying committed to their writing, their ideas and themselves. WordUP is WordPlay’s program designed in partnership with Aiken High School for students in grades 9-12, which runs throughout the school year. WordUP:Summer is open to teens from across the city, giving them an opportunity to explore writing and personal storytelling with the goal of crafting their pieces into spoken word art. “Trust yourself and own your work,” directs Wilson, whose fingers, covered in elaborate, gold rings, conduct a symphony of similes and stories from her time spent at the school of hard knocks.

We send a huge thanks to ArtsWave for their generous funding of WordUP this summer. ArtsWave and WordPlay share a main goal of creating community through the arts, and we couldn’t have offered this program to area teens without their support.

Wilson tells her young, attentive audience about the world of contradictions writers often experience when honing their craft. The writing process can be fulfilling, frustrating, constructive, destructive and therapeutic, all at once. She explains that writing is a tool of reflection and detachment that allows individuals to view their world differently.

WordUp creative writing workshop with guest teaching artist Kathy Y. Wilson

Wilson encourages writers to find their own creative space, to read their work out loud and with pride. She says writers should not apologize for their work, and should not be afraid to think outside the box.

“Don’t be a salmon or a lemming,” says Wilson, adding that writers should strive to be authentic with their work by pushing boundaries and setting new standards.

In addition to reading some of her own published material, Wilson asked students to create their own manifesto, a piece explaining their own ideas about commitment, who they are as writers, and how that contributes to their world view.

As students begin work on their manifesto, Wilson crouches over a wooden table with chalk in hand. She begins etching a few words, wiping some away, editing her own piece while students quietly craft theirs. After a thirty minute writing session, Wilson asks the students to share their work.

One-by-one, each young writer approaches the front of the room, the stage where they are the sole performer.

One-by-one they read their manifesto, stopped every so often by a boisterous laugh or a constructive comment from Wilson.

She ends the writing workshop telling the students how impressed she is with their skill, their maturity and their self-awareness. With a voice cracking from her impassioned teaching style, she reiterates points made and advice given throughout the seminar, asking students to stay committed to themselves and their own progression.

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