Reflections on being a Y WE mentor…

By Guest Author Administrator

I haven’t been to summer camp in 20 years, but at Y-WE Write, I felt instantly at home.  I shared the same shyness young writers must feel when they first encounter one another, meeting the brilliant and poised youth but also my distinguished fellow teaching artists Karen Finneyfrock and Anastacia Renee, for the first time.

When I was a teenager, writing was something to fit in the margins of a Bronx girl’s life, around the practical work of surviving and making money. At Y-WE, I was encouraged to see that the writer self was the most important to center and nurture. I am never eager to get on planes these days, but having just completed my residency at Hedgebrook, I knew the importance of writing and healing on Whidbey Island. The majesty and serenity of the Whidbey Institute did not disappoint.

It also created the perfect environment for the young women in my class to write. We wrote together, we talked about the craft of short fiction as it informs the many different kinds of writing they have done, will do and are always capable of doing. We cried together over things in our bodies that were released to the page in a safe space where we rubbed our palms together to send warm energy to the one reading about intolerant grandparents or surviving self-harm or watching a grandpa transition.

I had the honor of hearing some of this work at a truly magical open mic, where I saw writers in full bloom. As is so often the case with teaching, I learned more than I taught. This time it was how beautiful some scars are when they meet light, how a wound can be a poem, can be a letter, can be a triumph

 

About the Author:

Joshunda Sanders is an author and proud Bronx native. She was the recipient of a Hedgebrook Residency in 2017. Her work has appeared in the Bellevue Literary Review, Teen Vogue, Salon, Publishers Weekly, Bitch Magazine, Gawker, The Week, The UTNE Reader, Kirkus Reviews, on NPR and in dozens of anthologies, newspapers, magazines, websites, textbooks and encyclopedias. She gave a TED talk in 2013, the same year she presented at South by Southwest Interactive. Her publications include: Single & Happy: The Party of Ones, How Racism and Sexism Killed Traditional Media: Why the Future of Journalism Depends on Women and People of Color , the novella, All City and a memoir, The Beautiful Darkness: A Handbook for Orphans. She is writing a sequel to All City & collection of short stories & a work of historical fiction. She lives in New York City. Her website is https://joshundasanders.com/selected-work

 

 

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When I was packing for my Hedgebrook residency, I chose four big novels and two anthologies to see me through the month I was to spend on Whidbey Island. I haven’t left the house without a book since I was teenager and travelling to another country without taking novels with me is still unimaginable.

At the airport in Lagos, a customs officer rummaged through the carefully arranged contents of my suitcase before I could check it in.

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In 2009, nearing the completion of my MFA in creative writing, I sat in on a panel of faculty and alumni who shared their post-MFA experiences and let us in on their secrets of productivity after the quarterly deadlines disappeared. This was the first time I’d ever heard of a writing residency.

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Alumna Reflection

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I arrived to my Hedgebrook residency in February 2015 with a pile of grocery bag paper, fabric scraps, pens and glue sticks, and a few finished pages for my second book, Death Is Stupid. I was there to illustrate the story I’d written about a child facing his grandmother’s death while adults say stupid things to him, like “she’s in a better place.”

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