Filling the Gap: Downtown Bend Public Library’s new Teen Writing Group

by  April Witteveen, Deschutes Public Library

penandinkIn late spring 2014, Central Oregon heard the sad news that a beloved literature and writing non-profit, The Nature of Words (NOW), would be closing its doors.   NOW offered a variety of programming for all ages, including a teen writing group called the Storefront Project.  In the wake of NOW’s closure, word started to spread that Deschutes Public Library would be working to address the new gap in creative programming for our area.  The past several months have seen DPL staff brainstorming ways to bring more literary and creative writing options to our customers and greater community.  I started a new year with my teen advisory board in the fall, and much to my happiness one of the main things they wanted to see at the library was a teen writing group—hooray for the fortuitousness!

We worked together to plan our first event; I would be the program facilitator for now, with plans to reach out to the local institutes of higher education, local authors, and previous Storefront Project adult volunteers to bring in new faces.  We talked about what would make our writing group attractive to teens, given a few limitations to our library space and furnishings (I will be putting in a budget proposal for multiple bean bag chairs!)   On December 12 we had our initial meeting, complete with snacks and a nice classical soundtrack for background ambiance.  We primarily worked with writing prompts and kicked off our session with some six word memoirs (http://www.sixwordmemoirs.com/.)   We had modest attendance with 7 teens, but the size felt appropriate to allow everyone time to share.  My hope is to grow the group to at least 12 regular attendees.  A student who attended my group had been a regular with the Storefront Project, and he recommended the size—anything approaching 20 or more teens felt a little too big, he said.

Nature of Words also held writing competitions and produced anthologies; I hope to work these aspects of creative writing programming into our own plan over the next couple of years.  Prior to NOW’s closure, DPL hadn’t done much with this type of programming, but now we are eagerly looking for other ways to fill the gap and keep these experiences accessible to area teens