All the latest news, ideas, and opinions from Denver's Independent Literary Center: lighthousewriters.org
by Jesaka Long
It began on a sleepy Sunday morning in September, as a group of teenage writers shuffled in, heading straight for the coffee and breakfast bars. They knew they were here for two reasons: they’d just become members of the Lighthouse Writers Young Authors Collective (YAC), and they were required to spend the day together on a “retreat.” But they had no idea what the day had in store for them.
I did. At least, as the YAC instructor, I thought I did. My partner Kristi and I had planned a series of activities to help the writers define themselves as a group and set goals for the year. I felt confident they would prioritize writing time and maybe some social opportunities. But I was entirely unprepared for the level of ambition and drive they showed that day—and continue to show each week.
After a tough narrowing down process, they set their 2015–2016 priorities, which include:
“In the upcoming year, we are really working to expand the extent of our impact in other artistic communities,” said Zoe Knight, high school senior who’s been involved with Young Authors Collective for four years. “From collaborating with dancers to forming mentorships to teaching classes, we hope the voices of teen writers will be heard throughout Denver.”
And they are delivering on their goals. Last semester, about half of the group volunteered to help instructors with the Young Writers Program teach workshops for elementary and middle school students on weekends and school closure days. They proposed and gained approval for an anthology built around mentorship that they’ll create in partnership with other Lighthouse writers over the next several months. Four of the members pitched class ideas and will be teaching at the Free Writing Lab for grades 3-8 on February 15. Plus, at the end of February, they will start a 10-week collaboration with Cleo Parker Robinson Dance.
Their blog, which is titled “The [ ] Blog” (or The Blank Blog), will be launching in the next few weeks. It is another way they hope to connect with and be more visible within the broader Lighthouse community.
“We are compelled to share not only our writing, but also the experiences and opinions that are growing in us each and every day,” said Sierra Karas, a high school sophomore in her first year with YAC and lead editor of the blog. “I think being lead editor of The [ ] Blog will provide me an opportunity to share my voice as well as the collective voice of YAC. The hope is that this will then begin a ripple that continues to grow and affect more people.”
During the retreat, the group also developed a manifesto, which continues to guide their decisions and priorities. Meet the Young Authors Collective:
Make no mistake: We are writers. Not “young” writers. Not “aspiring” writers. Writers. We recognize our words hold immense power, written or spoken—our voices seismic activity of what is to come. We value the virtue of vulnerability, finding a safe haven of acceptance within the Lighthouse community, unhindered by judgment. We are revolutionary, radically bleeding through pages for a better world, heretics of the generational cookie-cutter image, advocating for authenticity. We grow together in mutual empowerment, spreading our passion for the written word. Using Lighthouse as a home base, we explore and inspire the worlds around us in order to promote self-expression and understanding.
Jesaka Long teaches youth classes and helps lead the Young Authors Collective at Lighthouse. She pays her bills as a freelance marketing copywriter, and her essays have been published in the Mug of Woe anthology series as well as in online literary magazines and blogs. Jesaka’s screenplays have placed in multiple contests, including the 2014 Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition and the 2014 Bluecat Screenplay Competition.