WINCHESTER, Va. (AP) - While attending Daniel Morgan Middle School, Kaitlynn White took a creative writing class that didn’t sit well with her.
While sharing her story called “The Liar” - about a middle-aged homosexual man in an abusive relationship with a serial killer - she was asked by the teacher to “tone down” the content.
“That happens a lot at school,” said Kaitlynn, now 16 and a rising senior at Handley High School. “A lot of people think kids aren’t interested in that stuff.”
In an English course, Kaitlynn said she had a similar experience when a teacher reacted negatively to multiple stories of hers that contained political, moral and social opinions. According to Kaitlynn, the teacher disagreed with both her stance and having an opinion at her young age.
She said that adults often despair at the lack of interest younger generations show in serious issues, but when they want to speak up, adults often “send them to the kids’ table.”
“People will say, ‘Aren’t you a little young for this stuff,’ and my answer is no,” she said.
Kaitlynn is providing a non-judgmental, safe environment for her author peers with a writer’s workshop for students in grades seven through 12 at Handley Library at 100 W. Piccadilly St.
The workshop will meet at 6:30 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday, beginning this Monday and running through Aug. 5.
Kaitlynn is both a regional and national winner of the 2015 Scholastic Art and Writing Award for her short story “The Five Stages of Grief” - about two drug money runners dealing with the classic phases of grief. She plans to share with others of her generation some of the tricks and tips she’s learned about writing.
“I found this amazing worksheet to boost your self-confidence,” Kaitlynn said.
Each Monday, through the worksheet, writers will examine the themes and ideas of their story and identify what is new and unique about their take on an issue.
It’s easy to lose confidence in a piece when considering that other writers have examined the same themes, Kaitlynn said.
They will also be learning about designing characters and plot.
Wednesday classes will be more of a writers’ group, where each participant shares some of their work and then receives peer reviews and suggestions.
“I just thought it would be interesting to provide (a workshop) run by someone the same age as the people who are coming to it,” Kaitlynn said.
The workshop is a call for writers of all genres, even those with a hankering for horror.
“Horror writers are some of the nicest people,” she said, adding that comedic authors, in her experience, tend to be more dark-minded.
According to Kaitlynn, teens who write about dark or serious subjects are often judged as having problems, which makes it harder for them to share their work.
She knows: She’s written a story set in a post-apocalyptic world where one of the main characters is a reformed cannibal.
Kaitlynn’s mother, Ann White, said that some people misunderstand her daughter.
“She’s very talented, but it can be controversial,” White said. “I worry about people judging her for what she writes.”
She said that she likes the idea of a workshop where young writers don’t have to worry about adults finding red flags where there are none.
“I like the idea,” White said. “The kids need to be able to explore what they’re hearing or seeing (or the things happening in the world).”
White also said that it’s given Kaitlynn an opportunity to take on a leadership role and share something she loves.
The workshop has 15 spaces open. Anyone interested in participating can register by calling 540-662-9041, ext. 16.
Information from: The Winchester Star, https://www.winchesterstar.com
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