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CityLit Teens Culminates with Book Publication

CityLit Teens culminated at CityLit Festival in April, 2009, with the unveiling of Open Mic / Open Minds, a book collecting the work that teen writers produced over the course of the program.  For several weeks at both the Southeast Anchor Library and Pennsylvania Avenue branch of Pratt Library, young writers gathered to create poetry and prose, learn how books are made, title their book, and help with its design. 

We experimented with acrostic poetry, limericks, and haiku. We discovered along the way that Native Son author Richard Wright wrote wonderful haiku (For seven seconds / The steam from the train whistle / Blew out the spring moon) and learned
that anything could be the source of inspiration. Given the fall season and a historic election, many of the young writers focused on holidays and hope, so we wrote essays about those themes.

Pictured at right, CityLit Teens writer LaTraia Price receives her copies of Open Mic / Open Mind, the book which she helped to write, title, and design.  The program encouraged "Lady Tray" to read her work in public and she is already heard at spoken  word events.

At Pennsylvania Avenue, participants included:

KAREEMA DAVIS, 13, likes her math class at George G. Kelson Elementary/Middle School and the song “Forever” by Chris Brown. Her Persian cat Dottie keeps her company while watching TV and while contemplating a career as a pharmacist.

MYA DORSEY, 8, attends George G. Kelson Elementary School. She likes chicken, Chris Brown’s song “With You,” and Hannah Montana, but not necessarily in that order. She wants to be a writer (unprompted response!)!

SAI’WAA FUMEY, 11, wants to be a fashion designer when she’s fi nished with George G. Kelson Elementary/Middle School (and maybe a few other schools). Her favorite subject is “shopping,” so it appears Sai’waa is well on her way toward her career ambition.

KIARA HARVEY, 18, enjoys art classes at Baltimore Talent Development High. She likes the TV show Crossing Jordan, taking her dog Polar for walks, and going out with best friends. She has big, entrepreneurial plans for her future.

DEMONTRE JOHNSON, 9, is a math whiz at George G. Kelson. When he is not too busy watching Boondocks or listening to Soulja Boy, he likes to go to the playground to practice football.

TAYLOR MAYDEN, 14, is a student at George G. Kelson Elementary/Middle School. Taylor’s favorite song—“Over the Hills and Far Away” by Finnish symphonic power metal band Nightwish—inspired a poem by the same title. A big fan of anime, Taylor might grow up to be a voice-over actress.

ALISHA PINDER, 14, another George G. Kelson student, wants to be a teacher. In the meantime, hanging out with friends, going to movies, and eating pizza occupy her time. She also takes care of her cat, Sox, while studying social science and listening to Beyoncé.

LAVONIA REID, 14, just wants to get through City College High School where she excels at math. She enjoys sharing pizza with her two nice brothers while watching Smallville.

TYEMAUR SCOTT, 8, also attends George G. Kelson. He lists math and pizza high on his list of favorites and wants to be a football player.

RACHEL WILKES, 12, attends Roland Park Elementary School and enjoys science (and cheese fries and tacos). Rachel wants a dog (now) and want to be a clothes designer (later). On summer Saturdays she likes to go to baseball games.

On the east side, at Southeast Anchor Library, CityLit Teens participants included:

TYLER MCDERMOTT, 16, attends Friends School and likes history class the best. She wants to use her writing skills as a journalist, but promises she’ll never report on her brothers or sisters (middle child diplomacy at its best).

LATRAIA PRICE, 16, whose favorite subject at Mervo is English, enjoys music, such as Mos Def’s “Travelin’ Man,” and watching videos of spoken word artists. She wants to become a writer/novelist/poet (hopefully all three!).

KESHAWN SANDERS, 14, takes care of her cat Oreo when she’s not studying science at Tench Tilghman Elementary School. She wants to earn a Ph.D. in music (her favorite song is “Take a Bow” by Rihanna) and be a children’s lawyer.

BRIANNA SUTTON, 13, loves the English and literature classes at Bethlehem Christian Day School (even more than she loves tacos). She likes to read, write, and watch TV on weekends (and text message).

Each young writer who hung out with CityLit Teens deserves a round of applause for his or her current creativity, as well as for setting sights on fantastic futures.

CityLit Teens was made possible by the generous support of the Quality of Life Giving Circle at the Baltimore Community Foundation. Formed in 2000, the Giving Circle supports efforts to improve the quality of life in Baltimore City for all.

All of CityLit Project’s programs receive ongoing support from the Maryland State Arts Council and the Baltimore Office of Promotion and The Arts. Students involved in Loyola College’s Apprentice House Book Publishing Club provided critical help toward producing Open Mic / Open Minds. Special thanks to club president Amanda Merson, Alex Walsh, Devon Roemer, and Maria Negro. While most of the CityLit Teens live in the library branches’ neighborhood, others required parents to drive them to the program and so those parents deserve our thanks, too.

Enoch Pratt Free Library, once again, served as an invaluable partner. Special thanks to Cindy Kleback, Southeast Anchor Library Branch Manager; Anjanette Wiggins, Pennsylvania Avenue Branch Young Adult Services Librarian; and the staffs at both branches. Thanks, too, to author, writing teacher, and CityLit Project board member Elissa Brent Weissman for pitching in when asked.

Look for information about a possible new and improved incarnation of CityLit Teens for fall 2009.  Some picture highlights from the 2008 program can be found here:

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