Seventeen teen apprentices devoted 30 days of their summer writing, editing and sharing their work with one another at the Mark Twain House and Museum as a part of the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s Neighborhood Studios program, a summer arts apprenticeship for teens. After spending some time in the silence of the museum classroom you quickly learn that this group is patient and disciplined when it comes to writing. With their earbuds in, each apprentice typed away at their laptop, spilling their life experiences out onto a blank document.
Arts Council volunteer, Lindsey Hopper, was able to pull some of the apprentices away from their writing for a few minutes to find out why they were a part of this summer apprenticeship program. She discovered that the writers were digging deep into their personal experiences to reveal stories they don’t necessarily share out loud with friends or their families, let alone a group of strangers. Olivia Case, an apprentice from West Hartford, told Lindsey that she is inspired to write about her emotions. “You can be very proud of your work by writing about things you’re scared of.” The stories we’ve heard so far are deep, personal, and exceptionally written.
If you only observe them quietly working at their computers you miss out on the bonding and sharing that occurs during other portions of their day in the studio. Apprentices read work aloud and receive feedback from their peers. What did you like about the piece? What suggestions would you give? It’s questions like these that guide the critiquing sessions led by Master Teaching Artist, Julia Pistell. This experience of Neighborhood Studios has made a real impact on apprentice Zach Lippman’s writing. “I think overall, the ability to share work with my peers and receive criticism from people has been so beneficial. It’s incredibly useful to talk to people who can help you add to your work and make it better. You wouldn’t get that sitting at home.”
Learn more about the Mark Twain House apprentices:
What opportunities would you not have had without this program?
- Going to NPR. It’s cool because I have been listening to it for so many years because of my mom. – Stefan
- The carefree environment and the broad topics given to us that allows us to free write. It’s not the classic English class. – Elena
- I’ve been exposed to a lot of new people. – Kayleigh
- I’ve learned a lot and made new friends. Here, you’re around people who have similar interests. And the people here are interested in social issues; we don’t all have the same opinions, but its fun to bounce ideas off each other. I’ve definitely matured as a writer. – Becky
If you could be a character in any book, who would it be?
- Kurt Lemon in “The Things They Carried” – Elaney
- Batman – Lo
- Aria from the “Inheritance” Series – Poppy
- I would be Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter series. One, because I could be a wizard and two, the hair. – William