Pen and paper

Oak Bluffs library offers new writing class for teens.

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Caitlyn Clark, children's and young adult librarian for the Oak Bluffs library, will host a teen writers group at the library every Thursday at 3 pm. — Gabrielle Mannino

Ah, to be a teen again. Well, even if those weren’t your favorite years, now would be a good time to be one, because anyone ages 12 to 18 can try out the Oak Bluff library’s new program, Pen and Paper. The program is the brainchild of children and young adult librarian Caitlyn Clark, who comes from a teaching background both in English and creative writing.

You don’t even have to bring your own book to write in. Clark has an assortment of booklets, from ones with lined paper to bullet journals, which for those of you not in the know, are made with graph paper and used as a succinct way of capturing information in bulleted lists. Attendees get to decorate their book to their own personal taste as well.

One rainy, blustery afternoon last week, I spoke with Clark, who gave me the lowdown about Pen and Paper. “I just wanted to give kids the option to write. I didn’t see anything like that out there on the Island,” Clark said. “It gives kids a chance to come in and meet other kids who are writers, to either talk about their work … or not, if they’re not comfortable doing that.

“I used to teach creative writing at the high school level when I was in college in Florida, so that’s how it started,” Clark said. “I taught kids who were in grades 9 through 12. Growing up here, at the high school I was a writer, and I never had a group like this. So I figured we don’t have one, and the only way to start one is to actually do it.”

Clark gave me an example of one of the exercises she might use in an upcoming session, showing me a large array of narrow paint slips in which a single color is offered in different shades, each with its own evocative name. Taking out one with varying degrees of green, Clark reads them off, “We have ‘lunette,’ ‘leek,’ ‘herbal fresh,’ ‘greenage,’ ‘wharf green,’ ‘tide pools,’ and ‘Cozumel.’ So you have all these different names, and if I gave you one of these paint palettes, try to use even four of these words to create a setting. It doesn’t have to be a whole chapter or short story. It can be an inkling of any idea. Maybe it would be a fantasy with the tide pools in Cozumel.”

Clark said she wants the teens to make the group their own, using some of the time to discuss with their peers what they wrote over the weekend, or reading something aloud for feedback.

“They can ask if we can look at writing books or focus on dialogue or punctuation,” Clark explained. “When they come in, I have a general outline of what we can do, but I would read the group to see what they need from this group. Is it to workshop their work? Is it to meet other writers, so they can hang out and write together when they’re not here?” Clark shared that student teaching taught her how to handle different teens with different goals.

Although there are plenty of adult writing group opportunities on the Island, I’d encourage any teenager to drop by any week to test the waters, to see if this is something that might work for them. They can collaborate, socialize, and network with other young writers, workshop their work if they wish, try different creative writing activities, explore a variety of writing forms and genres, and they can even learn about publishing.

Pen and Paper takes place every Thursday from 3 to 4 pm at the Oak Bluffs library through April 11. Contact cclark@clamsnet.org for more information.