Thursday night in Katonah, Noka Joe’s and a national youth writing initiative called Writopia held an open mic for young writers. Upstairs in Joe’s children’s bookstore extension, 15 listeners hooked into the prose of six engaged young writers, while one reporter attempted to retroactively put himself in the shoes of these prodigious literary aspirants.
I absolutely could not. Ensconced in the gender identification dogma of the time that deemphasized the creative side of my brain, I was too busy reducing fractions and contemplating the laws of motion to size up my own feet.
Kaley Mamo, on the other hand, wore her creativity like a glass slipper – with midnight nowhere in sight. While A Game of Gargon played in a similar vein as Bloody Mary or the summoning of the Candy Man in the popular movie series, the suspense built to a crescendo that had the audience wanting more.
Putting aside the literary merit, the 7th grade John Jay Middle School student, flawlessly delivered the excerpt – timing the beats and riding the audience’s tension.
I was again left unable to relate. Lena Roy of the local Writopia outlet clarifies the insight I’m implying in both the mission and how Kaley lives up to it. “Helping kids find their voice is certainly part of what we are after, but writing is about empowering and building confidence,” she says.
Again, I’m still working on the latter.
That said, Blythe Cerrano has it covered and strutted her moxie by going beyond simply stepping up to the mic. “I want to be really tall,” said the ten year old, before realizing that standing on the top step of the high chair was a little too tenuous.
Settling in on the floor instead, The Coon Club followed the exploits of a raccoon named Rosalyn, and her English accent naturally highlighted the mischievousness of the character. In this, the home schooled Norwalk resident could reveal her biggest challenge as a writer. “Sometimes you get your character into a situation that’s difficult to get them out,” she said.
14 year old Sara Yeshoua can cite at least seven examples of completing the story arc suggested by her younger contemporary. “I have seven novels that follow the adventures of a young witch named Harper,” said the John Jay High School student.
Not yet published, the inspiration of J.K. Rowling is obvious but the downside of facing writer’s block weighs on her when it occurs. “It’s like being crushed by heavy stones,” she said off a question from the audience.
In response, she reads books or listens to music in order to excavate herself. No matter the effectiveness, Roy can verify the outcomes. “She’s has one of the most creative minds I’ve ever seen,” said the author of EDGES and granddaughter of the famed writer, Madeleine L’Engle
Either way, Scarlett Roy would seem to have her work cut out for her to live up to the family legacy. Not an educator, it was hard for me to judge where she stands among other seven year olds with her presentation of, The Lost Item, but the manner in which she engaged the audience in her reading and the Q&A that followed, told me and everyone in attendance where this writer is headed.
12 year old Caleigh Boyer-Holt – obviously with no children of her own – could nonetheless identify to the notion of parental attachment in the form editing and revising. “I don’t like to take part of my story out because books are like my children,” she said.
Finally, Lindsay Gittelman of Horace Greeley High School was really the one walking in someone else’s shoes. Like Father, Like Son – written in the first person, had me continually looking up to see if the voice reading was coming from a 17 year old girl or boy.
Off the Q&A, I found I was not alone in noticing the challenge of speaking so personally in a boy’s voice. This obviously did not get passed the professional on hand. “She is a writer that is not afraid to take chances,” said Roy.
There you go. As for me, maybe my quaint little byline in the present gives them something to shoot for, but midnight has long passed me by, and before not too long, so will they.
Rich Monetti coverage of event at Noka Joes Kaley Mamo, Lena Roy, Blythe Cerrano, Sara Yeshoua, Caleigh Boyer-Holt and Lindsay Gittelman