On Mentoring Teens
Alaska 49 Writers' blogger, Deb Vanasse, recently posted about mentoring young writers. That got me to thinking. I hadn't considered myself a mentor but yet here I am mentoring adults, teens, and young kids in my three different writers' groups. I counted them up and, low-and-behold, over the past year and a half I've mentored eighteen people. Wow, I thought. And all it took was a bit of word of mouth and advertisement in a newsletter and they showed up.
Our teen writing sessions begin with chatting about the day and things like boys and girls and teachers, and drugs, and grafitti and even farts. When mentoring teens one has to be open to anything.
Below, I've transcribed last Monday's meeting to the best of my abilities. Cast of teens: Sally, Mike, Lexie, Amy, and Odea (Mike was out of town this week so it was just us girls).
A typical teen writers group goes something like this:
Lexie to Odea: I saw you with a boy in the corner at school.
Lexie: Same place Sally and Adian go.
Lexie: You don't deny it?
Odea: (laughs) No but I...Which one?
Lexie: There are others?
Odea to Amy: If I say something you might talk to my little sister and she'll tell.
Amy: I never talk to your sister. And the only time I did, she said to me, "I wonder what it would feel like to poop out Legos."
Odea: That's my sister.
Me to Amy: You'd better write that down. That's a good line.
Amy: Your sister is ten; she'd say something like that. I'm fifteen. I'm older.
Lexie: (Plugs her nose) Who farted? Oh, my god.
Me: Maybe it was the dogs. Ladies, #1 rule: If you pass gas, blame it on the guys or the dogs.
Sally: Man, that's bad (waves her hand).
Amy: My mom farts. She gets even with my dad because he farts really loud and then she'll fart. My brother, he thinks that girls shouldn't fart and that's gross.
Me: Can we change the subject? Let's write for ten minutes without stopping. Don't pick up the pen from the paper.
Lexie: I forgot my notebook.
Me: Here's some paper (I tear out a couple of pages from my notebook and hand it to Lexie).
Lexie: Todd fell asleep snoring on his paper (Plops her face down on the paper on the table) and when the teacher woke him up, he lifted his head and the paper was stuck to his face and he said, "Huh?" (She lifts her face and the paper is stuck to her face).
ME: Who is the most annoying in your classes?
All together: Adian, Conner and Paulo.
Me: Wouldn't it be funny if on April Fool's Day you could organize an annoying habit day. The whole class could be in on it and...
Lexie: And we could make weird noises (burps).
Odea: Or faces (She moves her eyes back and forth rapidly). I once did that at school and the teacher was watching me. He wondered what was wrong with me.
Sally: Yeah, everyone could be in on it except the three that usually get in trouble. See who gets noticed first. (She demonstrates armpit farts).
Me: It should be the teacher with the best sense of humor.
All together: Mr. Vega.
Amy: Yeah, that would be fun.
Sally: Yeah, we could scratch or tap our foot (Scratches her arm).
Lexie: Or click the top on a pen.
Odea: Or tap on the desk (Taps her fingers on the table).
Pretty soon, my kitchen table is surrounded by laughter and teenage girls making odd sounds and gestures.
I watch them, waiting for the right place between the fingers drumming the table and the clicking tongue to interrupt.
Me: So....let's write for ten minutes nonstop. Ten minutes.
Lexie: Okay (Puts her paper down and grabs one of the pens in the center of the table).
Odea: (Makes a popping sound with her lips)
Lexie to Odea: Let's write
Odea: Okay (One more popping lip sound. Starts writing. More popping sounds while writing).
We write for ten minutes and they ask for five minutes more.