What You Need To Know About Me | W*ORT in Lustenau, Austria

Photo (c)Christian Grass

Photo (c)Christian Grass

WORT was invited to submit pieces to our upcoming anthology “What You Need To Know About Me” and has the wonderful idea to share their pieces on a local level too. The department responsible for integration and community had the banners with photos and stories printed and then they were exhibited in the street as a “market of cultures”. There was a small opening ceremony, which included families and members of the community. Thank you W*ORT, for sharing this beautiful event!

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Young Editors Project | Svartaskóla, Reykjavík, Iceland

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The Young Editors Project has gone global!

YEP recently paired up students at Svartaskóla, in Iceland, with the fantastic picture book Have You Ever Seen a Flower? by Shawn Harris. Markús, writer and former primary school teacher, read to the students in English and then translated the story into Icelandic in order for the younger students to grasp the entirerty of the story—and they did.

Despite the language barrier, the students actively engaged with the story, so much so that they attempted to be a flower! Markús commented on the experience, saying, “They all followed the instructions laughing and then they all asked for glasses of water to try to feel the water dripping to their roots. They also started stretching towards."

The picture book opened up discussions not only about flowers but also about their shared experiences throughout life. This photo brought so much joy to us as it showed just how much children’s literature can connect people and get them thinking outside the box.

Here they are trying to feel the water dripping to their roots.

Here they are trying to feel the water dripping to their roots.

Young Editors Project | Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute


It is without a question incredible how, when you give students a platform, they will use it to the best of their abilities—our Young Editors Project is a testament to that fact. The Young Editors Project recently paired up students at the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute with the incredible manuscript, Have You Ever Seen a Flower? by Shawn Harris.

With a pen in their hand, the students (pictured below) embarked on their journey as editors. And the response was incredible. We received constructive criticism about everything, from content and layout to illustrations and text size. It was absolutely amazing to see what the kids picked up on and the interesting things they came up with to make the story even stronger.

We were delighted to hear from Ellen, Program & Volunteer Coordinator at MOI, who commented on the experience, saying, “It was a neat challenge for the students and I was amazed at how opinionated some students were and what unique suggestions they had.”

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Grimm & Co | Rotherham, England

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January 9, 2019
I finally got to see it in person: one of the most gloriously lunatic youth writing centers in the world, Grimm & Co. It’s located in Rotheram, about two hours north of London by train. In the middle of town, in a former pub, Deborah Bullivant and her team have created a complete and utterly convincing alternative universe dedicated to storytelling and pure wonder. I was there for two hours and I barely scraped the surface of this place, with its secret doors, miles-deep mythology and backstory, hundreds of bizarre products, stories all over the walls, kid-made books, and of course the writing room where student-writers gather around a very official table and sit on toilet seats. This place is worth the trip from London, or Leeds, or South Korea. It is simply that great, and is unsurpassed in all the world. -D.E.

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Max Costume | Rowe, Massachusetts


January 2, 2019

After leaving New York, the Max costume traveled north to a town called Rowe, in the upper reaches of Massachusetts. These kids know about weather and how ferocious and brave one has to be in the middle of winter, as well as how important hot soup is during those months of frigid austerity. We hope they're even more prepared for it this year after scampering about in the Max costume for a bit. Thank you Rowe Elementary School, for indulging your feral selves. The costume is now on its way to Chicago, where its warmth will be much appreciated, we must assume. -D.E.

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Congrats to four of our International Congress of Youth Voices delegates — Emma Lorenceau, Sean Farrelly, Anika Hussain, and Sarah Sobka — who appeared at the Equality Festival in Ghent, Belgium. They spoke about the Congress, about youth activism, and about misconceptions about their generation. I’m so proud of these people. They are so poised and kind and open and they fill me (and you, and all the Belgians who saw them) with hope. At the end of the festival, they were each given a plant (a smaller version of the ones you see behind them). Not sure how they got them on the plane, but that is not my concern. Congrats, guys. -D.E.

Riya Kataria Interviews Michelle Obama on Instagram


Kitania here with some big news! First of all, Riya Kataria is incredible. Let me tell you why. She is a poet, activist, public speaker, and organizer from Fremont, California. Drawing on this experience, she understands how important it is for the world that youth use their voices. To aid in this, she founded Picket Fence Academy, a not-for-profit that brings the best public speaking education to elementary and middle schools. Also she is 16 years old. We were lucky enough to have her as one of our youth delegates at the International Congress of Youth Voices back in August. And, we are excited to say, Riya was featured on Instagram Live as part of a special interview with Michele Obama.


Max Costume | New York City, NY


Kitania here, to give an update on the Max costume from Where the Wild Things Are. Its most recent stop was Dos Puentes Elementary School in Washington Heights, NYC. You can find hot soup there for sure, as well as places where you feel like you know everyone, but don't. There are lonely places, too. There are the sorts of places that inspire the emotions pictured here, from pure commotion to cautious confidence. Thank you everyone at Dos Puentes. The costume is already back in his shipping container — someday we will show you that, too! It is not at all interesting, but still — and the next stop is Rowe, MA.

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Delegate Judi'caelle Irakoze's Project Choose Yourself

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Sometimes there are partnerships that just align perfectly. One of our International Congress delegates, Judi'caelle Irakoze, started a project called Choose Yourself that teaches English to Burundian refugees in the Nakivale Camp in Southwest Uganda. Because girls are often the most affected by the lack of education available in such camps, Irakoze's focus is on young girls. Judi’caelle's project was just highlighted by the Michelle Obama Global Giving Alliance, a crowd-sourcing platform that zeroes in on women-focused projects around the world. Please consider giving to Judi’s endeavor. She’s only 22 and has a passion and self-belief that ensures the plans she makes will be duly realized. -D.E.


Q&A with, from left to right: Participants Chloe, Daphne, Lilly, and Grace; and Marcus Küchle, Director of Artistic Operations and New Work Development for the Cincinnati Opera and producer for the project.

Q&A with, from left to right: Participants Chloe, Daphne, Lilly, and Grace; and Marcus Küchle, Director of Artistic Operations and New Work Development for the Cincinnati Opera and producer for the project.

There’s a fantastic writing center in Cincinnati called Wordplay Cincy, and they recently gave the public an early look into a project called Girls 2020. The plan is that young women writers will collaborate with the Cincinnati Opera on a piece to be performed in the summer of 2020 at CO Next: Diverse Voices. These words-and-music projects always produce extraordinary results — witness the many similar collaborations afoot in Louisville. Pictured here are members of the opera working with Cincy students, including Azaria Carter and Daphne Constantinedes, two delegates to our recent International Congress of Youth Voices. -D.E.

Two of the participating girls, Azaria Carter and Daphne Constantinides, with Program Coordinator Desirae Hosley.

Two of the participating girls, Azaria Carter and Daphne Constantinides, with Program Coordinator Desirae Hosley.

Grace from Music Resource Center performing an original piece.

Grace from Music Resource Center performing an original piece.

Delegate Salvador Gomez-Colon on CNN


One of my hopes for the International Congress of Youth Voices is that our delegates will speak out in the media, and that media outlets will seek them out when they want — and they should want — to hear from young people on issues that concern young people. Check out Salvador Gomez-Colon on CNN the other day, speaking about his nonprofit Light and Hope, which works in his native Puerto Rico. Salvador is only 16 but has the towering poise and passion of a born leader. -D.E.

Judd Apatow Visits Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute


Not everyone knows that Judd Apatow more or less single-handedly raised the funds necessary to build 826LA’s magnificent site in Echo Park.  Since then, he’s edited a book (I Found This Funny) to benefit 826, and has put on multiple fundraisers for LA and the programs across the country. Yesterday he was performing in Minneapolis, and took the time to stop by the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute, where he met students and posed next to the eternal question we all face daily regarding hugs and fish. Thank you, Judd. -D.E.

Max Costume | Sikeston, Missouri

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The first stop on the Wild Things Costume National/Possibly International Tour was Lee Hunter Elementary in Sikeston, Missouri. The kids at Lee Hunter got to try it on for Halloween, and presumably they felt slightly more feral than usual. Here we see Logan striking a familiar pose, demanding hot soup and not paté. After a few days with the costume, the good people at Lee Hunter just today shipped it off to New York City. Next week, we’ll have updates about the costume’s adventures there. Pictures of the costume riding the F line (my old train) will be appreciated but not required. -D.E.




Together with the youth department of the local council and the youth organization we organized “Mondopoly”—an intergenerational game. The main purpose of the game is to work against stereotypes by bringing together people who wouldn’t ordinarily meet. The local town becomes the “board” of this “board game.” One hundred pupils went out in groups of 4, armed with paper maps and an address (without a name), knocked on doors and rang door bells. They met 25 different people from the area and found out that our local mayor isn’t just a politician, but also a dog lover, a philosopher, a sports man, and a lover of everything English. The game happened on one day only and was documented by a group of teenagers. To fully capture what the kids learned on the day, we’ll organize a writing workshop with a published author in a couple of weeks’ time. From the workshops, we’ll release a publication at the end of November.

More info and photos from this project: http://mondopoly-lustenau.at


Our local town is based on the Swiss border, but the Rhine forms a very strong border between Austria and Switzerland. There’s a town just under 30km upstream that borders Lichtenstein in the same manner. W*ORT teamed up with a theater in this town, and a regional organization for literature and has organized a cross-border project involving four schools: 2 Austrian, 1 Swiss and 1 Lichtenstein. The aim is to compare family stories across the border and to write them down. Two authors will accompany the project and guide the pupils through the writing project, which will culminate in a publication.

This project will start at the end of November, check W*ORT’s website for updates here.


Judica’elle Irakoze, one of our brilliant delegates to the International Congress of Youth Voices, has a powerful piece in the Portland Press Herald this week. As a Maine resident, she has some choice words for Susan Collins in the wake of the Kavanaugh hearings. -D.E.



On October 26th, our friends at the Austin Bat Cave (ABC) welcomed more than 100 Austin and Houston students from three schools for an intensive workshop on screenwriting! Students worked on their own short scenes which they were then invited to submit for publication in ABC’s annual anthology of student writing. The host for the day was the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex in East Austin.


If You Can See the Stars There Is Still Light | Young Authors Greenhouse


Young Authors Greenhouse, a writing center for kids in Louisville, just published their first book, titled If You Can See the Stars There Is Still Light. Great title, no? There’s nothing like it in the world — nothing like this book, and nothing like the feeling, when you’re in middle school, of being published for the first time. Congratulations to the students at Olmsted Academy South, their teachers, and the staff at YAG. This is one of the partnerships you dream of — a fantastic public school, a bold and welcoming principal (Angela Allen), and a bunch of volunteers who made it all possible. -D.E.


Delegate Destiné Price Takes on Michigan School Curriculum Changes


Destiné Price was one of the delegates to our inaugural International Congress of Youth Voices, and is now taking on some very disturbing curriculum changes in the Michigan public schools. Republican State Senator and Gubernatorial candidate Patrick Colbeck is proposing the removal of references to: the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); the LGBTQ community; Roe v. Wade; climate change; and specific references to individual minority groups (immigrants, people with disabilities, etc). Orwellian doesn’t begin to describe it. Stalinesque? “I think it basically takes the voices away from all the identities they’re erasing away,” Price said. “I think that it’s going to be really hazardous for our communities of color to be unable to connect to their histories…because we don’t even learn about some of these things until we can access higher education, and them putting us all in a position where we have to kind of teach ourselves is not equity access.” -D.E.

Esperanza Rivera of 826 CHI Introduces President Barack Obama

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This is Esperanza Rivera introducing President Barack Obama at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago. Esperanza, a longtime student at 826CHI, was the first delegate named to the International Congress of Youth Voices, and her poise and authenticity in introducing the President were pretty astounding — especially considering Esperanza is only 15. The President and I had to ask each other, What were we doing at 15? The answer was Nothing remotely close to that. Thank you Esperanza and congratulations. More about the Obama Foundation to come. -D.E.