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Frederick Douglass Youth Camps at Writers & Books

SummerWrite Youth Camps Focus on Douglass’s Legacy and Values


Rochester NY: Writers & Books invites local youth, ages 5-18, to participate in a number of week-long Frederick Douglass-inspired camps during summer break in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Douglass’ birth. Writers & Books will offer eight, age-appropriate SummerWrite camps that will focus on Douglass’ life and times as well as social justice issues.


Director of Youth Education Sally Bittner Bonn says:


“We are thrilled to be part of the local and national bicentennial celebration of Frederick Douglass. He did some of his most important work right here in Rochester. We are honoring his legacy through a series of workshops for young people focusing on his life and times and/or on social justice issues. As Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Additionally we are participating in the national One Million Abolitionists project, which is being led by the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, and aims to distribute one million copies of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass to young people across the country.”


The workshops are:

Who Will Tell Your Story? Is Anybody Listening?

Ages: 12-14

This class explores the historical and cultural underpinnings of the artistic, scientific, and philosophical contributions made by indigenous American and African peoples, as well as the diverse contingent of immigrants to our country’s history


Afrofuturism and Black Panther

Ages: 12-14

Blend Black Panther-like movie storytelling and writing with your own interpretation of distinctive African cultures, history, and Sci Fi fantasy.


Rebels, Leaders, & Innovators

Ages: 5-7

Learn about people like Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Helen Keller, Lou Gehrig, and more by reading age-appropriate biographies.





Heroes of Social Justice

Ages: 8-11

We will learn about local heroes in our history like Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, as well as today’s heroes and innovators such as refugee and Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini, human rights activist Yeonmi Pak, and more!


Writing the Unexpected: A Fiction Workshop for Writers of Color

Ages: 14 & Up

This class will be comprised of serious and advanced fiction writers of color. Students will learn how to build strong, complex characters who subvert stereotypes of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc. We will read, write, and workshop story drafts, examining craft elements.

Citizens: A Conversation on Race, Identity, & Democracy

Ages: 14 & Up

Using Claudia Rankine’s book Citizen: An American Lyric, which recounts acts of racism in lyrical prose poems, as a jumping off point, we will engage in discussion and writing around racial, identity, and social justice issues.


We Breathe Fire: Teen Poetry Slam

Ages: Teen

This camp requires two prerequisites for all participants: Open mind. Open heart. The world is eager to hear you! “A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.” – Nikki Giovanni


Write for Write: A Social Justice Workshop

Ages: 14 & Up

Located in Geneseo at the Wadsworth Library

This fiction-writing workshop honors the life of Claire Allen and her humanitarian legacy. Participants will discuss relevant and urgent social justice issues affecting local, national, and global communities, study short stories that address those issues, and help one another write their own stories that illuminate the realities of these issues. This work will culminate in a public reading intended to raise awareness and stir discussion that leads to community action to create positive change.



To learn more about these camps or about SummerWrite in general, please email Sally Bittner Bonn at

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Let Yourself Be Surprised


“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” –Joan Didion


Writing is an important way to recognize what we believe, but what we don’t know. Whether fiction or non, poetry or prose, writing is a means of letting our inner thoughts commingle with the outside world. The best way for writers to find their way into art is to pay attention and sit down. There are worlds inside of us. But you have to start writing and let go of a certain amount of control to find them.


In all of my workshops, I offer prompts that work for any genre. Prompts that will get you thinking, reflecting, imagining, or recording. The best way to find the stories you hold and your way of telling them is to put one word after another and let yourself be surprised.


This summer, I’m teaching two teen workshops: Tiny Tales (flash fiction) and Small Truths (flash nonfiction).


I’m also teaching an adult class called The Hermit Crab: Write Provocatively.


In all of these classes we’ll talk craft, generate work from prompts, and workshop a piece of your choosing.


Sarah Cedeño’s work is forthcoming or has appeared in The Journal, 2 Bridges, The Pinch, The Baltimore Review, New World Writing, The Rumpus, Hippocampus Magazine, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. Sarah is the Editorial Director of the national literary magazine Clockhouse and holds an MFA from Goddard College in Vermont. She lives in Brockport, NY with her husband and two sons, and teaches writing at the College at Brockport. She is at work on a collection of essays on illness and womanhood called The Visible Woman.


Sarah will be teaching a 5-week writing course, The Hermit Crab: Write Provocatively, starting on July 12.

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Participants Wanted for Listening to the Future

Writers & Books and Rochester Spoken Word are again co-sponsoring an event on Thursday June 7,
2018 titled, Listening to the Future: An Evening of Prose and Poetry from Area High School Students.
This is a spoken word event for high-school-age writers who would like the opportunity to read their
work aloud to an audience. The goal is to get young writers to feel comfortable sharing their work live
and to further encourage them to continue writing. Last year’s event was such a success, we’ve
decided to repeat it annually.
The event will take place in the Performance Space at Writers & Books and will be free to the public.
We will have 12 readers, and each reader will have up to 8 minutes to read a single completed or
partial piece of their own writing. At the conclusion of the readings, the readers will be brought
together on stage for a short Q&A session.
We are looking for teachers and mentors to identify students who they feel would be a good fit for this
event. If a student would like to participate, the teacher/mentor can nominate the student by
submitting the form located at Our goal is to select students
from a variety of schools throughout the county. Deadline for submissions is end-of-day on May
18, 2018. All persons submitting nominations will be notified via email of the selected students on May
22, 2018.
Selected students will need to provide additional information, such as: title of piece, length in minutes,
type (poetry/prose), and tone (humorous, sad, introspective, etc.), as well a s a short bio. Specific
information will be requested upon selection of students.
Additionally, we’re holding a design contest for this year’s T-shirt logo. The winner will receive a T-
shirt with their logo, a $25 Amazon gift certificate, and a one-year student membership to RoCo
(Rochester Contemporary Art Center). For contest rules and to submit an entry, please visit
Your school/organization’s participation in this event is greatly appreciated. We ask that you please
pass this request along to any staff members who are best positioned to nominate a student, as well
as Art Department faculty and any students who may be interested in participating in the logo contest.
For further information, please contact:
Scott Seifritz, Founder, Rochester Spoken Word, 585-820-7017,
Sally Bittner Bonn, Director of Youth Education, Writers & Books, 585-473-2590 x109,
To Nominate a Student, visit:
For Logo Contest Information, visit:
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Writers & Books Celebrates Record-breaking Community Reads Program

For Immediate Release

Media Contact: Chris Fanning

Director of Communications

585-473-2590 ext 104

Rochester NY: Last Friday, March 30, Writers & Books wrapped up the eighteenth year of their annual community reading program, Rochester Reads. This year the organization hosted author Reyna Grande (author of the award-winning memoir The Distance Between Us) to Rochester for a three-day residency. Grande held readings of new work and led topical discussions at various libraries (Central, Penfield, Palmyra, Wood, Greece), college campuses (MCC, FLCC, RIT), high schools (SOTA), and a senior living center (Valley Manor). This year more than 1400 people attended these readings, a significant increase of almost 500 people over last year.


In her memoir, Reyna Grande shares the complex experiences of her life, from her childhood in Mexico, through her illegal immigration to the US in pursuit of a better life, to her success as a student and author. This inspirational coming-of-age story follows Reyna and her family as they cross the border and navigate the complexities of living as undocumented immigrants – with Reyna ultimately being the first in her family to earn a college degree.


Karen vanMeenan, coordinator of community reading programs at Writers & Books, spoke about the impact of picking Grande’s book:

“When I first read The Distance Between Us I, of course, recognized its value as a moving coming-of-age story and a beautifully crafted narrative. As I thought more about the recent conversations and the reignited controversies dividing people across our country, I knew this book was important—that if we selected it for Rochester Reads, it could spark crucial dialogue and bring people together. I knew it was the right book at the right time. And the response was indeed extraordinary. We had record crowds at every venue with audiences interested in the author’s experience, her family story, and the implications of continuing policies and rhetoric regarding undocumented people in this country. Reyna Grande captivated our audiences with her engaging presentations and presence, openly sharing her story and inspiring others to do so.”


Writers & Books is Rochester’s nationally renowned non-profit literary center located at 740 University Avenue, in the heart of Rochester’s Neighborhood of the Arts. In 2001, Writers & Books initiated the Rochester Reads program. The program seeks to encourage people to connect to others in our community through reading and discussion, and through the shared experience of literature. Each year Writers & Books selects one book for our community to explore together, leading to a residency by the author.