Judgment-Free Creative Space

I pledge allegiance to grandpa, faucets that don’t drip and potatoes with butter and pepper.

These are just a few of the responses shared during a recent Teen Writers’ Workshop at Lake Erie Ink, a Cleveland nonprofit that helps youth develop creative writing skills. The question: “I pledge allegiance to what people, places, styles, motives and attitudes?”

Ayelet Travis

Ayelet Travis, a 10th-grader at Fuchs Mizrachi School, was one of six youth at the Wednesday evening workshop. After discovering the group via an online search, she began participating in January.

“The main thing I like is that it is a space to let your creativity out,” Ayelet says. “I learned I need a space like that – everyone needs a space like that. When I get stressed, if I don’t do something creative, then it gets more pent up, so I try to be as creative as possible.”

In seventh grade, the young writer discovered Slam Poetry, where poets perform their work and receive scores from judges. Ayelet watched these competitions online daily and “became literally obsessed – you don’t even know.”

Deciding she wanted to create poetry in this form, Ayelet started writing.

“At first I thought my writing wasn’t so good; I didn’t know if I should continue,” she says. “And then I started following this one slam poet I really liked. She was also Jewish. She is my role model.”

The poet she likes, Rhiannon McGavin, gives helpful tips about writing and how to keep going on her YouTube channel, “TheGeekyBlonde.”

[bctt tweet=”Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and a thought has found words. – Robert Frost ” username=”GoodCauseCLE”]

Not confining her work to any specific category, Ayelet has written about love, friends and waning relationships. One of her poems will be published in June as part of a Lake Erie Ink book, called Home Away From Home: A Collection of Writing by Cleveland Teens. Ayelet’s poem, titled “The Woman Speaks the Truth,” touches on women finding their voices in a male-dominated world.

Cordelia Eddy, program coordinator at Lake Erie Ink, leads the Teen Writers’ Workshop. While Ayelet has only been part of the group for a few months, Cordelia sees her as an integral contributor.

“She is a natural poet and her writing often has multiple layers of meaning, and sometimes leaves you with an “a-ha” moment,” Cordelia says. “She often weaves political themes into her writing, but it is always more literary and artful than polemic. She writes for mood, writes to make a point about society or daily life, and writes to create an evocative image.”

Before joining Lake Erie Ink, Ayelet took a creative writing course at school, which she also loved. This class would use ideas from other people’s work as a writing prompt. But at Lake Erie Ink, Ayelet says the ideas could be anything.

“The first time I came, we were asked to write a story about a bear, honey and lamp post,” she says, laughing.

Along with using imaginative subjects as prompts, the teen workshop allows participants to become familiar with different writing styles. After sharing their personal allegiances during the recent Wednesday evening, the group read flash fiction pieces, discussed the meaning behind the genre and then created their own versions.

Cordelia sets a few minutes as a time limit to each exercise. She sees using constraints and structure as key ways to help writers overcome anxiety.

Ayelet used to compare her work to others, but Lake Erie Ink improved her confidence.

“I think the best part is to be in a creative space where you don’t feel judged, and they do a really good job of that,” Ayelet says.

Lake Erie Ink will host the Home Away From Home book release party from 6 to 9 p.m. June 2 at B-Side Liquor Lounge & Arcade in Cleveland Heights.

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