22 April 2006

The best thing ever

One Saturday a month, I have a day that makes every other day of the month pale by comparison.

I volunteer for a writing mentorship program called WriteGirl.

The program works like this: teen girls are matched with adult mentors, who are professional women writers. Most of the mentors have interesting jobs like writing for TV or movies or books or magazines, unlike yours truly. There are a few of us corporate/technical types in the mix.

The mentors meet with the girls one-on-one an hour a week to work on writing. All of the girls who have been through the program have gone to college, every single one!

Once a month, we all get together to work on our writing - together. Everyone does the exercises, everyone participates. It is a day of energy and sharing and encouragement and fun.

Every workshop has a theme. Today's was dialogue.

I should probably mention that this program would be great anywhere, but having the workshops in Hollywood gives us an edge that turns a bit surreal sometimes.

One of our guest speakers today had written a few movies (along with her writing partner) that you might have heard of. Ella Enchanted. She's the Man. Ten Things I Hate About You. And a little thing called "Legally Blonde."

The other guests were writers on the shows "The Shield" and "Angel" among others.

So they all gave us great dialogue advice, then we did some exercises where we wrote dialogue. We ended by writing a two-page scene.

Then they brought in actors, who acted out the dialogue the girls had written. Some of the actors were young up-and-comers and at least one was a well-known star.

They got up and brought the girls' words to life with total commitment and off-the-hook talent. It was electrifying to see the scenes acted out - these are young girls who have all the usual teen anxieties about whether they are ok or not, and suddenly they have real liveactors performing their words and a crowd of about 75 cheering for them...It is like a prayer revival in its intensity.

I was mentor-for-the-day to S., a ninth grader from Compton. When one of the actors came in, she got all giggly and blushy and told me she had had a crush on the guy when she saw him in the movie "But I'm a Cheerleader." She kept saying "He's so cute!" under her breath.

After the workshop, I asked her if she was going to talk to him. "Noooooo!" she said, blushing madly. "It's your one chance," I said.

"Noooooooo." She wouldn't do it.

As he was walking out, I said "This is S. and she is a big fan of your work."

He could not have been more gracious. She was shy and cute and giggly and starstruck. He hugged her and took several minutes to talk to her. He asked all about her and what grade she was in, and he told her that next year when he came back, she should ask for him and he would perform her scene. He told her that a couple times.

Can you imagine? Being 13 and getting to meet someone from a movie that you have had a crush on and he wants to perform your work? How cool is that?

I'll bet she was walking on air when she took the Metro home. I know I drove down the 101 grinning like a fool.


MrsFortune said...

Holy crap, how awesome!!! "But I'm a Cheerleader" .. is that the one where the girl gets sent to "anti-lesbian" camp? That was a great movie. That sounds like such a cool program. What was the scene about?

Okay, so I've heard of Jennie Garth but um ... I hadn't heard of any of those other actors. :(

J.R. Kinnard said...

Jennie Garth! No way!

Sometimes, I'm so envious of you living near Hollywood, Sue (like now). Other times, I think being that close to Hollywood, when I have no hope of ever being a player, would drive me insane. I'd end up on the street begging for loose scripts!

super des said...

you may be "only" a technical writer, but at least you get to include the word "writer" in your job title.

SUEB0B said...

JR - yep, one of my fellow mentors advised me to not even think about screenwriting because it is so frustrating - and she works for a movie studio, so you'd think she would have an in.

Des...my writing skills, such as they are, are sadly underutilized at work. Mostly I am a cut and paster. But I have done much, much worse jobs, some involving polyester uniforms and brooms.

Anonymous said...

That's a really cool thing to be doing. Mentoring is really underrated, IMO.

Heather Bea said...

Having once been a 13 year old girl I was just grinning from ear to ear reading your story. Write Girl sounds like such a great organization.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

That is the coolest mentoring program that I've ever heard of! You're so fortunate to be able to participate.

Jennie Garth? Neat-o.

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