An online community for young writers and artists

Monthly Archives: May 2012

By Christine Weiser, Co-Publisher, Philadelphia Stories

I had the pleasure today of visiting The Ink Well Print Studio at Edison High School in North Philadelphia to pick up my first sample of their work. I was introduced to this group by one of their mentors, artist Karen Hunter-McLaughlin. Karen suggested I contact them for a bid on printing our new literary magazine for young writers and artists, Philadelphia Stories, Jr. I loved the idea of kids printing kids.

The Edison campus is tucked into a fairly deserted corner of the city, bustling with energetic teenagers. I went into the school, through the busy halls, and into the Xerox Ink Well studio, where I met Wilfredo Martinez, the production manager. Mr. Martinez showed me not one sample of the magazine, but four samples using a varied combination of paper stocks. They all looked great. He also showed me Edison’s literary journal, and many other samples of quality printing work equal to what I’ve seen from commercial printers.

Mr. Martinez enthusiastically told me about their school-to-career program, which began with a partnership between the School District of Philadelphia and Xerox in 2006. The Office of Career and Technical Education Collaborated with Xerox Corporation to provide digital printing equipment and a Digital Printing Technician to the Graphic Communications Program at Edison.
“As I write this,” lead instructor G. David Mills writes in their brochure, “everyone in class is working on live jobs. Students are running folders, cutters, shrink wrap machines. Others are hard at work designing posters and banners. Their work will be displayed for years, leaving a legacy that future classes will try to meet or exceed.”

Since 2006, this successful program has expanded at Edison, and is now a part of three other high school programs. It’s refreshing to hear this success story, especially during a time when we are inundated with more discouraging tales about our schools.

Mills writes about their students, “They will move on, some pursuing a career in the Graphic Arts, some going their separate ways, but hopefully they will leave with a lasting impression of what they learned here. A sense of purpose, work ethic, and confidence are necessary as they move on in their education and life.”

Congratulations on this good work, Ink Well.  I look forward to bringing more business here in the future.


Check out these amazing summer workshops and classes offered by our friends at Mighty Writers!

Summer Skywatch (Ages 5-6)
Wednesdays 4:00-6:00pm
August 1, 8, 15 (3 sessions)
Get excited about reading, writing and watching the sky in this imaginative workshop. We’ll start off by reading “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” by Judi Barrett and learn how to use simile, metaphor and other literary devices to talk about the weather. We’ll also learn about prediction as we produce real and imaginary weather forecasts.

Documentary Poetry for Beginners (Ages 7-9)
Sunday, June 3, 4:30-6:00pm (single session)
Transform yourself into a documentary poetry detective. There’s nothing to fear. If you like cutting, pasting and making collages, this workshop is for you. We’ll read and write documentary poetry and find clues in magazines, newspapers and photos. You may just be surprised by what we find, and how we creatively turn everyday language into poetry!

Garden Writing Club (Ages 8-11)
Sundays 1:00-2:30pm
Apr. 15, 22, 29, May 6, 13, 20, June 3, 10 (8 sessions; no session May 27)
For the Spring 2012 edition of Garden Writing Club, we’ll explore the following themes through art and writing: composting, planting, plant care and nutrition. Every Sunday, we’ll meet in the main writing studio at 1501 Christian St. The class will be conducted in the studio and in the Universal Garden across the street. Parent contributions of gloves, spades and seeds welcome!

Poets Who Know It! (Ages 9-11)
Tuesdays & Thursdays 6:00-8:00pm
May 15, 17, 22, 24, 29, 31 (6 sessions)
In this workshop, we will examine all kinds of poetry, from the silly fun of a limerick to the structure of iambic pentameter. We will find out about poets from different genres and time periods, including Shakespeare, Roald Dahl and A. A. Milne. After group discussion of selected poems, we will explore our own creative expression through word games, role play and visual arts, and then create original poetry of our own.

Summer Yoga for Kids (Ages 9-11)
Sundays 2:00-3:30pm
July 8, 15, 22, 29, Aug. 5, 12 (6 sessions)
Join Ms. Maureen from Yoga Child and Mighty summer intern Ms. Ashley for a combo yoga and writing workshop. Focusing on the themes of balance and endurance, we’ll learn basic yoga poses and write about what yoga can teach us about ourselves and our lives. Join us if you’re an aspiring yogi, or if you’d just like to practice balance and build endurance with some Mighty friends this summer.

Comic Book Club (Ages 9-11)
Tuesdays 4:00-6:00pm
July 10, 17, 24, 31, Aug. 7, 14 (6 sessions)
Why do we use the words we use? Where do they come from, and how can we describe them? Join us as we learn the origins of everyday words and illustrate them in comic form, to better understand what we say and write. We will explore the back-story behind commonly used words, find meanings we didn’t know existed, and then use our creativity to make Mighty comics.

Miss Write Now (Ages 10-12)
Thursdays 4:00-6:00pm
July 12, 19, 26, Aug. 2, 9, 16 (6 sessions)
Consider this workshop the little sister to our popular “Girl Power Poetry.” We’ll read great female writers from many genres and write poetry, fiction and nonfiction of our own. As inspiration, we’ll read selections from the work of Jamaica Kincaid, Gail Tsukiyama, Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Parker, Arundhati Roy, Zadie Smith and others. Join us for this intensive power-writing workshop!

Blood and Guts Galore (Ages 11-13)
Sunday, June 10, 3:00-4:30pm (single session)
What could be better than exploring blood, guts and gory diseases? Learn about extreme diseases and find out how science is a part of everyday life. Like the scientific method, science writing is methodical, and we’ll learn the steps for communicating scientific ideas clearly.

Writing Comic Scripts (Ages 12+)
Sunday, June 10, 4:30-6:00pm (single session)
This is a class with a little bit of “character.” Every story, no matter what, needs characters. In this class we will create robust characters and write high-action comic scripts. If you’ve got an idea for a story, we’ll show you how to create the characters you’ll need to make your story stand out.

Mighty Mural Project (Ages 12-15)
Sundays 3:30-5:00pm
July 8, 15, 22, 29, Aug. 5, 12 (6 sessions)
As a Mighty Writer, you’re invited to participate in the design and messaging of a mural in South Philadelphia. In partnership with the Artistic Rebuttal Book Project, this workshop will offer students a forum to think about writing and art, and the value of each to our South Philadelphia neighborhood. This workshop will include writing, design and illustration, and will end with a mural design to be painted during the spring of 2013. Make your mark on South Philadelphia!

Teen Lounge (Ages 13+)
Wednesdays 6:00-8:00pm
Come relax in our studio late night on Mighty Writers’ second floor, where we’ll discuss issues, make creative projects and just hang out. Did we mention we have a pool and ping-pong table? We’ll also take some field trips and get to know guest artists from around the city.

 For more information, log on to Mighty Writers, and, of course, don’t forget to submit your poems, stories, comics, and artwork to Philadelphia Stories, Junior!

by Jasmine Walker, APIARY Youth Editor

On Friday, April 18th, Apiary’s youth editors hosted a writing workshop at Travelers Aid Family Services in West Philly. I walked in the room while Lindo (APIARY’s Spoken Word Editor)  was delivering a freestyle spoken word piece using a few words that the kids had given him. He was in the zone—steady and confident—and held everyone’s attention. When it was over, the kids’ faces lit up.

Before the exercise began, Lindo asked the kids to shout out some words to be used in his freestyle spoken word piece.

“Did I forget ‘sad’?” Lindo asked over the applause.


The tiny computer lab was small and hot but the energy was flowing. In this workshop, Eve (APIARY Youth Editor) and Lindo asked the students to write their own pieces—10 lines in 10 minutes—about his or her voice. All the kids typed away and seemed eager to share and ready to be heard.

At the eleventh minute, hands were raised from almost every writer in the room. Their voices not only sounded different as they read their poems, but they also looked different. Some used a fancy font, some typed in extra large or bold print and a few used colored texts.

One boy spoke about how much his voice stood out around his friends, family and neighborhood. He was content with the fact that no one could see it yet because he knew that one day no one would be able to deny it. The only girl in the workshop wrote about how important her voice was even when no one was around to listen.

Even though students were only in middle school, they all seemed to have experienced things that they recognized as shaping them, for better or for worse. The hour long workshop produced one piece from each of the students but more that than, some of the kids understood the significance of their voice.

Reposted from APIARY magazine.

Local Author Karen Pokras Toz

Students from Myers Elementary School in Elkins Park, PA, recently interviewed children’s book author Karen Pokras Toz, Author of Nate Rocks the World and her latest, Nate Rocks the Boat, as a project for the school’s literary magazine, The Myers Muse.  

Children’s author and local parent, Karen Pokras Toz, visited the Myers Muse club to share her work and inspire the students to create their own cartoons. The children asked Ms. Toz about her life as an author.

Seth: What inspired you to write children’s books?

Karen: My inspiration was from my own children. They loved to read and I wanted to write a story for them that they would enjoy. I originally wrote it for them and then I decided to go ahead and publish it.

Eric Ross: Were you excited about publishing your first book?

Karen: I was so excited. When it came in the mail, I took a picture, and sent it to everyone I knew!

Zhao Gu: When and where were you born?

Karen: I was born in Bridgeport, Conneticut. I was born in 1968, a long time ago.

Alec: Where do you get your ideas?

Karen: There is no easy answer for that. Sometimes I’ll just be sitting watching TV or reading and something will pop in my head. Sometimes I will be driving; sometimes waiting at the bus stop. Ideas come to me in all different places.

Molly: Does writing a children’s book make you feel like a kid?

Karen: It really does. As a matter of fact, when I first started writing, I was writing a book for adults and I was really struggling with it and I thought a children’s book would be easier to write. Because I have three kids, I feel I can really relate to them. It was much easier for me to write in a child’s voice and it made me feel like I was re-living those years, which was a lot of fun.

Chris: Does writing a children’s book feel good?

Karen: It does. I love to write. I try to write every day. It’s something that I really enjoy doing–writing anything–but especially children’s books.

Zhao Gu: Do you want to write another book, like a sequel?

Karen: As a matter of fact the second book is already written and came out in May.

Seth: What is the second book going to be about?

Karen: The first book is about a 10-year-old boy who is in fourth grade and he loves to draw. Every time he draws a cartoon, it comes to life in his head and he lives out all these adventures. The second book is much of the same, except he goes away to overnight camp and he meets all new people and has all new adventures.

Zhao Gu: Will there be four books or, like Harry Potter, will there going to be 7 books?

Karen: Right now I definitely have plans for three books and we’ll see. After the third book, maybe I will keep going.

Seth: How long after you send it to the publishers do you have to wait until you get it back? If they say no do you try to send it to another publisher?

Karen: I am self-published, which means I publish the books myself so I don’t have to worry about anyone saying, “no.” The entire process takes about a full year between writing first draft, through x number of drafts. Then, I send it to an editor who edits my writing, then I re-write it, then I send it back to the editor, and then I re-write it again until we both feel like it’s a good story. Then I send it out to a printer and it gets published.

Molly: Would you consider writing another children’s book with a different, whole new idea?

Karen: I definitely would. After I finish the third Nate Rocks book, I have another idea in my head for another children’s book sequel that’s going to be about a girl instead of a boy and it will probably incorporate some activities like dance or things my daughter is into because I like to use real life experiences in the books.

To learn more about the Nate Rocks series and Karen Pokras Toz, visit Karen will be reading and signing her latest book, Nate Rocks the Boat, on Saturday, May 26 at the Barnes & Noble in Jenkintown and Monday, June 2 at the Barnes & Noble in Oxford Valley.

We all know that animals can’t talk, right? Or can they? Have you ever found yourself having a conversation with your cat or dog, or another type of pet that you might own? In a way, your pet does talk to you, either through a look, a bark, a meow or whatever noise your particular pet may be able to make. I believe that many people think their animals communicate with them without actually saying words. But what if animals could speak? What would they say? These are questions that have fired the imagination of writers for almost as long as there have been writers. Writer who have animals talk in their books and stories are using a literary technique called personification.

When I think of talking animals, two particular works come to mind: The Redwall books by Brian Jaques and Martha Speaks by Susan Meddaugh. I find the Redwall books interesting because, not only do the animals speak, they also have human characteristics. Some are good, some are bad. Some are nice and some are mean, just like people. In the Martha books, I especially love the idea that Martha gains the ability to speak by eating alphabet soup. Children’s literature is filled with books and stories which use personification as a literary technique. But what about adult literature?

One of my favorite examples of personification in adult literature is a book called La Jument Vert, or The Green Pony. It was written by Marcel Ayme, a humorous French writer. The entire book is told from the point of view of a painting of a green pony that hangs on the wall in the living room of a French farmhouse. The pony tells us all about the family who lives in the farmhouse. Most of it is pretty embarrassing because the family doesn’t know the pony is watching them, and many of their family secrets are revealed. This particular novel also goes to show you that when using the technique of personification, it is not only animals that can tell a story. A painting can be the protagonist (or main character) of the story and give the main point of view. A tree could tell a story, or a rock, or even a cloud. When I was a kid I once wrote a story told from the point of view of a pair of sneakers. They had gotten separated in the locker room after gym class, and, alas, they despaired of ever finding each other again! I think it all worked out in the end, but really, I wrote it so long ago I can’t actually remember.

How about you? Have you ever written a story using personification? If you haven’t, you might want to give it a try. It can be a wonderful way to make your writing richer. If your pet were to tell a story, what story would it tell? How about the computer in your house? If it could report on what it sees every day, what would that story be? Give it a try. Until next time, I wish you richer writing.

-Teresa Sari FitzPatrick

Don’t forget to mark you calendars for the launch of the summer issue of Philadelphia Stories, Junior this Saturday, May 12, from 3-5 p.m. at Musehouse Center for the Literary Arts. Come to this free event and support young writers and artists whose work was published in the latest issue! 

Last time we talked about different forms of Japanese poetry.  Today I would like to introduce you to a couple more, hoping they will inspire you to give new forms to your own writing.  We talked about Haiku (three line poem, 5-7-5 syllable count) and free verse haiku (short two or three line poems, usually about nature).  We also talked about renku, which several poets write together in alternating stanzas.  If you like these kinds of poems, a good website to visit is  I have them e-mail me a new poem every day. 

Another Japanese form poem you might want to try is a tanka.  Tanka is very similar to haiku and renku in that it has the syllable count 5-7-5 of a haiku followed by two lines of seven syllables each, just like the first stanza of a renku.  In a tanka, however, the author is usually expressing a strong emotional reaction brought on by what he sees in nature. 

On the white sand

Of the beach of a small isle

In the Eastern Sea

I, my face streaked with tears,

Am playing with a crab.

– Ishikawa Takuboku



Let’s also talk about a very easy and fun form poem to write, the cinquain.  A cinquain is a five line poem that follows the following pattern:
Line 1 is one word (the title)
Line 2 is two words that describe the title.
Line 3 is three words that tell the action
Line 4 is four words that express the feeling
Line 5 is one word that recalls the title



Bat cracks

The pitch hit

Yay! I did it!


These few are some of the easiest form poems to use to enrich your own writing.  Although they are easy, trying to fit your poetic thoughts into a specific form will give your brain a challenge and that is always good for your writing.

-Teresa Sari FitzPatrick