Stephanie Brea of Word Farm Workshops works to grow young writers and sprout creative communities.
She is also one of the writing professionals pegged to help teens hone their writing skills this year as part of the National Novel Writing Month for teens.
Brea will take part in the kickoff event Thursday at the Sewickley Public Library. She will also offer guidance on Nov. 8 during a second week writing session at Penguin Bookshop.
Patch recently had the opportunity to interview Stephanie Brea about her love of writing and the Young Writer's Program, an initiative in conjunction with the official NaNoWriMo. Here's what she had to say.
PATCH: Who inspired you or started you writing? What helped shape your writing style?
I have been writing since I was in elementary school, and I like to confess that my first stories were typed on an old typewriter & frequently featured Victorian girls, tea parties and galloping horses. I always share this because everyone starts somewhere.
My writing style was heavily shaped by the writing classes that I took at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, and I find myself influenced and inspired by local writer Lori Jakiela especially. I am honored I had the opportunity to work with her. Somewhere I read a quote about Pittsburgh not only being a city of bridges, but also of writers. This is so true. There’s an incredible literary community in our city, lots of events and opportunities, and I had lots of exposure to an incredibly talented group of folks early on.
My style and my voice is shaped by my background, my upbringing, my every day experiences. I come from a blue-collar working class family. My dad was a welder, and my mom a secretary. I worked in crappy food service jobs at 16. I used to say that I envisioned my work as poetry for everyone. I wanted the woman I worked with at the local bookstore, my grandmother, my high-school dropout friends to read these poems and be able to understand and enjoy poetry, to realize that it wasn’t this lofty intellectual pursuit, a page long stream of ambiguity.
PATCH: What does Word Farm Workshops do?
Word Farm Workshops started by accident when I consistently found myself volunteering as a sort of writer-in-residence & creative writing workshop facilitator at various local schools & organizations. Too often creative writing is eliminated from lesson plans & extra curriculars, and students find themselves with no means of digging deeper into their writing life. I like to say I focus on writing craft, courage and community. While I believe that craft is important, I also think that courage to read your work aloud or submit for publication is just as valuable, because it builds confidence. Much of what I focus on can be translated into life skills, not just writing skills. Even if you decide to abandon writing for a career in statistics or environmental engineering, you are still going to have to stand in front of people, convey your thoughts and put yourself out into the world. And as a young person, finding a community of like-minded peers can make a huge difference during those awkward years when you feel alone & alienated.
Currently, I work in both Westmoreland and Allegheny counties, but my online workshops will be launching soon!
PATCH: When did you first become published?
I self-published a poetry chapbook in 2004, and have thankfully continued to receive acceptance letters in my mailbox for publication of both my poems and essays in the years since.
PATCH: What made you want to participate with this teen initiative? What do you hope the teens will gain?
While I work with all age groups, high schoolers are my main focus. I enjoy working with them because they have started developing their writing voice & style, and they know enough about themselves to know that this is something they are passionate about.
When I was in high school, a local writer came & worked with us for a couple of days, that was the turning point for me as a writer, and it is my hope that I can do the same for someone now.
What will they gain: writing craft, courage, community. They are going to write a novel in a month—that takes passion & perseverance & guts. I think they will learn a lot about themselves as writers and themselves as people by the end of November. NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program truly is a great program, and I am glad to be a part of it this year, and excited to be at the library (I love—and use—my local library).
PATCH: Are you currently working on any books or writings?
While I am currently compiling another poetry manuscript in order to send it out early next year in hopes of publication acceptance, my main focus right now is building this business, finding other schools & organizations that I can assist, new groups of students to work with.