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Nevo Zisin on finding your own voice: Teen writing boot camp

Headshot in front of a yellow background with a rainbow shirt
01 June 2021

At the Library's Teen writing boot camp in March 2021, writer, performer and activist Nevo Zisin taught teens how to find their own voice and write with authenticity. Here they share some tips and reflections from the workshops.

I believe both finding and writing your own story can be a deeply profound, challenging and magical experience. All of these elements were very much present in the ‘Own Voices’ boot camps I got to run with State Library Victoria. We had a really strong group of young people who showed up every single week full of enthusiasm, authenticity, vulnerability and a desire to share their stories and insights.

We began the workshops with an introduction of my story and a little bit of context around what brought me to writing, telling my story for others to hear, and how I found my own voice. We did a lot of short-burst writing activities and it was such a treat to see the way the participants all found their own unique spins and interpretations of the prompts.

Our second session was dedicated to self-love and self-compassion and we each wrote some letters to our own body parts, that we might not have always treated with the most love and respect. This was a beautiful opportunity for these teens to explore their relationships with themselves and to elicit a little more empathy for the parts of themselves they are not always grateful for or connected to. We also wrote letters to our younger selves, giving them some advice and trying to honour where they were at in their lives at the time. The willingness of these young writers to share openly was truly humbling and they were each incredibly complimentary of others’ works and keen to build friendships with one another (even choosing to create a discord at the end of the workshops so they could stay in touch).

The third session I pre-emptively apologised for pretty much speaking at them the entire session, offering lots of tips and tricks for finding inspiration for writing in their everyday lives, dealing with imposter syndrome and perfectionism, and considering some of the ethics of memoir writing/writing your own story. I was pretty taken aback to see them all frantically taking as many notes as they could and was reminded of the deep joy that comes from engaging with passionate young writers who genuinely really want to be there.

In our last session, we dedicated the entire workshop to just writing activities and got to use some really fun prompts that I enjoy, such as writing on the prompt ‘sunset’ for three minutes, then taking the very last sentence of the piece and using that as the next prompt for another three minutes, and repeating that once again. All of the writing presented was brilliant and I got such wonderful feedback from these young writers throughout the workshops, including from one on my Instagram who said that she’d been in a pretty terrible mood in the first session, but the environment had really brought her out of it and made her feel excited and happy again.

Not only were these workshops a brilliant opportunity for these creative teens to explore their authorial voices and find their stories, but also to be in a safe and nourishing space with teens who were looking for support and community. It was a true pleasure and gift!

If anyone missed out and is interested in being immersed in this kind of space, you can join the fortnightly free workshops I run for LGBTIQA+ young people with fellow non-binary author Alison Evans.

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