Guest Blog Posts

Virtual Creativity: How The Speakeasy Project is Fostering a Space for Writers – guest blog post by Isabelle Jia

An interview with Program Director & Founder, Tyler Tsay, on what The Speakeasy Project brings to the writing world.

What is The Speakeasy Project?
The Speakeasy Project is an online workshop space for students of all ages. By offering workshops entirely online, we hope to bring the space of the workshop to users that may not have access to a city or institutions of higher learning (where many workshops are held). Furthermore, we aim to hire as many (queer) mentors of color as possible in order to disrupt the political leanings of the workshop towards cis male and/or white writers and create a more inclusive and welcoming space for all students.

Who is the platform for?
Anyone! Our All Ages  workshops in poetry and nonfiction are open to students of all ages and background. We also offer workshops for exclusively indigenous writers called R I V E R S (a collaborative project with Cloudthroat Magazine). Lastly, we offer workshops with Raina León geared towards writers who are learning to navigate the professional writing world. This includes our Agent to Your Truth program, a 4-week spring course for students interested in connecting with established literary agents and publicists, and our Live to Write program, an 8-week summer course that covers topics such as putting together a submission packet, crafting a query, putting together a manuscript, and more.

When, where, and how frequently are these workshops held?
Our workshops are offered every spring, summer, and winter. Applications are currently open for all three of our summer workshops, so don’t miss out on your chance to work with our amazing mentors. To see our full list of course offerings by season, please visit the following: https://www.thespeakeasyproject.net/apply/

Do you have any advice for the poets/writers applying to the workshops?
Don’t be afraid to apply! Our applications are free for a reason. Moreover, we encourage writers with little to no experience to try their hand at one of our workshops. When selecting mentor groups, we carefully pair writers up with similar backgrounds and experience, so you have no reason to worry about being “out of your depth” or anything like that.

In addition to workshops, what does The Speakeasy Project have to offer to the writing community?
We also have two features for writers who cannot spend the time to take one of our workshops. The first is our Feedback Corner, a space where you can book one-on-one sessions with our fantastic Feedback Editors if you want some more close-knit editing. The second is The Harbor, an online space for writers. Through this feature, we provide free guest lectures from our mentors and other incredible writers, monthly peer-editing services and more. And it’s free to sign up!

Does the platform have any goals it would like to achieve in time?
I started The Speakeasy Project because of my experience in my own school’s workshop. It was a space I did not feel comfortable in, as I know many writers of color often feel; it is a tendency for workshop spaces to cater to the majority or dominant opinion. This is often tied into the fact that many of these workshop spaces are run by white male writers who do not emphasize enough the need to give space to every voice, and instead privilege a particular few. My hope is that we can eventually bring The Speakeasy Project to a plethora of writers across the nation, especially at schools without the resources to offer courses like this themselves. Already, we are partnering with schools across the nation to sponsor programs like this at no cost to their students. In the coming years, we will continue to not only expand our workshop offerings, but increase our partnerships with schools and organizations so that as many writers as possible can have access to the welcoming and inclusive space that workshops should be.

In separate interviews, we asked three of our recurring workshop mentors the same question of “What is one piece of advice you could tell your past self, that could potentially aid young writers now?” This is what they said:

Chen Chen (All Ages Poetry Workshop: Sessions One, Three, Four & Five)

I’d tell myself to be gentler, and more patient, and less perfectionist. If you are passionate about writing and devoted to making time for it, the writing will happen. The best writing might not happen right away. Sometimes it does, but in my experience, not usually. Let yourself write what you enjoy writing, and savor that process. Don’t rush it but also don’t avoid writing because you’re so worried that it won’t amount to something great. Write for your own idiosyncratic reasons. Keep writing.

Donald Quist (All Ages CNF Workshop: Sessions Four & Five)

I would tell myself to recognize the good you could do. If you have an inclination to write, if you have the skills, these skills need to be used in service of something bigger than yourself. A lot of people want to write, and they say, I don’t have time to write, but if you’re the type of person who can sit down and do it, then you have something other people don’t have. You have a focus and drive that other people don’t have and it would be great if you used that to elevate others. It would be nice to use those skills to help humanity endure.

Rosebud Ben-Oni (All Ages Poetry Workshop: Sessions Four & Five)

Don’t do it for awards or fame or, of course, money. Don’t get distracted by petty feuds or invest your time in people who don’t have your best interests at heart. Read living poets. Help to create the communities you’d truly want to be part of. Trust there will come a time in which you will be your own best reader of your work, and trust that there will still be times when you will need one more pair of eyes on a poem or manuscript. Trust some poems will become other poems, or part of other poems. Trust some weren’t meant to be published at all, but part of a larger process of writing the poems you were meant to write. It’s okay to make mistakes. Don’t be too hard on yourself, although I know being hard on yourself is also inevitable. Waking up the next day from your darkest day is the ultimate triumph. It’s why we evolved to create poetry. It’s how poems are created. It’s how we create both the bridge and the fire, the harvest and the fire, the ashes we scatter in barren plains. I’m not being completely metaphorical. I still remember the taste of a particular sandstorm. I’ve learned to savor the lostness, the bitterness, all that my younger self thought so pointless, when she thought herself so trivial and stranded.

 


Do you have something say about poetry? An essay on being a poet, tips for poets, or poetry you love? TrishHopkinson.com is now accepting pitches for guest blog posts. 

Contact me here if you are interested! 


Tyler Tsay is a junior at Williams College and co-founder of The Blueshift Journal. His work, both past and upcoming, has been or will be published in The Offing, The Margins: Asian American Writers Workshop, DIAGRAM, Vinyl Poetry and others. He is the recipient of the Bullock Poetry Prize, awarded by the Academy of American Poets and judged by Camille Rankine, and is a current staff member at BOAAT Press.

 

Isabelle Jia is a writer from the San Francisco Bay Area, CA. Her whose work has appeared, or is forthcoming in Alexandria Quarterly, The Blueshift Journal, and many more. Jia has attended the Iowa Young Writers Studio and the California State Summer School of Arts. She has also been recognized as a California Arts Scholar, by the Walt Whitman Poetry Foundation, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. Currently, she works for Tinderbox Poetry and The Speakeasy Project. For more on her work, go to http://isabellejia.weebly.com/

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