I have great ideas coming to my mind; they just pop up,” says 8-year-old Megan Lin, who is enrolled in a creative writing program known as Take My Word For It. Founded by Oakland mom and personal essayist Sondra Hall, Take My Word For It offers community-based and after-school writing classes with catchy titles (Peanut Butter and the Pen; Poetry Palooza) throughout the Bay Area. Lin, who attends Crocker Highlands Elementary School, has been learning about alliteration in her Poetry Palooza class. “Megan makes mad monkeys moan on Monday mornings,” she wrote recently, showing off her new skills.
Back in 2005, Hall, whose two young sons attended Chabot Elementary School, found herself troubled by how little expressive writing was included in the curriculum. To remedy the situation, she talked her way into teaching an after-school writing class at Chabot. The idea—and her enthusiasm—caught on, and today Hall’s original one-woman show is a thriving business with a staff of 15 teachers.
Since 2005, Hall has developed curricula for more than a dozen kid-centered creative writing classes. Courses at community sites like Berkeley’s Classroom Matters extend the program to more kids. Hall also serves up a summer camp with offerings like Stamps and Letters and What Would the Big Bad Wolf Make for Supper? A Fairy Tale Food Romp. Classes are offered for students in grades two through seven at a cost of about $160 for
10 weeks, with scholarships available.
“I want kids to have the experience of expressing their own voice and having it validated,” says Hall. “I don’t want them to be afraid of the blank page.” During Poetry Palooza at Crocker Highlands, teacher Polly Conway gets her group of six girls and two boys excited about writing their own riddles. Third grader Zoe Mowbray asks: “What is as yellow as the sun, as big as a pupil, and it is in the room?” The answer: the bright yellow earring in her teacher’s ear.
Budding poet Megan Lin had previously been a reluctant writer who worried about spelling, according to her mom, Koko Lin. But spelling is trumped by creative expression at Take My Word For It. When Koko asked her daughter to share some writing ideas at home, the girl described a banana as “yellow and soft,” adding, “It looks like my mom’s smile.”
Now offered at 21 sites in the Bay Area (10 in the East Bay) and also northern Virginia, Hall’s program continues to grow. Her newest endeavor is a Saturday mother-and-daughter writing workshop at Berkeley’s Teahouse Studio (aunts and grandmas are welcome, too). “Every kid is brimming over with imagination,” says Hall. “We just need to take the lid off.”
Take My Word For It!, 510-388-1548, www.takemywordforit.net.