Lately I've been thinking a lot about writing and writers, and in particular teenage writers.
This is in part because of the story on the front page of this Sunday's Food and Fun section, and for those reading the newspaper you only have to move your eyes to the left to know what I'm talking about.
For everyone else, I encourage you to read this week's story about Topeka West High School's author-in-residence writer's workshop.
I became aware of this workshop through Topeka West media and library specialist Jessica Karns, and upon meeting with her and three students who have participated in the workshop the past few years, I started to realize how lucky they are to have such a program.
The workshop, in its 36th year, brings in a featured writer and guest who works with the students to help develop their writing skills, play around with writing concepts and bounce ideas off fellow students.
As someone who is a writer, albeit in a different form, I see and understand the tremendous value in this program.
In talking to some of Topeka West's students, I learned the school doesn't really have a designated writing club but it does offer creative writing as a class.
A brief internet search led me to discover that Seaman High School offers a writing club, though I wasn't able to determine if it is still active. I wasn't able to determine if any other area high schools have similar programs, but I'm sure several do.
I went to a private school all through my high school education, and I wasn't given an opportunity to have access to a writing club or a writing workshop like Topeka West's. The most we had was creative writing and it was only a semester class.
While I appreciated the class and what I learned in it, I would have enjoyed a place to interact with fellow writers. At the time, I was very much into writing short stories and the likes.
To get to my point, programs like Topeka West's are so important for teenagers, who for the most part are experiencing a growing phase and have a place, even if it is for two days, to express their thoughts and feelings with like-minded people.
Writing can also be a vulnerable thing to do as people sometimes are pouring their heart into it, and not having someone there to confirm their feelings or relate to them in some way can be a hard process to go through alone.
The workshop is also important because it is developing new talent — talent that may or may not stay in Topeka. I already know there is a vibrant writing community here, but there is nothing wrong with growing that.
Workshops and programs like Topeka West's get me excited for the future of our youth. They have so much at their fingertips to help them thrive, and I hope they utilize what they are given.