Mary Connors, New Haven Reads’ literacy specialist, can be found every Friday from 3 to 5 p.m. on Zoom with a room full of students, challenging them to think creatively, write beautifully, and share their finished written products with each other. For the second time, Mary is leading the Creative Writing Club. Even better, due to immense student interest, she’s leading two different sessions, one at Dixwell with older students and one at Willow Street with younger students.
Mary draws on a wealth of experience, having taught high school English and led an after-school Poetry Club before coming to New Haven Reads. Anyone who joined the Creative Writing Club for a day would not be surprised to learn about Mary’s background. It shows in her interactions with students, dedication to the process, and genuine interest in bringing out their best writing during every session.
She recently asked her younger students to write a two-person play. “They did a fabulous job. Being younger kids, I didn’t know they’d get rolling that quickly with their plays,” Mary said.
The students broke into groups of two after learning about the project, and they began with only 10 minutes left. Mary was surprised to discover that some kids had already completed their short skits by the end of the 10 minute period.
Most of all, though, she was just pleased that the students were enjoying themselves and improving their confidence in their writing in the Creative Writing Club.
Mary shared, “I wanted to bring in social interaction, and really, I wanted them to truly grow as writers, which requires consistent practice with lots of writing. That’s the main difference between the Creative Writing Club this spring versus the one in the summer.”
This summer was about giving the students an opportunity to express their feelings while they dealt with the unprecedented, compounding effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and racial tension. “During that time,” she said, “I wanted to give them a platform to express how they felt, as well as expose them to different genres.”
However, the spring Club is an opportunity to write. Mary summed it up nicely, saying, “The students write in the beginning, they write throughout, and they write in the end.”