Elizabeth Gilbert comes to lead a workshop based on her novel.
This Thursday, Spells Writing Lab will host Eat, Love, Write: a fundraising event at the Loews Hotel with Liz Gilbert, author of the bestselling book, and soon-to-be movie starring Julia Roberts, Eat, Pray, Love.
Her sister, Catherine Gilbert Murdock, who has written a number of young adult novels, will also be there and will host an author workshop earlier that day at the Spells Writing Lab.
Just a few weeks ago, Spells Writing Lab celebrated the grand opening of its very own center, which is located just four blocks north of Temple, on Alder Street. The writing lab is part of the Village of Arts and Humanities complex.
The idea for Spells Writing Lab came from 826 Valencia, which was started by famed author Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Calegari in 2002. Eggers wanted to create a place where kids and teens would learn to love writing, and teachers would learn how to help get kids excited about writing and thinking creatively. 826, which started in San Francisco, now has chapters in cities across the country, such as Boston, Chicago and New York. Others were inspired by 826 and chose to create their own nonprofits with a similar message, like Spells Writing Lab in North Philadelphia.
“We hold writing workshops for kids ages 6 to 18,” said Christina Rose Dubb, the nonprofit’s executive director. “These include creative and interactive ways to get kids interested in exploring the power of words in many different situations, from poetry to screen writing to journalism.”
Spells Writing Lab designs each workshop to appeal to different age groups, elementary, middle and high school. They conduct afterschool tutoring sessions from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. three days a week.
“We are always looking for volunteers,” Dubb said, “but interns are even more important because they provide a steady workforce. We are in the process of hiring students so they can get credit for their time, so we can certainly offer guidance and mentoring for students who would like to pursue a career in education and/or non-profit work.”
Communications intern Emily Freisher, a senior journalism major, handles a number of behind-the-scenes operations, such as sending out press releases and getting the word out about events to news organizations in the area. Freisher will also be helping out tomorrow with Eat, Love, Write.
Board members like the Gilbert sisters can be essential to young non-profits like Spells Writing Lab. When it comes to money, Spells Writing Lab depends on the support of wealthy contributors and supporters, but every little bit counts.
“We are in the process of applying for numerous grants, but right now, we have a sponsor, the author, Jennifer Weiner, who has pledged a significant amount of money to get us underway,” Dubb said. “We also rely on private donations, like those from our Feb. 18 fundraiser … We hope to attain some state and federal funding within the next few years.”
“So many kids get stuck in a rut, associating writing with bland school assignments and then avoiding it all together, but Spells really tries to get the kids to speak up and reach out in their events, so that they’re able to be adventurous with their words and ideas,” Freisher said. “I love that the mission of the organization is so simple, passing along that creative energy that makes it fun to write.”
Rebecca Bleznak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.