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Young Writer's Lab


Words from our Young Authors at West Portal Elementary

(from left:  Malia Yu, Nicole Gee, Kailey Sjauwfoekloy (top), Kayli Lam)

This session we have been working on the long-term project of writing a children’s story and while doing so are learning how to develop a plot, characters, dialogue and setting. Some of the excerpts below are from a brainstorming session we had about our story topics. There are also some pieces written from free write prompts and poems about our names.

"My name is..." poem:

My name is Malia

My name is made from iron

I found my name in the candy shop

My name can turn things into chocolate

If I lost my name I would look in the mountains, or in the trees

-Malia Yu

Bedtime Story Brainstorm:

Once upon a time in liquid land a cup of water and oil were born. They were twin brothers. Water was named Walter and Oil was named Oscar. When Walter was 5 years old he had a nightmare where he imagined that him and Oscar went to the human world. Oil saw a fire and jumped into it. The fire burned faster and Walter heard a baby crying so Walter put out the fire. Oscar was very mad, he wanted the fire to burn the house until it was in ashes. Oscar found a measuring cup and jumped in so that it could be a shield. Walter jumped in too and he sank to the bottom while Oscar floated to the top.

-Nicole Gee

Free Write Prompts:

I didn’t tell my dad about the green monster I found at the bottom of the garden because it was just so friendly and I couldn’t bear to part with it. Knowing dad, he would call the museum or the paparazzi. All he wanted to get out of this was money. Mom, on the other hand, would take the monster and feed it. She’s a nature nut. Blair, my older sister, would scream and call the police. I was starting the love the monster and named it Sally.

 -Kailey Sjauwfoekloy

Bedtime Story Brainstorm:

Once upon a time there was a family of turtles that lived in the Colorado River. The youngest turtle was named Jordan and the oldest turtle was named Jacob. They both hated each other. Almost every day the dad and mom had to get them out of a fight. Once, Jordan was washing his shell in the Colorado River and his shell disappeared. First he told his parents, friends, and siblings. He asked the skinny rainbow trout, “Do you know where my shell is? If you see it, can you get it without hitting it?” The trout looked all day and said, “No, I am very sorry that I did not see it.”

-Kayli Lam

Cara Yean (left) and Kaylee Tse (right)

Bedtime Brainstorm:

One sunny day, it wasn’t just any regular day, precisely on May 23, 2004, two slushies named Berry and Leafy were playing together. Berry was showing Leafy all of the items she got for Halloween: caramel, licorice, chocolates, lemon-heads and many more. Leafy began to grow jealous. She told Berry she had to visit the bathroom and ran home. Even though Berry kept shouting that there was a bathroom in the park, Leafy disregarded her. She burst into her house, ran up her stairs, and ran into her bedroom. Then Leafy pulled out some ice, a microscopic spoon and a silver can. She grabbed a woven basket and went into her garden where she picked the moldy cherries and ran back into her room.

-Cara Yean

Once upon a time there was a bowl of gummies and a bowl of fruit. One gummy and one fruit  ( a lemon) came alive and they started fighting about who tasted better. They found a person walking along the road. Then the lemon and gummy called out to the person and the person was staring at them like they were coo coo.

-Kaylee Tse

(From left to right- Preston Lau, Spencer Lo, Michael Huang)

My name is Preston

My name is made from a person

I found my name in a TV commercial

My name can spell STOP

If I lost my name I would be sad

-Preston Lau

Bedtime Story Brainstorm:

One day, a normal day, it was Bob’s day on the job. Patrolling his base with his arrows shining in the glistening sun, he saw something. It was a fank! With the arrows and bow he cried for help. Just then, the fank fired deadly watermelon! Bob shut his eyes. He did not want to see the death when he shot the arrow at the watermelon. Bob decided to have a little snack as he got his knife and then ate a piece of watermelon. “Yum,” said Bob as ate it, “I think watermelon is my favorite fruit.” (to be continued.)

-Spencer Lo

Free write prompt: “I squeezed my eyes shut. I didn’t want to see...”

I squeezed my eyes shut. I didn’t want to see the horrifying sight. A gypsy was in my room. Two actually. They wore ugly dresses with warts and pimples. Both of them looked familiar! I quietly hid in the bedroom to think…and think…and think…I got it! They looked exactly like Bob II and Jeffrey, my friends from military school. I quickly grabbed a bottle filled with strange, blue liquid. I opened the door and the gypsies came in. Then, before they could cast a spell and turn me into a frog I poured the liquid. It quickly dissolved Bob II, but not Jeffrey...(to be continued.)

-Michael Huang



What have "Take My Word For It!" kids been up to? Check out the Young Writer's Lab:

Students in our after-school and community classes are exploring all the different ways writers generate ideas, and put captivating words on the page.

Here are writing excerpts and some photos of our young authors working with instructors, Sondra Hall and Emily Phillips at The Young Writer's Lab in the East Bay:


By Nora

(Nora's piece was inspired by pulling the word "brook" from a word pool created by the group of writers)

The small dirt trail overgrown with leaves and plants lead down a steep mountainside ending in front of a small brook, with algae flowing to the current. Above, trees and twisting branches towered over the rocky shallow waters.


By Isabelle

(Isabelle's was inspired from pulling the word "summer" from a word pool created by the group of writers)

I lick my lips, tasting the coconut lip balm I had just recently applied. The red cap snaps on and I shove it in my pocket. I can feel my hand reach toward it again, but I’m stopped by Sam.

“Don’t!” she snaps.

As a reply, I groan and lick my lips again.

The summer air is thick, like a layer of smog in the city and the wind offers no relief. My toenails—painted poison apple red—are already chipped, though I’d only been here less than 24 hours. I kick off my cheap drugstore flip-flops and take step after step toward the edge, the door step turning to cracked path, and cracked path turning to sand, and finally sand turning to hard ground. Pebbles dig into my feet with every step and, as I near the edge, I slow. I imagine my father when I was little, about three years old, as I sat on his lap, in this exact same spot ten years ago.

“It’s a long way down, Maggie,” he warned.

“How long, daddy?” I asked, curious.

“Long enough for you not to want to jump.”


Well I was older now and I wanted to jump.

“C’mon Sam, we’re not gonna die.” I say, reassuringly.

“I’m not worried.”

But I could tell by the shake in her voice, she most definitely is nervous.

“One,” I say.

“Two,” she answers.

I hold my breath.

“Three,” we say in unison. The wind whistles as we take a step off the cliff.


There is a splash.

There is a shriek.

Sparkling water envelopes my body, and I hold my breath, sinking down until my ears hurt and my lungs feel as if they would burst. My feet hit the sandy and rocky bottom. My head is getting light.

I push off and shoot to the top. I smile and then let out a laugh.

When I see Sam’s head pop up, about a hundred feet away, a smile is on her face.

“Told ‘ya!” I say and we start to swim to the island.  


By Lizzie

(Lizzie's piece was inspired from pulling the word "universe" from a box of Magnetic poetry words)


When most “normal” and “ordinary” people are asked to write five word on the universe, their answers are something like: sky, stars, planets, aliens, and sun. Eighty percent of people include at least three of the above, and ninety percent of the one percent that didn’t use at least three used two

I, however, as a self-proclaimed “abnormal” and “unordinary” person, one of the tiny percentage that isn’t predictable, think of words that are entirely different.






The universe isn’t what it seems. 


By Meta

(Using the letter format, we asked our Young Writer's Lab students to write a letter to something they wished they could ask questions of and converse with. Meta chose fire.)

Dear Fire,

I’ve always wondered what your secret is. I stare into your flames, catching each flicker and twist. When you wink at me, I wink back. You’re mesmerizing, fire, but I have to ask…do you ever get tired of being feared and extinguished, forever destructive, being the keeper of dark secrets? You take lives, destroy evidence, and you never stop to look back. But I’m intrigued, nevertheless. For now you’re just the shadow of a story, a small spark in a big world, wanting to be wanted. If you ever need to confide in someone, I’ll be waiting

Until then,



By Emma

(Emma's piece is a response to our challenge to write a synopsis of their life in 6 words - an exercise known as the 6 word memoir.)

6 Word Memoir

Bustling streets and syrup-dipped pancakes.


Leah was absent. Piece to come...



News from our Young Writer's Lab

Our Young Writer's Lab is a community-based writing program that happens each Thursday from 3:45 - 5:15 at Musically Minded Academy in Rockridge. The next 12 week session begins March 10th.

Each week every Lab student is given time to work on a longer piece they started to develop outside of class. We also engage their imaginations with original writing activities, such as:

The 3-D Writing Kit

 What do you do with a paper bag filled with ephemera and a collection of phrases and words pulled from magazines? Why create a story, of course!





Walking in Someone Elese's Shoes

Shoes Make the Man, or the Woman. After selecting a pair of shoes from a variety of footwear including slippers, cowboy boots and impossibly high heels the kids developed characters who would walk in them.

"Hink Pink"

Do you know what a pair of rhyming synonyms for tight carpet* would be? How about a carnivorous criminal* ? "Hink Pink" is a word game that challenges players to solve the synonym puzzle.

We're not going to give everything away though -- to find out more about what goes on in the Lab, come join us!

* answers: snug rug, beef thief




Annoucing Our Young Writer's Lab!

"Take My Word For It!" is thrilled to introduce our new community-based kids' writing program, The Young Writer's Lab.

Our Young Writer's Lab is a place to come experiment with writing - whether you're an experienced writer already working on your own stories, or a tentative writer who would like to become more comfortable with getting your thoughts on paper.

We provide a supportive, safe, inspiring environment; you provide the willingness to observe, experiment and investigate in the company of other young writers.

The Lab will meet on Sundays from 10-11:30 am.  Writers purchase a 12 class card that expires in January 2011.

Two Labs beginning on October 24th, in Oakland and in San Francisco!

Click below for all of the important details:

Download Young Writer's Lab SF Fall final 2010

Download Young Writer's Lab E.Bay Fall final 2010

Ready to come experiement with words?

Go to the left hand side of the blog and click on "Register for Young Writer's Lab Here".

Questions? E-mail