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...