WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

WriteGirl Los Angeles | Nonprofit | Downtown Los Angeles Mentorship

At WriteGirl, they match girls with women writers who mentor them in creative writing. How cool is that? Every year, the WriteGirl team produces dozens of workshops, panel discussions and special events to help girls get creative, get through high school and get to college!

Through one-on-one mentoring and monthly creative writing workshops, girls are given techniques, insights and hot topics for great writing in all genres from WriteGirl professional women writers. Workshops and mentoring sessions explore poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, songwriting, journalism, screenwriting, playwriting, persuasive writing, journal writing, editing and more.

SLB has had the privilege of catching up with one of the WriteGirl mentors  Lauren McQuade. Here is what she had to share…

WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

Lauren McQuade & her menthe Samantha
WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

How long have you lived in Los Angeles?
I’ve lived in Los Angeles since late 2010, so about six years.

Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from Cypress, CA; it’s a pretty small city located just south of Long Beach.

 

“Never underestimate the power of a girl and her pen,” Says Lauren.

 

What are your thoughts on how quickly the Eastside of Los Angeles neighborhoods are changing?
I’ve written about the rapid development in the DTLA Arts District pretty extensively and it’s clear the Eastside is changing as a necessity to sustain Los Angeles’ growing population. Mayor Garcetti promised 100,000 more residential housing units by the year 2021 and the city cannot stay low-density everywhere, so he’s feeling pressure. Plus developers have always been more powerful than Planning and that’s part of the problem. Eastside residents are seeing their area “changing” because their city is growing and those poorer residents are getting pushed out of the city center. The other problem is affordable housing, which is becoming less and less as land values soar. There’s no way to stop gentrification on the Eastside, or anywhere completely, but helping to slow it down needs to happen, and developers are not going to do that it’s up to the public sector and residents.

WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

Luna and her mentor Clare Sera
WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

Do you own or rent your home?
I rent.

What are your favorite local spots for dining and relaxing in DTLA?
I was just at Nickel Diner last night, I love that place. Terroni is great when I’m feeling bougie and in the mood for homemade pasta. I don’t think I’ve ever felt truly relaxed in DTLA.

Did you always want to be a writer?
No, I don’t even completely understand how this happened because writing is a challenge for me. When I was younger I wanted to be a lawyer and then somewhere around high school graduation I wanted to be a fashion designer, but came back around wanting to go to law school at some point after that. Everything changed while attending Long Beach City College and learning about feminism and real social issues outside of the Orange County bubble. Eventually I learned how to best channel my teenage angst, which ended up being journalism, while at UCLA where I wrote for the feminist newsmagazine and anchored the UCLA Radio News.

WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

Songwriter Louise Goffin working with our girls
WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

What was your first professional writing gig?
I wrote and edited the weekly feminist news show at KPFK Pacifica Radio immediately after graduating from UCLA and wrote online editorials for LA Canvas Magazine after that, but my first real paid gig was Golly Magazine. That was a game changer for me because it gave me a real glimpse at the possibility of freelancing, though, I didn’t realize it at the time.

How would you describe your writing process?
It can be brutal, and I’m also an extreme procrastinator; if I have three weeks until a deadline, I will use every last second of it just in case any new ideas pop into my brain–There is no worse feeling than wishing you had put some information into a piece after it’s been published. But this also means that for that entire three-week period, I wake up in the morning in a blind panic, consumed by the article. I guess my writing process is sort of all-encompassing and intense but I also like it that way.

WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

 Character & Dialogue Workshop
WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

How did you come to work with Golly Magazine? Did you start by just pitching stories? Any odd jobs in between you’d like to share?
Golly is a magazine that a friend of a friend started in NYC. They were looking for contributors, and ended up hiring me on as Contributing Editor. I also write for ArtSlant, have gotten my photojournalism work published by Colorlines, and do the occasional wardrobe styling gig. Freelancing is fun but you sort of need a few balls in the air at once to make it work. I just got hired as a contributor for eHow, and still work the occasional catering shift. Luckily, every experience leads to new story ideas.

What attracted you to helping young girls fulfill their creative writing potential with WriteGirl?
I found WriteGirl at a time when my career felt unsure and decided that the shared creative energy would invigorate me somehow. I signed up for weekly mentoring along with the monthly workshops to work one-on-one with a girl because I thought fostering some sort of relationship with my mentee would benefit us both.

WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

Character & Dialogue Workshop
WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

Are your fellow journalism colleagues receptive to your volunteer work?
My fellow journalism colleagues are very much receptive to my volunteer work, and one has joined WriteGirl as a mentor herself. The rest would like to, if and when they have time.

Tell us about the process when volunteering with WriteGirl.
The monthly workshops are my favorite part about volunteering with WriteGirl. The locations of the workshops are always great; we’ve written memoir in the Japanese garden at the Huntington Library, poetry in front of modern masterpieces at the MOCA Grand, and one and one. Lisa Loeb was at the songwriting workshop–Who’s better to teach teenaged girls about writing emotional songs about their feelings other than Lisa Loeb?

WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

Self expression is key
WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

What’s the culture behind WriteGirl in your own words?
The culture behind WriteGirl is one of positivity and good, creative energy with an emphasis on helping girls in the program go on to the college or university of her choosing. The founder, Keren Taylor, teaches girls: “Good for her, not for me” about accepting difference, a helpful lesson I repeat to myself sometimes as a reminder. And then of course, “Never underestimate the power of a girl and her pen!” That’s just true.

Do you believe our society still delivers unfair scrutiny towards young women?
Absolutely. At the most basic level, I feel like once women’s body hair is considered normal as opposed to gross or unfeminine, western society would have come a long way.

WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

Over coming fears and obstacles
WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

If you could sum up WriteGirl’s core values in one sentence what would that be?
“Never underestimate the power of a girl and her pen!”

If we had the chance to peek at your schedule, what would an average day look like?
An average day in my schedule is hard to come by because my days are pretty varied, but most often, if I’m on a writing deadline, I will get up around 8am, walk my dogs, watch some kind of morning news, and be sitting at my desk in front of my computer working by noon. I give myself the morning to run errands or get stuff done around the house; my apartment is never more tidy than when I’m on a deadline because cleaning is one of my favorite procrastination activities.

What does WriteGirl believe is the biggest drivers of change within the scoop of educating and empowering young creative women?
You’d have to ask the women who make the big decisions at WriteGirl. I would think mentorship would be what WriteGirl believes is the biggest driver of change within the scope of empowering young creative women.

WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

Supporters help make it all possible
WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

What has been the most valuable nugget you’ve learned about humanity since working with WriteGirl?
WriteGirl has taught me to be patient and that honesty is the best way to handle working closely with teenagers.

What’s your professional endgame?
Good question! I have little idea of what my professional endgame is and even my right-now-game is pretty unsure at times, but I see myself becoming some combination of my heroes Terry Gross, Rachel Maddow and Amy Goodman.

WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

We gotta make it fun!
WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

Many young girls struggle to turn their creative passions into careers. What specific advice does WriteGirl offer them?
The volunteers are probably the ones at WriteGirl workshops who understand the true value of the career advice the girls receive from women on the panels, but even if they retain just 10% of the information, they’re getting some of the best writing advice from some of the most successful female writers in every field of writing: screenwriting, journalism, memoir, songwriting, fiction, etc. The advice they get is mostly about the writing process and creativity, less about practical career advice, but it is sprinkled in there. Successful writers tell WriteGirls to just keep writing and telling their stories and that is pretty great advice to writers of any age.

WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

Volunteers, mentors, and mentees.
WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

WriteGirl
1330 Factory Place, Unit F104
Los Angeles, CA, 90013
(213) 253-2655

WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

WriteGirl: Workshops & Mentoring Young Women

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