Write to the Point!

A Neighborhood Studios Program at the Mark Twain House

Archive for the tag “Neighborhood Studios”

Twain Studios 2013 Anthology

Anthology cover

This is the cover of the 48-page anthology of work by the Writing Apprentices of Twain Studios. You can see the whole thing by following the link below.

For six weeks in July and August, 2013, a dozen teenagers from diverse backgrounds, different schools and towns, came together as a group at The Mark Twain House & Museum.

This group, the newest of the Neighborhood Studios of the Greater Hartford Arts Council, originated with a great conversation between the arts council and Julia Pistell, who is part of the Mark Twain House communications team.

Led by Master Teaching Artist Jackie Majerus, the teens practiced reporting, interviewing and writing creative non-fiction. They learned about Mark Twain, his Nook Farm neighborhood and neighbors past and present and about each other. Lasting friendships formed. They explored Nook Farm and the state Capitol and learned from an array of guest speakers.

The program was called Write to the Point! and the students, who were writing apprentices, called themselves The Jakes, their shorthand for “Journalism Kids.”

The teens, who ranged from age 14 to 18, worked individually and cooperatively on all sorts of non-fiction writing. They wrote a lot. Most of it is on this blog. Much of their best work was printed in a 48-page anthology – their crowning achievement distributed at their showcase last month, where the youth read their work aloud to an audience of family, friends and others interested in the arts.

Besides the written work, and some artwork of the youth in the studio, the anthology also includes many photographs of these wonderful young people throughout their summer adventure. It is impossible to fully capture a lively group of creative young people on a blog or on a printed page, but this blog, and the anthology, should offer a glimpse into an amazing summer experience.

Thank you for taking time to explore this blog and the anthology.  Comments are welcome, too!

To see the anthology in PDF form, follow this link:

 Twain Studios 2013 Anthology

Visiting the State Capitol and Connecticut’s Heroes

Jakes in Capitol press room.2

The Jakes, short for “Journalism Kids” – the name the Twain Studios Writing Apprentices chose for themselves – thought the Press Room of the Connecticut State Capitol was pretty cool. From left, are Meaghan Szilagyi, Ashaya Nelson, Rae Martin, Molly Miller, Alan Burkholder, Cecilia Gigliotti, Ambriel Johnson, June Tran, Grant Henry and Jahyra White. The apprentices visited the Capitol in their final days at Twain Studios. Many had never been there before, and none had seen the Press Room. They loved it.

Jakes in Capitol press room.1

Writing Apprentices fit right in at the Press Room of the state Capitol. From left, Jahyra White, Rae Martin, Ashaya Nelson, Ambriel Johnson, Meaghan Szilagyi, June Tran, Cecilia Gigliotti, Molly Miller, Grant Henry and Alan Burkholder

Mark Pazniokas talks to Jakes at Capitol

Veteran news reporter Mark Pazniokas of the CT Mirror spoke with the Writing Apprentices of Twain Studios when they visited the state Capitol’s Press Room.

Jakes with state heroine statute

Writing Apprentices of Twain Studios with a statue of Connecticut’s State Heroine, Prudence Crandall and her student. From left, Ambriel Johnson, June Tran, Rae Martin, Meaghan Szilagyi, Alan Burkholder, Molly Miller, Ashaya Nelson, Grant Henry, Cecilia Gigliotti, Jahyra White

Jakes with Nathan Hale

Writing Apprentices of Twain Studios with State Hero Nathan Hale, in the Capitol. From left: Grant Henry, Alan Burkholder, Ambriel Johnson, Molly Miller, Meaghan Szilagyi, Jahyra White, Rae Martin, June Tran, Ashaya Nelson. In front, Cecilia Gigliotti.

Thanks For A Great Experience!

Banner, snippedWrite to the Point! at The Mark Twain House & Museum, the newest member of the wonderful Neighborhood Studios program of the Greater Hartford Arts Council. The terrific work these teen writers did at Twain Studios this summer wouldn’t have been possible without the help of a lot of people who truly care.

The Arts Council is filled with talented people who are committed to the idea that music, photography, dance, theater, film and writing are crucial to a vibrant community. I’d like to especially thank Ashley Sklar for skillfully helping Twain Studios navigate through its inaugural year.

Supporters of the arts are true heroes. Without them, programs like this wouldn’t exist. That means these apprentices wouldn’t have had the tremendous opportunities they had all summer at The Mark Twain House & Museum. They wouldn’t have been writing, meeting fascinating visitors like Stephen King or, equally important, acquiring new friends throughout the Greater Hartford area. So I offer my deep gratitude for the generosity of Travelers, the Bank of America and all of the sponsors, but especially to our studio sponsor, The Hartford. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Finally, a huge debt is owed to The Mark Twain House & Museum for opening its doors to young people this summer. The entire staff put up with an energetic group of teenagers moving in and being mildly disruptive for six weeks and went out of their way to make us all feel welcome and at home.

As experts on all things Twain, Publications Editor Steve Courtney and Chief Curator Patti Philippon cheerfully answered an endless stream of questions. And Patti provided us with precious photos of our brief encounter with Stephen King. Manager of Communications and Special Projects Jacques Lamarre, who is wonderfully inclusive of young writers, arranged for apprentices to interview the governor of Bermuda and the world’s strongest librarian. Julia Pistell, a public relations pro at the Twain House, made sure the apprentices got to see Stephen King and took them to WNPR to record some of their writing with Senior Producer Catie Talarski, who kindly took the time to work with each of them. I am grateful to each of them for all they did to help me and support these young writers.

Such a warm and writer-friendly atmosphere wouldn’t exist without stellar leadership setting the tone, and at the Twain House, that’s the enthusiastic Executive Director Cindy Lovell.

Because all these people cared, a diverse group of terrific young people filled their summer with learning, adventure, fun and friendship. I’m honored to have served these amazing teens.

— Jackie Majerus, Master Teaching Artist


Twain Studios Writing Apprentices had a great summer. Back row, from left: Meaghan Szilagyi, Ambriel Johnson, Master Teaching Artist Jackie Majerus, Alan Burkholder, Rae Martin. Center row, from left: Molly Miller, Cecilia Gigliotti, Lina Allam, Indira Senderovic, Jahyra White, Nick Sherman. Front row, from left, Grant Henry, June Tran, Ashaya Nelson.

Neighborhood Studios logo

Writer Rae Martin, A Young Man of Many Words

Profile interview, Rae and Cecilia

Writing Apprentices Rae Martin, left, and Cecilia Gigliotti, in a peer profile interview.

By Cecilia Gigliotti

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Rae Martin isn’t your average 15-year-old.

I was shocked from the start to learn his age. The description that crossed my mind as I sat down with him is “mature beyond his years.”

He is precocious, well-read, and a realist. In telling me about his school – the Metropolitan Learning Center, a magnet school in Bloomfield – he termed his classmates “not my kind of people.”

But then, it seems, it’s tough to find people who are.

Martin is a writer – a serious writer, banging out one short story and several poems a week. While his subjects have thus far been based in reality, his newfound fascination with George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire has inspired him to write with a slightly fantastical slant.

He has never really been a fan of the obvious – the Harry Potter series – but he believes today’s consumers might find fantasy more attractive and “entertaining.”

His familial relationships contribute largely to his work. His parents are no longer together, and while his ties are closer to his maternal relatives than to his paternal, they have both played a pivotal role in his development.

Rae Martin 2013

Rae Martin

They taught him common sense, he says. Through their lessons and his own convictions, Martin has come to believe that “while [people] have sympathy for fellow man, what they do … is self-serving.”

He is not religious, but quite philosophical: he often marvels at the way some people float through life without pondering the “deeper things.”

Then again, he acknowledges, in a world of squalor and injustice, some people can’t afford the room in their day to sit and “marinate on the world” for even a few minutes.

Who has spurred him to do some marinating of his own? What literary figures drive this aspiring novelist forward?

“I take a lot of inspiration from Charles Bukowski,” said Martin. In the style of Bukowski – whose 1982 novel Ham on Rye is one of Martin’s favorites – Martin endeavors in his own writing to “keep it real, keep it raw.”

Martin has a creative attitude toward his craft.

“If a poem is a feeling, then a short story should be a scene,” he said. “And a novel should be a whole movie.”

Whatever activities Martin pursues, he always returns to writing.

“I tried very hard to be good at [sports],” he admitted, but those odds always seemed to be against him. Besides, the school is only a decade old: many of its teams are fledglings, and there is no newspaper or literary magazine. I asked him if he has considered starting one.

“Maybe for senior project,” he said.

Martin doesn’t mind all this – he plans to build a life for himself just writing books. He hopes to get a jump start on this path in a couple of years by attending a small liberal arts school – out-of-state would be ideal – but he won’t be surprised if financial conditions keep him in Connecticut.

In any case, wherever he winds up, I am convinced of his imminent success.

The world might just have another Charles Bukowski on its hands in the very near future.

Apprentices Get Behind the Mic

Ashaya at WNPR

Ashaya Nelson

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Sit down at the table, adjust the microphone, breathe in and out, and read your script.

The first time we went to WNPR we just were on the set of a radio show. Seeing the last-minute preparations was interesting. Everyone came into the studio about three minutes before the show went on the air.

The host, Colin McEnroe, and three others had fun while working. They spoke about binge watching that has become popular.

But on our second visit to the station, we were able to see what it’s like to be behind the microphone. The other apprentices and I each recorded a piece of our own work inside a studio.

Opening the heavy, soundproof door, I was anxious and a little nervous when it was my turn to record my work about the strong librarian, Josh Hanagarne.

It’s not as easy as it may look. We helped to encourage each other.

Hearing my voice was weird. A lot of us didn’t like hearing our voices.

It took me multiple times to get it right. I had to make sure I wasn’t talking fast, that my voice was projected and I was speaking with expression.

After Senior Producer Catie Talarski edited our recording, we helped each other choose what music would sound good with it. We selected from a variety of music on the studio computer.

I decided that I wanted a song that was a little upbeat.

Recording was one of my favorite things we did this summer. It was a new and good experience going to WNPR.

Rae at WNPR2.

Rae Martin

Lina at WNPR

Lina Allam

Molly at WNPR

Molly Miller

Meaghan at WNPR

Meaghan Szilagyi

Ambriel at WNPR

Ambriel Johnson

June at WNPR

June Tran

How to Make a Good Resume and Not Fail a Job Interview

By Alan Burkholder

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Facts are facts. And the fact of the matter is, finding a good job is hard to do these days. However, simply finding the job is still less hard than getting it.

Almost everyone has to go through the usual song and dance of “find the job, contact the employer, arrange an interview, get the job, celebrate and profit.” But not many people know how to do the dance. As a result, not a lot of people actually get to the last step.

In order to help future generations of kids not end up stranded on the side of the road and living in a one-floor cardboard apartment, the state Department of Labor presented a two-point-five-hour lecture on landing a job, with the help of career development specialist Gordon Gross.

With the help of a manual that he admitted was a little out of date – no manual nowadays makes use of the word “typewriter” – Gross gave the basics of what makes a good resume to young Neighborhood Studios apprentices.

According to Gross, a good resume should have your contact information, a list of job experiences and skills, at least three good references (meaning, not your family and friends), your education-based qualifications, and what exactly you plan to do at your potential new company.

Whatever you put on a resume, you must make sure that it’s unique, relevant, easy to read, eye-grabbing and free of mistakes. The top two causes of death among resumes are from complications due to typos and grammar errors.

In addition, the apprentices got some advice about what to do in an interview, or rather what not to do. It’s always easier to restrict something than to mandate it, after all.

Number one: Don’t show up under-dressed or naked. This will cause the interviewer to not take you seriously, or possibly call security.

Number two: Turn off your phone. If it accidentally goes off during the interview, apologize and take a moment to turn it off. If it vibrates instead of ringing, don’t let the interviewer know. Just excuse yourself so you can take care of the twitch in your leg.

Number three: Don’t doze off or nap while the interviewer is talking. This means that your pillow, blanket and teddy bear must stay at home.

Number four: Get to the point. The interviewer wants to get through this just as quickly as you do, so don’t bore them to death with that story about your dog. It wasn’t funny the first time you told it, so why would it be funny the next time?

Number five: Don’t get nervous. No matter what happens, try to stay calm and relaxed, because no one likes sweat. It looks gross and it stinks up the entire room when you do it. And then you have go shower and wash your suit.

Number six: Make sure that you thank the interviewer for his time. If you don’t show that you appreciate his time, he’s going to think you’re a jerk. So be nice.

Number seven: always have a copy or five of your resume on hand. You never know if it might get stolen, damaged or worse: edited with a pen.

Follow these rules of the ramble and the resume and you’ll be on your way to having that job you always wanted, that job you kind of thought about wanting once, or the job you don’t really want but you’re going to take anyway because the pay is good. Whatever the case, you’re going to need to know what not to do.

Sarcasm aside, the talk was very helpful. Kids do need to know how to conduct themselves, both in and out of the workplace. After all, the first step to getting a job that you’re happy with is making your employer happy first.

Apprentices Get Tips on Writing a Resume, Searching for Work

DOL Gordon Gross

Gordon Gross of the state Department of Labor addresses Neighborhood Studio apprentices about resume writing and searching for a job.

By June Tran

Writing apprentice

Mark Twain Studios

Cramped into a small classroom in the back of the Hartford Public Library children’s section, about two dozen teenagers got a lesson on landing a job.

In Neighborhood Studios, Mondays are set aside for career skills. In front of the youth stood Gordon Gross, a career development specialist with the state Department of Labor, coming to lecture them on the mechanics of resume writing.

Gross began by emphasizing the importance of a resume in the process of getting a job. A job, however, was not the primary purpose of a resume, he told them.

As Gross explained, a resume’s main purpose is to illicit a job interview.

After passing out a 10-year-old guidebook, Gross listed some tips for writing a good and effective resume:

1.      Always include details listed in the job ad on the resume.

2.   Make use of verb tenses to indicate the status of each job.

3.      Looks matter: make your resume easy to read and attractive.

4.      Write in fragments, not in complete sentences.

5.      Have at least three professional references.

According to Gross, it’s paramount for each student to write a resume that can endure a quick and competitive selection course.

Essentially, a resume can only confer numbers and a vague picture of the candidate.  And Gross said some employers might even use machines to comb through the applications.

In a nation that is recovering from an economic recession, getting a job is still hard for those with little work experience or education.

This is a blow for teenagers who are applying for a job, especially if it’s their first one.

To improve their chances and help make up for lack of experience, Gross recommended that youth get involved in volunteer work or join an association.

Being in an association is a great way to practice networking, he said.

Networking, Gross said, is fundamental to pursuing a specific field or career in the future. One way to do this is to “schmooze,” Gross said.

Schmoozing is not ass kissing, he said, but to building a relationship with someone within an organization or company where you might want to work.

Because most jobs are not posted, but listed internally, networking would be a great way to get information about careers without facing the huge competition of the job market.

Although these career tips are short and to the point, Gross encouraged the students to visit the State Department of Labor at 3580 Main St., Hartford if future concerns arise.

Bringing Art Full Circle

Neighborhood Studios spiral photo

The Greater Hartford Arts Council’s Neighborhood Studios program is a wonderful blend of people learning together and creating art. The amazing writing apprentices at Twain Studios are one of five studios. On the first day of the program this summer, a talented photographer made this picture of all the people who are part of it. Thanks to the Arts Council for letting us share it!

A Connecticut Journalist in Stephen King’s Company

Stephen King, Jakes.2, Patti P

Twain Studios Writing Apprentices with author Stephen King. From left: Rae Martin, Stephen King, Molly Miller, June Tran, Grant Henry, Ashaya Nelson, Jahyra White, Indira Senderovic

By Grant Henry

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Just as author Stephen King finished his tour of the legendary Mark Twain House & Museum Friday morning, a waiting pack of eager young journalists was ready to pounce.

When King paused on the way to his car to say hello, the writing apprentices of Neighborhood Studio’s “Write to the Point!” program each took turns feeling the worn fingers that brought the world over 50 thrilling novels.

This certainly wasn’t the first time King has shaken the hands of fans in Hartford. Just last night he joined NPR radio host Colin McEnroe for a dialogue at the Bushnell Theater.

King discussed his life and opinions to a packed house that laughed and cheered at every remark and reference the author made. The show, as entertaining as it was, had a very human goal: all the profits went straight to the Mark Twain House & Museum.

King was set to arrive at the Twain House for a reception Thursday afternoon. An incredible excitement filled the air, and questions flew in the minds as everyone anticipated his arrival.

“What if he’s in the parking lot?” “Do you think I’ll get to talk to him?”

Josh Hanagarne, a bodybuilding librarian visiting the museum, had the honor of having lunch with King. Everyone was jealous. All the adrenaline pumping through the staff’s thinking caps could only be rivaled by the enormous standing ovations the crowd of thousands gave King at the Bushnell later that night.

A photograph produced itself on the Twain House facebook page mid-day; a picture of the King himself signing books in one of the museum offices! He’s here!

All the young journalists diligently working on independent projects could do was wait for their own shining moment with the author. It did not come until the day after his stellar performance, though.

King was on a tight schedule before he had to return to Maine, but he made sure to first tour the home where Mark Twain lived. When he emerged from the historic home, the writing apprentices greeted him.

Dressed casually in a red sweater, King gave the grinning young journalists a moment to remember before he said he had to “jet” and return to his comfortable home in Maine to continue spooking audiences everywhere.

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