These past couple months, I’ve spent my Saturday mornings at the library with a group of talented and passionate young writers. Instead of sleeping in and watching TV, at 10:30AM about ten kids file into the teen meeting room of the library and dedicate an hour and a half to the craft of writing. This group is called New South Story Lab, and I couldn’t be more thrilled, and proud, to be a part of it.
It was about five months ago that I started a Leadership program for work and met with the director of the program to go over my personality and leadership assessment test results. While we were going through my results, I admitted to her my passion about writing and my not-so-secret nighttime gig of being an author. The director of the program wasted no time in introducing me to Virgina Archer, a local writer and founder of a nonprofit writers’ organization called New South Story Lab.
Virginia met with me at a coffee shop over a cup of hot jasmine tea and we hit it off right away. We talked for a few hours, our topics ranging from how we got into writing to our favorite books and writing goals. Over the summer, she joined me on several write-ins at Barnes & Noble, and when September rolled around, she invited me to help plan for New South Story Lab’s Fall 2017 studios. I was more than happy to help—the idea of connecting with young readers and writers passionate about storytelling was too exciting to pass up!
New South Story Lab’s Purpose
As a grassroots organization, New South Story Lab was created with community in mind and love of the arts at its heart. The organization provides free educational opportunities through various programs, such as the seasonal “studios” during the Fall and Spring where adult mentors teach and coach young teens as they practice writing through exercises and writing prompts. On the off seasons, mentors also visit juvenile detention centers, providing a creative outlet for at-risk youths.
“We believe that humans connect best through storytelling, and that giving residents of the Deep South a way to be heard is vital to building strong, unified communities.”
– New South Story Lab’s Vision
Virginia Archer, Founder of New South Story Lab
Late 2014 , Virginia came up with the idea of New South Story Lab, recognizing the need in her community to provide teens with an outlet for creative writing—for expressing themselves and their imagination through stories.
In school, you concentrate so much on grammar, on the classics, and on the rules…kids rarely see the fun in writing. She founded New South Story Lab on the idea of providing teens a safe space to be creative and relax without worrying about the constraints often practiced inside a classroom. Using her experience in working in the non-profit sector, Virginia established the organization and has continued to grow and cultivate Story Lab, while watching several of her teenage mentees graduate high school and go on to purse futures in writing and storytelling.
As the Fall studios come to a close, I find myself already looking forward to the Spring studios and wondering what I can share with the kids, and what I can learn from them in the season to come.