Greetings from the Academy for Young Writers (AFYW)

betty ming liu Inspiration, Writing how-to's 12 Comments

Hey! It’s 3:02 p.m. and I’m blogging right this minute from a New York City public high school in Brooklyn. We’re at The Academy for Young Writers, in East New York.

AFYW, as everyone calls it, is having a workshop day for students. I was invited by one of the teachers to talk about writing, journalism and social media. It was a treat for me to hang out with this particular teacher, Skye Holly, because I used to be her journalism professor.  :)

Here we are, with two of our workshop participants, Jamil and Precious:


In the morning, we explored interviewing techniques and talked about punctuation. The afternoon began with a punctuation drill. Then, we toured social media basics — microblogging sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Poor kids, I couldn’t stop talking and even squeezed in a little about LinkedIn. To get us through this marathon of media madness, we munched on chocolate cupcakes and gluten-free sugar cookies baked by my daughter. The goodies kept us going, along with a bag of gluten-free pretzels. By mid-afternoon, we were all fried. Covering computer-related stuff can be exhausting. But our crew was smart and tough. They were amazing!

So, thank you AFYW. I enjoyed hearing your stories and getting acquainted. It moved me to know that many of you make such an effort to get to class. I am astounded that most of you have to take a city bus AND subway every single day — and that doesn’t count your walk from your apartments. Wow. That takes heart. But you’re NYC kids, which means you’re born to be strong and raised to be incredible.



Note: It’s about 6 p.m. and I’m back home. Before I make dinner, I want to add a few photos and links from AFYW. The school used to be in Williamsburg. But in Fall 2012, it moved to a new building in Spring Creek, a section of East New York that I’d never heard of before today.


Some of the material we discussed during the workshop comes from a bag of standard teaching tricks that you can read about on this blog. For tweeting, check out “How to start building your brand on Twitter.” We also went through a basic presentation on “How punctuation works.”

I also planted the idea of getting out of the PC world and moving over to Apple land. A MacBook Pro laptop costs, at the very least, $1,200. But go to an Apple Store and ask about discounts for students, teachers and school staffers. When you buy an Apple computer, it’s REALLY IMPORTANT to buy the $99 One-to-One membership. This gives you access to individual and group lessons at no extra cost. The trainers taught me to shoot video, make music on GarageBand, design business cards as well as use PhotoShop, Bento, FinalCut Pro and more — a deal worth thousands of dollars in lessons and courses. Plus, you get free help with Mac tech problems at the every Apple Store. 

By the way, the school’s library has a nice Mac lab, which was our classroom. Here we are checking out my blog. And don’t you love my daughter Gabi’s cupcakes? We used them in a writing exercise about describing objects. Deliciously moist chocolate cupcakes with chocolate “dirt” frosting, green grass sprinkles, crawling with gummy worms. The perfect treat for welcoming the first day of spring. 


As for Skye, we met back in 2008, when she took one of my New School classes. We’ve always, had a lot to talk about as writers, single moms and daughters of immigrant parents. Now we have the teaching connection too.

Skye at school

Just as I was packing up to leave, Skye and AFYW Community Associate Tara Mann surprised me with a gift basket.

Tara and Skye

 I wanted to cry, what a sweet gesture. All in all, a very special day.  :)

Comments 12

  1. Precious was so right, Betty! I really could not stop smiling in these pictures. I was waiting for today ALL WEEK LONG! Our workshop was actually called “News in the Digital Age,” but I had it marked on my calendar as “Betty Day!”

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  2. Thanks for sticking with me all these years. It’s always been great to bounce ideas off of you or go to you about personal things, as well as have a lot of freedom on your blog. I’m really grateful for you being so open and candid with our students today. You also gave them a chance to learn each other all over again. I hope they recognize the value in their stories.
    Learning about how to tweet Drizzy Drake himself, create/improve resumes, and Gabi’s desserts were all unexpected pluses that went/will go a long way. xo

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  3. This kind of work is SOOO IMPORTANT!!! Helping kids to learn to communicate in a literate manner is of incalculable value. In the college history courses I teach, I get many young people who are seriously challenged in their ability to analyze sources, assemble meaningful facts to support an argument and then write about it in a way that conveys the impression of being educated, resourceful and reliable. Learning to do that is in fact a primary objective in any course I teach. A program such as this one, that begins on the high school level, will impact these students in beneficial ways that just go on and on. Good work all!!!

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      So true, Toby. This is the time to get young folks focused. In the Internet age, the lessons also include teaching them to protect — and effectively promote — themselves online. Blogging and other social media skills offer great opportunities to practice writing skills, learn how to research and even make personal connections. But a lot of kids don’t realize that what goes online doesn’t go away. I tell all my students to beware of posting those photos and tweets about partying!

  4. How fabulous! How wonderful of you to travel all the way to Brooklyn to give of your time! I tip my hat to you!

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  6. Those are some really nice pictures.

    Anyway, this is OT, but it’s a question that’s been bugging me. Since you were the child of tiger parents (especially a mom), how exactly do these parents treat the ones that are disabled? Like the ones with learning disabilities, are autistic, have downs syndrome or have major psychical disabilities that would prevent them playing instruments?

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      Carrie, you raise a good question. In fact, the tiger mom herself, Amy Chua, mentions in her memoir that she has a sister with Downs Syndrome. It’s been a while since I read the book, but I recall Chua explaining that her mother was in denial for a long time, and treated her sister like she was only slow in learning how to play her pieces on the piano But over time, the mother finally accepted reality, that there was a disability here. Chua actually treats the situation with quite a bit of sensitivity and great affection for her sister.

      I’ve heard and read of other situations where Asian immigrant parents are ashamed to ask for help and/or are confused about their child’s problems. I’m also quite sure that this is not unique to tiger parents — public education on disabilities is important and we need more of it.

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