March 20, 2014

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.  :)