Writers in the Community (WiC) is a collaborative community outreach program run by the Quebec Writers’ Federation (QWF). It began as a one-day event in 2003 and now presents up to 20 ten-week workshops a year in partnership with schools, community organizations, and group facilities in the province of Quebec. Most of the young people we work with are aged 14 to 24, and fall into one of these groups:
- Teens in youth protection
- Teens with behavioural difficulties and/or social maladjustments
- Teens with learning disabilities
- Teens living in neighbourhoods with economic and social challenges
- Young single mothers (ages 15 to 24)
WiC pairs small groups of these youth with a professional writer or literary performance artist to provide them with a positive role model who can teach and motivate them to use language to express themselves in productive ways. The goal is to help participants improve their prospects in life by giving them opportunities and guidance to:
- improve their literacy and writing skills
- learn the value of staying the course, by completing a cooperative group project
- give and receive constructive feedback in a positive way
- take pride in their work, presenting it to friends, family, and members of their school or group home community
- be more reflective and channel their emotions into productive and creative work.
In each project, a writer-facilitator works with a group for 10 weeks, giving them language tools, boosting their self- confidence, and showing them that they are capable of producing something of value. The facilitator presents a stimulating
Activities and outcomes
Participants are exposed to literary activities that motivate and engage them, extend their appreciation of literary expression, produce tangible products, develop new skills, foster pride in their accomplishments, and connect them to the literary community. We have seen participants in this program improve their skills in writing and using language, and gain
The results have been gratifying:
- One young woman who had dropped out of school was inspired by our workshops to
- A teacher has reported improved attention span and desire to write among her class of learning-disabled students.
- A teacher of troubled young women has reported generally improved behaviour in the classroom.
- A residential unit for single teen mothers now uses written reflections as a way for the women to process their experiences and difficulties.
- Several participants have had their poetry published in the Montreal Review of Books or carte blanche.
- One young woman enrolled in a creative writing program at CEGEP.
- One young woman went on to create poems for CBC Radio.
- Two boys wrote and produced a hip hop video that received thousands of web hits and was the subject of a TV news report.
Sarah Haggard has been the program coordinator of Writers in the Community (WIC) since 2007. A graduate in Intellectual History and Italian, Sarah began her career in book publishing and production, first in the UK and Italy and now in Montreal. Latterly, she has focussed her energies on managing programs, projects, and events for cultural and community organizations such as the British Council, Centre for Literacy of Quebec (now closed), Blue Metropolis Literary Festival, and English-language Arts Network. She has seen the WIC program grow from a handful of workshops a year in just two venues to an active roster of projects, employing up to 15 writers annually in over a dozen community organizations. She is constantly reminded of the value of giving young people a chance to explore their feelings and ideas through writing and considers it a privilege to work with talented writers whose creativity and commitment are at the heart of the WIC program’s success.
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Contact us to become a Writers in the Community partner or sponsor