“To stand in front of young people and tell a story was a much needed reminder that oral tradition, and face-to-face human connectivity is not only still cool, but also still necessary.”
— Jason Reynolds, author, All American Boys, SpeakTogether performer
SpeakTogether is SpeakEasy’s educational initiative that offers a range of programs, including in-person student matinees, storytelling workshops, and mentoring opportunities in NYC high schools, after-school programs, and virtual environments. Since 2015, SpeakTogether has been connecting writers directly with students and ensuring that copies of the authors’ books are made freely available. Working with educational and literacy partners, we bring many of today’s acclaimed writers into high school classrooms. Our authors work closely with the next generation of storytellers to provide unique insights into what it means to be a writer and help students’ hone the critical thinking skills necessary for the pursuit of higher education.
Watch a short video above about the impact this program is having on New York City teens.
Our in-school matinees bring writers into auditoriums and theaters in public schools to offer intimate and impactful stories for high school students. Using the model of our public literary cabaret series Seriously Entertaining, student matinees feature a range of poets, novelists, and performers offering inspiring stories and riffing on pre-selected aspirational themes (i.e., “Seize the Day,” “You Only Live Once,” “Turn the Page”). Authors perform their stories, connecting directly and personally with students, demonstrating how storytelling can be relevant to students’ own lives. Afterward, writers lead breakout sessions with students, who get the chance to work more closely with an author and begin to imagine telling their own stories. Each student leaves with a free copy of the writer’s book, which they are encouraged to have signed by the author.
Student Storytelling Workshop
Student Storytelling Workshops feature writers and performers offering a sustained, month-long series of workshops for small groups of students identified by their teachers and school administrators. Students are exposed to multiple methods of story composition as well as instruction on storytelling technique and spoken word art. Throughout, students develop and hone their storytelling skills, through direct instruction from the writers themselves. The program culminates in a final event in which students get to perform their stories in front of an audience of their peers and teachers.
Since 2015, SpeakEasy has coordinated dozens of author visits at Union Settlement’s highly regarded College Readiness program in East Harlem. Working closely in small groups with promising high school students, writers lead sessions on writing, story composition, critical thinking, and other topics related to being a professional writer. John Guare, Susan Cheever, David Gilbert, Margo Jefferson, and Doug Wright are just a few of the writers who have participated. In 2019, we began coordinating visits featuring a single writer over the course of the school year, offering increased access and greater consistency for participating students.
Summer Writing Workshops
Since 2015, House of SpeakEasy has partnered with Talent Unlimited High School to lead summer writing workshops for rising juniors and seniors. SpeakEasy coordinated visits throughout the summer months featuring a variety of award-winning novelists, poets, and journalists, including David Ebershoff, Nicole Dennis-Benn, and Mitchell S. Jackson. Each writer leads a unique workshop and helps prepare students to write their personal essays for college applications. In 2019, we expanded and enhanced the program to feature a single writer across all six-weeks of the workshop, with students meeting bi-weekly for a range of craft workshops, discussions, and peer-review sessions to help students write and revise college essays, compose poems, and learn interviewing skills.
To learn more about our bookmobile initiative, or to get involved, please get in touch by contacting us.
A full list of participating authors in the SpeakTogether program:
Mahogany L. Browne
Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Christina Hammonds Reed
Tanwi Nandini Islam
Mitchell S. Jackson
Aimé Donna Kelly
T Kira Madden
Iris Martin Cohen
David Tomas Martinez
Denne Michele Norris
Daniel José Older
Rowan Ricardo Phillips