Saturday, June 27, 2009

WriteGirl needs your help.

Today's my birthday, so I'm asking for a present. For the past two years, I've been volunteering with a wonderful organization called WriteGirl. It's a community of women in Los Angeles who give their time to share the joy of writing with teenage girls. 100% of our girls go to college, despite the fact that many of them never even considered it as an option. They never thought they had potential. They never thought they had anything to say.

When I was a kid, I was always supported by my parents and teachers. My first grade teacher Mrs. Zawierucha gave us printouts with pictures of Clifford the Big Red Dog and big spaces underneath (with those little dotted lines in the middle) for us to write stories about him. At six, I told everyone I would be an author when I grew up.

In eighth grade, Mrs. Rook encouraged me to apply to write for NeXt, the teen section of the Buffalo News - and I became a published journalist at age 15. In ninth grade, Mrs. Ilhlefeld printed out copies of one of my review of the sappy teen movie Here on Earth and passed them out to my entire class. In eleventh, Mr. Starr told me he liked my thoughts on Kate & Leopold, and he made a transparency of my essay about Of Mice and Men to use as an example. My theatre teacher Mr. McCadden told me that the one act play I had written and directed "really worked," and the tall, gruff man who was prone to throwing chairs across the stage did not just give out compliments to anyone. In college, writing professor Paul Cody read my personal essays and while chainsmoking his way across campus, told me I should have my first book by 25.

Anyway, the point is - our WriteGirls rarely have the kind of support I've had. As teachers get laid off, class sizes get bigger, and electives like Creative Writing, Journalism and Theatre (if they ever existed at all) get cut. Students aren't given the attention they need, and they're not always encouraged to pursue writing. So that's where WriteGirl comes in. At our monthly genre workshops, girls are inspired by special guests - and each week they meet one-on-one with mentors to practice their craft and talk about college and their futures.

Like every nonprofit, WriteGirl has been hit hard by the economy; people just aren't giving they way they used to. But even just a few dollars can really help. Here's what you can do:

Sign up with and many online retailers will give WriteGirl a portion of what you're already spending when you shop online. On the left of the page will be two drop-down menus asking for your state and cause. You can either choose CA and Youth/Children and find WriteGirl (on p. 51) or type WriteGirl into the keyword search. Click "select this cause" and then after filling in some information you can download the iGive toolbar. Then just shop! Retailers include Apple, Gap, Barnes & Noble, 1-800-Pet-Meds and more.

Sign up with Ralph's Community Contribution Program, and a portion of what you spend at Ralph's will be donated to WriteGirl. Click here, register with Ralph's and enter your Ralph's Rewards number. After saving your changes, enter WriteGirl as your organization. That's it.

You can also donate online on the WriteGirl website, or send a check payable to Community Partners FBO WriteGirl to:

411 S Main St
Suite 422B
Los Angeles, CA 90013

You might also find out if your employer has an an employee matching program to increase your donation. Or if they might be able to donate something else (for example, a studio might want to donate a space for us to hold our Bold Ink Awards - and it's a great marketing opportunity for any shows or movies coming out). Even donating items like notebooks for the girls can be a big help.

Thanks in advance.

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