Diane Reyes' grandfather once told her to start writing in a journal because it would make her “smarter.” Years later, Reyes doesn’t know if that’s true, but she does know it can open doors for you.
“Lots of kids who underestimate writing, mostly don’t like it and think ‘it’s not worth my time,’” Reyes said. “But writing opens doors, and takes you to your own world.”
Reyes was one of 45 students who participated in the first USC Young Writer’s Conference in April. The conference aimed to connect student participants from USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative with published writers who have similar background experiences to those of South Los Angeles students.
The conference was a result of Literature for Life program, a new community program funded by NAI that hopes to introduce contemporary writers to South LA students and also connects teachers with published works, donated by authors and writers, said Kim Thomas-Barrios, director of NAI.
“Textbooks fail to speak to the student,” Thomas-Barrios said. “By increasing resources and literature these South LA students are empowered by writers who share similar experiences to them.” The literature will focus on life in urban Los Angeles, to which the students can better relate to than traditional textbooks.
Below is a question and answer session with Reyes.
When did you become involved with the Literature for Life program?
The Young Writers Conference was my first experience with the program. I first heard of it because of NAI. I was very interested to have the unique opportunity to work with published writers. I would love to same event or related events. It opens doors for you.
What did you think of the Young Writers Conference?
The conference was really interesting. Lisa [Teasley] was really nice. She has great passion in her work and enjoys writing. It was great to listen to her advice, which is to never give up because in the end it’s really worth it. Susan [Straight] was really passionate about her work. Just looking at how it made her smile and happy, it made me think that it [writing] could probably to that for me too.
What workshops did you attend?
Both workshops were on fictional short stories. That’s what I like to write. I worked with Lisa, she talked about the pros and cons about writing… its difficult, but it makes you feel good about yourself.
In what capacity do you write?
Actually I do it in my spare time, as a hobby. I use personal stories in life and change the perspective. This to me makes me get rid of emotions and it makes me a better person overall.
Have your personal experiences in South Los Angeles influence your writing?
I write about personal experiences in my life. All the environmental factors around here, influence my life experiences, both negative and positive. It does inspire and its pretty easy to write about it.
Do you see writing as a potential career?
I don’t see this as a career. I would definitely like to have it as a hobby. My interest in medicine exceeds any hobby.
How do you change the perspective?
Let’s say I had an experience with a car accident, I write it in the perspective of an outsider, its then seen through other people’s perspectives and not my own.
As a writer, what is one thing you learned at the conference?
Well writing makes you feel good about yourself. It lets you take out emotions. If you don’t it might hurt someone or yourself even, it makes you confident, stronger. Sometimes everyone feels sometime. But it’s not as easy as it look. You need to be very patient with it, it takes time and passion. In the end it will all pay off.
What would you tell your peers who may not like to write?
People underestimate it because in school they have to be writing structured. I think that it’s very important kids my age realize that writing is more than just structured work and essays.
Read Diane Reyes' short story, Coffins