What exactly is literary activism?
I think that is different for everyone. That's a term that we ask students to define for themselves in the course of the class, but certainly, some examples of literary activism that we've put forth have some kind of written component as well as some kind of visual or performance component, and they're somehow displayed or performed or being brought forth into public space. There are certainly exceptions to that, I think, and ways that it gets played with, but I think literary activism and what the girls perceive it to be is different from class to class, and also personal to any artist's notion of their work.
What makes it literary activism instead of just a writing class?
For the course I taught in the fall, it meant that it was active--that something happened. (Participants) occupied not just space on the page, but space in the world. And it meant their writing was taken off the page, and they put it on other objects, like T-shirts and cookies, and they thought about ways to distribute their words, to get them seen that were atypical, as opposed to just writing and not thinking about who is going to see it. ... (They thought about) how the delivery affects the message.
What is the Grrls Literary Activism >Workshop going to entail?
This summer, it is in collaboration with Pan Left Productions. I'll be one of the teachers, and Jamie Lee will be teaching the visual component to that. What we're asking the girls to think about in those two weeks is point of view and perception, and how that influences our notion of power and representation. ... The girls will be taking pictures with Jamie in the morning and responding to their visual work with me in the afternoon. I'll have them reflect on their photos, but they'll also be experimenting with writing original works that don't necessarily come from the photos, but also explore notions of point of view: Who is the point of view we're hearing from in a news program at night, or a television commercial? They will be thinking about that and thinking about their point of view, and what they want to say, and what that means for them formally as an artist with a voice impacting the world.
How is teaching this camp different than other classes you've taught?
I think I'm trying to make it clear that this is not school. I think as a teacher, I take on more of a mentor role than a lecturer. Much of the course content is guided by the girls' interest, which I think is unusual for most high schools where content is guided by the state and federal government. ... We have kind of a premise, but they come and make it happen. We also try to show them and bring to them works that aren't in textbooks (and) aren't part of the curriculum. ... It has a feel of a community space where collaboration can happen. We hope to show kids there are creative outlets they are going to want to take part in and make a part of their life beyond high school. I hope this camp is a help, to show girls that they can apply themselves in an innovative way and really make a difference in the world.