Writer Vivian Lee Croft wanted to help teen girls navigate the challenges of peer pressure, school work and stress at home, so she started the creative writing collective Girls Write Pittsburgh.
“I was looking for a way to support folks like me. When I was a teenager, I didn’t have mentors, I didn’t have adult role models in my life," Croft said. "I thought there’s got to be a way to use what I’ve learned between age 12 and now, to serve other people in my community, and I really wanted to put my writing skills to use, and I wanted to put my service skills to use.”
Girls Write Pittsburgh serves self-identifying girls ages 13 to 18 and provides a safe space for them to express themselves through all forms of creative writing, from poetry, to songwriting, to blogging.
Morningside resident Tara McElfresh has two daughters who participate in the Girls Write Pittsburgh workshop at the nonprofit Assemble in Garfield.
“It’s a safe space to write about topics that girls, or people identifying as female wouldn’t write about with the other gender,” said McElfresh.
McElfresh’s 14-year-old daughter Neila is a Literary Arts major at Pittsburgh's Creative and Performing Arts Schools. Neila said the weekly workshops empower her to create her own work.
“They give us the option to choose what we want to write about when we come here, where like at school, even though my major is writing so - I get to do a bunch of different things, but I get to decide what I want to do,” said Neila.
“We identified those locations as places that were already serving populations that we want to be able to also serve, in a way that is thoughtful and in a way that we want to have the most meaningful opportunities,” said Croft.
During the workshops, participants team up with writing mentors and mental health specialist to create, review and edit work. The young writers can get feedback from professionals on their writing. Croft said it’s important to use a holistic approach to the workshops.
“We’re not giving therapy, there’s no one on the couch with a pencil and paper, but there’s someone there who is an expert, who happens to be a phenomenal writer,” said Croft.
Croft said that she and her team of volunteers regularly participate in educational trainings on mental health first aid for youth, as well as other trainings that deal with gender, diversity and inclusiveness.
Girls Write Pittsburgh workshops are free of charge.