Siri Gannholm ’22 Workshops the Writing of Young Authors

Five out of six interns at the Young Author’s Workshop this summer. This photo was taken on a field trip to Heron’s Head Park in the Dogpatch district, where students learned to write from observations of nature.

My name is Siri Gannholm (she/her/hers) and I’m a rising sophomore from Seattle, WA. I haven’t declared a major yet, but I’m planning on studying English with a concentration in Creative Writing, as well as a possible minor in either Visual Studies or Gender & Sexuality Studies. This summer I’m interning at 826 Valencia, a writing organization that serves over 9,000 under-resourced students in the Bay Area annually. I’m working at a summer program for high schoolers (called the Young Author’s Workshop) at their new writing center in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood. The summer camp itself lasts three weeks, but we interns started coming in the week before students arrived. We spent that first week writing lesson plans in pairs and developing teaching strategies as a group. Then, during the camp itself, each pair of us taught a different segment of the day’s lesson: icebreaker, morning lesson, afternoon lesson, or reflection.

This is 826 Valencia’s Mission Bay classroom. Each center has its own theme – the original location in the Mission has a pirate supply store in front, and the Mission Bay center is decorated like a mythical woodland, featuring a cave and a giant wooden tree.

My favorite exercise to teach was a thirty-minute afternoon lesson that my teaching partner and I titled “Sound Bath.” For ten minute interval, we played both a TED Talk and music over the speakers while I walked around the classroom, reading various poems out loud. The students were tasked with writing down whatever phrases or words they could catch from the three audio sources. It sounds odd, but this exercise is highly generative: in removing the writer’s inhibitions, it provides a vast well of the fresh and unexpected for the writer to return to later. Afterwards, we asked students to describe this experience of writing without restraint. “Disorienting,” someone said. “Free.” “Strange.” “Liberating.” Ryan, one of our two intern coordinators, approached us after the lesson. “That seemed chaotic,” he said. “And stressful. But I’m glad the students liked it.”

A photo of me being a tourist at Coit Tower in late June, before my internship started.

Back in February, when I was first applying for a summer internship grant from the HCAH, I didn’t really have a clear picture in mind of what I wanted my summer to look like. I didn’t even decide to apply until a few days before the deadline. But I knew I wanted to spend my summer in San Francisco, so I googled writing-related internships in the Bay Area. I was primarily looking for positions at small publishing houses, but applied to the 826 Valencia internship at the last minute. I am so grateful that I decided on the internship at 826. Not only did I gain vital teaching skills and connect with my fellow interns, I also witnessed firsthand the value of creative writing for high school students. I am incredibly grateful for my summer here, as well as for the connections I made.

Written by Siri Gannholm ’22, English major

Edited by Emily Dombrovskaya ’19