Salida Rec and local writer Kat Jahnigen will offer a creative writing class for youth ages seven through 18, giving them an outlet to learn and practice various types of creative writing. 

The program, which offers separate, age-appropriate instruction will be offered on Fridays for five weeks from Nov. 13 to Dec. 18. 

It aims to nurture a love of wordplay and offer a creative outlet in a time when the coronavirus pandemic restricts many youth activities and social interaction.

“The beauty of writing is that we can do it whether we are physically distancing or when other activities aren’t permitted because of virus transmission,” Jahnigen said. 

Therefore, the in-person program is deliberately set up to be offered via video conferencing, should county health conditions prohibit in-person meetings at any point. 

The in-person instruction will take place at the Salida Rotary Scout Hut with groups broken down into 7-9, 10-12, 13-15 and 16-18 year olds. 

The youngest age group will be broken into two groups and meet for half an hour while the older groups will meet for an hour each. 

The scout hut will also be sanitized between sessions, she said, in addition to the social distancing protocols that will be in place.

For younger kids, Jahnigen said the classes will be more creativity driven where the kids will act out some of the stories. 

The oldest group, meanwhile, will be more self directed and more according to their individual interests. 

She said she’ll provide some instructional stuff and topics, and also a lot of reading, to the older group.

Jahnigen, a freelance writer who has lived in Salida for 3½ years, was inspired to begin offering creative writing classes – both through Salida Rec and online through her own program, YouthWrite – because of concerns about the emotional toll the restrictions and isolation of the pandemic are having on kids and teens.

“My own kids are having a hard time, but they’re two and four. They don’t even really understand what’s going on,” Jahnigen said. 

“I’m having a hard time – as an adult – and I have numerous outlets available to me, for social support, for creative expression. I’m hoping to offer some of that sense of social structure –plus supported creative expression through writing classes – in a way that also minimizes or eliminates risk of virus transmission.”

Jahnigen credited an elementary school ‘book publishing’ program with setting her on her life’s course when she was 9 years old. 

Since then, she’s studied creative writing and worked as a writer in a variety of fields, from nonprofit public relations, business marketing writing, a contributing writer for various publications and a memoir ghostwriter. 

“Growing up and making sense of the world is hard,” Jahnigen said. “One of the things that helped me get through hard times – and I didn’t have a pandemic to contend with – was writing.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” she added. “This class will be fun. It’s not meant to be heavy. 

“We’ll read poems that delight the ears and stories that take us on adventures inside our heads and play with words, writing our own poems and stories. 

“But, if students start to love words and realize writing is something they can turn to in challenging times, something that provides escape, transformation, clarity…then there’s no end to the opportunities that writing will offer them.” 

Jahnigan said her over arching goal was to help kids develop a love of writing and reading that will take them beyond the class. 

“It’s a way we can always be free,” she said. 

The Salida Rec creative writing program with YouthWrite costs $25 per participant for the five-week course with no class on Nov. 27.

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