Meet Our Session Three Instructors: Chioma Urama & Itzel Basualdo

Unbelievable as it is, we've come to our final session of PageSlayers this summer! How time flies.

Today marks one week in with our new crop of future novelists and poets. As we move into our final week for the summer, we'd like to introduce to you the duo of instructors guiding us to the finish line: Chioma Urama, coming back to us after leading our first session in June, and homegrown Miami artist and writer, Itzel Basualdo. 

Chioma Urama

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Tell us a little about yourself: Where are you from originally? What sort of writing do you do? What are you working on right now? 

I’m from Northern Virginia, about 20 minutes outside of Washington, DC. I write fiction and dabble in poetry frequently. Right now, I’m working on getting my yoga teacher training certification. I’m learning to integrate mediation, breathing, and visualization practices into a creative writing curriculum for a more holistic approach to teaching.

What made you want to join the PageSlayers teaching staff this summer? 

I love teaching creative writing and working with children and PageSlayers presents the wonderful opportunity to do both. It’s also very important to me to be able to work with black children and to provide them with the tools and instruction that is often considered a luxury or a privilege in our society.

What are you looking forward to most in the program? 

I’m really looking forward to getting to know the kids! My teaching style is very collaborative. I work with the ideas, issues, and concerns that my students bring into the classroom to build creative assignments.

When did you first fall in love with creative writing? 

I fell in love with writing very early on (probably 2nd or 3rd grade) after reading a story called “Amelia’s Notebook.” It’s a children’s story written like a diary with doodles and postage stamps and restaurant napkins pasted in the margins of the pages. I’ve been writing and journaling and sticking leaves and feathers in between the pages of my notebooks ever since.

Why do you think it is important that students in the program have the opportunity to be exposed to creative writing at an early age? 

Creative writing presents children with a safe space to begin to think critically about their world. It encourages them to engage their imaginations and promotes self-confidence that strengthens other areas of learning.

Where can students, parents or supporters find out more about you and your work? 

I’m in the works of putting together a site, so be sure to check back for updates soon!

Itzel Basualdo

Tell us a little about yourself: Where are you from originally? What sort of writing do you do? What are you working on right now? 

I am, as they say, one of those who was born AND raised in Miami. Against my Argentine father and Mexican mother's will, I have begun to establish myself as a visual artist. Lately, I've been working on a small book that addresses and presents the crisis in Venezuela from multiple sources: Twitter, interviews, and that of an absolute outsider. I will also be an MFA candidate at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago beginning August 2018.

What made you want to join the PageSlayers teaching staff this summer?

I wanted to join PageSlayers because I enjoy working with children; I was excited about the possibility of teaching creative writing! And I like creative writing! 

What are you looking forward to most in the program? 

I think what I'm looking forward to most is seeing the children enjoy themselves and enjoy the writing process. I think PageSlayers offers these kids a wonderful introduction to the possibilities that exist in writing, and is helping those who had already become enamored by it tap into it even more. I hope that beyond learning about metaphors and rhyme, PageSlayers allows them to see the world through a different lens.

When did you first fall in love with creative writing? 

I think I first fell in love with creative writing in elementary school. I don't remember who, but someone gifted me with a journal in the second grade and after that, my life was forever changed. I've kept a journal since then, and from there I moved on to writing short stories about spies and a half-cat/half-human girl named Cassandra.

Why do you think it is important that students in the program have the opportunity to be exposed to creative writing at an early age? 

I think it is important for the children to be exposed to creative writing from an early age so they view and treat literature differently—so they can see for themselves that reading and writing doesn't have to be boring. It is much like planting a seed, this appreciation for literature. It is something that they can take with them, and it might be a short story, or novel, that helps them navigate a difficult period of their lives.

Where can students, parents or supporters find out more about you and your work?

You can very soon follow me on my website, and check out my film photography (posted on occasion) on my Instagram.

Meet Our Session Two Instructors: Shameka Poetry Thomas & Miguel Pichardo

We just wrapped week one of our first session and so far it has been an absolute success. Our students are motivated and energetic, and our instructors have led them through fun exercises and activities establishing the fundamentals of both fiction and poetry.

As we move into our final week of session one, we thought now would be a good time to introduce to you the wonderful instructors who will be leading session two, starting July 3rd. Meet Shameka Poetry Thomas and Miguel Pichardo, two home grown Miamians who have accomplished a lot on the page and have a passion for educating the Magic City youth.

Shameka Poetry Thomas, M.A.

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Tell us a little about yourself: Where are you from originally? What sort of writing do you do? What are you working on right now?

I was born and raised in Opa-Locka (3-0-5 DADE COUNTY, lol)! I am an international spoken word artist and poet (which is the theatrical and oratorical version of creative writing). I am the founder of the SISTA-SPEAK UP Poetry organization at my alma mater, Spelman College, located in Atlanta, Georgia. Since then, I have studied abroad in South Africa and was nominated as one of the top ten spoken word poets of Cape Town in 2008. I have performed my poetry in Dubai, Cuba, and Kenya. Currently, I am a PhD candidate at the University of Miami. However, I still perform my poetry throughout various open-mics in Miami as a hobby.  I am also the proud mom of my five-year-old daughter, who has already started memorizing the poem “Our Deepest Fear” by Marianne Williamson.

What made you want to join the PageSlayers teaching staff this summer?

I LOVE SEEING KIDS THINK OUT LOUD!!! I think it’s fascinating to dream big with children and allow them to paint their skies orange or purple! I joined PageSlayers as a Lead Teacher because I want kids to SLAYYYYYY, write, and speak from their hearts and souls!

What are you looking forward to most in the program?

I am definitely looking forward to getting to know each and every personality in my classroom! I am excited to see their transformations and to help them discover their own voices. I am also excited to turn reading and writing into summer fun!

When did you first fall in love with creative writing?

I performed my first poem, entitled “I AM THE BLACK CHILD” when I was about five years old. I have always loved writing, reading, performance poetry, dancing to reggae music, and being full of wonder lust! I am an old soul with a young heart. That helps me fall in love with poems, quotes, journal entries, and novels—differently, and in every season!

Why do you think it is important that students in the program have the opportunity to be exposed to creative writing at an early age?

To find an outlet. To learn a new “love” language. To hear themselves. To hear others. To Be. And most importantly: TO FEEL / EXPRESS.

Where can students, parents or supporters find out more about you and your work? 

Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube

Miguel Pichardo

Tell us a little about yourself: Where are you from originally? What sort of writing do you do? What are you working on right now? 

I was born in Queens, New York but moved down to sunny Miami when I was six. As a Latino man of Dominican and Ecuadorian descent, I try to convey the nuances of my cultures through poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. Currently, I am the Editor-in-Chief of Fjords Review­an international literary magazine. I am also working on my thesis project as an MFA candidate at Florida International University.

What made you want to join the PageSlayers teaching staff this summer? 

The Knight Foundation granted me a fellowship to attend FIU, and since then, I’ve considered the organization a champion for art and culture in the Magic City. When Dana De Greff was awarded the Knight Arts Challenge to make PageSlayers possible, I thought I couldn’t be more excited for her. But then she invited me to participate in a program that catered to the creative needs of young people of color, and my excitement reached a whole new level. I’m as thrilled as I am proud to be a part of a team that values our youth’s artistic expression as gifts that should be nurtured and shared.

What are you looking forward to most in the program? 

I’m a kid at heart, so I honestly cannot wait to play games with the students. Our curriculum incorporates play into the creative process, which I believe is essential for raw expression. When students come together to play, they can cut loose, be themselves, and bring that authenticity to the page.

When did you first fall in love with creative writing? 

I suppose it was in middle school when I started rapping with my friends. I didn’t know I was writing poetry; I just knew that with the right rhythm and cadence, language could produce art. We kept making music until I went away to college in New York. I was rapping less, but reading more. It wasn’t until I saw my reflection in the pages of Junot Diaz’s Drown that I realized I could write something authentic, even beautiful without beats and rhymes. I took every creative writing course I could and have been refining my craft ever since.

Why do you think it is important that students in the program have the opportunity to be exposed to creative writing at an early age? 

Having spent my childhood in Miami, I know that it can be a confusing time for many kids, especially for children of color. Creative writing can help them navigate their frustrations and bring light to their hopes for the future, as it has for me.

Where can students, parents or supporters find out more about you and your work?

My work has appeared in the online magazines Luna LunaDuende, and Literary Orphans.

Meet Our Session One Instructors: Chioma Urama & Andrew Boryga

Now that we are officially less than a month out from our very first PageSlayer session, we thought it would be a good time to introduce the wonderful team of instructors who will lead our first group of PageSlayers' campers come June 19. Below, please find two short Q&A's introducing Chioma Urama and Andrew Boryga, two accomplished writers of color who are currently based in Miami and extremely excited to work with our Slayers this summer!    

Chioma Urama

Tell us a little about yourself: Where are you from originally? What sort of writing do you do? What are you working on right now? 

I’m from Northern Virginia, about 20 minutes outside of Washington, DC. I write fiction and dabble in poetry frequently. Right now, I’m working on getting my yoga teacher training certification. I’m learning to integrate mediation, breathing, and visualization practices into a creative writing curriculum for a more holistic approach to teaching.

What made you want to join the PageSlayers teaching staff this summer? 

I love teaching creative writing and working with children and PageSlayers presents the wonderful opportunity to do both. It’s also very important to me to be able to work with black children and to provide them with the tools and instruction that is often considered a luxury or a privilege in our society.

What are you looking forward to most in the program? 

I’m really looking forward to getting to know the kids! My teaching style is very collaborative. I work with the ideas, issues, and concerns that my students bring into the classroom to build creative assignments.

When did you first fall in love with creative writing? 

I fell in love with writing very early on (probably 2nd or 3rd grade) after reading a story called “Amelia’s Notebook.” It’s a children’s story written like a diary with doodles and postage stamps and restaurant napkins pasted in the margins of the pages. I’ve been writing and journaling and sticking leaves and feathers in between the pages of my notebooks ever since.

Why do you think it is important that students in the program have the opportunity to be exposed to creative writing at an early age? 

Creative writing presents children with a safe space to begin to think critically about their world. It encourages them to engage their imaginations and promotes self-confidence that strengthens other areas of learning.

Where can students, parents or supporters find out more about you and your work?

I’m in the works of putting together a site, so be sure to check back for updates soon!

 

Andrew Boryga

Tell us a little about yourself: Where are you from originally? What sort of writing do you do? What are you working on right now? 

I was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. I started out writing non-fiction and interning for local newspapers in the Bronx and have since gone on to write features for places like The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The New York Times. I fell in love with writing fiction around my sophomore year in college and have been obsessed with it ever since. I’m currently an MFA student at the University of Miami and hard at work on my first novel.

What made you want to join the PageSlayers teaching staff this summer? 

I love the idea of introducing kids to creative writing and expression ASAP. Personally, I did not discover the power of writing until later in life. Growing up in the Bronx in the 90s and attending mostly public schools, I didn’t have many opportunities to learn from writers that looked like me and wrote about my world. I really believe in the mission of PageSlayers and the power of telling young kids of color they already have the ability to create things with their words and showing them—simply through the presence of instructors who look like them and write for a living—that making a career out of writing is possible no matter where you start out in life.

What are you looking forward to most in the program? 

Being blown away by the work the kids will produce. In previous jobs working at education non-profits and in my day to day life taking time to talk to kids and really listen to them, I’m always amazed by the beautiful depth inside of them and the ways they can express themselves when people actually take an interest in what they have to say. I know our PageSlayers will have this same depth and honestly I can’t wait to learn from them.

When did you first fall in love with creative writing? 

I didn’t even think being novelist or a poet could be a possibility until I went to college and started to read writers of color like Junot Díaz, Piri Thomas, Ernesto Quiñonez, Helena Viramontes and so on. I thought in order to be an author you had to write the sort of stuff I read in school, which was mostly written by white men who had no clue what it was like growing up in the Bronx. But in college I had an epiphany. Since then I’ve been in love with the idea of putting my own world on the page and writing about people who look and speak like the people I know deeply in my life.

Why do you think it is important that students in the program have the opportunity to be exposed to creative writing at an early age? 

I really believe the earlier you can unlock a student’s potential the better. Not only will a summer program like this help kids perform better in school, it will more importantly help kids think critically about their own life and world. I think that is one of the most powerful things you can teach a kid and something that will last well beyond this summer.

Where can students, parents or supporters find out more about you and your work? 

You can find out more about my work on my website or follow me on Twitter and Instagram.