Interview: Rebecca Wallace-Segall, Writopia Lab

A lot of the schemes we feature on Books and Adventures involve encouraging reluctant readers and promoting literacy in the family or wider community. Some, like Wales’ Young People’s Writing Squads, offer support and encouragement to those who already have a talent for writing and want to develop it.

New York’s Writopia Lab project is one of these schemes.

So why do Writopia kids want to write?

‘I just want to have fun writing for myself, and do it for the rest of my life.’

‘I watched my friend cry when she read my story – I want to make kids feel things.’

‘I like to read newspapers and magazines. I want to be part of the conversation that I hear going Rebecca Wallace-Segallon.’

That third “kid” was Rebecca Wallace-Segall, who grew up to found Writopia Lab in 2007. A journalist in New York, Rebecca spun off a residency at a private school into a non-profit organization giving children and young people the chance to hone their literary skills with professional writer-instructors.

Rebecca and I met earlier this year at her New York headquarters on the Upper West Side, a cosy place of pine floorboards, comfy sofas and beanbags, its walls decorated with images of books where the children can write the names and titles of their own work on the spines. These are the ‘library walls’ which provide a record of success for Writopia participants, but the available spaces are quickly filling up. ‘We’re going to end up having to go on the ceiling!’ says Rebecca.

She began by explaining to me how Writopia Lab’s mission differs from community literacy programmes which seek to engage reluctant readers and writers.

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