Friday, June 17, 2022

Ben and Me (Redux): an Out-and-About Shout-Out!


    I’m happy to report:

    Since my last posting, I’ve been out-and-about in both the Real and Virtual Worlds discovering all sorts of opportunities that demand a Shout-out.

    For instance, in May I traveled to Philadelphia to (bravely) attend for the first time ever since graduation my (you-can-guess-which number) college reunion! I’ve proudly sworn allegiance to the University of Pennsylvania’s Red-and-the-Blue all these years, but never more so that weekend.

     While expanding my education as a long-ago undergraduate, I’d never noticed the outstanding architecture of my campus’ buildings, the gorgeous trees, the spectacular Oriental rugs in the Student Union! Reconnecting with everyone and everything surprisingly created Unforgettable Moments I’m still savoring.

     The Banter with Ben program I’d (again, bravely) agreed to facilitate with fellow classmate Mack Goode constituted one such Moment.  Benjamin Franklin founded my university in 1749 as the Publik Academy of Philadelphia. I’d visited Ben’s gravestone at 5th and Arch Streets on numerous Overbrook Elementary School class trips, thanks to the Philadelphia School District, tossing a penny and making a wish. How nice to have the chance to visit with him in person! How nice to learn he was as affable, erudite and engaging as reported.

      Though a believer in public education and a visionary as well, it’s unlikely Dr. Franklin, as he later became known, could have ever imagined the breath and depth of his academy 273 years later: a diverse and inclusive student body, including women (!), enrolled in diverse and numerous schools and academic programs, taught by a diverse and inclusive faculty (including women!). 

     The Kelly Writers House is one such offering, sadly established after I graduated. The Cosmic Writers initiative two Kelly Writers House alumni, Rowana Miller and Manoj Simha, and two Penn undergraduates founded would have surely earned a thumbs-up from Dr. Franklin, a life-long writer.

     Think: a full-fledged nonprofit that continues the established Word Camp program online for K-12 students around the world, expanding this year to provide free in-person creative writing workshops in several cities in the U.S.

     Think: a dedicated group of college students believing in the power of creative writing for social change!

     “We want to create cultures of joy around creative writing.  We want it to be fun,” Rowana Miller shared. “We want kids to leave our programs self-motivated to become strong writers and communicators.”

     Kidzine, a collaboration between Cosmic Writers and Reading Recycled, publishes writers and artists under 18, including many of the participants in the Cosmic Writers workshops. Submissions for the Summer 2022 issue open on July 1st.  The magazine publishes short stories, poetry, illustrations, photographs, memoirs and comics.

     Click here to read a description of the Word Camp workshops available this July 11-15 and 18-22.

     Click here to register.

    And here I repeat the words I proudly sang at my May Reunion: Hurrah, Hurrah, Pennsylvania! Hurrah for the Red-and-the Blue!

    Thanks to my fellow Chicago author-illustrator Michelle Kogan for hosting today’s Poetry Friday. 

    Happy Out-and-About-ing!

     Esther Hershenhorn


     Our TeachingAuthors Twitter account is now up and running again! Follow us at @TeachingAuthors!


     Bill Robling, the Ben Franklin reenactor, was every bit as affable, erudite and engaging as the outstanding American he portrayed.


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