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The Creative Youth Center celebrates National Poetry Month

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New executive director, Kristin Brace, chats about writing workshops for West Michigan youth

National Poetry Month Workshops

Monday, April 13: Open to 4th-6th graders

Monday, April 20: Open to 9th-12th graders

Monday, April 27: Open to 7th and 8th graders




National Poetry Month is the largest literary event in the world. It occurs every year, throughout the month of April, with celebrations led by teachers, students, librarians, writers and anyone else who embraces the written word.

This year, the Creative Youth Center (CYC) will be joining the global poetry party by offering new workshops. The CYC is a nonprofit specializing in creative writing and tutoring programs. While the CYC's regular programs are only open to students living in Grand Rapids or attending Grand Rapids Public Schools, the National Poetry Month workshops are available to children living outside of Grand Rapids. 

Monday, April 13, Dr. Zulema Moret will be leading a workshop for 4th through 6th grade students, with the theme "Poetry Around Us." 

Monday, April 20, Linda Nemec Foster (Grand Rapids' first Poet Laureate) will lead a workshop for 9th through 12th grade students. The theme will be "The Poetry of Ourselves--Writing Our Personal History in Poems." 

Finally, Monday, April 27, L.S. Klatt (Grand Rapids' current Poet Laureate) will lead a workshop for 7th and 8th grade students, and the theme will be "Travel Through Time with Poetry."

The workshops are open to youth with all levels of ability. They will run at the CYC (413 Eastern Ave. SE), from 6:30-8p.m. Registration information can be found on the CYC's website

These workshops are the invention of the CYC's new exectutive director, Kristin Brace, who stepped into the role in December 2014. Brace holds a bachelor of arts in English, from Hope College, and a master of fine arts in writing from Spalding University. Prior to leading the CYC, Brace worked with the Community Literacy Initiative, a coalition aimed at improving literacy for all individuals in West Michigan.

Brace considered herself a writer at a young age, remembering her 3rd through 5th grade years as the most influential. 

"In 3rd grade, we wrote stories all the time," said Brace. "Everyone in my class was writing a half page, but I would be writing 13 or 14 pages."

Brace feels lucky to have continued writing throughout college, and to have studied under professors like Jack Ridl and Heather Sellers at Hope College, as well as Eleanor Morse and Robin Lippincott at Spalding University. She cites her experiences with those professors as the driving force behind pursuing a career in writing instruction. Brace has taught classes at Hope College and the Literacy Center of West Michigan.

"I never really considered teaching until those professors encouraged me and demonstrated the joys and rewards it can bring," said Brace. 

Even though Brace has ample experience teaching writing to adults, it's her enduring passion for youth that attracted her to the CYC. 

"I've been admiring the CYC for many years because of its creative energy and the way it embraces silliness," said Brace. 

The CYC works to increase students' writing proficiency and self-confidence through creativity and play, which is evident the second you walk into the classroom. Fluffy clouds and colorful hot air balloons hang from the ceiling, and individual picture frames displaying the children's art line the walls. A large treasure chest and lush potted plants are visible from the sidewalk, cueing passersby to peek in the windows with curiosity and wonder.

The CYC's mission is to prepare kids for life's adventures by supporting their writing and amplifying their voices, and the most significant way it achieves that goal is by publishing its students' writing in a book called The Book of Explosions. This year, The Book of Explosions IV: Tiny Purple Thunderlights will be released and celebrated at Wealthy Theatre on Wednesday, May 20. The event is free and open to the public. 

Brace believes that creative writing is important because it helps us make connections to the world and to ourselves. Creative writing also helps us explore thoughts and feelings that might be left alone otherwise--which for kids, she finds especially important. Publishing the students' work not only validates their effort but affirms them as unique individuals. 

"The students we serve are amazing, talented, hilarious and smart," said Brace. "I'm really excited to be at the CYC."





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