The Power of Voice


My favorite part of my job is visiting our classrooms. Today I was part of an unusual visit — a New York Times journalist came to the Bronx Envision Academy High School to talk about writing. 

I have known journalist, Louise Story, for years. We met at a Happier Hours event hosted by CWP SuperMom Aidan Donnelley Rowley. I had heard her talk about article writing, but recently she reached out to me about a different style of writing — a family member of hers wrote a novel before passing away and she wanted to share the novel with high school students.

The response was really exciting. The creative writing students working with Bronx Envision Teacher, Ms. Hewitt, were given the first chapter of the novel and allowed to choose whether to attend. Many did, and we ran out of books to give them. (We will send more!). They related to the novel in part because it was written by a young woman close to their age and it is in a similar style to the way some of them write.

Louise spoke about the difference between journalism and novel writing. “I like to see things from another’s point of view,” she said, noting that it was different from the novelist in her family, who wrote more based on her own point of view. “We had a different experience with writing,” Louise said. “Her writing came from within her. As a journalist I keep my life out of it. I’m not supposed to have an opinion. Is it better to give voice to other people? Or is it better to write from your own experience? Both are good. But they are different.”

She spoke about how journalism writing is becoming more varied, as writers try to keep busy readers’ attention. “We need to get more poetic in journalistic writing,” she said. “We need more voice.” She passed around a recent article she had written and shared how she shaped her story from finding an interesting point of view to invite the reader in to working with the copy editors to ensure the right tone and language.

And she encouraged the students to share their own work with people. “I don’t feel like something is real until somebody reads it,” she said, noting that she is grateful to have the novel from her family member. “She left us, but her voice is still alive.”

Several of the students handed their own work to Louise during the class and a few read out loud. She couldn’t get out the door without promising to come back soon. At Community-Word Project, we are excited to expose our students to the power of voice. Thank you Louise for helping make that happen.