Back to the Future hoverboards. Basquiat paint splatter. Monster vignettes. Black Panther battles. 9th and 12th graders at the Academy for Young Writers imagined our world in new dimensions: What will a Brooklyn apartment look like in 1000 years? How can we create self portrait poems of mind-bending reality? These were some of the guiding questions early in the Spring 2023 semester, as students crafted Frankenstein Leaves a Box of Cupcakes.
Some class days started with, “Which Baby Yoda do you feel like today?” and a discussion of Godzilla or the ever-changing AI Chatbot pros and cons. Students learned about utopias, dystopias, tropes, archetypes, world-building, poems through paintings, and story arcs set in multiverses. Classes read chilling excerpts of Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler and Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee, and alternated between close study and freewriting about artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat. These young writers found the stories in paintings, and then reimagined the paintings in the worlds of their stories. One of their community agreements? BE WeIRd. Never forget that your weirdness is your superpower.
In this anthology you’ll find crazy inventions, pink planets you’ve never heard of, time travel continuums, and robot leaders on a quest to change humanity – side by side with tales that resonate more with the world we’re in now, where characters confront police brutality, family drama, and body image. From planets where people constantly shake their hips to cupcake-themed galaxies layered in sprinkles to the specter of Death on a skateboard, get ready to dream (or smell!) what seems impossible.
In their exploration of science fiction, the 9th grade authors were guided by 826NYC teaching artist Amanda Dettmann. The 12th grade authors’ walks through the world of Basquiat and poetry were led by 826NYC teaching artist Jaydra Johnson.