Sometimes I be forgetting that I be doin thangs. I performed at a @WritersCorps event at the @jewseum (Contemporary Jewish Museum) on Feb. 20th. The article this photo is from says: “After the reading, Yvonne was swarmed by students asking for her signature on her chapbook.” And trust, it was the sweetest swarm! Such tender, sweet souls, each and every one! Thank you @madlines1 for inviting me to be a part of such magic. [Article is here: http://www.sfartscommission.org/WC/cjmrecap-2014/ or you can my twitter page for the link.] #sweetestswarm #ContemporaryJewishMuseum #WritersCorps #love #TheYouthsDem

Girls are so often socialized around what not to do; what they shouldn’t be; what they’re already doing wrong. Organizations like Girls Write Now, WritersCorps, and Urban Word NYC challenge negative messages aimed at girls, and they show young women that writing can be so much more than cathartic and brooding, journaling alone in their bedroom—that it can be silly, scary, bold, angry, surreal, dramatic, playful, experimental, interactive, and—above all—empowering.


Here’s the stop motion short I created for the Poetry Projection Project. I’ve been working with Writerscorps on several short videos and they requested that I make a promo for their upcoming film festival. I don’t know why I volunteered to make a stop motion video, having no prior experience with this form of filmmaking. At first it felt like an arduous task, but the process was pretty chill.

The characters are based on sketches by one of the teens in the Writerscorps after school program. I cut them out of paper and filmed them on top of a white board while watching 8 Mile and the Lovely Bones. Take a look for yourself and take some time to check out the film festival details while they’re still accepting submissions. If you’re near San Francisco you should come watch the festival for free!

My Real Name

Today my name is colorful .

Yesterday my name was dead souls . 

Tomorrow my name will be lively spirits .

My friends, think my name is fire .

The police think my name is burden .

My Parents think my name is symphony .

Secretly I know my name is 

Anything I want it to be .

Elena Noel.

On a literal level, the doomed narratives of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and even Emily Dickinson (namely the popular misrepresentation of her as lovelorn-girl-recluse-dressed-in-white) serving as primary models for female poethood make it hard not to equate being a girl poet with tortured solitude and inescapable depression. But on a more metaphorical level, I think this line speaks to a larger cultural message that’s aimed at girls, one of glamorized suffering, in which artistic expression comes from a tortured relationship with oneself. From Rihanna singing about how she “like(s) the way it hurts” in a song that’s touted as an anti-domestic abuse message to Lana Del Rey’s depiction of herself as a beautiful corpse in her recent “Born to Die” music video, someone does indeed seem to be telling us that we creative females are internally tormented creatures. It makes it hard to imagine that being a woman writer can mean having a successful, public life that’s immersed in and thrives on community.

Fortunately for today’s teen girls, there are plenty of individuals and organizations working to change dominant messages about girlhood and to teach girls that their voices and ideas are important. As a slew of women writers tell stories of girls and girlhood in their poetry, fiction, memoirs and more, organizations like Girls Write Now, WritersCorps, and Urban Word NYC are working on a grassroots level to actively arm the next generation of women writers with the tools to write their own stories, in their own words, one girl poet/girl journalist/girl novelist/girl comic/girl memoirist/girl ad infinitum at a time.


We are San Francisco WritersCorps. I love my job.


Go WritersCorps!

Nicole Zatarain Rivera from WritersCorps travels to Washington D.C. to accept the 2010 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from First Lady Michelle Obama.

WritersCorps is a project of the San Francisco Arts Commission and the San Francisco Public Library.

Regram from @sfpubliclibrary. Pick up free #WritersCorps postcards on the 3rd floor of the Main #library. Each features a funny #poem by a young person created in our workshop. Youth ages 12-19 can join our library workshop Tues 4-6 pm. More info at WritersCorps.org or ehannan@sfpl.org (at San Francisco Public Library - Main Library)