High Lights: Community Writing Workshop

by Northlight Theatre

For the past two years Northlight has partnered with various organizations to offer writing workshops to community members as part of our High Lights program. In that time, we have reached over 170 participants who now make up our High Lights alumni group. This program has engaged individuals at all stages of their writing journeys, from professional journalists, to published authors, to grandparents who have never taken a writing class before but want to document their life stories and pass them down to their children. In these workshops, Northlight teaching artists work with the participants over six weeks to generate and refine material through writing prompts, discussion, and peer feedback.

This past fall we facilitated six different writing groups through partnerships with the Levy Senior Center Foundation, Evanston Public Library, and our High Lights alumni. This spring we are increasing that number to eight writing groups by adding community members from Skokie Public Library and Edgewater Village Chicago.

These workshops have all been virtual, but this past February we hosted our first in-person High Lights event where our writers were invited to come together and share their stories out loud with their community. For many of our High Lights writers this was the first time they met their fellow writers, teaching artists, and Northlight staff in person.

You can access videos of the pieces read at the event HERE.

Nona, one of our longest High Lights writers, wanted to share the following quote:

“I have never quite found my place in the world. I married young, had kids young, and dropped out of college. It took me twenty-five years and seven colleges to get my degree. I got mine before my children got theirs. All of that time I was working uncreative jobs that paid the bills. So I did all my creative stuff in the middle of the night. I think I have always been a writer. In high school, the motto was “Every class is an English class.” In college, I got great grades from A++ term papers and research papers. I have tried all kinds of hobbies from jewelry design to painting to floral design to reading everything I could get my hands on. But there is something different about the writing groups. I have received validation that I am a good writer. Before this, I always thought of myself as a ‘writer wannabe’. The friendships formed through the writing groups have gotten me through the isolation of the pandemic. Some people have said that Zoom just doesn’t fulfill their needs for socialization. They have never been to our writing groups. I am learning so much about improving my writing and looking forward to every meeting.”

This project is supported in part by a grant from the League of Chicago Theatres and ComEd.