PEN In The Classroom Community Interview with Sergio Peralta

Sage Workshop participants at the Central Library in Los Angeles.

Community Interview

Former PITC student Sergio Peralta used the PITC workshop model as his inspiration when he founded Sage Workshops this year. PITC Program Manager Heather Simons talked with Sergio, a senior student at Film and Theatre Arts Charter High School in Los Angeles, to ask him how students have responded to his workshop and how his own workshop experience informed his process.

Q. What inspired you to create your own creative writing workshop? What is the mission of Sage Workshops?

A. I got the idea to create my own poetry workshop after participating in the Street Poet’s Seeking Peace Workshops and a PEN In The Classroom residency at my school. I was an intern at Street Poets Inc. for two years and I was also in Michelle Meyering’s PITC residency at Film and Theatre Arts Charter High School. Michelle and Street Poets ignited my love for poetry and self-expression through writing. That love then became what is now Sage Workshops. Our mission is to help students become more involved in the writing world and help guide the voices of the future in a safe and supportive environment.

Q. You currently host Sage Workshops twice a week at the Central Library with students from your school. How is that going?

A. The workshops are going great; the students are working hard and diligently on their poems for our anthology. We practiced for our open mic event at the Central Library using techniques taught to me by Michelle. We are currently on our sixth workshop, and so far the students have completed four poems for the anthology and about three poems from our exercises/warm-ups. In our next workshop we are going to visit the Japanese American National Museum and learn how to write haiku poems.

Q. Why do you think it’s important for students to teach students?

A. I think it is important for students to teach students because for the most part it’s a great learning experience for both the teacher and the students. The student teaching the workshops will gain valuable skills that will be needed throughout their life especially in their careers/college. To keep Sage Workshops authentic the instructor will change each year. Sage Workshops will be run by one senior from Film and Theatre Arts Charter High School. My theory is that if students are taught by another student in their teenage group, then the instructor will be able to relate with his or her students. I have seen students hold back when taught by an adult. If a student is taught by yet another student maybe that situation will not happen. Maybe I can bring something new out of my nine students that have not been seen before by their high school teachers.

Q. What is your hope for the future of Sage Workshops? Where do you see yourself in ten years?

A. I want Sage Workshops to be recognized and respected by different schools, nonprofits, and libraries. I am going to be a mentor for the upcoming seniors that take over Sage Workshops. Self-expression can be an intimidating thing, especially when it comes to writing. These workshops are meant to keep students comfortable and help them acknowledge that poetry is much more than just an art form. I see Sage Workshops branching out to other communities and becoming a recognized nonprofit organization. That will not happen any time soon but I have a feeling that eventually it will. In ten years I see myself being a traveling writer and creating novels based on the people and experiences I encounter in my escapades.

Q. Can you tell me about your experience in a PEN In The Classroom workshop and how it impacted your life?

A. At first I didn’t even like poetry. I just entered Michelle’s PEN In The Classroom program because I was failing film and I needed an elective class. There is something about this program that changes its students. The longer I was in the PITC program the more I felt at home. Literature is so important for the youth and I did not realize this until I participated in the PITC program. I feel like Michelle trained me for this moment. She gave me the tools and opportunities to use my gained skills and help other students.

Q. Do you have anything else you’d like to say?

A. I want to say thank you; I am truly grateful for the PITC program. The whole reason I started Sage Workshops is because of this program. It is an honor to be sponsored by PEN Center USA.

I want to give thanks to Michelle Meyering for being my teacher and inspiration for starting my own Poetry Workshops. I want to give thanks to my mentor Heather Simons for taking time off her busy schedule and guiding me from start to finish. She really helped me transform Sage Workshops from just an idea to a reality.

I want to give thanks to Ellie Herman for letting me interview her regarding our anthologies and helping us realize our place in the zine culture. I want to thank Julius Diaz for letting us interview him about having sustainable workshops. He gave us useful information that will be used by the upcoming generation of leaders. I want to give special thanks to the L.A’s downtown’s Central library for letting us hold our workshop in Teen’Scape. I want to give thanks to Mary McCoy for helping us host the workshops in Teen’Scape and Sheryn Morris for connecting me with Mary McCoy. Thank you for your support and I hope Sage Workshops will continue to play a part of creating young writers