by Gina Catanzarite, Teen Writer! Director
I’ve always been a glass-is-half-empty kind of gal but even for me, it’s been tough to manage a smile these past couple of months.
The daily news has been excruciatingly difficult to stomach for awhile now but, among all the other atrocities and indignities, we also witnessed another horrendous school shooting. And then we witnessed the teen victims, survivors, and advocates who called for laws to protect them, only to be dismissed, and even denigrated, by people who couldn’t possibly have facts in their possession. (Frankly, it was even hard for me to type “facts” in that last sentence because what I really wanted to type was “souls.”)
In my professional sphere as a journalist, I am working on a project that has brought me in contact with young people who survived suicide attempts, those living with mental illness, those recovering from self-injury behavior, and those struggling with drug addiction… and I know that they are just the tip of the iceberg of people coping with unfathomable burdens.
In my personal sphere, I know young people who are grief-stricken over a friend’s suicide… I know a teen who was bullied for being gay… a friend received a very upsetting medical diagnosis… and I have a relative who had to bear yet another birthday marking the age her son would have been if he hadn’t died when he was four.
Anger, despair, rage, indignation… it’s all right there at my feet, and it’s tempting to pick up any one of them, or even all of them, and act out. Instead, I do what I have always done: I reach for my tablet and I write.
I’m 52 years old and I’ve written in a diary every day since I was seven. Everyone picks their therapy, I suppose, and mine is a spiral-bound notebook. It is my way of embodying one of my favorite quotes, from writer Maya Angelou:
“I really love language. I love what it does for us, how it allows us to explain the pain and the glory, the nuances and the delicacies of our existence.”
Rarely does my writing diminish my feelings on a topic but it does satisfy my need for understanding. I am attempting, in my own way, to make sense of the pain and the glory and the nuance and the delicacies. And while I do not share my diary with others, I do attempt to write about difficult topics in other ways, too, for the public to read, or watch, and think about.
I do it because that is my job as a journalist however, I believe we all bear responsibility for creating this record of history, of people and events and actions and consequences. Writing, in and of itself, may not create a solution. But it could educate or inspire the reader to take action, and that action could drive positive change. The stories we live, and the sense we try to make of them, can only drive society forward if they are preserved for, and made available to, others beyond our immediate circle.
Pick up a pen or reach for your laptop. Do it now. Write about your own pain and glory. Write about the nuances and delicacy of your existence. Add your voice to the record of history.
And if you wonder why you should bother, what difference it could possibly make, the answer is in another quote, this one from writer Anne Lamott:
“You’re going to feel like hell if you wake up someday and you never wrote the
stuff that was tugging on the sleeves of your heart: your stories, memories, visions
and songs – your truth, your version of things – in your own voice. That’s really
all you have to offer us, and that’s also why you were born.”
Does your middle or high school student love to write, does she/he write in his/her spare time, or goes above and beyond on writing assignments? If so, we encourage you to enroll your young writer in our TeenWriter! Fantastic Fiction summer camp. To learn more about any of our other exciting, fun and unique Summer Camps for Teens, sign up at online or call us at (412) 877 -1888.
Gina Catanzarite, owner/operator of Arania Productions, and an award-winning television producer, author, media consultant and teacher who has worked both nationally and locally in her fields since 1987.