New Shoots: fostering creative writers in local high schools

There was a wonderful celebration of student writing last night at False Creek Community Centre with the launch of the most recent New Shoots anthology of high school poetry, prose and artwork! New Shoots Coordinator, Erin Biberdorf emceed the student and mentor readings.

Gene Derreth, teacher at Vancouver Technical Secondary, Erin Biberdorf, New Shoots Coordinator, and Logaine Navascués, former New Shoots Coordinator

Ever since 1986, the New Shoots program has sent graduate students from UBC’s School of Creative Writing into Vancouver School Board high school classrooms and student writing clubs to hold 6-8 consecutive workshops on poetry, scriptwriting, comics, and fiction. The harvest? A beautiful annual anthology showcasing student writing and visual art.

​English teacher Ian Macleod, who has been involved in New Shoots for over 20 years (many as a coordinator), informed me in an email that several prominent and award-winning local authors began as either New Shoots participants or mentors. This illustrious list includes Wayde Compton, Nancy Lee, Billeh Nickerson, Madeleine Thien, Charlotte Gill, Andrew Westolle, Kevin Chong and Deborah Campbell, among others.  

I was a mentor myself at New Shoots at Ideal Mini School and my alma mater Eric Hamber Secondary in 2000. I loved the interactions with the keen, creative minds that I encountered in both schools. Some terrific and highly imaginative work emerged from the writing prompts and themes we explored during those workshops.

My friend, colleague and co-instructor at SFU Continuing Studies, Evelyn Lau had poetry published in the New Shoots anthology when she was 13. It was the year before she ran away from home. You can read about what the support from New Shoots and from her high school teachers meant to her, plus read her poem, “Sun” in an article about the New Shoots program in UBC’s Trek Magazine here.

Long live this excellent, longstanding partnership between the VSB and UBC’s School of Creative Writing! May fledgling writers continue to be nurtured and nourished by this fertile educational collaboration!