P / P Writer to Writer Series: Walter Mosley’s Advice on Writing With Teenagers

By: Jordannah Elizabeth


I sat in the back row of a talk given by author, Walter Mosley last night at Red Emma’s Bookstore and Coffee Shop not knowing what to expect. I arrived slightly lethargic as I had meandered through the city, arriving with no plan. Be that as it may, I had bought a brand new notebook hours before and slipped off the seal and opened the fresh pages as Mosley began to walk towards the microphone. I began to write notes, paraphrasing what stood out to me during Mosley’s time in front of the quiet crowd.  To describe his new book, Folding the Red into the Black, Mosley read a written introduction and synopsis as he stood next to an almost empty glass of red wine and an unopened bottle of Coca Cola.

I did in fact write down a few notes, but there is only one thing I truly want to share:

Walter Mosley’s advice on teaching marginalized Black teenagers to write theater.

During the Q&A portion of the reading, an exasperated teacher stood up and asked how he could teach his students who were male identified Black teenage students, female identified male and male identified female students (these were his descriptions of his students) who attended Baltimore City Public Schools. The teacher asked Mosley, “How can I get them to see how beautiful they are? How can I get them to see themselves the way I see them?”

As a teacher, I’ve asked myself this very question as I have taught students from age 4 to 21 in Baltimore City, and my teenagers were by far the hardest to inspire, who as the man expressed, “fought me tooth and nail on everything.” I empathized and desired a technique as well.

Here are my notes on what Mosley said:

A Writing/Theater Technique for Marginalized Teens

[A projection]

Ask them
Who do you love?
What do you wish for that person?

The feelings are there, they just may not be pointed at themselves.
Find out where their feelings are pointed.