Safety Harbor Writers & Poets hosts open mic for kids

SaMiya, a young writer, uses a vintage open mic set up at a past Tell Me Something Good Kids’ Writing Club at the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center. The club next meets Dec. 8. SHAMc also launches a Kids’ Open Mic Night Wednesday, Dec. 4.

SAFETY HARBOR — For years, Laura Kepner, founder of Safety Harbor Writers & Poets, focused predominantly on adult writers when creating programming for the organization.

Sure, she sometimes taught a young reporters’ camp through the city’s recreation department and led teen writing workshops at the Safety Harbor Public Library, but interest in these “ebb and flow,” she said.

Then, in recent years, she realized children are taught more to take tests then they are to think creatively.

“It’s unfathomable. It’s not the teacher’s fault, but kids don’t really get creative writing in school,” Kepner said. “A lot of them have to write to prompts and learn how to answer questions.”

So, she decided to create some programming targeting younger writers. First came the children’s summer writing camp at the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center (SHAMc), which she hosted the past two summers. The camps were a success, she said, as there aren’t many programs like it in Pinellas County.

From there, she launched the Tell Me Something Good Kids’ Writing Club this fall. The club meets monthly at SHAMc.

Similar to the summer camps, Kepner sets up typewriters — two retro machines from the 1930s and two electric typewriters from the 1980s — and lets the kids write on them.

“Kids love playing on those,” she said. 

She also provides some writing prompts and games for the kids, usually ranging in age from 7 to 12, for inspiration.

“I don’t really teach the kids, I just direct them,” she said.

In the coming months, the club meets Sundays, Dec. 8, Jan. 5 and Feb. 9, 3 to 4 p.m.

Now, she’s hosting the first Kids’ Open Mic Night at SHAMc Wednesday, Dec. 4, 6 to 9 p.m.

Similar to the open mics Kepner organized during camp, children of all ages are invited to bring their best work to share.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said, “and there’s the potential for this to grow into something a lot bigger. I hope this is something we can keep going. There seems to be a need for it.”

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