Twelfth-grader Shannon Daniels says she knew she wanted to be a writer when she “realized that a poet whose life belonged centuries behind mine […] could simply use scratches on a piece of paper to transport himself to me.”
It’s not surprising, then, that the idea of combining two seemingly distant ideas often appears in Shannon’s work. In pieces like “The Great Olive Body,” an ode to the Catskills addressed to her muse, she blends her two favorite genres, memoir and poetry.
It also makes sense that Shannon and her mentor, Whitney Jacoby, a national accounts manager at Simon & Schuster, have bonded as a pair so seamlessly, fusing their passions and talents to become an unstoppable team. Now starting their third year together, Shannon says Whitney’s like “an older sister” to her.
Shannon’s 2012 gaming project “Mother of Pearl!” is a perfect example of how this teen and her mentor inject creativity into experimental forms of writing. Whitney admits that when she and Shannon first began the Narrative Gaming Dorkshops she thought, “What does writing have to do with video games?”
They quickly found, however, that creating the environmentally conscious game involved plotlines and character development. When the final product was completed, “I was totally blown away by the story and game Shannon created,” Whitney says. “I love that players are able to both have fun and learn about real-life environmental issues.”
While taking risks in different genres can be nerve-racking, having a mentor like Whitney makes the process of exploration less intimidating. Whitney remarks that their second year at Girls Write Now “was a year of exploration and new ways of writing, from the fun, environmental video game Shannon developed to the spoken word poem we wrote together.”
Shannon agrees, saying, “I took a lot of risks with my poetry this year — trying out new styles and voicing stories I’d hesitated to share in the past. It was really meetings with Whitney that encouraged me to continue taking risks.”
Shannon and Whitney, both New Yorkers born and bred, are truly a dynamic duo: this year they hosted the May CHAPTERS reading, and in June, they performed a piece they co-wrote, titled “Calloused Hands, Forgotten Words, and Sweet and Sour Chicken”.
“I love watching her grow as a writer,” Whitney remarks of her mentee, adding that each meeting with Shannon prompts Whitney to grow as a writer herself and “[pushes] me to write in ways I never thought possible.”
Shannon, a recent recipient of a National Scholastic Gold Medal, says that when she began writing, “I knew I wanted to connect people: bring myself closer to my audience and mix cultures and experiences together like chicken soup.” Shannon and Whitney embody these ambitions as they indulge in each other’s passion for writing, their unique bond, and a journey at Girls Write Now that encompasses both.
- Shannon’s not just a passionate mentee. She’s also a youth leader on our Youth Board, and helped to run our Creative Publishing digital workshop series! Along with fellow mentee and Youth Boarder Emely Paulino, Shannon co-wrote the preface for the e-zine — check it out and get a glimpse of what it means to bring your writing into the 21st century.