Who We Are

Resource > PongovolunteersMay2010croppedweb2.jpg by: rich

The Pongo Publishing Teen Writing Project is a volunteer, nonprofit effort with Seattle teens who are in jail, on the streets, or in other ways leading difficult lives. We help these young people express themselves through poetry and other forms of writing. In our work we ask the teens to speak from the heart about who they are as people, and the teens often respond by writing about traumatic losses that occurred when they were little children, losses such as the death of a parent, abandonment, neglect, abuse, and a parent's addiction. These traumas from their childhood have left the teens feeling depressed, confused, angry, and prone to substance abuse and destructive acting-out. But the writing process makes a difference.

While the poems that the teens produce are often terribly sad, the act of expressing themselves is often a relief, even joyful, and helps these young people to better understand and cope with their powerful emotions. They may cry as they write, but they feel happy afterward. Also, they are proud of their creative accomplishments, including the possibility of publication. Helping distressed teens through self-expression is the heart of Pongo's mission.

In addition to working directly with the teens, Pongo publishes periodic anthologies of the young people's work. Three-quarters of the books we publish are given away to teens in difficult circumstances and to charities and individuals that help these teens. One-quarter of the books we publish are sold to the public, mostly at several Seattle book fairs. Our book distribution and sales enable us to reach out to the wider community, to help more teens and promote better understanding of kids. The money we receive from book sales covers a fraction of the publishing costs. Additional expenses are paid through grants and personal donations.

An important aspect of the Pongo Publishing Teen Writing Project is that we use teaching techniques such as structured activities and dictation to support and encourage creativity by people who aren't used to expressing themselves, even people who have very limited skills. And of course we actively support writing by teens who are enthusiastic and prolific writers.

Richard Gold founded the Pongo Publishing Teen Writing Project in 1992.