As the Girl Scouts of the United States of America gears up to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2012, the organization has teamed up with the Children’s Book Council to establish The Studio, a Web site that will encourage girls of all ages to create and share their own stories and expose them to various authors’ creative processes. Scheduled for an early November beta launch, the program is inspired by It’s Your Story—Tell It!, part of the GSUSA’s Leadership Journeys book series. It’s Your Story—Tell It! offers a multidisciplinary approach to building girls’ leadership through storytelling and creative expression, and aims to help girls gain a better understanding of themselves, develop confidence to become leaders, and establish critical thinking and media literacy skills.
At the heart of The Studio is the Featured Author Program, for which the CBC was a natural partner, explains Alisha Niehaus, executive editor of program resources for GSUSA. “When we decided we wanted to develop digital content to support It’s Your Story—Tell It! that would encourage girls to write their own stories, we realized that CBC’s focus on children’s literature and authors made the organization an ideal fit for the program,” she notes.
The CBC agreed. “We are honored that the Girls Scouts chose us as a partner,” says Nicole Deming, CBC’s communications associate. “We loved the idea of creating a venue where girls are inspired to share their own stories, and loved the idea of them interacting with authors they respect and learning about their creative processes.”
In July, Deming and CBC executive director Robin Adelson invited publicists from 12 member publishers to a brainstorming session to discuss the venture and their authors’ participation in it. One author published by each of those houses—Abrams, Candlewick, Disney, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Little, Brown, Macmillan, National Geographic, Penguin, Random House, Scholastic, and Simon & Schuster—will be featured for one week during the three-month beta launch. “We felt it was important to involve our member publishers at the very formative stage of this venture, which will be beneficial to them as well,” Deming remarks, adding that CBC membership participation will expand as the program develops.
Each featured author will have the open-ended opportunity to share content through video, audio, and photos. “It will essentially give girls a behind-the-scenes look at how authors create stories, from finding inspiration, to doing research, to the actual writing,” Niehaus says.
Among the authors showcased during the beta stage of the Studio site, which is still under construction, are Liz Kessler, who shares photos of her writing notebooks and the image that inspired Emily Windsnap and the Castle in the Mist; Linda Urban, who reveals how she turned a three-page picture-book manuscript into the novel Hound Dog True; and Sara Pennypacker, author of Clementine, who offers an exercise to help aspiring writers uncover their characters’ motivations. Rounding out the beta roster are Rachel Renée Russell, Sue Macy, Jarrett J.Krosoczka, Jerry Pinkney, Ann M. Martin, Robin Preiss Glasser, Fiona Robinson, Joseph Bruchac, and Kate Messner.
The Studio will be accessible to all girls, not just the GSUSA’s 2.4 million members, and potentially will expand to include content tailored to parents, teachers, and scout leaders. “This is a terrific venue fostering a lifelong love of reading for all girls nationwide,” Deming says. “The site will showcase books that are aligned with the principles of the Girls Scout organization—sisterhood, leadership, and fostering the creative process. This initiative is in many ways fulfilling the CBC mission. In fact, we and the Girl Scouts have a beautiful confluence of missions.”