WHAT WE DO
SonEdna’s Youth Programs are offered in support of and in conjunction with the SonEdna Literary Showcases and Salons.
Writing Workshops: SonEdna offers workshops, primarily in the Mississippi Delta, for school-aged children and for adults. The workshop activities are focused around the genre specialties of invited writers and the themes of related public events. The workshops are offered in partnership with C.A.R.E, a Charleston-based, after-school arts in education program. Workshop themes include: basic elements of playwriting; understanding elements of suspense; and using text within the art of collage.
School Readings: Writers who are part of SonEdna public events read their works at Mississippi Delta elementary, high schools, colleges and universities. The readings are followed by Q&A sessions with teachers and students.
Previous readings have occurred for students at Mississippi State University, Charleston Elementary, Charleston High School, West Tallahatchie High School, and Oak Grove High School.
Student and Youth Readings: Representative students from the SonEdna Writing Workshops read their work during one of the SonEdna public performances.
... enlivening literature by offering it live!
A component of Literature Live! is SonEdna’s Dramatic Reading Series, which presents lively and dramatic theatrical presentations of literary works. Noted directors and celebrity performers participate and hold post performance dialogues with the audience. Literature Live! has been developed at Rites and Reason Theatre, Brown University and other partnering institutions.
The launch of this series coincided with the publication of Some Sing, Some Cry, by Ntozake Shange and Ifa Bayeza. (Award winning playwright and author, Ifa Bayeza received a SonEdna Residency to research and develop The Ballad of Emmett Till and Charleston Olio, the musical adaptation of Some Sing Some Cry, which fused text, drama and music, featuring fourteen original songs, and a cast of eight.)
In the spring of 2010, SonEdna hosted a “friendraiser” at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles. At that time, SonEdna presented the concept of Literature Live! to film and television actors, producers, and potential funders. That September, in association with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, SonEdna launched the national book tour of Some Sing, Some Cry with a sold-out presentation by authors Ntozake Shange and Ifa Bayeza at the Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
Then, in the fall of 2010, SonEdna hosted it’s first dramatic reading with workshop productions of Charleston Olio at the University of Mississippi and the B.B. King Museum, which featured an all-star cast including Alfre Woodard, Hattie Winston, and Richard Lawson. This served as the pilot for Literature Live! which saw its national debut in the summer of 2011 at the National Black Theatre Festival.
The National Black Theatre Festival production of Charleston Olio starred Phylicia Rashad, Hattie Winston, and Kene Holliday, bringing SonEdna - and this important work - to a national audience.
Throughout its history, SonEdna has offered Celebrity Readings as a way of engaging a broader audience. Our largest audiences ever have been for celebrities, who provide a built-in audience with great enthusiasm for their work.
In the summer of 2013, SonEdna kicked off it's Mid-Morning Matinee Series at the National Black Theatre Festival, in partnership with the Forsyth County Public Libraries. Over the course of three days, SonEdna presented Sesame Street dad Roscoe Orman reading from his book "Ricky and Mobo"; Actor and Musician Pauletta Washington reading from Ntozake Shange's "Ellington Was Not a Street"; Tony Award-Winning Actor Tonya Pinkins reading from her book "Get Over Yourself: How to Drop the Drama and Claim the Life You Deserve"; and Daytime diva Victoria Rowell reading from her books "The Women Who Raised Me", and "The Young and the Ruthless".
Each Celebrity Reading is followed by an intimate conversation with the celebrity and book signing. Aside from the Mid-Morning Matinee Series, Celebrity Readings are also incorporated into our literary salons and story hour for students.
SonEdna Salons are presented in intimate settings, and feature multiple writers reading their work. Usually set in a home, Salons are an opportunity for small groups to interact easily with featured writers.
Previous writers at SonEdna’s salons have included Gian Barnett, Linda and David Beito, Clyde Ford, National Book Award finalist Patricia Henley, Swil Kanim, Hasna Muhammad, Roscoe Orman, Victoria Rowell, Ntozake Shange, Neil White, and Curtis Wilkie.
The SonEdna Writer in Residence program offers invited writers, of all genres, a peaceful, supportive, setting to concentrate, research and write. In exchange, the writers are asked to present a program to the community.
Previous Writers in Residence:
Ifa Bayeza spent four weeks at SonEdna doing research in the area for her play, The Ballad of Emmett Till, which went on to garner multiple awards with productions in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Houston.
Denise Nicholas spent a week at SonEdna working on her second novel, tentatively titled Bronzeville. When asked about her time at SonEdna, Nicholas replied “When I was forced to move out of my home during reconstruction, I was lost. SonEdna became my creative home. A writing place is so intrinsic to the process for most of us. I can go do my research, wander around this countryside like a bird. I absorb, I take notes, I appreciate the environments of other places. We must have safe places to work. Safe as in emotionally safe.”
Charles E. Cobb, Jr. used his residency to work on a new book tentatively titled Traveling Armed: Dangerous Negroes, Guns, and Self-Defense in the Southern Freedom Movement. When asked about the importance of the residency provided by SonEdna, Cobb responded “There are not enough spaces away from everyday pressures that welcome writers and artists to gather their thoughts for productive work. Beyond what I gain from SonEdna’s existence, I am keenly aware of its value in the larger creative world.”
SonEdna promotes writers we present by arranging other opportunities to present their work in a network of venues including book stores, community organizations, and other literary organizations in Mississippi.
The Voices program provides unique opportunities, offering protected environments for invited emerging and established writers to present their works in progress to a forum of scholars, artists, and professional writers who offer critical feedback. The Voices Series is a short-term residency generally synchronized with SonEdna public programs.
In 2007, SonEdna launched its ongoing book drive in response to diminished funding and outdated collections at Tallahatchie County Libraries.
Since then, we have collected books from estates, families, people who were moving, and from other organizations. We long ago lost count of the number of books collected, but in 2011, we conservatively estimated we collected over 7,500 books - and that number has only continued to grow!
The Oxford Rotary Club recently donated all of its books remaining from its annual Christmas store to the SonEdna Book Drive. If you would like to donate books, please contact us.
SonEdna’s Literary Showcases present one or more authors to a large public audience. Writers at previous showcases have included Lerone Bennett, Toni Colley-Lee, Ruby Dee, Tyehimba Jess, Denise Nicholas, and Victoria Rowell.