Three years ago, twice-published young adult fiction writer Celise Downs decided she wanted to give something back to her community of readers. A series of events in her life naturally led to the creation of The Write Zone, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping aspiring young authors, ages 11-18, develop their creative and writing abilities in both educational and fun ways.
Celise participated in Startup Weekend Chandler at the end of June to help move the development of the organization along, and will also be looking for investors during the Extreme Pitch event on Tuesday August 30th. She recently shared her story with us:
“The idea for The Write Zone started around 2007-2008. I had had my own publishing company, Gemini Mojo Press, for a couple of years where I self-published my first two books, Secrets and Kisses and Dance Jam Productions. Around that time I was thinking that, as a writer of young adult fiction, I wanted to find a way to give back. I thought what better way to do that than creating a publishing company for teens; And Youthful Wisdom Press was born. In the process of promoting the company, I came across 826 National and became really excited about their concept. I thought that was an even better idea than the publishing company, but didn’t know anything about the nonprofit sector (well, except from a volunteer standpoint). I figured I would have to learn from the ground up and I saw it as a sign when my best friend told me about Prescott College and their…unusual form of education. My mind set, I closed YWP in April 2009 and registered for undergrad school at Prescott soon after. My plan was to graduate and work for a nonprofit for a year or two before opening my own, just for the experience. I heard about Gangplank from my best friend as a possible venue to hold her going away party. While browsing the site, I read about Startup Weekend Chandler, took a couple of days to think about whether or not I wanted to participate, and the rest is history.
I’ll be graduating from Prescott in Sept 2012 with a degree in Nonprofit Management. I’m a big believer in signs. I wasn’t expecting to open my nonprofit for a few years, but participating in Startup Weekend Chandler and meeting Daanon [DeCock] was like a flashing, neon, Vegas-big sign that I couldn’t ignore.”
At Startup Weekend Chandler, Celise gained Daanon DeCock as her Co-Executive Director of The Write Zone. Daanon is an active Gangplank member and was planning a writing workshop for Gangplank Jr. The two decided to become collaborators in their like-minded endeavors, and turned the event into a series of workshops under The Write Zone “umbrella.” They also got the organization’s website off the ground during the 54-hour event.
During the 60-day Roadmap to Launch challenge following Startup Weekend, The Write Zone has also gained a new Board Secretary, Sheila Blankemeier, and has actively begun seeking a Treasurer and advisory board members.