916 Ink is Sacramento’s arts-based creative writing nonprofit that provides workshops for Sacramento area youth, grades 3-12, in order to transform them into confident writers and published authors. Our workshops increase literacy skills, improve vocabulary, teach empathy, positively impact social and emotional learning, and expand communication skills.
916 Ink wants to create readers by fostering a love of language, oral, and/or written. By its nature, writing is a curious act that involves human connection and empathy. Instilling a curiosity in the power of stories in a young person can lead them to take charge of their life and change their narrative by becoming the heroes in their own story. We don’t just make students better readers and writers. We make them more open and honest communicators.
Since 2010, we have transformed over 3000 young people in the greater Sacramento region into published authors. 916 ink has published over 100 professional anthologies of student work. We also seek to serve at-risk or vulnerable youth including those in foster care, those who are experiencing homelessness, or those who are involved in the juvenile justice system.
916 Ink opened the doors to its whimsical creative writing center, The Imaginarium, in 2015. This unique space allows all who enter a world of imagination, storytelling, and a love for the written word. On any given day, 916 Ink’s dedicated staff can be found facilitating transformative workshops in the Imaginarium, in the classroom, or in conjunction with community partners throughout Sacramento.
By transforming youth into published authors, we create lifelong readers, articulate communicators, and self-confident youth writers who know the power of their own story.
Impact & Accolades
- Published over 3,000 youth writers in over 100 professional books
- Received over 8,000 hours of in-kind time by our team of amazing volunteers
- Awarded the Inspire Giving Grant from the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce in 2015
- Won the "Arts Make it Happen" Endowment from the Sacramento Region Community Foundation
- Opened the whimsical 916 Ink Imaginarium in the closed down Maple Elementary School
- Won the People's Choice Award and Coaches Award at Social Venture Partners Fast Pitch Program
- Co-founded the Walk 4 Literacy Coalition
Finding their Voice
916 Ink delivers countless hours of creative writing workshops across the Sacramento region, primarily to at-risk or underserved youth. We have partnered with schools, local non-profits, community groups, juvenile detention centers, and many more to bring our method to those who need it most. As we continue to publish the young people who come through our doors, we hope to extend our reach, and provide access to thousands more youth from some of the most underserved populations in the region.
“I leave here with inspiration ringing in my ears…”
- Jonathan Murray, Grade 10
Why it Works
In every 916 Ink workshop you'll find a couple of key ingredients that make our programs unique. Our approach, an adapted version of the AWA method, allows youth and children to express themselves in a safe and positive environment. By providing a supportive feedback structure, our Inkers gain a better social and emotional understanding of themselves and their peers, an essential set of skills for everyone to develop. Youth leave our programs with increased self-confidence, improved academic ability, and are inspired to continue writing in their day-to-day lives. We witness this transformation throughout the process, and it truly shines when our youth read their published work at a release party filled with their family members and peers. It's evident that they are a writer.
How it Works
There’s a special moment at the end of a 916 Ink program, it happens at our “Book Release Party” just after one of our young students reads one of their pieces of writing out loud and into a microphone, sharing it with an audience of friends, family and complete strangers. We work very hard to create safety and trust in our classroom environment, but this is different. This is not just peers; this room has adults. But here our student is, at the microphone, holding their very own, very real, professionally published book. They tell the audience the title, the page where they can find it and read along, and they begin to read. Despite all of the positive feedback and encouragement our students have received about their writing, this is always a tentative moment. An audience, no matter how small, is always intimidating and for many of our Inkers this is the first time they have read in front of a crowd. But read they do, and when they finish there is invariably a moment of hesitation. You can almost feel their nervous anticipation, “did they like it? Did I stumble over my words too much? Will people clap?” Sure enough, as soon as they’re done the room bursts into applause. Parents and peers cheer them on, and the entire room radiates appreciation for the words that were just shared. As the Inker walks back to their seat, the smile on their face tells you all you need to know.
The 916 Ink Method consists of four different phases which combine and build on each other, creating an exceptionally broad impact on the students we work with. Throughout the workshop experience, our “Inkers” learn to value themselves, to silence their inner critic, and to build empathy towards their peers. Through the act of writing and self-reflection they often begin to heal trauma, gain newfound confidence to share their words aloud, and discover that they are not alone in their fears. They find peers across the table who appreciate their sense of humor and identify with their pain; often when all they saw before was a kid who looked different than they do. In tracing the “Hero’s Journey” of a storybook character our students who face incredibly difficult circumstances even learn to see how – just like the protagonists they write about – their choices can change the ending of their own story.
The 916 Ink process beings with a generative phase. Our facilitators, aka “Wordslingers,” bring tactile and imaginative prompts which take the kids out of their element and into a new world of imagination and story. We pour fancy old keys onto the table and ask “Describe the door that this key opens, what does it look like? What is behind the door once you put the key into the lock and turn it?” Crucially, we teach that everything written in our workshop will be treated as fiction. This allows the children to draw from personal experience without fear of judgement, even when they write about the most painful aspects of their reality. This premise is also the foundation of the second phase of our program: feedback. After each write, students volunteer to share their piece and their peers in the room give feedback exclusively on what they liked, what they felt was strong about the writing, and what pieces will stay with them. It’s such a rare thing today for kids to sit across a table from each other and compliment each other on something as deeply personal as a new piece of writing that we see remarkable results in this phase alone.
The third phase in the 916 Ink process is revision, where we teach craft and prepare the work for publication. We tell our students “You are going to become a published author, so let’s find ways where we can make your piece even stronger” and we work with them to find ways to improve and add to their written work. On the final day of their program Inkers work together to generate three different titles for their book, one of which will be selected and used as the basis for the cover design done by our creative director. Students take a post program survey so we can measure results of the workshop against a pre-survey given on day 1. Finally, each student receives an invitation to the book release party and writes a final piece to the prompt “I leave here with…” where they share their thoughts on what 916 Ink meant to them.