MFA students Chelsea Lebron and Jaime Goh lead Creative Writing courses for the Mason Community Arts Academy

by Esther Goldberg

This February, MFA students Chelsea Lebron and Jaime Goh will be teaching creative writing courses for the Mason Community Arts Academy, the community arts education division of George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. For the first time at George Mason University, MFA teaching assistants were given the opportunity to apply to teach a creative writing course of their own design for the academy. When Chelsea Lebron (3rd year fiction) and Jaime Goh (2nd year fiction) heard about this project, both were eager to share their writing and teaching experience with the community and applied for the position, designing lesson plans for the classes they each hoped to instruct. They were thrilled when they learned they would be granted the opportunity to do so. While the Mason Community Arts Academy has offered high-quality arts instruction to community members in film, music, and theater for years, this spring will be the first time they offer creative writing classes. Starting February 13th, Lebron will teach a course to adults 18 years old and up on Tuesday evenings at 7:30 p.m. while Goh will teach a course to 10–12-year-olds from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. starting February 17th.

Chelsea Lebron, MFA'24                                

Chelsea Lebron—the recipient of a 2021 Robert Raymond Scholarship, a 2023 Provost Summer Research Grant, a 2023 Third Year Fellowship, a 2022 Cheuse Center MFA Travel Fellowship, and the coordinator of Phoebe’s Incarcerated Writers Project—knew the chance to teach a creative writing course would put her one step closer to reaching people who don’t always get to experience creative writing courses, an initiative she hopes to pursue post-graduation. Lebron will be teaching “Facets of Fiction: An Introductory Writing Workshop,” a five-week workshop for adults ages 18 and up who want to better grasp their approach to fiction, experiment with different forms and genres, and talk about their work with other creatives in the community. “What’s really important to me is finding ways to help these writers make writing a part of their lives, and not just a hobby that they have or a thing that they do once in a while. I want to learn their writing process, set up some kind of routine, and give them strategies and ways to make writing something that is consistent in their lives, because they don’t have something like school where it’s kind of drilled into them,” stated Lebron on her inspiration for applying to teach at MCAA. “I want to set them up to be able to say they are writers and continue to be writers after the course.”

 Jaime Goh—a 2022 Robert Raymond Scholarship Recipient, reader for Phoebe, Mason’s quarterly literary and arts journal and current teaching assistant at George Mason University—also always imagined helping others reach their literary potential, especially children. Goh will be teaching “Spinning the Yarn: The Art of Storytelling,” a workshop designed for children ages 10-12 where students will learn to identify the core elements of effective storytelling and acquire a toolkit of brainstorming, outlining, drafting, and revising techniques essential for writing engaging narratives in any genre. “I want to give kids the strategies and tools that I’ve picked up over the years and just hand it to them early so that they can continue to hone their writing skills over the years rather than struggling with current English classes that don’t really push their skills or harness their imaginations,” said Goh on her plans for the course. “Everyone is always telling stories all the time, and writing is just a way to structure your experiences. I just really hope children come away with the ability to frame not only their own experiences, but ideas or lessons they’ve learned, in a way that feels meaningful to them and is also entertaining.”

Jaime Goh, MFA'25

Both Lebron and Goh connect personally to the subjects of their courses, not only in regard to writing, but to the merits and benefits that stem from creativity. For Lebron, teaching adults to harness their creative ambitions is something deeply meaningful to her. “I feel like I’m someone who has learned a lot of things later in life. Like, I had to teach myself how to ride a bike really late, I’m learning how to drive right now, and I feel like one day I’ll learn how to swim, in the far, far future,” she stated with a laugh. “I feel like I’m someone who has pushed myself to learn things that I didn’t learn when I was younger, so I really admire people who invest in themselves even later in life. Because my age group is 18+, it’s really exciting for me to able to help give access to people who wouldn’t have a more traditional space like a university or a classroom, or people who potentially can’t afford more elaborate workshops. That’s something that really pushed me towards working with older students and working with the community in general.”

Goh, who hails from Singapore and has only spent one year in America so far, feels similarly tied to her course subject and students, recalling her own experience as a child interested in creative writing. “When I was in that age group, I was kind of frustrated with the quality of writing lessons that I was getting in English class. I felt like they were very fixated on grammar and vocabulary and the specific mechanics of the English language, which I already knew how to do. I wanted to tell good stories. Then as years passed, I started thinking about how I would teach it, and now I’m much older and I can see that that they were not good ideas, but now I have a toolkit, and I would love to share it with children and teach them that they don’t have to have perfect English or grammar to succeed in telling a good narrative,” commented Jaime. “I just think this is the best age group to do it, because they already have plenty of ideas. They just need a way to develop those ideas into something coherent and exciting.”

For Lebron and Goh, creativity is a crucial part of life, and one they both feel needs more attention in our everyday lives. “I hate to be cliché, but once you start trying to create something, it’s really easy to find beauty and creativity in other things in your life, so I think writing and art and even film, those things add that kind of substance that’s missing. Creating is so validating, and making something new is so expressive” said Lebron on the value of creativity. “What I want my students to gain from this course is a way to intergrade writing into their daily lives, because a lot of time creativity gets put on the backburner when it comes to [adult] priorities.” 

“I think that storytelling is such a core part of being human,” added Goh. “That honing the skills that they need to tell better and more fun stories, or stories that better convey what they mean to express, is a really valuable skill that they can use throughout their lives.”

“Facets of Fiction: An Introductory Writing Workshop” will be held Tuesdays from 7:30-8:30pm from February 13th to March 19th, and “Spinning a Yarn: The Art of Storytelling” will be held Saturdays from 10:00-11:00am from February 17th to March 23rd. For more information, visit https://masonacademy.gmu.edu/creative-writing/

The Mason Community Arts Academy at George Mason University provides enriching arts instruction to the community through inspiring and innovative lessons, classes and summer programs in music, theater, visual arts, and film & video, as well as programs focused on teacher education and enrichment. The academy strives to bring the highest caliber arts instruction to the surrounding community as George Mason University leads the way to ensure a vibrant future for our region and beyond.