Sharon Charde, author of “I Am Not a Juvenile Delinquent: How Poetry Changed a Group of At-Risk Young Women,
Sharon Charde, author of “I Am Not a Juvenile Delinquent: How Poetry Changed a Group of At-Risk Young Women," during an author talk held by The Norfolk Library held on Friday, Sept. 30.

NORFOLK —The Norfolk Library hosted the first of its fall author talks featuring Sharon Charde, author of “I Am Not a Juvenile Delinquent: How Poetry Changed a Group of At-Risk Young Women.”
The talk was held on Friday, Sept. 30 over Zoom.
Charde, a resident of Lakeville is an author, poet, therapist, and teacher who spent over ten years volunteering as a poetry teacher at Touchstone, a residential treatment program for at-risk teenage girls in Litchfield. “I Am Not a Juvenile Delinquent” introduces the story of Charde’s work with the young women at the facility, where she led writing workshops as an outlet for grief, frustration, and opportunity for healing through storytelling for over a decade.
“The most important part of the book is the stories by the girls. It’s filled with their poems,” Charde said at the event. “They are natural poets with natural rhythm, absolute freedom. They are not worried about putting out their truths like so many people I know in my world. They’re not guarded. They just say it like it is.”
The book, edited and published by Charde, primarily showcases the poetry and writings of the young women she worked alongside at Touchstone. Split into five parts, the book also includes excerpts of Charde’s writing — with her reflections on teaching, grief, and healing — and pieces by her late son.
One of the best parts of hearing the reception to her book, Charde said, has been the various interpretations and responses to it that she never anticipated.
“The love that’s come from this book, and all from all directions, is an amazing byproduct of writing the book,” Charde said. “When people read it, they tell you all kinds of different things that you didn’t even know were in there, so I’m grateful for all of you out there who have given me feedback.”
Charde first seriously turned to writing following her son’s tragic death in 1987, seeking an outlet for her grief in writing poetry and short books as well as attending various women’s writing retreats. As she focused on the healing power of writing she was experiencing herself, she came up with the idea to volunteer to form a writing group with the residents at Touchstone. The program, which was created partially in collaboration with a program at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, ran for 16 years and is the premise of Charde’s new book.
“I realized the book is a love story,” Charde said. “It’s a love story for the girls. It’s a love story for my son. And it’s also bigger: I’m beginning to realize it’s a love story to myself.”
While the timing of the release of the book has been a challenge because of limits caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s timing relative to other moments in our country has been quite relevant, according to Charde.
“It was a very hard time for those of us who brought out books this year, and I was disappointed, of course, not to have all the launch that I had hoped for,” Charde said. “The book came out at the most timely time: it was after the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests. This book is filled with stories of black, brown, and Latina girls, and these are the stories that the world needs to hear.”
The Norfolk Library will continue to host virtual versions of their fall events, including discussion series and book groups, in the coming weeks. Follow the library on Facebook at this link.

Cady Stanton is a freelance journalist based in Colebrook, Conn. A graduate of Georgetown University, she has previously published articles in The Hill, The Hoya and Washington Monthly.