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Sports Writing Q&A

Discover your voice and make meaningful friendships! Our Teen Summer Workshops (for 11-14 year olds) provide students with an intensive, enriching writing experience that not only fosters open creative expression but also builds confidence and strengthens communication skills in a safe, supportive environment.

We would love for you to join us, whether you’ve been writing for years or just want to be part of a unique creative process.

We spoke with Jim McConville, who is teaching our “Sports Writing” summer workshop (August 19-23, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.; ages 10-13), to find out what he loves about writing and sports.

Read more and register here.

PWN: What book featuring a sport do you recommend and why?

JIM: A sports book I would recommend would be The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood, by Jane Leavy. Not only do I think the title is so interesting and powerful, but it is a really neat look into one of the most famous and popular American athletes of all time. It provides a look into Mantle’s life outside of baseball that I knew the footnotes to but not really the whole story. A very interesting look at how we worship athletes and celebrities in this country.

PWN: What similarities do you see between the drama of a story and the drama of a sporting event?

JIM: I see endless similarities between the drama of a story and the drama of a sporting event. Wondering what the characters will do versus wondering how the athletes will perform, how the ball will roll on a certain day, who will get the lucky bounce. And on top of that, I think there is such a connection that develops between the viewer and the character/athlete. If you are engrossing yourself in a book or a game, it seems only natural to develop a rooting interest for someone or something and be with them until the end.

PWN: What do you hope your students will take away from this camp?

JIM: I hope the students leave with an even more attentive, curious, and critical eye than they arrived with. I hope they will continue to notice the smallest details in sports and life and savor those moments in their writing. And I hope they will see, if they do not already, that sports stories are about so much more than sports.

PWN: What’s your favorite sport to write about and why?

JIM: My favorite sport to write about is baseball. From Bull Durham to Mickey Mantle to Walt Whitman believing baseball was part of the soul of the United States, I think there is something inherently innocent and wide-eyed and romantic about big grassy outfields and sun-cooked dirt infields. Playing through the summer and ending in autumn—I think there is a metaphor there!

Read more and register here.

Jim McConville is a Writing Instructor for Project Write Now.

Songwriting Studio Q&A

Discover your voice and make meaningful friendships! Our Teen Summer Workshops (for 11-14 year olds) provide students with an intensive, enriching writing experience that not only fosters open creative expression but also builds confidence and strengthens communication skills in a safe, supportive environment.

We would love for you to join us, whether you’ve been writing for years or just want to be part of a unique creative process.

We spoke with Mimi Cross, who is teaching our “Songwriting Studio” summer workshop (August 19-23, 1 to 4 p.m.; ages 11-14) as well as our “Songwriting Intensive” for adults, to find out what she loves about making music.

Read more and register here.

PWN: When did you write your first song and what was it about?

MIMI: The first song I ever wrote was called “Me, Myself, and I,” and I wrote it with my best friend Sarah when we were in Kindergarten. Fun fact: In 1980, British singer-songwriter guitarist and three-time Grammy Award nominee Joan Armatrading released an album called “Me Myself I.” The title track became one of her most successful singles! P.S. Sarah and I are still very good friends.

PWN: What current song moves you, whether bopping in your seat or stirring up another emotion? How do you think the song achieves that effect?

MIMI: Wow, that’s a tough one. There are so many great songs out there! One of my current favorites is “Shallow” from the soundtrack of A Star Is Born. There are several reasons why that song moves so many people, starting with the singers. But even if we took Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper out of the equation, “Shallow” would be an amazing song. The lyrics are both personally and universally appealing, and the melody, chord progressions, and harmony all play a part in making this song a hit. Above all, it may be the structure of the song that gives me the most goosebumps. When Lady Gaga hits that pre-chorus … Well, let’s just say, that’s when my nerve endings leap to attention. I’ve chosen this song, among others, to dissect in the Songwriting Intensive this summer. So if you want to know more about what makes “Shallow” tick, sign up!

PWN: What happens in a songwriting class?

MIMI: The first thing I do in “Songwriting Studio” and “Songwriting Intensive” is show participants a quick and easy way to connect with topics that matter deeply to them. Once we begin to explore these ideas, what I call “song starts” will quickly follow. Those starts turn into lines of lyrics, and we go on from there, studying structure and “building” a song. I’ve designed specific writing exercises to facilitate the songwriting process, but they work for any type of writing, which is a plus.

PWN: What moment in the classroom/studio gets you excited as an instructor?

MIMI: There are a lot of exciting moments in a songwriting class, but at some point, the ideas usually start flowing so quickly I can’t keep up! So maybe the most exciting moment is when I pull out my phone to make a quick recording. It might be a chorus, or maybe a couple of verses—sometimes ideas move so fast, I need to get them down before they disappear. Just get it down. That’s probably the best advice I have for any kind of writer. Write your words and ideas down in a notebook, on a napkin—wherever! Record those phrases. Lyrics. Thoughts. Edit later. Revise later. Just get it down!

PWN: Why do you write?

MIMI: I write because I’d be unhappy if I didn’t.

Read more and register here.

Mimi Cross is a Writing Instructor for Project Write Now.

Fantastic Voyage Q&A

Discover your voice and make meaningful friendships! Our Teen Summer Workshops (for 11-14 year olds) provide students with an intensive, enriching writing experience that not only fosters open creative expression but also builds confidence and strengthens communication skills in a safe, supportive environment.

We would love for you to join us, whether you’ve been writing for years or just want to be part of a unique creative process.

We spoke with Jim McConville, who is teaching our “Fantastic Voyage” summer workshop (August 5-9, 1 to 4 p.m.; ages 11-14), to find out what he loves about the fantasy genre.

Read more and register here.

PWN: What do you look for in a Fantastic Voyage story? To learn? To travel? To laugh? A combination?

JIM: In any story that involves a Fantastic Voyage, I look for the character who is going on a journey to experience some type of change—positive, negative, surprising, expected. To me, this shows that the character is open to the presumably fresh setting they are facing and willing to be influenced by it. The change can be minor, but I do expect it’s going to stick with them. Laughing and learning are great aspects of it, as well.

PWN: What type of reading do you do to escape the everyday world? (Or, your favorite made-up destination to read about?)

JIM: If I could live anywhere real or imagined, I would love to live in JRR Tolkien’s Shire. Simple, intentional living surrounded by green scenery as far as the eye can see. And it being socially acceptable to walk around barefoot sounds pretty great too. I love reading poetry collections to unwind. I find something so relaxing about diving into the verses and letting the mood and tone of the poems take me somewhere else. My first love of poetry was Walt Whitman, and after recently seeing The Belle of Amherst at the Two River Theater, I have been rediscovering my love for Emily Dickinson. I love the language of past writers—there is something so essential about it.

PWN: What moment in the classroom gets you excited as an instructor?

JIM: Anytime I see a student excited about life in general, but specifically learning and thinking, I can’t help becoming so full of excitement too. I also love when students realize they are capable of more than they initially think. That is super rewarding as well.

PWN: Why do you write?

JIM: I write because I love to breathe in the world around me, no matter how polluted it can seem at times.

Read more and register here.

Jim McConville is a Writing Instructor for Project Write Now.

The Power of Visualization

by Jennifer Chauhan

As much as I love words, my mind operates in images. When I was a little girl, movie reels of stories from my imagination played constantly in my head. As I got older, the images became visions of where I wanted to go and who I wanted to become. In high school, I pictured myself as a journalist sitting in an office with huge glass windows, a file of stories to be edited, and a comfy swivel chair. That vision came true when I was 24 and working as managing editor of a national magazine in Washington, D.C.

I didn’t know at the time that there was a concept for what I was doing: visualization. And that there was a whole theory in psychology around its power to manifest a desired outcome. I just knew my image-filled mind was guiding me forward in my career.

About six years ago, I had a vision of Project Write Now. A space where people of all ages and diverse backgrounds could take classes and write and share their stories. Where we would offer services to those who could not afford to pay by offering community outreach programs.

The studio was so clear in my mind—industrial style with exposed pipes and brick walls in a cool location—that when a friend showed me a photo on her phone of an office space in Red Bank for rent, I took it on the spot. Our space on Bridge Avenue was exactly what I had been seeing in my mind.

Visualization is a practice used by many high achievers—from world-class athletes to top business executives—to reach their goals. Athletes will do a mental run-through of their actions (swinging a golf club, kicking a soccer ball into a net, running a race) before the event. Research has shown that this mental practice can be as effective as a real practice because the same regions of the brain are stimulated.

Studies also show that the brain does not distinguish between a real memory and an imagined one. If you hold the image of a desired outcome in your brain and feel the emotions that go along with it, your brain chemistry changes as though the experience were real.

Visualization trains our brains, alerting it to what’s important and what to focus on. We then have an inner guide (an internal GPS) directing us to make choices toward our goals while also providing motivation, boosting confidence, and fostering creativity.

Along with visualization, I’ve made a habit of writing down goals in “I AM” statements, declaring them to be truth. In the fall of 2014, I wrote the following in a word doc titled “This Is My Life” and then forgot about it. In addition to some personal goals, I wrote:

I AM the Executive Director of Project Write Now. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children, teens, and adults become better writers. We run classes out of our studio in Red Bank and have a staff of five people. We also provide literacy outreach services nearly every day after school to many schools and mission-based organizations. We are changing lives through writing.

At the time, PWN was only a few months old and had only one adult class of three students. We had no outreach programs and had not as yet applied for our 501(c)(3) status. But every day, I held onto the vision of classes packed with students (adults, teens, and children) as well as partnerships with local schools and organizations. I felt the energy and vibrancy of a thriving writing community. And year by year, PWN grew into what I had envisioned. Today, we have about 10 adult classes running every six weeks, 10 to 14 weeklong programs for youth and teens each summer, and partnerships with dozens of local schools and organizations. And we have about 20 part- and full-time staff members.

I remember one day walking into the studio during our after-school program for teens. The room was so crowded students were sitting on the floor, Chromebooks on their laps. I heard the tapping away on keyboards and the easy-going laughter as students shared ideas and stories. A surge of awe and love rushed through me.

“This is really happening,” I thought.

So what, you may ask, do visualization and “I AM” statements have to do with writing?

Visualization may be the easiest exercise you can do on your path to your writing goals. And you’re already primed because the construction of a mental image is a lot like writing.

Hold the image in your head as if it’s happening in real time. What does the scene look like? Can you incorporate other senses—what are you hearing, smelling, touching? Even more important, what are you feeling?

Can you picture the cover of your book? The color, the font, the graphics?

Can you see your book listed #1 on The New York Times Best Sellers list?

Now imagine yourself in your favorite bookstore about to give a reading. Your books are piled high on a table ready to be signed, and the audience is filled with friends, family, and fans. How are you feeling? Better yet, the next time you’re in that store, find the spot and recreate that vision and emotions.

To concretize their mental visions, a lot of writers and other creative types use vision boards. You can cut out photos and words from magazines, add personal photos, write positive messages and “I AM” statements, and then arrange them collage style on a poster or foam board. Not only will you have spent quality time immersed in thinking about and depicting your goals, but you will also have a tangible representation that you can look at for a few minutes each day. I’ve even taken a photo of my vision board to glance at throughout the day when I’m not home.

For me, the key component of making any visualization come true is the feeling that it’s already happened—and with that comes gratitude. When I visualize what I want, I experience the emotional reactions of excitement and joy, but I also feel incredibly grateful for what I’ve accomplished. And I declare this gratitude out loud.

But perhaps the best part about visualization is that it’s ongoing and always evolving. Just as one goal is achieved, I begin imagining the next. So what’s currently on my professional vision board? For a while, the PWN team has been focusing on how we need more space to run more programs, trusting that when the time is right the space will present itself.

And it just so happens that come early next year, we will acquire the office next door.

Jennifer Chauhan is co-founder and executive director of Project Write Now.

Your Voice Matters Q&A

Discover your voice and make meaningful friendships! Our Teen Summer Workshops (for 11-14 year olds) provide students with an intensive, enriching writing experience that not only fosters open creative expression but also builds confidence and strengthens communication skills in a safe, supportive environment.

We would love for you to join us, whether you’ve been writing for years or just want to be part of a unique creative process.

We spoke with Christa Teter, who is teaching our “Your Voice Matters” summer workshop (July 29 – Aug 2, 1 to 4 p.m.; ages 11-14), to find out what drives her to teach this program.

Read more and register here.

PWN: You’ve taught this camp for a while now. Why is it still fresh/important/exciting?

CHRISTA: I’m a big believer in having students practice speaking their opinions in a respectful manner and finding accurate information to help support their opinions. Most kids find themselves ruminating over issues—whether they be political, environmental, or social—and I know they have opinions they want to share. I think it’s so important for kids to find their voice and express it in the written word. We talk about audience and trying to draw in the readers who might have an opposing view. How can we capture that reader and get them to hear you, your opinion, your experience? It’s beautiful when students take the week of camp to really think about what they want to say.

PWN: How is writing important in your everyday life?

CHRISTA: Writing is very important in my everyday life—whether it be an email to my great-aunt, a group text to my daughter’s teammates’ parents, an assignment for my students on a Google doc, an example of a skill we’re practicing in class, or a letter to my sons’ guidance counselor. Each piece of writing has to have clarity, purpose, and conciseness because I want my audience to understand what I am communicating to them. If my writing consists of typos, grammatical errors, and poorly constructed sentences, then my reader will be confused, or worse, they will develop a negative impression of me. My writing reflects my integrity. I want people to perceive me a certain way, so I try to communicate in a way that shows my writing style, voice, and professionalism. In my classroom, we use journal writing every day as a way to practice getting thoughts out of our head, to view them on paper, and to expand our ideas in order to exercise our writing muscles and get more confident.

PWN: What moment in the classroom gets you excited as an instructor?

CHRISTA: It always excites me when I learn from my students—their minds are so much more open than adults’. I find it extremely refreshing and it makes me hopeful. I enjoy being open to their perspectives and helping them be confident in their ideas. I can give them tools to find information, help them come up with questions to research, and help them organize their thoughts and writing, but their ideas belong to them. It’s what makes them unique.

PWN: Why do you write?

CHRISTA: I love to look at my writing as a work of art—adding in and blending words like colors, substituting vague words with more specific words, restructuring sentences to give it texture—all for the sake of communicating a message.

Read more and register here.

Christa Teter is a Writing Instructor for Project Write Now.

Graphic Novel Writing Q&A

Discover your voice and make meaningful friendships! Our Teen Summer Workshops (for 11-14 year olds) provide students with an intensive, enriching writing experience that not only fosters open creative expression but also builds confidence and strengthens communication skills in a safe, supportive environment.

We would love for you to join us, whether you’ve been writing for years or just want to be part of a unique creative process.

We spoke with Tara Tomaino, who is teaching our “Graphic Novel Writing” summer camp (August 12-16, 1 to 4 p.m.; ages 11-14) to find out why she is so passionate about graphic novels.

Read more and register here.

PWN: What do you think about the movement and attention the graphic novel genre is finally getting?

TARA: I think attention—positive or negative—is vital for anything to flourish, and not only flourish, but to gain a certain respect within a community. Since their inception, comics, and subsequently, graphic novels, have always been deemed a childish and “nerdy” hobby. Recently, they have begun to see positive respect. Some of this has to do with the overwhelming attention both the Internet and movie industry have dedicated in the past 10 to 15 years toward MASSIVE, billion-dollar pop culture industries, such as Marvel or Japanese manga/anime. The influence of these sources is insurmountable. And now an entire generation, who bore witness to the rise in popularity of these artistic outlets, are old enough to call the shots in the publishing industry and are producing mature and engaging material.

Something like a graphic novel, or even a video game, requires the utilization of senses much more than a written novel and implements elements of consideration that are absent from the common piece of fiction. I think that has also contributed to the rise in popularity, as my students, particularly young teenagers, are able to gain more enjoyment from reading graphic novels as they are actively engaging with the stories more so than they would if there was just text on a page. There’s something universal about an image that language alone fails to capture, and a graphic novel, in combination of the two, has become a significant part of our growing globalized consciousness.

Hey, if it is getting both children and adults to engage with their imaginations, then I am really excited about the movement and attention the genre is finally getting!

PWN: When did you first realize that graphic novels were a “thing?”

TARA: I was about 10 or 11 years old when I was first introduced to Japanese cartoons, or anime, in the form of popular shows such as Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, and Gundam. In an effort to get closer to the source, I began my foray into graphic novels through consumption of manga, or Japanese comics, that many of the anime series I revere are based on and inspired from (much like how Marvel looks to the actual comic source material to create their films). The graphic novel or manga I first read in entirety was the apocalyptic cyberpunk epic Battle Angel Alita (known as Gunnm in Japan). From there, I raided libraries and my wallet to build my mental map between titles. As the influence of manga trickled into the American pop-culture consciousness, graphic novels began to influence my own writing, style, and, to a greater extent, my understanding of humanity blossomed.

PWN: What moment in the classroom gets you excited as an instructor?

TARA: I’m having a hard time defining the moment precisely. I am an instructor who finds value in what I am teaching as well as what I learn from teaching. So … perhaps the moment that really affirms my chosen career is witnessing a slight shift in a student’s eyes, a shift from a confused or bored, glossed-over daydream stare to an intense, bullet-pointed fascination and understanding. When a student “gets it” and is encouraged further, passion is created. And from this, a love of life-long learning thrives.

PWN: Why do you write?

TARA: I write because sometimes my brain and mouth trip over each other and the editing process behind the written word is more forgiving.

Read more and register here.

Tara Tomaino is a Writing Instructor for Project Write Now.

Inked It Up!

Curious about the artwork and writing we create in our Ink It Up! camp? There are no limits to where our imaginations can take us as we stencil, color, and free write to fun, inspiring prompts. Perhaps what we love most about this camp is how collaborative the experience is—whether we are staging pages in creative ways to post on our Instagram account or combining our best work in a sketchbook that we send off to live forever in the Brooklyn Art Library as part of its “Sketchbook Project.” (Check out our sketchbooks from 2016 and 2017.)

Below are just a few examples of the incredible artwork we have produced in this camp through the years. Our 2019 Ink It Up! summer workshop (for ages 11-14) runs from July 15 – 19, from 1 to 4 p.m., so be sure to register today!

No artistic or writing experience necessary. We hope you’ll join us!

Using What Kids Love to Inspire Writing

by Colleen Doogan

I remember when my kids were little they had things they were obsessed with, mesmerized with, and simply in love with. They went through stages of these passions and obsessions and no matter how long or short they were, I remember every single one of them. Why? Because they taught me about new topics every day. “Mom, did you know that there are 60 different LEGO colors? Slime is a liquid? The fastest train goes 267 mph?”

Kids become experts on topics that excite them very quickly. They get hooked and then they live and breathe that topic for a long time. When they talk to someone about it, they are really teaching them about it. As writing teachers, we can tap into this enthusiasm and knowledge and nudge kids to write about these topics in fun, creative ways that others can learn from.

I recently was working with a student who filled in a heart map with many close-to-his-heart ideas, such as his mom and dad, the beach, boogie boarding, his cousins, the movies, soccer, and helicopters and airplanes. After complimenting him on his heart map and for being able to think of ideas for stories, he said, “These are not ideas for stories. I don’t like to write stories.” The writing teacher in me immediately wanted to respond with, “but we are working on stories and thinking about the most important moment to explode in our stories,” but I didn’t. I looked at his heart-map again (stalling a bit, maybe) and asked the writer to pick something off the map and tell me what he knows about it. He immediately perked up as he began talking about the propellers and engines of helicopters as if he had just published a best-selling book. He clearly enjoys science and aerodynamics and all that goes along with how helicopters (and airplanes, I later found out) fly. It was then that I suggested he write what he just told me, and we talked about putting a book together about planes. From that moment on, this writer became excited and focused on writing a book. He even created a table of contents: parts of a plane, different types of planes, world’s fastest plane, plane supplies, and fun facts. He had knowledge of something he was passionate about that he wanted to share with others. Read more

Animal Tales Q&A

We make writing fun! Join us this summer for a creative, enriching writing experience that allows children to explore their imaginations while building confidence and literacy skills.

We spoke with Jill Gindi, who is teaching our “Animal Tales” summer camp (August 12-16, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.; ages 7-10) to find out about her favorite animal inspiration and why she loves to write.

Register for Animal Tales here.

PWN: What’s your favorite animal to write about and why?

JILL: I love to write about parakeets! Growing up, my brothers and I were not permitted to have any pets because my mom was allergic. When I was six, my dad brought home a small cardboard box with holes poked in the top. To our surprise, my parents had found us a pet that did not cause my mom to have an allergic reaction! We were so excited to welcome a colorful parakeet named Tweety into our home! Since I have such fond memories of Tweety, I like to write nonfiction and fiction stories involving a pet parakeet. Tweety was and still is the only pet that I’ve ever had!

PWN: Which famous animal character would you want to have dinner with? What would you ask him/her/it?

JILL: I would like to have dinner with Garfield the cat. I would spend our meal trying to convince him that there are so many delicious food options other than lasagna!

PWN: What moment in the classroom gets you excited as an instructor?

JILL: I love writing shared stories with my students. Creating a story together is a great way for me to model writing techniques. You would be surprised at some of the fantastic and creative ideas children can come up with just by giving them a little push!

PWN: Why do you write?

JILL: I find writing to be relaxing and enjoyable! It is also a great way to express your thoughts and exercise your mind and creativity.

Register for Animal Tales here.

Jill Gindi is a Writing Instructor for Project Write Now.

Girls Write Now Q&A

We make writing fun! Join us this summer for a creative, enriching writing experience that allows children to explore their imaginations while building confidence and literacy skills.

We spoke with Jennifer Shields, who is co-teaching our “Girls Write Now” summer workshop (July 22 – 26, 1 to 4 p.m.; ages 12-14) to find out more about why this is a great program for teen writers.

Register for Girls Write Now here.

PWN: Why do you think this camp is important, especially now?

JEN: There are so many layers to the recent phenomena of women speaking out (for example, #metoo). Girls learn at an early age about the inherent dangers of being female in our society. They learn to distrust their environment and guard their feelings. This is the indelible guideline for coming of age. In Girls Write Now, we talk about our intuitive strengths and pick apart the perceived weaknesses our culture has bestowed upon us. Through writing exercises and lively discussions, we examine the big influencers, such as peers, social media (Snapchat, Instagram), school, Netflix, parents, siblings, etc. We gather knowledge and strength through sharing our writing in a positive and encouraging environment.

PWN: What do you love about having grown up as a girl?

JEN: What I loved most about growing up as a girl was the intensity and closeness of my friendships with other girls. Liza, Sarah, and Lori—my besties. At that time, girls were allowed much more freedom to love in our friendships. With Girls Write Now, we acknowledge and foster this closeness but also explore ways to support and encourage boys to form similar relationships. I am thankful for the bonds I’ve shared during those difficult years of middle school and high school. I have never laughed as hard as I did with Liza, Sarah, and Lori. Sisterhood—that is what I love about being a girl!

PWN: What moment in the classroom (in this camp) gets you excited as an instructor?

JEN: Seeing a bond of friendship quickly form among a group of strangers. To watch girls come in on the first day and apprehensively choose their seat at the table—shy smiles and a pulling inward of their bodies as they await instruction. Lisa and I jump right in with the invitation to write freely, speak freely. We commend them for coming and appreciate the bravery in showing up to a room full of strangers. Every word is confidential and stays within our circle. We give them permission to be seen and heard. By the end of the week, they are talking over one another because they are so excited to share their stories. Their shy smiles have transformed into magnificent grins and their bodies now shake with belly laughs.

PWN: Why do you write?

JEN: As an introvert, I am inexplicably compelled to write. So much of my experience of the world takes place internally. Writing—whether journaling, working on my memoir, or putting line fragments together to make a poem—is a major component of my mental health. The process of reflection and a slowing down of the world brings me to a place of calm and understanding. Writing allows me to be a better therapist, wife, friend, and mom. I would be lost without this practice.

Register for Girls Write Now here.

Jennifer Shields is a Writing Instructor & Counselor for Project Write Now.