It’s Coming Together!

By Jennifer Chauhan

Last night, I drove home up the Garden State Parkway in a euphoric daze singing along to, of all things, “Party in the USA,” by Miley Cyrus. I had just left Project Write Now’s studio, where we had held a rehearsal for our upcoming fundraising event, “Come Together: A Performance + Party,” to be held next Friday, October 13, at the Two River Theater.

With our adult and teen writers, a percussionist, and a guitar player, we forged ahead as best we could in our cozy studio, chairs on top of each other, musicians tucked between desks. One by one, our writers stood and read the pieces they’ve been writing and rewriting for the past few weeks––their personal stories of loss, love, perseverance, and discovery. We practiced our lines, paused, played around with musical interludes, and read again. We laughed at our missteps and encouraged one another to keep going, to move past missed lines and near falls.
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Dear College Essay Writer

Dear College Essay Writer,

You are about to go through a huge transformation. All that stress you’re feeling about writing the most important essay of your life? It’s going to be gone. One day, a few weeks from now, you will walk away from our studio light on your toes, confident you have just written the best essay you possibly could have written.

Here’s how it works. You come to the studio with no idea what to write about or you’ve already written a draft that answers an essay question. Or you’re somewhere in-between. A writing instructor will have a conversation with you about what the essay is supposed to show the reader. (It’s an opportunity to showcase your voice, how you think, what you care about, and/or your desired purpose in life.) The topic can be anything—butterflies, fantasy football, making homemade pasta on Sundays, singing stress away—because you will show who you are through the writing.

The writing instructor will find out about you, where you live and go to school, activities you’re involved in, what you do to relax, and what keeps you up at night. There is always a moment where, through discussion, the essay “appears.” You will suddenly know what the story is, because the essay is really a story that you can tell that no one else in this world can.

Then, we provide exactly what you need—that all of us need—to write: time and space. In our studio, you will be among people who are also focused and writing. Our writing instructors will be available if you get stuck, have a question, need to be redirected, or need to be pushed to find just the right word or phrase. Then you will discover, if you haven’t already, that writing a strong essay is a process. Trust the process. As you revise, you need time between drafts to think. And you need deadlines.
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Why Being a Writer Is Essential to Being a Teacher

By Colleen Doogan

I have always loved to write. As a kid I kept journals, chronicling the day-to-day ups and downs. In middle school, I was captured by Sweet Valley High romance novels and wrote my own sequels. In high school, I kept busy by writing sports articles for the school newspaper, and I had a column in our local newspaper called Colleen’s Corner in which I reported on weekly happenings in our area. I wrote 10-page letters to a pen pal in South Dakota and many more to my grandmother while I was away at college.

This love for writing continued well into my adult years―even helping me get together with my now-husband, as we answered getting-to-know-you questions over email for two months prior to meeting in person.

But until the summer of 2001, I thought my writing life was separate from my teaching life.
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Life Stories: Keep Delivering

Lisa M.’s mother and her siblings

By Lisa McLaughlin

My mom died last summer. Her sister, my Aunt Mary, died nine months before that. Eight months before that, her other sister, my Aunt Doris, died. In the span of a year and a half, I lost the three major forces in my life.

What I did not lose was their stories. I did not lose their stories because I have been writing them down. For years. It does not make the loss of these women any less painful, but going back to these stories is a way to connect with them even if they are no longer on earth.

Some of the best stories my mom and aunts told me were about their family of six kids growing up in South Orange, N.J., during the Depression.
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Just Another Day at PWN

By Casey RJ Dalrymple

The first assignment was to find love poems — short ones. Having just graduated with a degree in literature, hewing close in my studies to brief lyric poetry (not out of aesthetic concerns so much as out of time restrictions), I was delighted. Still, it was my first day, so I hesitated to show it to the room, cluttered with red envelopes for an event later that evening, the three women I just met in it trading words and papers at an intimidating rate. Read more

For Our Young Writers: Telling Their Stories Is Key

By Eileen Huang

The inimitable Toni Morrison once said, “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” I’ve carried this adage with me since I first started writing. I’ve written the things I want to read—the unsayable and ephemeral that can only be fully captured on paper.

I was not surprised to see students at Project Write Now do the same. Since I first began volunteering as an intern at PWN’s after-school writing studio, I’ve seen middle school students write pieces that are impressive in both their memorable language and complete originality. I’ve read stories from students about time travel, late-night existential crises, and crumbling dystopian worlds. Once, a boy wrote a poem about grief in a way many older writers cannot. “I remember you,” read one line, “the way you laughed with your mouth barely open.” These are fleeting moments, details you can miss in life with a single blink. Read more

The “I Love” Epic Poem

Photo Credit: Christine Enna

This poem is the culmination of The Red Envelope Project, a community project about spreading love and gratitude as far and wide as it can go. During the month of February, Project Write Now team members handed red envelopes all over Red Bank, N.J., with a piece of paper inside, prompting receivers to add their line of “I love ____” and pass it on. Envelopes poured in for weeks, some coming from as far away as Texas. PWN team members wove those lines into this epic poem, which was read by all who attended our event at Glen Goldbaum’s Lambs & Wolves on March 2.

I love kisses and hugs.
I love spending time with my friends, both near and far.
I love the smell of garlic and olive oil cooking.
I love sleeping in my bed.
I love promises of tomorrow.
I love my new puppy, Eli.
I love growing acorns into trees.
I love my mom and dad.
I love art and photography.
I love pink frosting on cupcakes.
I love watching TV with my husband.
I love to be hugged and kept warm.
I love seeing my students smile.
I love eating ice cream with my brother.
I love where I live.
I love my family, teaching, and going outside.
I love mac and cheese and surprises.
I love playing with my sweet and happy dog, Socks.
I love going on vacation with my whole family.
I love jumping into cool water on hot days.
I love grilled cheese sandwiches.
I love creating beauty in the world. Read more

The Red Envelope Project: Spreading Love & Gratitude

By Lisa Hartsgrove

Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get—only with what you are expecting to give—which is everything. ― Katherine Hepburn

The other night in class, I drew a big heart on the whiteboard and asked my teen students to name some of the things they love. As I began filling in the heart with their responses, my students grew more and more excited―they loved so many things! From “drawing” to “pets” to “walks on the beach at sunset,” it wasn’t long before I passed the marker into their hands. They formed a line at the board, every one of them having something to add. Their words multiplied until they outgrew the heart, and then they made more hearts to fill with answers.

These are the kinds of moments I love most at Project Write Now―witnessing the connections that happen when people come together to write. In my class, I have students from Fair Haven, Ocean Township, West Long Branch, Middletown, Rumson, Port Monmouth, Shrewsbury, and Morganville. What brings them together each week are the stories they share and the power of their words, which create friendships that have deepened beyond our classroom walls.

The Red Envelope Project was inspired by moments like this and our desire to bring even more people together through a community project that is all about spreading love and gratitude. During the month of February, Project Write Now team members handed red envelopes all over Red Bank, N.J., with a piece of paper inside, prompting receivers to add their line of “I love ____” and pass it on. When the page was full, the self-addressed, stamped red envelope was to be sent back to the studio. Read more



By Jamie Galyas

One summer morning, not long after my high school graduation, I googled local writing workshops. I had been accepted to Emerson College, but it was deferred until January 2017. I knew I needed a place to keep writing and build my confidence, and then I stumbled upon Project Write Now. My future with the nonprofit amounted to something bigger than I could have ever imagined.

I was accepted into PWN’s summer Teen Internship Program as part of a project that involved interviewing a senior citizen and documenting his story. It was such a powerful experience that I asked Jennifer and Lisa if I could continue interning that fall. With open arms, they welcomed me, and I started helping with the after-school program. The students, mostly 7th and 8th graders from Red Bank, surprise me every day with their amazing writing talents and ambitious dreams. All of them, at such young ages, are able to write striking poems and flash fiction pieces. Then Jennifer asked me to be the lead editor for PWN’s new online literary magazine, Bridge Ink, which will launch in January.

At PWN, everything changed for me. I was writing again. But not just articles, poetry too. I remember Jennifer telling me that a journalist needed to do creative writing, as well. I pushed myself to see beautiful things in ordinary places. Read more

When Memories Are Shared


The cousins in our earlier years.

By Jennifer Chauhan

I love Thanksgiving. It’s always been my favorite holiday. I remember as a kid being so excited to go to my Aunt Carol and Uncle Joe’s house, an hour’s drive away on the North Shore of Long Island. My mom was the second oldest of seven siblings, so I had a posse of cousins whom I loved hanging out with. I remember the warm “I’ve missed you” hugs, our Schumm family signature cheese muffins, and ping pong tournaments in the basement.

But what I remember most are the spirited conversations at the big oval table in the dining room. Of course, we kids would be at the designated “under 18” table in the kitchen, but shortly after nibbles of apple pie, we would sneak in to listen to our parents reminiscing and laughing before the conversation turned to politics and arguing (mostly friendly) ensued. And then at some point in the conversation, a grown-up fell asleep (a Schumm family curse).

My childhood memories have been triggered a lot in recent weeks, as Project Write Now has made surprise visits all throughout the community to encourage people to jot down favorite memories on sticky notes that we will display at our first big fundraising event on November 29. The theme of the evening is “A Night to Remember,” and we have everyone–chefs, photographers, musicians, poets, students–sharing stories generated by memories. Read more