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

The Universal Writing Prompt: I Remember

By Allison Tevald

In my third semester of graduate school, I became seriously stuck in my writing. I was avoiding the blank page, afraid that what I wrote would suck and need to be scrapped, or, worse, that I would crack open and spill out something painful. My professor at the time was understanding and told me everything that we at PWN tell our students of all ages: Everyone has a story to tell. Write to find your voice. Write to discover. Do not self-edit while drafting.

Then, I got an email from him:

Subject: I forgot!

This one is essential: I Remember, by Joe Brainard

Reading Brainard’s memoir, I discovered if he has something to say about linoleum floors and oreo cookies dunked in milk, then I too had something important to say. I marveled at how, in scattered sentence and short-paragraph form, he zoomed in on his own personal moments, and then pulled out to a wider lens of common experiences. The scope was astounding, and his grace and honesty beautiful. Read more

Love, Loss & Everything In-Between: My Interview Experience

By Bethaney Clarke

This past summer, we had the honor of working with a group of talented teens as part of our Teen Internship Program. Two dozen teens volunteered their time assisting in our summer camps or interviewing and documenting the stories of Red Bank seniors and other notable citizens for “The Interview Project.” I loved every minute I spent with these incredible teens―training them and learning about them as writers, watching them teach lessons or coach the younger students in our summer camps, and seeing them present their interviewees at our celebration and speak about their experiences. This is such a special program that we offer and I wanted to offer a teen’s perspective, so I asked Bethaney to write about how “The Interview Project” impacted her.
–Jennifer Chauhan, Executive Director

Imagine you’re 85-years-old and no one has ever asked you to sit down and talk about your life experiences. Think of all of the things you’re dying to say and the things in life you’ve never stopped to consider, to remember, or to cherish. Think about the opportunity to make a connection with someone. Laughing, reflecting, crying, and smiling. Imagine the flood of thoughts and memories and emotions. How you can’t stop yourself from spontaneously changing from subject to subject because you haven’t touched these places in your life in so long and they’re all just rushing out of you. Read more

Fight for your Write: Girl Power

By Lisa Hartsgrove

They didn’t know what to expect. Neither did I. What might come out of a “girls only” writing group? Their experiences were all bound to be very different from one another; what was too sensitive a topic? Is there such a thing? How would I handle it? How would they? Read more

The College Essay: What an Application Reader Has to Say

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By Jennifer Chauhan

One of my favorite jobs at Project Write Now is coaching the college essay. It’s a moment when seniors can take a break from the frenzy of selecting colleges, studying for the SATs, and boosting their grades, and reflect on what has led them to where they are and who they’ve become.

For many this doesn’t come easy. The last time they wrote a personal reflective piece was back in middle school. There is also so much pressure to pick the perfect topic and then write their story in a “compelling” way that makes them “stand out”―words often used by college admissions officers when describing what they are looking for.

At Project Write Now, we encourage starting early, giving students plenty of time to sift through their experiences and write several drafts. Most important, it gives them time to rediscover or strengthen their voice. Read more

Sending Them Off With Something More


By Jennifer Chauhan

Recently Allison Tevald and I said good-bye (for now) to a special group of young writers. They were the first class to welcome us at Red Bank Middle School in January 2015, and last week we watched them walk proudly into their school’s auditorium, donning red and white gowns, to receive their diplomas. (Yes, we teared up!)

When we started offering weekly writing workshops to students in Red Bank Middle School’s AVID program, we didn’t know what to expect. We knew we wanted to give students a safe place and the freedom to write creatively. But so much more has happened in the year and a half we’ve been together. Read more

Supporters of PWN Experience PWN

Beth Herbruck introduces executive director Jennifer Chauhan and program director Allison Tevald for the writing portion of the evening.

Saturday, June 18, Beth Herbruck arranged a Good Folk Supper Club dinner that started in our studio at Project Write Now. We facilitated a writing activity, people shared their written memories, and then they mingled before heading to the surprise dinner location: West Elm! Diners made their way down the block and enjoyed courses invented and prepared by personal chef Marcy Ragan.

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What a Teacher Discovers in Her Summer Writing Camps


By Samantha Strauss

Last year was our first summer of writing camps at Project Write Now. I must say that at first I was skeptical. All of my classes at the studio had been an hour or an hour and a half long. How would I keep these young children entertained for three hours in one small room? I trepidatiously asked our fearless leader Jennifer, “Are you sure these camps should be three hours?” hoping she didn’t hear the terror in my voice. Jennifer is the eternal optimist, and she has supreme faith in me. “It’ll be great!” she said, not having to fake her confidence. All right, here goes nothing, I thought. Read more