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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

HOW PROJECT WRITE NOW CHANGED MY LIFE

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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

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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 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

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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

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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

The Healing Power of Writing

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By Gay Norton Edelman

Writing was always going to be part of my life. An avid independent reader since second grade, I created my first book around the same time, a collection of elephant jokes. (How can you tell there’s an elephant in your apple tree? By the red polish on her toenails.) That was just for fun.

When I hit adulthood, writing took on life-saving power for healing past traumas and navigating present trials. In my 30s, when the ugly bits from my childhood were screaming for attention, it was all about rip-out-your-guts poetry. The only place I shared it was at a small counseling center art show. It was so raw it carried a “Mature Eyes Only” warning. Beyond the show, I didn’t let others see it. I didn’t need to. I wrote it for me. Read more

Honoring My Mom

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By Jennifer Chauhan

Since my mom passed away in September 2007, I’ve been documenting my grief in short essays written every few years around Mother’s Day. It started with “Missing My Mom” and then “Remembering My Mom.” This year I’d like to write about honoring her.

There is tremendous healing that comes from writing and sharing our life stories―especially the painful ones, those born of loss, separation, heartache, disappointment. I’ve witnessed this curative transformation in others for the past year and a half in my memoir classes.The outpouring and sifting through memories. The splitting open (as Natalie Goldberg proscribes) to speak from a point of truth. The release, often with tears, as stories are shared and held by others.

When my mom died my grief was so raw, so excruciating all I could do was scribble my pain―flashes of memory of hospice, questions about why she had to go, why now, when I wasn’t ready―into the pages of a notebook I kept tucked in the console of my car. I would pull it out during the few quiet moments I had before picking up kids from school, soccer, dance. Yet in those pages, my healing began. Read more

The Power of Poetry

By Jennifer Chauhan

For the past few months, I’ve started my day reading poetry. Each morning I awake to find a “Poem of the Day” in my inbox, sent from the Academy of American Poets or Rattle. It’s become my own form of morning meditation. Words in, breathe out. Words in, breathe out.
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