Here’s what we’ve been up to this past month via Zoom! If you are interested in bringing a program to your school or organization, email Jennifer Chauhan at email@example.com.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County
This month in Red Bank, students continued their work in realistic fiction and personal narratives. By the final weeks of the program, students were able to apply all that they had learned about narrative writing to explore other genres, as well. We created our own superheroes and wrote stories, comic strips, and graphic novel pages with these characters. We also reflected on the summer of 2020 and thought about all we had done despite the difficulties. Students’ personal narratives quickly transformed to powerful memoirs about whats it’s like to be a kid in the summer of 2020 amidst the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.
In Asbury Park, students wrote personal narratives and even dabbled in some realistic fiction. They developed characters and thought about real-life problems their characters could have. They shared stories of their lives all while learning about the craft of writing and how to make their stories stronger. We ended our time together talking about the Summer of 2020, reflecting on summer memories including playing basketball; playing Fortnite; masks and hand sanitizer; six feet apart; classes on Zoom; backyard fun; picnic lunches; dinners with family; and much more. On the last day of class, we were lucky to be given a giant blank puzzle. Each student wrote their memories on an individual piece and then we had fun putting the puzzle together to see how full of activity our pandemic summer really was. We concluded that even though things were different this summer, there were still many moments to record, reflect on, and remember forever.
Family Based Services
We provided a two-part workshop over two weeks for the youth of Family Based Services Association of NJ. The first part focused on vision-oriented writing, looking toward an improved future and self and writing the details of what that looks like. The effect was immediate. One of the participants discovered, through the writing exercises, that he had been stalling on a specific action step in his life. When we met for the second time, he had moved forward on arranging to take a small risk that brought him closer to who he wants to be! He said, “Writing has already changed my life, in just one week.” The second part of our workshop was all about character development. Since most of these participants were already writing fiction (wow!), we gave the option to explore the protagonists of their fictional projects or use themselves as the “main character.” Through an array of prompts, their writing explored fears, dreams, past hurt, future hopes, as well as perspectives and misperceptions of character. Partnering with FBSANJ has furthered both of our missions, supporting one another through trials and challenges by writing.
Teacher Writing Collaborative
Last Monday, we held our last session of our summer Teacher Writing Collaborative, a group created during the pandemic to support teachers. Each week, we took turns guiding the writing portion before delving into conversations about what each of our school’s openings look like. The focus the past two sessions has been on how we will build community with our students while navigating a virtual or hybrid scenario. So many useful ideas were shared, giving us more confidence to begin the school year. We are continuing the Teacher Writing Collaborative this fall, so we hope you will join us! Register here.
Teen Ambassador & Bridge Ink Instagram
When the pandemic began, we turned to our teen writers to help guide us in strengthening our teen writing community. Meeting weekly on Wednesday afternoons, the teens gave voice to their thoughts, feelings, and needs. Thanks to their feedback, we posted on our Bridge Ink Instagram daily writing prompts based on weekly themes. Some of the themes we explored in August were the elements earth and water, mythology, and “firsts.” We will conclude next week with “summer reflections.” The teens have also given input into our fall programming, which will be announced on Instagram on Tuesday, September 8! If you’d like to join our Teen Ambassador Program (ages 13+), please email program coordinator Lisa Hartsgrove at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bridge Ink Volume 4 Issue 4
We’re thrilled to announce our latest issue of Bridge Ink: Volume 4 Issue 4! This issue of our online young adult literary magazine features inspiring young writers from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Colorado, California … and South Africa! If you are between the ages of 12 and 18, please submit your writing to email@example.com for a chance to be featured in our next issue. We are always so inspired by these young writers! Check out the latest issue at www.bridgeink.org.
Adult Zoom Open Mic
On Friday, August 21, we held what has now become a monthly Zoom Open Mic! We love that Zoom allows participants from all over the country to attend. Participants read an array of pieces showcasing different voices and styles. There was poetry, flash fiction, children’s stories, spoken word, and more! Come hear for yourself at our next open mic on Friday, September 18, at 5 p.m. Register here.
Shore House (Long Branch)
At Shore House this month, we wrote on themes of animals/pets and weather. Our animals/pet theme was inspired by the many members who are also “pet” parents and whose animal guests frequent our Zoom calls. One member wrote a whole story about his dog, Bella, and all the things her name reminds him of. Our weather theme was inspired by the tornado warning we had for Monmouth County on the 19th–why not let the weather inspire us? We were especially moved by Chelsea’s poem on rain, which you can view on our Instagram account here. We are always so inspired by our Shore House writers and cannot wait to release their anthology. We have plans for a live reading in early October, so stay tuned for more details!
Red Bank Public Library
With the Red Bank Public Library this month, we conducted lively discussions after reading aloud from our journals. Writers personified emotions in the vein of J. Ruth Gendler’s The Book of Qualities. We also read an op-ed by Jerry Seinfeld, “So You Think NY Is Dead,” as well as “A Reminder to Enfold Yourself in Small Comforts,” by Margaret Renkl. Students wrote about gratitude and the essence of our humanness. Our bimonthly journaling class with the Red Bank Public Library is proving to be a much-needed outlet for the stressors of this time in history. Thank you to all the participants for sharing your willingness to open up and write with us!
Lunch Break “Womyn’s Worth”
With the Womyn’s Worth group at Lunch Break this month, members enjoyed the company and laughter of one another while discussing such hard topics as grief and racism. We read two chapters from bell hooks’ 1996 memoir, Bone Black, about a young Black girl coming of age. One chapter on hair and the mother-daughter intimacy of hair care prompted reminiscing of bad hair days and the lengths to which women go to change the natural course of things. Another chapter explored a young Black girl’s understanding of what it meant to be Black in a white world. We think this is a fantastic memoir and highly recommend it. We spoke openly about how grateful we are for having this monthly forum to write about and discuss difficult issues.
Teen Writing Group
This month, our teen writers have personified color in their writing. They’ve also written from the perspectives of small creatures, such as spiders, stuffed animals, and little brothers, and have done a lot of work with sensory details, including one prompt that specifically honed in on sound. Along with generating writing, our teens also picked at least one writer to share a larger work each week, so they could read and give thoughtful feedback to help one other with revision. We love our teen writers! Join us for our next session of Teen Writing Group by registering here.
Friday Lunchtime Write-In
Every Friday, we meet on Zoom from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. to write in response to prompts on a designated theme. This month we’ve explored themes on light (inspired by the power outage) and animals. After generating our drafts, we spend time sharing what we’ve drafted. We always enjoy hearing one another’s pieces and have formed an inspiring, supportive community of writers. Join us for our next Lunchtime Write-In to discover what our upcoming theme will be! We are also holding a special Lunchtime Write-In: Second Helpings on Friday, September 18, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. All proceeds support our community outreach programs.
Through our mission as a nonprofit organization, we assist in removing barriers to participating in our studio classes by providing full and partial full scholarship seats as well as payment plans. In our spring and summer sessions, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the need for financial assistance and therefore have met that need by offering more scholarship seats. Since March, we have provided 29 adult and 20 youth/teen seats totaling more than $9,000 in scholarships. We know the students who did not have to leave classes are incredibly grateful for this support. For information about our scholarship program or to become a valuable donor providing these seats, please email Jennifer Chauhan at firstname.lastname@example.org.