One of our favorite ways to end a program is using the prompt “I am grateful for …”
As summer comes to a close, we thought we’d create and share our own list because there is just so much to be thankful for!
We are grateful to be back in person with many of our community outreach partners, including Red Bank Middle School, Summer Slam at Red Bank Regional, Shore House, and Family Based Services of New Jersey.
We are grateful for programs we’ve been able to provide virtually to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County (Red Bank and Asbury Park) and Lunch Break.
We are grateful for new partnerships with the Alliance for Success program at Red Bank Regional, the Keansburg summer program, and the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center.
We are grateful to our teen interns who assisted with summer programs, worked on creative projects for PWN Teen, and interviewed members of Shore House for The Interview Project.
We are grateful to the teachers who participated in our dedicated class, The Write Time, and who share their love of writing with their students.
We are grateful to our dedicated, passionate writing instructors who delivered all of these amazing summer programs!
And we are GRATEFUL to our 2020-2021 partners for their generous gifts that helped make all of our community outreach programs possible!
Alliance for Success (Red Bank Regional High School)
We are honored to be invited to participate in the new Alliance for Success program at RBR in partnership with the Life Skills program at Lunch Break. AFS is a two-year mentorship program offering guidance and support on topics such as financial literacy and college and career readiness. PWN is providing a journaling component that gives the participating 11th graders dedicated time and space to reflect on who they are and what’s important to them. They also write in response to the life skills workshops they participate in. We look forward to being an integral part of these students’ journeys!
This month at The Atrium, we wrote about our grandmothers’ houses after reading the short essays “Yard Sale,” by Abigail Thomas, and “Shaping the Story,” by John Truby. Atrium writers took us to a chicken farm in Peru, battered hurricane shores of New England, and of course, the Jersey Shore. We love hearing their stories that emerge each week from the readings and prompts!
Boys & Girls Clubs (Asbury Park & Red Bank)
The children in the Red Bank and Asbury Park branches of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County did a beautiful job navigating a virtual writing camp! The most important thing these students learned was that writers get ideas for personal stories by thinking about moments that are close to our hearts. One way of finding these close-to-our-hearts stories is by thinking about feelings and emotions. Using our writing wheel for inspiration, we wrote about being sad, angry, surprised, peaceful, and worried. We ended the six-week session by reading the story Courage, by Bernard Waber, and talking about the feeling of being brave. Our hope for these writers is to be brave, take chances, and say, “I can do it” as they begin their new school year.
Family Based Services of New Jersey
Every summer, we are excited to write with the teens of FBS and this summer was no exception. We were thrilled that we could meet in person at a park, which provided lots of fodder for writing. During the first session, we focused on sensory details: the sound of chirping crickets, the smell of burning charcoal, two boys throwing a baseball and laughing. We shared our best lines and gave one another feedback. During the second session, we read a poem titled “Mother to Son,” by Langston Hughes, and focused on figurative language. We then practiced writing our own similes and metaphors. We also did quick writes—students were given a word and had to write whatever came to mind for two minutes with the intention of practicing sensory details and figurative language. During the third session, our student intern, Lauren, did a lesson on storytelling. She went through story structure using the book Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, focusing on characters’ wants/needs, problem catalysts, action, and resolution. We love spending time with these talented writers and are already looking forward to next summer!
Lunch Break “Womyn’s Worth”
This month with the Womyn’s Worth group at Lunch Break, we talked about the unexpected and how we recover from trauma. We read the poem “Green, Green Is My Sister’s House” from Mary Oliver’s book A Thousand Mornings, which inspired us to connect to nature when we feel unsettled, to run in grass with bare feet, climb trees, and dig in the earth. Mary Oliver reminds us the child within is most nourished by nature and all its offerings. We love when writing and conversation spark these discoveries!
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 “Ship,” “Friday the 13th,” “Truth & Dare” (in our special Second Helpings extended class), and “Salt.” Though writers never have to share their work aloud, we always enjoy hearing one another’s pieces and have formed an incredible, supportive community. Join us for our next Lunchtime Write-In to see what our upcoming themes will be!
PWN Teen Internship Program
Teaching Assistants: This summer, we trained our teaching assistant interns, helping them design lessons based on what gets them excited about writing. The interns were eager to get started and came up with lots of great ideas! They then spent the summer working in our community outreach programs as well as our studio classes. Some worked in our virtual summer camp, Fantastic Voyage, while others assisted us at Red Bank Middle School, with the Boys & Girls Clubs, and even in our teacher writing class!
Editorial Assistants: This is our first year offering the editorial assistant position for our teen interns. That means they had a lot of say in designing what the program would look like. After a couple of meaningful group discussions, we came up with three main projects: writing for our teen blog, Real Voices Write Now; starting a YouTube Teen Talk Show; and connecting with published authors of interest for Q&As and special teen events. We are so excited to see these projects come to life at the hands of our talented and dedicated teen interns and can’t wait to release their finished products to the public!
The Interview Project: In the beginning of July, we trained our Interview Project interns on how asking meaningful questions and how listening actively can lead to effective and interesting interviews. We watched how Brandon Stanton, Humans of New York founder, used visual and verbal snapshots to create a portrait of his community. We also used mentor texts from HONY’s blog and Instagram page and published interviews by previous PWN interns to dig deeper into understanding how to get to the heart of a person’s story. We looked at the craft of writing and options for presenting their final piece. We also talked each day about how stories not only build connections between people but also a more compassionate world. For this project, we teamed up with our community partner Shore House, a clubhouse for adults living with mental illness. After being paired with a member from Shore House, the interns conducted their initial and follow-up interviews via Zoom. Interns and interviewees alike were thrilled with the process and conversation! The interns look forward to honoring those members by sharing their deeply moving and beautiful stories in an upcoming issue of Bridge Ink.
Red Bank Middle School
Grades 3-5: This summer, PWN had the privilege of going in person to Red Bank Middle School to work with students in grades 3-5 every Tuesday morning. It was a fun, jam-packed six weeks of writing about stories that matter to us. We used different writing strategies to tap into our own lives and pull out seed ideas to dive deeper into on paper. The students enjoyed being creative and using their writers notebooks and colored pens to write about family memories, friend sleepovers, moments on the ball field, days at Great Adventure, and special pets, just to name a few. The students made lists, heart maps, posters, booklets, and more to help them express their feelings and write about what is important to them. There were a lot of opportunities to brainstorm, write, sketch, and, most important, share aloud with one another. Our hope at PWN is that the students continue to use writing as a way to express their feelings and always feel that they have important things to say in the world.
Grades 6-8: Our main goal with our 6-8th graders this summer was to empower them—to remind them that just because they are not adults does not mean that they can’t have their own ideas and identities. We wanted our students to feel comfortable being themselves and using their authentic voices. Therefore, we included introspective writing prompts in each class on themes such as “difference,” “passion,” “power,” and “accomplishments.” Then, we invited students to write questions (anything they wanted!) on notecards and put them in our discussion box. We pulled questions from the box and put them on a wheel so the students could spin for a topic. These students were thrilled to share their deep thoughts about themselves and the world, and we loved exploring their ideas together! We also practiced mindfulness, either ending or beginning each class with guided meditation and Elizabeth Gilbert’s 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise. Life leaves you secret messages sometimes, so we made that literal on our last day by hiding messages in eggs for a classroom egg hunt. (We also added candy, of course!) We had a great time celebrating our writing and ourselves and we look forward to seeing these students again this school year!
Sidewalk Smiles at T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center
This month, we had the pleasure of collaborating with Gilda Rogers of the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center in Red Bank. Using Gilda’s Sidewalk Smiles Conversation Cards, we wrote and shared stories based on her affirmations (culled from her personal journals). We were moved and inspired by the stories—a poem about fearlessness, a vision for a mountain lake house, and a fictional piece about a girl whose hair rises from the shock of a metal slide—and enjoyed sitting outside sharing them as the sun set. Thank you, Gilda, for hosting us and sharing your words of wisdom!
Shore House (Long Branch)
This month we paid a special visit to Shore House with our college intern Hannah W. Hannah is a science major, but she believes science and art can exist in the same space—they are not opposites. She creates science videos to educate others, so for her special lesson she had us watch a video on flowers. After learning about sepals, the part that protects the flower, Hannah gave us a prompt asking us to internalize that idea. Who or what acts as a “sepal” in your life? Where do you feel the most protected? Almost every member wound up writing about Shore House or Project Write Now, and our hearts have never been fuller. We love our interns and we love Shore House!
Teen Writing Group
We had a great summer session of Teen Writing Group with our new teen leader Alex L. With eleven students in the class, Alex did a phenomenal job making sure everyone was heard and supported. The students loved the range of Alex’s prompts, from introspective ideas such as “Write a letter to your younger self” to fictional/fantasy ideas such as “If you could live in a different time period, where would you go and what would it be like?” By the end of the session, some students even felt comfortable enough to share deeply personal stories that they had never shared anywhere else before. We are so inspired by these teens and can’t wait to see what the next session holds. Join us by registering today!
The Write Time
This summer, we offered a six-week writing class to teachers to reignite the writer within. Each week we focused on writing short pieces using prompts from Abigail Thomas’ Two Pages. In August, we had a special treat when one of our teen teaching assistant interns, Claire K., zoomed in from South Korea to share what inspires her as a writer, including the poem “How to Be an Artist,” by SARK. She guided us through a writing activity that had us list our “essence objects,” or objects that have personal meaning to us. Then she had us write “How to …” pieces. We had a lot of responses about making food and the connection to loved ones. This fall, our Teacher Writing Collaborative resumes and is open to teachers of all grades. For more information, email Jennifer Chauhan at email@example.com.
Zoom Open Mic
Wow! We can’t stop thinking about the incredible works that were shared in our Zoom Open Mic this month! Writers read pieces ranging from meditative nature poetry to psycho-thrillers, and almost everything in between. To have so many genres in one space felt similar to the thrill of being in an amusement park—ferris wheel to roller coaster. We are so grateful to our writing community and cannot wait for the next one! Join us on October 1 to read or just listen. You won’t regret it!
Through our mission as a nonprofit organization, we assist in removing barriers to participating in our studio classes by providing full and partial scholarship seats as well as payment plans. Since the pandemic began, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the need for financial assistance and therefore have met that need by offering more scholarship seats. In 2020, we provided 48 adult and 28 youth/teen seats totaling nearly $15,000 in scholarships. Since January 2021, we have provided 50 adult and 18 youth/teen seats totaling $11,885. For summer alone, we have provided $4,500! For information about our scholarship program or to become a valuable donor providing these seats, please email Jennifer Chauhan at firstname.lastname@example.org.