Dear Friends of Project Write Now:
As we close the doors on 2023, I wanted to send a note of gratitude for your support of Project Write Now and our mission of transforming lives through writing.
It’s been an incredible year as we’ve been able to expand our programming and impact more and more people, especially our youth.
We believe every young person deserves a supportive space to explore their thoughts and feelings, develop their writing skills, and discover their unique voice. We are so grateful to our talented, passionate instructors and our community partners for helping us create these spaces.
One of my favorite moments of the year happened this month. I was visiting our new Outside the Box: Journaling & Art Club for 9th graders at Red Bank Regional High School. The students spent the session celebrating their weekly “wins” and creating vision boards for 2024. Even in the short time we’ve been there, the group has formed a strong bond through sharing pieces of themselves each week.
When asked if they’d like us to return next year, they all enthusiastically responded “yes.” As I was leaving, one of the students pulled me aside and shared that she was moving next year. “Could PWN come to my new school so I can keep writing with you?” she asked.
I told her we will do our best to make that happen. ❤️
The day was also magical because our instructor, Ms. Shatiera, shared how grateful she was to provide programs at Red Bank Regional and Red Bank Middle School—both her alma maters—this past year. I love these full-circle moments and meaningful connections that happen through our programs.
Here are some other highlights from the year:
We published three anthologies of writing by students in Red Bank Middle School and Asbury Park High School.
We provided 11 after-school writing clubs.
We launched a new four-week, full-day summer program in collaboration with STEAMpark and the Monmouth County Vocational School District at Red Bank Middle School.
As part of the Two River Theater’s Crossing Borders Festival, four of our young adult writers performed original pieces on stage.
We adjudicated more than 100 pieces of teen writing as part of Monmouth Arts’ Teen Arts Festival.
More than 50 teens and teachers participated in our annual PWN Teen Lit Fest.
We brought back our Writing on the River Retreat at the Oyster Point Hotel for more than 40 educators.
More than 30 teens participated in our summer internship program.
We published six issues of our online young adult literary journal, Bridge Ink, with writers from California; Georgia; Maine; Massachusetts; Nevada; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New York; Oregon; Pennsylvania; South Carolina; Virginia; Washington; Washington, DC; Wisconsin; Canada; Pakistan; Philippines; and Taiwan. We partnered with the literary journal Let’s Say Gay for a special pride-themed issue, Rainbow Ink.
We celebrated 12 winners of our annual teen Voices & Verse poetry contest. We then published their pieces in Bridge Ink in collaboration with Blissful Pursuit.
We continued our three PWN India writing clubs: one for children (ages 10-12); one for adults; and one for teachers (of children ages 3-6).
We partnered with more than 28 organizations/schools to deliver our community outreach programs.
We provided more than 600 hours of creative and expressive writing, impacting nearly 2,000 children, teens, and adults, through our community outreach programs.
We gave 47 scholarship seats totaling $17,205 for our fee-based programs.
You can read our “2023 Reflections” here.
We could not do any of this without YOU! Whether you’ve taken a class, signed your child up for a class, participated in one of our events, or given a generous gift, YOU help provide meaningful writing experiences that foster authenticity, connection, and empathy.
We can’t wait to see what 2024 and our 10th year will bring!
With love & gratitude,
Jennifer Chauhan & The Project Write Now Team
Asbury Park High School
- 12th Grade
The 12th graders at Asbury Park High School are engaged in a project that helps them plan for transition and walk into adulthood. Academic life is a critical part of going to the next level of living; having a plan for that life and understanding your values helps clarify what you do and how you do it. Each senior is creating a vision map using their personal values, affirmations, and vision domains to outline what they want to do and how they will successfully arrive at their respective destinations.
- 11th Grade Dream Academy
We continued writing in response to poetry, using Jordan Jace’s “I Want” to do a marathon write using the prompts “I want,” “I don’t want,” “It’s OK,” “It’s not OK,” and “What if?” Each student wrote for a few minutes on each prompt and then selected their two favorite lines to submit to our collaborative poem. We love being able to weave their words together and then share it in the next session. To close the year, we focused on our “wins” for the year, looking at different categories, such as relationships, activities, academics, and personal goals. We look forward to starting up again in the New Year.
- Spoken Word Project
The first semester came to a wrap this month at Asbury Park High School, but not without lots of writing exercises and a special visit from poet, author, and community leader Israel Colón. In the final class, students were excited to learn that their teacher, Ms. Christine DeMarsico, was receiving recognition as “Konscious Educator of the Year” by KYDS, so we closed out our time together with one of her original, heartfelt poems.
Big Brothers Big Sisters
We closed out the year’s partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters during a visit to Bolger Middle School in Keansburg with a group of nearly 65 students, most of whom participated when PWN visited the school in the spring. Students enjoyed participating in a “world circle” and interviewing their respective mentee/mentor. We’re looking forward to a number of upcoming workshops in the next few months, as part of this community partnership!
Bridge Ink 7.6
Volume 7, Issue 6 is a special issue of Bridge Ink featuring interview stories written by teens who participated in The Interview Project during the summer of 2023. This project required teens to interview notable citizens in their communities and document the stories they want to preserve. Be sure to check out this inspiring issue today!
Cat Tales (Catsbury Park)
We had quite the PURRSday night this month at Catsbury Park, writing while surrounded by cats! We read “Thing” by Rae Armantrout and used both the poem and the cats in the room as inspiration for our writing. And then we read a few pages from Lil Bub’s Lil Book and wrote our own imaginative biographies for the cats in the room. We ended by moving into the kitten room and spending some time with the littlest mews. We are so grateful for this partnership and can’t wait to come back!
Our Free Write sessions were so successful through the month of November that we’ve decided to keep them ongoing. More and more writers have been joining us each week in this virtual dedicated space for writing accountability. Writers check-in with a goal and then use the rest of the time to work on their writing projects together. Join us for Free Write and make time for your writing!
On Fridays, we host a one-hour writing workshop on Zoom during which we write in response to themed prompts. This month, we explored the themes: “Dance,” “Magic,” and “New.” Though writers never have to share, 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!
Manifesting Creative Energy (Asbury Park Library)
Serendipity was the word of the night at our Manifesting Creative Energy workshop at the Asbury Park Public Library this month. We read “A House Called Tomorrow” by Alberto Ríos and used both the poem and energetic objects (crystals, pinecones, feathers) as inspiration. We felt the magic in the room as stories were shared and connections were made again and again. There were so many crossovers, so much we had in common. It was a wonderful community experience. We’re so grateful to be a part of Stigma-Free Asbury Park and look forward to doing more workshops like this in the future. Stay tuned!
During the summer, we collaborated with STEAMpark and the Monmouth County Vocational School District to provide a four-week, full-day summer camp with more than 40 4th through 7th graders at Red Bank Middle School. On Saturday, December 16, we held our third school-year meetup. It was so great to reconnect with our students for math, book club, and writing. For the writing portion, we made up fictional stories using prompts the students came up with themselves. We asked each student to come up with a character, an action, and a winter-themed setting. Then we put their ideas in bags and had them pull out one character, one action, and one setting. They let their imaginations run wild crafting stories using the prompts. We can’t wait to see the students again next month.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (Asbury Park)
We returned to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Asbury Park, leading a writing workshop with nearly a couple dozen 5th grade students. The session covered word association, rhyming, poetry, storytelling, writing, and sharing. It was well-received and we look forward to returning to the school in the new year!
Red Bank Middle School
- 7th & 8th Grade AVID (in-school)
We had a blast with the 7th and 8th grade AVID classes at RBMS! We celebrated Ms. Lisa’s birthday by dancing to her favorite songs, reading “won’t you celebrate with me,” by Lucille Clifton, and writing about how we celebrate ourselves. “If I had a party, there would be lots of books,” one student shared. We also wrote about where we’re from, using George Ella Lyon’s famous poem, “Where I’m From,” as inspiration. And we ended the year by reading “I want” by Jordan Jace and writing about our own wants as we enter the holiday season. “I want to have a journal that can save all my memories and past thoughts,” one student shared. We pulled our favorite lines and wrote them onto “snowballs” and decorated the room with our words!
- 6th Grade AVID (in-school)
We did ekphrastic writing (writing inspired by art) with our second 6th grade AVID class cycle this month, but this time we did it a little differently. Instead of looking at visual art for inspiration, we listened to a song—“Rock Lobster” by the B52s—which we learned is also an ekphrastic song, inspired by lobsters that were projected at a club one of the band members frequented. We allowed ourselves to move our bodies into creative expression while the song played, and then we channeled that energy into writing. It was so much fun rocking and writing together!
- PWN Quest Club (after-school)
We celebrated the end of the fall session of the PWN Quest Club at Red Bank Middle School on December 7 with special treats. Using a “roll-and-write” story exercise, students rolled dice to generate random characters, plots, and settings to help them compose a unique Christmas story. As always, at the end of the class, the students answered anonymous questions from the Question Box.
- PWN Writing Club (after-school)
This year we’ve been starting every writing class by measuring how much energy and excitement we all have to start writing. Each of us places our hand either above our heads, at our foreheads, below our chins, or at the middle of our chests. The higher the hand, the more excited the person is to write. So far, no one’s hand has gone below their chin, so the students come to us eager to share their thoughts in their journals. In our latest session, we stretched a moment incorporating our senses to describe the sights, sounds, smells, and tactile things we felt while describing as many details as we could in one small moment. The students then gave each other feedback, telling their partners what they really liked about the writing and why. A few students had been on the same fishing trip over the summer and they shared about the trip, including the smell of the ocean and fish, the motion of the ocean, and the sound of the splashing water. The students really dove in using descriptive words and details!
Red Bank Public Library
With the Red Bank Public Library writers, we described moments of joy we had witnessed or experienced recently. We read Mary Pipher’s article, “Finding Light in Winter.” Then we wrote about ways to safeguard our joy going into the busy holiday season and how to care for ourselves so as not to fall into Scrooge-like behavior.
Red Bank Regional Outside the Box: Journaling & Art Club
Project Write Now and Red Bank Regional High School have teamed up to offer our new Outside the Box: Journaling & Art Club. This program uses fun prompts to inspire writing and art. Each student gets an opportunity to get their thoughts out and down on the page, create a story or poem, or escape into their own imaginative world. This dedicated time and space allows students to write, reflect, and reconnect with what really matters to them! One of the prompts we recently wrote in response to was to create key recipe ingredients that are important for ninth graders to know when starting high school. We’re proud to share our “Do and Do Not Tries Recipe Tips for Incoming Ninth Graders.”
Shore House (Long Branch)
The Shore House writing crew produced and shared some more inspirational work. Early in the month we spent time on the impact of a single word, writing a word on a piece of paper, passing it to someone new, and writing about someone else’s word from our own perspective. We discovered just how much meaning can change from person to person. Near the end of the month, we established the foundation for an ongoing project that focuses on hope and the mental, emotional, and community toolboxes that we each have for getting “unstuck” during tough moments. We can’t wait to share our upcoming work!
Through our mission as a nonprofit organization, we remove barriers to participating in our fee-based classes by providing full and partial scholarship seats as well as payment plans. Since 2020, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the need for financial assistance and therefore have met that need by offering more scholarship seats. For 2023, we awarded 43 seats totaling $14,205. For information about our scholarship program or to become a valuable donor providing these seats, please email Jennifer Chauhan at email@example.com.
What an inspiring night we had at our Writers Showcase this month! We are so grateful to all who came out to support us, to Basie Center Cinemas for offering their space for the event, and especially to our writers who bravely entered the stage and touched our hearts with their words. This has been such an amazing year and we are so proud to celebrate YOU!
Write Out Loud (Asbury Book Cooperative)
During this month’s Write Out Loud, on the 12th day of the 12th month, attendees were encouraged to write down 12 of their favorite things that light them up with excitement, then created verbal visual boards to help call in and manifest their desires for 2024 and beyond. An informal open mic immediately followed the workshop. Join us for the next Write Out Loud on January 9!