Dear Friends of Project Write Now:
Happy 2023! One month into the year and we’ve already generated a TON of writing!
One of our favorite inspirations is writing in response to art (aka ekphrastic writing) and this month we did this activity with so many groups we work with—including our middle school students at Red Bank Middle School, our writers at Shore House, and our PWN India adult journaling group.
We even had the chance to do it in person in collaboration with the Art Alliance of Monmouth County as part of their special exhibit “Duality: A Study of Complexity & Becoming,” which featured 11 eclectic artists—including our very own Lisa Hartsgrove!
Today, January 31, just so happens to be National Inspire Your Heart with Art Day, so take time today to engage with pieces of art. Move beyond what you see to involve all of your senses. What does the art sound like, feel like, taste like? Then jot down these words and images that come to mind and just write.
Speaking of engaging our senses, we have more IN PERSON workshops coming up tonight at Bell Works in Holmdel (A Happier Hour: Writing & Open Mic) and Friday at Monmouth University (Throws & Prose: A Bowling & Writing Workshop).
No matter where we are or whom we are connecting with, one thing remains the same: our commitment to build communities of hope and empathy through storytelling.
We could not make this impact without YOU!
Whether you’ve taken a class, signed your child up for a class, or given a generous gift, you help us do this work, which is needed now more than ever.
From all of us at PWN, THANK YOU!
The Project Write Now Team
Duality of Expression: Art & Writing
We are so grateful to the Art Alliance of Monmouth County for offering their inspiring space for our ekphrastic writing workshop this month. Their special exhibit, called “Duality: A Study of Complexity & Becoming,” featured 11 eclectic artists—including our very own Lisa Hartsgrove! We used the art in the exhibit to inspire us—first making “idea boards,” noting the images, shapes, colors, and feelings the art was evoking in us, and then using those lists as launching points for our writing. Each of our works contained rich language and unique turns of phrase, and every participant agreed that it was because the art took them in new directions they wouldn’t have otherwise gone.
On Fridays, we host a one-hour writing workshop on Zoom during which we write in response to themed writing prompts. This month, we explored the themes—“Friday the 13th” and “Vibe.” 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!
Monmouth Arts Annual Event
We were honored to be invited to have one of our writers share an original piece during Monmouth Arts’ Annual Event, which focused on “The Art of Engaging Gen Z.” Nathalia Garcia, a former PWN Teen intern and current teaching assistant in our after-school programs, read her piece “I Am What Gives the Ocean Its Indigo.” So many people came up to Nathalia after her reading to compliment her on her exquisite imagery and beautiful delivery. We are grateful to Monmouth Arts for providing a space for young voices!
PWN India (adults)
We were excited to resume our PWN India adult journaling club. To kick off the new year, we read Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Burning the Old Year” and then wrote about what we wanted to leave behind in 2022, carry with us into 2023, and imagine for ourselves for 2023. We also did some ekphrastic writing to “Fibers” by Ashley Caspermeyer and the art that inspired it, “Take Heart” by Bonnie Riedinger (as published in Rattle). We then recalled childhood games after reading the poem, “Miss Mary Mack Introduces Her Wings” by Tyree Day. We love all of the conversations that emerge from our shared writing!
Red Bank Middle School
– 4th & 5th Grade AVID
The fourth and fifth grade AVID students at RBMS have been writing mini “I Remember” books this past month, inspired by the technique of “automatic writing” and author Joe Brainard’s memoir I Remember. The entire book is a list of the author’s memories, each one beginning with the phrase “I remember.” We began by brainstorming memories from holidays, trips, birthdays, first times, special people and places, school, hobbies, and sports. Once we brainstormed and shared some ideas in a group, the students were free to do this “automatic writing” exercise on their own. The only “rule” was they had to start writing down their own memories, beginning each one with “I remember . . .” The students were encouraged to allow their mind to explore all of the years of their life in no particular order. The results were amazing!
– 6th Grade AVID
We did ekphrastic writing (writing inspired by art) with the 6th grade RBMS AVID students this month. First we read “Fault Lines” by Margaret Malochleb. Then we looked at the art that inspired the poem, “Ballet Above the Bay” by René Bohnen. We made our own inspiration board from the art, jotting down images, shapes, colors, and feelings evoked. We used our inspiration board to come up with our own original works. Then, we brought in our own art to use as inspiration the next day. We read “Starry Night” by Tupac Shakur to see how anyone can approach ekphrasis. We loved seeing how different and unique each student’s story became, and how the art brought their creativity into new directions they might not have thought of otherwise.
– 7th & 8th Grade AVID
This month with the RBMS 7th & 8th grade AVID students, instead of creating a list of resolutions and setting new goals for 2023, we looked back on all that we already accomplished just last year. We listed everything from 2022 that we wanted to remember and hold onto. Then, we looked to the future and wrote letters to ourselves five months from now. The letters are private, just between the present writer and the future writer and no one else. We collected each letter, holding onto them to hand them back on our last day together in June. We can’t wait to see their reactions when they read their own words from the past! We also wrote about our favorite games. Inspired by “Ars Poetica” by Nabila Lovelace, we thought of games that we know well (like Tic Tac Toe and Uno). We wrote down all of the details about the game—what’s required, the rules, the players, etc. Then we got creative and found the story between our notes! And we wrote to the prompts: “it’s okay to … what if … my wish for you … my wish for the world … let go of … hold on to … I am … I will be …” We loved how honest our students were in their works, sharing stories about learning from mistakes and losing and making new friends. We began another new collaborative poem, too, which we can’t wait to share with you soon!
– PWN Writing Club: 4th & 5th
We started our Winter Session of our after-school PWN Writing Club at RBMS using physical movement to help us write down different words to describe how we feel when we are still and in motion. Strong writers are able to create a feeling in their readers by using their senses to describe a story. The students all wrote down specific things they saw, heard, and felt. Some examples were: “My fingers felt like they were going to explode when I was shaking my hands fast” and “The inside of my stomach was swirling like a tornado when I was jumping” and “The sound of the heater was humming like the engine of a truck.” In the coming weeks, we will continue to use our senses to help describe scenes when we write.
– PWN Quest Club: 6th-8th
We started a new session of our PWN Quest Club at RBMS and kicked off the year with the theme of “New Year, New Writing.” We wrote about our New Year’s resolutions for ourselves as well as for our writing. We also talked about quests and wrote stories that involved going on quests. Beginning next week, we will start dropping questions into our Quest Box which we will then pull from and answer. We look forward to an amazing session of writing and connecting with one another through stories!
Red Bank Public Library
This month with the writers from the Red Bank Public Library, we read the beginning pages of Hua Hsu’s beautifully crafted memoir, Stay True. We then wrote about someone in our college or early work years that was special to us—how we passed the time, what our rituals were, what we missed about them now. We closed the session with a reading of David Sedaris’ essay “A Speech to the Graduates” from his book of essays titled Happy-Go-Lucky.
With the writers from Senior Space in Red Bank this month, we read a fable about the moon by Kono titled, “The Coming of Darkness.” We told stories about our relationship with the moon as children and as adults. We also read the poem “From the Wishing Bone Cycle,” by Swampy Cree.
Shore House (Long Branch)
We did ekphrastic writing with the Shore House writers this month. First, we read “Fibers” by Ashley Caspermeyer. Then we looked at the art that inspired the poem—“Take Heart” by Bonnie Riedinger. We discussed the imagery in the poem and found where the inspiration may have come from the art. Then we used the art to inspire our own works! We asked ourselves the questions: What images do we see in the art? Colors? Shapes? If this art had a taste, what would it taste like? If this art made a sound, what sound would it make? If it smelled, what would it smell like? If it had texture, what would it physically feel like? How does this art make us feel when looking at it? And what does this art remind us of? Then we used our answers as writing prompts for new stories and poems. We loved what our writers came up with!
Teacher Writing Collaborative
For our first Teacher Writing Collaborative of the year, we read Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Burning the Old Year” and then wrote about what we wanted to leave behind in 2022, carry with us into 2023, and imagine for ourselves for 2023. Even though we were writing about our on personal experiences, we all felt grounded. Immediately following the class, we received this email: “Thank you a million times over, I needed tonight!” All educators are welcome to join the TWC at any time. You can register here for the next session on Thursday, February 2.
Teen Writing Group
Our teen writers are starting the year off WRITE and we are so proud of their dedication! Each week they come together and write to thoughtful prompts given by the teen leaders. As they share their work, they lift each other up, noting favorite lines and moments that really resonate with each other. We love the passion they share for writing and the compassion they share in the group.
Write Out Loud
It was a fun night back for our FIRST Write Out Loud event of 2023 at the Asbury Book Cooperative! In fact, we took the idea of FIRST and turned it into a writing prompt to kick off the event! We wrote about any FIRSTS that came to mind: first job, first love, first kiss, first broken bone, first home, first friend, first dream, etc. After sharing our FIRST drafts, we then shared other writings. We are so grateful to the Asbury Book Cooperative for continuing to provide such an inspiring space. Join us for our next Write Out Loud on Tuesday, February 14!
Zoom Open Mic
For our first Zoom Open Mic of 2023, our writers shared poetry, flash stories, and even songs! Our Zoom Open Mic is always open to new voices, so be sure to bring your writing to share at the next event. Join us for the next Zoom Open Mic on February 24!
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 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. For 2022, we awarded 72 seats totaling $15,150! For 2023, we’ve already awarded 17 seats totaling $8,725. For information about our scholarship program or to become a valuable donor providing these seats, please email Jennifer Chauhan at firstname.lastname@example.org.