Dear Friends of Project Write Now:
Our summer camps have begun, and here are some of the comments we received from 7th graders at Freehold Intermediate School who participated in our weeklong Spoken Word Project as part of a summer initiative with the Positive Youth Development Hub.
“Being able to actually say how I feel in front of others makes me feel like I have a voice now.”
“Writing down your emotions is good for you because it helps you be aware of yourself. Making it into a poem makes it better because you can string it into beautiful words and just acknowledge that it’s OK to feel the way [you] feel.”
“It honestly helped with showing my emotions and I never thought I would be writing poems about stuff.”
We are receiving similar feedback in all of our camps! In addition to Freehold, we are providing programs with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County (Asbury Park and Red Bank), the Long Branch STEAM summer program, Summer Slam at Red Bank Regional, the Alliance for Success at Red Bank Regional, Family Based Services of New Jersey, and the Red Bank Borough Schools.
In each camp, we’ve given students a journal to make their own—to write and draw in as they express their emotions and explore their imaginations.
We know how important expressive writing is—as executive director Jennifer Chauhan recounted in a recent blog: “[Studies have] shown that writing about yourself and personal experiences can reduce stress and boost moods. Writing helps you gain clarity when problem solving or making decisions. Writing helps you access deeper parts of yourself—to explore your dreams, desires, who you are, and how you relate to the world around you.”
We are so grateful that our students are recognizing the impact writing can have on their well-being and we hope they will continue to turn to their journals as a safe place to keep their thoughts and feelings long after the camps are over.
Here’s what else we’ve been up to this month. If you are interested in bringing a program to your school or organization, email executive director Jennifer Chauhan at email@example.com.
“Ink It Up!” with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Red Bank & Asbury Park
This program introduced an interactive, three-dimensional way to view writing. Students aged 9 through 13 years of age used inspirational pieces to spark creativity, then wrote their own unique stories. These stories were then furthered by asking students to sketch an image, link the piece to a song, and finally create a hashtag to sum it up. It was exciting and inspiring to watch students engage in the Battle of the Scents or The 1000 Words Behind the Painting. Students crafted a multi-dimensional work of art with each sketchbook. This was truly an immersive experience!
Every Friday, we host a one-hour writing workshop on Zoom during which we write in response to prompts on a designated theme. This month, we explored the themes: “Revolution,” “With/Without,” “Anniversary,” and “Run.” 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!
Positive Youth Development Hub – Freehold Intermediate School
We are honored to be a part of the Positive Youth Development Hub, a system in Monmouth County that supports all school-age children. This summer, as part of an initiative with other organizations (Big Brothers/Big Sisters, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County, Lead U, and KYDS), we provided The Spoken Word Project for 7th grade students at Freehold Intermediate School. It was amazing to see the students go from being reluctant to share on the first day to every single one of them getting up and reading personal pieces on the last day. We are so grateful for the opportunity to provide this program!
PWN Teen Interns
- Teaching Assistants
This month we began working with our Teaching Assistant teen interns. Our TAs assist our summer camp instructors in our summer programs and they also get the chance to teach a lesson of their own making. We were so impressed with the ideas they came up with in training—lessons on screenwriting, poetry, imagery, how to overcome perfectionism, mythology, fan fiction, and idea generation, just to name a few. And we’re so proud and grateful for their commitment and creativity this summer!
- Editorial Assistants
Our Editorial Assistant teen interns are off to a great start this month! We are thrilled to have them helping us behind the scenes with our PWN Teen programming. Be on the lookout for cool marketing posts, different Bridge Ink issues, and new social media endeavors, just to name a few of their projects. These interns are chock full of great ideas and we can’t wait to share the results of their hard work!
- The Interview Project
We partnered with Lunch Break this year for The Interview Project where interns interview staff, clients, and volunteers to highlight this invaluable community resource in Red Bank, New Jersey. TIP interns attended two training sessions this month where they learned how to ask meaningful questions and listen actively when conducting interviews. During training, we watched how Brandon Stanton, “Humans of New York” (HONY) founder, used visual and verbal snapshots to create a portrait of his community through storytelling. We used mentor texts from HONY’s blog and Instagram page and published pieces by previous PWN interns to dig deeper into understanding how to get to the heart of a person’s story. To practice, interns took turns being the interviewer and interviewee and then discussed the challenges they faced in each role and ways to overcome them. Sharda Jetwani Love, Program Director for Lunch Break, attended the second training session to share her knowledge and passion as well as answer any questions. The interns look forward to completing their first and follow-up interviews and then writing stories to honor community members served by and dedicated to Lunch Break!
Red Bank Regional
- Alliance for Success
We kicked off another year with The Alliance for Success Program provided by Lunch Break for rising seniors at Red Bank Regional High School. We explained the many benefits of journaling and then led them through some journaling exercises: eight ordinary facts about yourself; five things you wish people knew about; three things you’re grateful for today; and one thing you’ve done this year that you’re proud of. We know that the expressive writing they do will help them understand themselves better as they begin making decisions about their futures beyond high school. We are grateful to be a part of this incredible program!
- Summer Slam
With the rising 9th graders, we also introduced journaling, gifting each student their own journal that they can decorate and make their own. One of our instructors, Shatiera Portee, who just published the book I Forgive Myself for Forgetting Myself, guided students to write in response to several prompts she’s included in her book. When asked how the writing made them feel, students responded with “relieved,” “calmer,” “more relaxed.” We are in the process of planning a monthly journaling club for 9th graders. Stay tuned!
This month at Senior Space in Red Bank, we read the beautiful essay by Beth Kephart, “Walking With the Widows,” and wrote in our journals about our own particular nostalgia. We wrote about COVID and how the pandemic changed our lives. In response, we read the essay, “After the Fall” from Margaret Renkl’s book of essays titled, “Late Migrations.”
Shore House (Long Branch)
This month at Shore House, we wrote about summer and music. For the theme of “summer,” we opened with the poem “Ode to Kool-Aid” by Marcus Jackson. We then made sensory lists to get us started—tastes, sights, sounds, smells, and feels of summer. We used our lists to hone the stories we really wanted to tell. It was interesting to see what aspects of summer we all seemed to capture—fresh cut grass, the beach, salt air—and the unique differences in our experiences. For the theme of “music,” we opened with the poem “What Is It You Feel I Asked Kurt” by Diane Seuss, and then we played the song from the poem—Maurice Ravel’s “String Quartet in F major.” While the song played, we asked some questions to guide the freewrite—If you could ask this composer anything, what would it be? If you could ask this song anything, what would it be? What does this song remind you of, if anything? What is it like? What is your relationship with music, in general, like? How does this song compare to your heartsong? It was so interesting to see the similarities and differences in our final works. We learned a lot about our individual relationships with music and how it has helped each of us in one way or another. Next month, we’ll be returning to Shore House with our teen interns leading the class. We can’t wait!
SKY at Lunch Break
This month, the SKY program at Lunch Break started with the prompt: “Today, I look deep inside and find I’m feeling …” Then we read some excerpts from Melissa Febos’ memoir, Abandon Me. We shared a quote from Michelle Obama: “Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there’s more growing to be done.” Then we wrote some more: “What side of yourself do you express the least? Why? Consider what might be holding you back and how you might allow new parts of yourself to unfold.” We ended the session with Diane Glancy’s poem, “Tiger Butter.”
Teen Writing Group
We began our summer session of Teen Writing Group with not one, not two, not three, but FOUR incredible teen leaders taking turns teaching lessons throughout the class! Our regular teen leaders are back with the help of two remote teen interns who are able to attend because of the virtual setting. We love seeing how these leaders are all working together and sharing ideas, and how receptive the rest of the group has been to their unique teaching styles. Our next session of Teen Writing Group will begin in September. Stay tuned!
The Write Time
During the summer, we take a break from the Teacher Writing Collaborative and provide a six-week writing class just for teachers. We love that we have this dedicated time and space to nurture the writer within. Each week, we read a short flash piece and then write in response to prompts. Already we’ve heard such incredible stories and we’ve been encouraging one another to submit! The Teacher Writing Collaborative will be back starting September 29.
Write Out Loud
We are so grateful to the Asbury Book Cooperative and all who attended our Write Out Loud event this month! We had such a great time writing together to prompts on the Wheel of Writing, and we were blown away by the stories and poems that were shared in the culminating open mic. Be sure to join us for the next Write Out Loud on August 23!
Through our mission as a nonprofit organization, we remove 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 2021, we provided 63 adult and 21 youth/teen seats totaling nearly $14,000. So far this year, we’ve awarded 44 seats totaling $11,230! For information about our scholarship program or to become a valuable donor providing these seats, please email Jennifer Chauhan at firstname.lastname@example.org.