Wow! What a celebration we had this month with students from our Spoken Word Project at Asbury Park High School. We published more than 40 pieces of writing in an anthology, “Poems from the Park,” that are brave, insightful, and inspiring. Several students read their stories out loud at our Writers Celebration, held on Friday, May 14.
We are so grateful to all of the students from the creative writing class and to our teaching artists—Mychal Mills of KYDS, Chris Elijah, and Philip J. Curtis—who guided and encouraged our students to write and share such authentic stories. We are also grateful to Christine DeMarsico for welcoming us into her classroom. We are already looking forward to collaborating again next year!
Here are some of the kind words students shared about their experiences writing with us:
“I discovered that I can write poetry and I’ve learned that anything is possible and anyone’s potential is limitless.”
“What I loved about this short journey is I was able to write and express myself. I was able to channel whatever I was going through into a story, and I honestly felt better, so thank you for letting us participate.”
“[Our] voices can create change. It’s something I had known, but I learned that more clearly through the Project Write Now Spoken Word Project.”
“I learned that I’m not alone, and if people relate to your pieces, they will understand your feelings and use your work to cope too. It’s a healing process that can be shared and I love that.”
Speaking of celebrations …
We’d like to invite you to a cool event we are hosting virtually, PWN’s Teen Fellowship Celebration, on Thursday, June 3, at 7 p.m. Since October, three fellows—high school seniors representing different schools—have worked one-on-one, every week, with mentors at Project Write Now. Fellows are selected through an application process and must show a desire to learn, grow, and focus on building a collection of writing. The program is donor-supported so there is no cost to participate.
During Thursday’s celebration, the fellows will share pieces of their writing and talk about the impact the fellowship has made on them—how they were nurtured, challenged, and encouraged to stretch by their mentors. We will also be awarding $500 college scholarships to each fellow.
It is going to be an inspiring event, so we hope you will join us! If you’d like to attend, please register here. (There is no cost.)
The Atrium (Red Bank)
This month, PWN started weekly writing sessions with senior residents from The Atrium here in Red Bank. There are no amateurs in this group of twelve seasoned exceptional writers. They have been together as a group writing for eight years. And it shows! They’ve been sharing spectacular pieces tackling subjects ranging from grief and loss to flying airplanes and dating rock n’ roll celebrities.
Asbury Park High School
In addition to the Spoken Word Project, we also have been providing essay support to several students who are applying for scholarships to offset college costs. We have enjoyed getting to know these students and helping them craft essays that showcase their character, strengths, and talents. Hopefully the scholarship committees reviewing their applications will agree!
21st Century Community Learning Center (Long Branch)
We concluded our yearlong program with the 3rd graders in the after-school program in Long Branch. This month, we focused on fiction writing—how authors develop characters and a plotline for picture books. We brainstormed animal characters, giving them names and human-like characteristics. After talking and sharing about our animal characters—Gorilla Gary, Mike the Monkey, Tootles the Turtle, Richie Rhino, just to name a few—we came up with possible problems these animal characters could have. It was a lot of fun hearing everyone share their ideas, and their excitement for fiction writing was a great way to end our year! We look forward to returning to Long Branch in the fall and working with the 3rd graders again.
This month with the Womyn’s Worth group at Lunch Break, we wrote about gratitude and getting back to life with the easing of COVID restrictions. We supported one another with our stated hopes and fears for the future. We always leave our sessions with the Womyn’s Worth group feeling grounded and inspired!
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 “home,” “vision,” and “rocks.” Most of our lunchtime writers join just to get ideas on the page, but some have continued to work on pieces they began with our group, have submitted to literary magazines, and are now even getting published! No matter what you plan to do with the writing you generate with us, we always enjoy hearing one another’s pieces and have formed an incredible, supportive community of writers. Join us for our next Lunchtime Write-In to discover what our upcoming themes will be!
Red Bank Public Library
This month with the writers at the Red Bank Public Library, we checked in by naming three feelings at the beginning of class. We took the most prevalent contentment/gratitude feelings and wrote about how we cultivate those feelings in our lives on a daily basis. What is our practice? How do we reign in the world to create a sense of contentment? We dove further, thinking back on our lives, and listed the major stepping stones/moments/events/decisions influential in building our resiliency. When we finished sharing our lists, we all could see each stepping stone as a theme for a short story, poem, memoir, or route for further exploration!
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so we chose to focus on self-love and affirmations with our Shore House writers. We read “The Conditional” by Ada Limón and “Quest” by Carrie Williams Clifford to set the tone. Then we wrote at least five positive sentences about ourselves, each of us ending with “I am enough.” We made lists of achievements we could celebrate, both big and small (including just showing up for class!) and we identified the story in the list and shared those bigger stories. We set attainable goals for ourselves between classes, and we were so proud when our writers shared their progress on their personal goals. (One writer is agoraphobic and just wanted to walk to the mailbox that week, and she made it!) We ended each class with mindfulness exercises and a reminder to keep our positive sentences somewhere we can see them every day so we always know that we are worthy.
The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide
We were thrilled to work with The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide during their Virtual Wellness Day this month! We hosted four classes for teens in the program, showing them how journaling can be a powerful tool in their lives. We read “A House Called Tomorrow” by Alberto Ríos then moved into a write-a-thon using the prompts: “I am from,” “I remember,” “If it happened my way,” “My favorite place,” and “My dream.” We loved that most of the teen writers actually volunteered to share their stories, even though none of them knew each other yet. Through the sharing we found that we all seemed to have things in common. For instance, one writer shared about her experience getting over her fear of roller coasters, and then the Zoom room seemed to erupt with others who had felt the same way! We loved the connections that emerged just from sharing stories. We ended each class with Elizabeth Gilbert’s Grounding Exercise so students could see the power of writing in their lives both for community and for personal benefit. We loved working with this program and hope we can connect again soon!
This month, during our Teacher Writing Collaborative classes, we wrote about voice and place. Using Sonia Sanchez’s “This Is Not a Small Voice,, we wrote about our own voices (where we find and share our voices). We also explored the places that mean something to us in response to Claudia Castro Luna’s poem “Asi.” The last class of this session will be held Thursday, June 3, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. ET. If you’d like to join us, email email@example.com. For the summer, we are offering a free six-week writing class for teachers on Tuesdays (7 to 9 p.m.) from July 13 through August 17. More info coming soon!
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 33 adult and 11 youth/teen seats totaling $7,030. For information about our scholarship program or to become a valuable donor providing these seats, please email Jennifer Chauhan at firstname.lastname@example.org.