NYWC Tell Your Story Campaign returns: Spotlight on Elena Schwolsky

Elena croppedEvery June, members of the NYWC community write stories about their experiences with NYWC as a way to raise awareness and revenue for our programs. This year we will be hearing from eight such individuals. Read their stories, follow the campaign, and support the NYWC Tell Your Story Campaign!

This first story is from Elena Schwolsky, a NYWC workshop leader who co-leads a bilingual workshop with Maritza Arrastia for immigrant women in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

In a most wonderful coincidence I stumbled upon NY Writers Coalition (NYWC) while browsing online for a writing workshop that might help me revive a long-stalled writing project.  Now, a year later, I find myself part of a nurturing community of writers and social activists, serving as an NYWC volunteer and co-leading a workshop of my own.

Cosechando Cuentos (Harvesting Stories) brings together immigrant women who are members of worker-owned cooperatives in my neighborhood of Sunset Park, Brooklyn. “Somos todas escritoras!” –we read aloud in Spanish from the principles of the NYWC at our first meeting—and then pens to paper we write and become writers together.  We suggest a prompt (write about your journey to this country, something you left behind, a person you always remember, choose a photo from the table and write) and the stories flow, hesitantly at first and then more freely.  One participant writes about a journey a woman fears she will never be able to take—back to her country of birth.  In another session, three stories are written about canecas (colorful marbles chosen from a group of objects on the table) and the remembered games of childhood in very different places and times.  Those who chose to, share their stories, and sometimes the tears flow—and the laughter.

This is what NYWC does—bringing free writing workshops to people who don’t see themselves as writers—whose stories and voices are not often found in literature.  In prisons, hospitals, programs for out of school youth, for people with mentally illness, and people with visually impairments—NYWC leaders create a safe space to support people to find and write their stories.

I am so proud to be part of this effort!  It has provided a wonderful way for me to combine my social justice activism and love of writing in an organization that stands out for its support of collaboration and community.  And the good news is, in volunteering to be part of this amazing process, I have taken my own neglected story off the shelf, and slowly but surely I am finding a way to write it.

Please help me and NYWC continue this vital work!  You can find my NYWC Story at:


I will be following up with you in the weeks to come as we unfold this campaign to expand our community of supporters.