Tell Your Story Campaign: Spotlight on Jen Weitsen

Every 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 story is from Jen Weitsen a writer, content strategist, and web consultant. Since 2010, Jen has volunteered for NY Writers Coalition (NYWC), leading creative writing workshops for youth and seniors. Jen’s passion for writing started at the young age of 8 after reading Judy Blume. She is currently working on her first novel.

jen with Noura

Jen Weitsen and Noura Elhamadany at NY Writers Coalition’s Writing Aloud reading at BookCourt.

It’s a Saturday and I’m in a room filled with vibrant picture books. Good Night Moon is propped up proudly in the corner. In between arranging chairs and a small round table, I’m sipping coffee. As I briefly stop to look out the window, a few cars move past the Bay Ridge Public Library. I notice there’s a light dusting of snow on the spring branches and wonder if the weather will deter writers from coming to this morning’s session.

A few minutes later, 9 year old Noura walks in. “Hi,” she says warmly, “I’m here for the novel writing class.” I welcome her, as the other writers Keith, Emmi and Mizzi trickle in. They open bright, colorful folders and enthusiastically plop pages on the table. Some copies are typed and some are handwritten. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is, these kids — ranging in ages from 9-13 — brought pages from their novel to workshop.

The Novel Writing for Kids class is a new program and initiative NY Writers Coalition started. It’s a free class to inspire young writers and encompasses NY Writers Coalition’s mission — that everyone is a writer — regardless of writing experience or formal education.

Each writer has developed a concept for a novel and during each session they bring in scenes to be workshopped by their peers. The program provides young writers a supportive way to stretch their creative wings and let their words soar. It offers opportunities to express themselves and to become passionate about storytelling.

Noura is writing about two long lost twin sisters who remarkably find each other. They are dealing with the angst of middle school. Each sister has extraordinary superpowers that over the course novel get switched. 

We go around the table sharing ideas to help move the story forward. We offer words of encouragement and discuss what we like or remember about Noura’s scene. There is an upbeat energy that fills these workshop sessions. Sharing work in a safe and positive creative space exudes confidence in these young writers. They receive encouragement from not only a workshop leader, but also their peers.

It’s incredible to see the passion, imagination, confidence, courage and enthusiasm these writers bring to their novels. They have a flare for using imagination, adventure and science fiction in their storytelling. Many times they write about issues important to them and share pieces with the honesty and charm of what it is like to be a young person today. I often leave feeling inspired and motivated to bring that same energy to my own writing. It has helped me to rediscover imagination, my sense of adventure and to remember that anything can be possible.

NY Writers Coalition’s Impact

Aaron Zimmerman founded the New York Writers Coalition (NYWC) over a decade ago. It started with one workshop. Today, NYWC provides over 1,000 free workshops per year throughout New York City — to over 13,000 participants. The New York Writers Coalition makes this impact with a small, dedicated staff, limited resources and low overhead.

These unique and powerful creative writing workshops continue to foster new voices in the public sphere.  NYWC has created writing communities where no one ever thought they could exist – for youth, the homeless, the incarcerated, war veterans, seniors, and people with disabilities and illnesses. It believes that each person, through writing, can shape and influence the lives of others; and we can achieve social change by providing access and opportunity for all writers — regardless of race, ethnicity, class, age, gender, sexual orientation and physical ability.

My NYWC story

For the past five years, I have been volunteering with NY Writers Coalition. It has been an incredible experience that has changed my life. All I give is my time and I receive so much more.

Along with leading workshops, it has offered me a supportive writing community. Through being a part of NYWC, I have had the opportunity to take classes, attend writing retreats, connect with fellow writers, receive freelance writing opportunities, meet best-selling authors, attend readings, begin a novel, share my writing and get published. I have also made lifelong friends.

The NYWC has helped me to break down the walls of writing isolation, and has offered a community enriched with positive feedback and social responsibility. It gives me courage to be the writer I aspire to be, while also offering me an expanded vision of who I can be as a member of society.

How you can support NYWC writing programs

New York Writers Coalition provides over 1,000 free writing programs per year with limited resources. The Tell Your Story Campaign is being held to raise donations. It’s a way to give back an organization, which gives so much to society. Every donation — no matter what amount — helps the NYWC continue to provide over 1,000 free creative writing workshops throughout New York City.

To make a donation you can visit my donation page.

With your continued support, NY Writers Coalition is able to offer more writing programs like the Novel Writing for Kids class and also hold readings and produce publication opportunities for writers.

Last Saturday afternoon, NY Writers Coalition held a reading for its youth writers. Nine-year old Noura stood proudly in front of an audience at the BookCourt Bookstore in Brooklyn. With enthusiasm, self-confidence and a smile she shared two chapters from her novel.

We may have a future Judy Blume in our Novel Writing for Kids class.