Tell Your Story Campaign: Spotlight on Maritza Arrastia

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

After dmaritza resizedreaming and planning to start a writing workshop for women in our community of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, my friend and collaborator Elena Schwolsky and I found NYWC. Last summer we were fortunate enough to be accepted for NYWC workshop leader training. Now, a year later, we have launched our writing workshop for immigrant women in Sunser Park. And we are doing this as part of a nurturing community of writers and social activists.

Our workshop, 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 the beginning of our meetings. 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 canicas (colorful marbles chosen from a group of objects on the table), and about remembered games of childhood in very different places and times.  Those who choose 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 mental illness, and people with visual impairments—NYWC volunteer workshop leaders create a safe space to support people to find and write their stories.

Being a workshop leader gives me a wonderful way to combine my social justice activism and my love of writing in an organization that stands out for its support of collaboration and community. Writing together, I find, is a powerful way to write! My own writing has been enriched as well.

Please help me and NYWC continue this vital work!  Because Elena and I co-lead Cosechando Cuentos you can find our NYWC Story and make a donation at:

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

Un abrazo,