2016 Tell Your Story Campaign: Spotlight on Anna Pettus

The Tell Your Story Campaign is back!


Anna Pettus

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. Each week throughout the next month we’ll be featuring one of these stories on our website. This week’s feature comes from Anna Pettus, a former NYWC program coordinator who now leads a workshop at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan.

Be sure to follow and support NYWC’s 2016 Tell Your Story Campaign here!


A year of working for NY Writers Coalition has perfected my two sentence pitch for when people ask, “What is NY Writers Coalition?” Without a breath, I can rattle off, “They’re a nonprofit organization that gives free creative writing workshops around New York City in places you might not expect to find them. For example, they have workshops on Rikers Island, some senior citizen centers, but also in after school programs and libraries.” And this is usually enough to hook people because the work NY Writers Coalition does is interesting and unique in the way that it doesn’t require much of a spiel. However, those two sentences don’t even come close to describing my experience with them.

They don’t tell you about my first visit to a workshop, where I witnessed people bravely write then share unedited pieces with one another. They don’t tell you about one man in particular who stood out to me; a newcomer whose voice halted and shook as he read his first sentences, but never stopping regardless. The group was patient, nodding responsively as they listened and then offering positive feedback on what they liked in his writing. With each remark, his shy downcast gaze turned to a barely repressed smile as he lifted his head and realized that he had accomplished something.

The element of surprise is another thing that my succinct description just doesn’t capture. A shy participant is able to read a whole story out loud to a group of strangers; someone else hears that story and, through the chaos of everything, a piece of it sticks with them.Nor does it capture my surprise that an organization actually exists to give people the opportunity for people to see themselves differently, as writers.

There are a thousand small stories of great achievements and revelations I could tell you from my time working with NY Writers Coalition. Luckily, I’ll continue being able to share them as I’ve transitioned from resident Americorps Member to Workshop Leader, where I write with amazing groups of people who continually cause me to step back and say, “Wow!” This work is addicting, inspiring, and a rarity that needs the support of others. I’d love it if you’d join me in helping NY Writers Coalition continue to provide free creative writing workshops around New York City, a place where people unexpectedly find themselves becoming writers.

Thank You,

Anna Pettus

Donate to Anna’s Firstgiving page here!