November 3, 2021
A note on how we’re doing things, and why.
Dear NYWC Community,
Before registration opens for our second cycle of 6-week writing workshops, we’d like to acknowledge and address some of the feedback we’ve received from participants and leaders about this new format, following our first workshop cycle. We know that this has been a dramatic shift in our typical programming, and we understand how essential it is to provide more insight into these changes. While we do intend to commit to the 6-week cycle at this present moment, we hope that the following information provides more clarity about that choice and the ways it has been necessary for the NY Writers Coalition (NYWC) team behind the scenes.
The Impact on NYWC’s Infrastructure & Staff
When the pandemic began, we wanted our workshops to serve as a resource for people seeking community even while sheltering in place, as well as an ongoing outlet for expression. To that end, we decided against retrenching and significantly increased our workshop offerings. While the new community we’ve fostered online has proved just as inspiring (and is, rest assured, a community we intend to maintain in some form moving forward), the impact on our organization has been stark.
NYWC did not provide any workshops online prior to the pandemic, which has meant that we rapidly had to adopt, change, and scale the systems available to us in order to provide virtual programming. Our website is not customized to host workshops and facilitate sign-ups; we retrofit three or more disparate systems at any given time to make online workshops possible. As most, if not all, of you have seen, there are frustrating gaps in those systems’ capabilities, which, in time, led to one or more NYWC staff members having to constantly monitor our efforts—from sign-ups, to sending out emails, to ticketing, managing the waitlist, addressing glitches, and more. While we wish it were possible to maintain that level of attention indefinitely, it simply is not sustainable.
Our aim as we continue to test new software is to find the ideal mix of an affordable, largely-independent virtual sign-up system on a reliable platform for leaders and participants alike. For now, we have decided to scale back on our workshop offerings to ensure a better experience overall.
The Impact on Workshop Leaders
Scaling up our programming during the pandemic also meant that we markedly increased workshop leaders’ hours. Donation sources such as the Emergency Workshop Leader Fund remain invaluable to us, as we want to continue compensating our leaders for their time even while keeping costs free and low-cost to participants. Nonetheless, our leaders are people with needs and obligations that go beyond NYWC—especially now.
Workshop cycles without end dates absolutely can (and do!) help foster a source of community for people who prefer knowing that a certain NYWC workshop or a specific leader will always be available—but that isn’t feasible long-term. Our leaders experience burnout and fatigue just like anyone else, even as they strive to make every single workshop session a meaningful one, sometimes multiple times per week.
Our new cycle system has the dual benefit of helping our leaders recharge their energy, creativity, and accommodate their personal scheduling needs—but also helps us maintain a more dependable schedule for participants due to fewer unexpected cancellations when people simply need to take a break. We don’t intend to completely do away with the longer-term workshop cycle of the past and may return to some form of it in the future—but whatever form we implement must take our leaders’ needs into consideration, too.
Training & Program Expansion
An unfortunate impact of the pandemic has been the freezing of our in-person workshop leader training cycles. NYWC has historically held two training sessions per year, an essential—and intensive—undertaking that helps us retain and replenish our leader cohorts. We would like to offer more programming to participants who enjoy taking more than one workshop per week, and expanding the number of workshop leaders we work with will help make that possible.
NYWC’s Executive Director Aaron Zimmerman and our Programs Director Timothy DuWhite are working on redeveloping our workshop training with our new virtual programming in mind. We hope to relaunch our training cycles soon to see how doing so enables us to expand and/or deepen our offerings.
We are deeply, sincerely grateful to every single person who has donated, hosted a virtual fundraiser, and encouraged others to donate to NY Writers Coalition! That support has bolstered our ability to provide stipends to workshop leaders and even launch new programming and events such as the Black Writers Program and Mic Check. Our gratitude also includes participants who may have not donated monetarily but instead with their time, encouragement, and enthusiasm; without your support in the form of attending workshops, filling out surveys, attending virtual events, and spreading the word about the work we do, we wouldn’t exist. All the same, financial support is only one element of strengthening our organization moving forward.
Our mission has always been and remains to be centered in providing high-quality, affordable creative writing workshops and community to the public, with a particular emphasis on reaching historically underserved and marginalized groups. Determining what NYWC will look like post-pandemic—while we are still in the midst of a pandemic—will take time, as we determine how to integrate our new virtual community with the in-person network that has been our base for nearly 20 years. Please know that although some of these changes may be frustrating, we massively appreciate your patience as we shift, experiment, and coalesce into a system that suits as many of our collective needs as possible.
Your feedback really is essential to us! If you ever have questions or comments, please let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With appreciation always,
The NYWC Staff