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We’ll be sharing photos and stories from our archives over time. Be sure to check here periodically for future stories:
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Our 20th-anniversary compilation video showcases former youth participant Carrissa Normil, workshop leader Victoria Cho, and Black Writers Program participant Queen Maria. Learn why they joined NY Writers Coalition and the impact our workshops had on them at different points in their lives.
First Speaker: Victoria Cho
My name is Victoria Cho and I’m a writer and educator. I led New York Writers Coalition workshops at Isabella Geriatric Center, The Cooke School and Institute, and for the NY Writers Coalition Fort Greene Summer Literary Festival.
I’m inspired to work with youth because I understand that period that can feel tumultuous but also exciting. I remember some participants throughout the workshops feeling very reluctant to share their writing, or only sharing a few lines, feeling really shy. And then I saw them at the celebration event at the end of the summer, and I saw these same teenagers get up on stage and share their work before a large audience. Engaging with creativity and art can help somebody realize the power of their own voice.
I really feel like I’ve learned to be kinder to myself, to take more risks, and to think more about the kind of writing and community I want to create.
Second Speaker: Carrissa Normil
I’m Carissa Normil and I’m a speculative fiction writer, and I participated in NY Writers Coalition’s workshop through the years 2015 to 2017 at Benjamin Banneker Academy. It was actually the first time I ever participated in a writing workshop. We had such amazing workshop leaders, and they were so nurturing and so supportive, and just fun. And now, as a writer, I’m really thankful because where else would I have gotten this very nurturing environment? I don’t think I would be the writer I am today. I wouldn’t take it so seriously.
I was new to the school—I had transferred—and I got to make these friends, I got close to other writers, and it kind of gave me a purpose at my high school because high school wasn’t that great for me. I didn’t love it so much. But being there, it gave me a home at Benjamin Banneker Academy.
Third Speaker: Queen María
My name is Queen María—well actually, my name is María and my pen name is Queen María—and it actually came with NY Writers Collective [sic]. I thought it was a way to show respect to my ancestors.
I never thought I would be a writer. I started writing because of the pandemic. I didn’t know what to do. I live alone. I was desperate. I had so many things to say. And then the magic happened. I found NY Writers Collective [sic] and I said, ‘Let me write one workshop’—and I was so scared. I was thinking, ‘Oh my god, what am I doing here? So many people that write…’ And I was hooked. Since that first workshop, I never stopped coming.
Through the writing workshops, I’ve been able to soften and I’m not scared to show that soft side of me. I still write in your face but the delicate part of me, the softness inside of me, is coming through. So people are able to hear better because especially when it comes about race, it’s a very difficult topic for me. There’s a lot of trauma involved in there. I have always lived mainly in a white community, being a Black woman—and a big, Black woman with a big voice and a big mouth—which is not something that people are accustomed to or able to tolerate.
I thought a way of motivating myself would be being hard on myself, which works for a while but after so many years, it breaks you. You need that softness and you are the best person to give it to yourself. And I learned this by writing.