NYWC Tell Your Story Campaign: Susan Fedynak on NY Writers Coalition and magic

This July, eight NYWC workshop leaders will share stories about the powerful and transformational workshops they facilitate and participate in each week to raise awareness and much needed revenue to support NYWC’s ongoing programs.

We’ll be posting these stories throughout the month, here, and on our campaign page. Read their stories, follow the campaign, and support NYWC by making a donation and following the NYWC Tell Your Story Campaign.

This piece is from is from Susan Fedynak, a native New Yorker proud to join NYWC in bringing free writing workshops to her hometown. She has led workshops for LGBT senior citizens in Queens, and is excited to begin leading a workshop for seniors at the 14th Street Y.  Her short fiction has appeared in Fiction Fix, Stork, Blood and Thunder, and the speculative fiction anthology A Field Guide to Surreal Botany, published by Two Cranes Press. She lives in Queens with her music producer husband and their rescue dog Chico.

I have a confession to make.

I first became involved with New York Writers Coalition for purely selfish reasons.

It was 2011, and I registered for their annual Write-A-Thon — literally a marathon for writers, an all day event used to raise funds that keep the coalition’s free services afloat.

Back then, I knew little of the organization’s amazing work. I had recently left a day job, a job I used to refer to as a dream job — just not my dream — with the intention of spending more time on my writing. I saw the Write-A-Thon as a good symbolic re-entry to the writer’s life and excitedly, nervously, signed up.

It was there that I met first met NYWC founder, Aaron Zimmerman, and many of the incredible volunteer workshop leaders who make the real work of the coalition possible. It was also there that I took part in my first NYWC workshop — an optional part of the all-day commitment to writing — and found out just how different the NYWC approach is.

You mean there are no red pens? No grammar corrections? No critiques of this is how I would have done it? There were almost none of things that I’d come to expect as I came up through years of formal, and yes, privileged, creative writing programs. There were none of those things, many of which had put me into the awkward, faith-shaking place of questioning the validity of writing workshops all together.

There was none of that. Only a room full of people writing together, workshop leader included, and a sense that no matter what happened on the page in front of you, everything was going to be o.k. Some of the other participants during that first experience had been in NYWC workshops for years, some were even leaders, though I didn’t know it at the time. In that first session, and in every one I’ve experienced since, writing was both read and listened to, as if it were a small gift, probably fragile, and meant to be opened carefully and with gratitude. No matter the condition of the wrapping paper, there just had to be a treasure inside.

During that first experience at the Write-A-Thon I didn’t know that the small NYWC office in Fort Greene, Brooklyn would become a place that would soon feel like home and that several years later I would train to become a workshop leader. My first placement was in a Queens community center serving LGBT senior citizens. Now, having experienced the workshop model from both sides, I can say with complete confidence that it is magic.

Yes, I just used the word magic.

As New Yorkers, we like to throw around the phrase everyone has a story, but how often is that story heard and valued? Many of the participants in our free workshops may have gone an entire lifetime internalizing the message that there is no place for their voice, even in a city of 8 million stories.

Some of the many groups NYWC serves include at-risk and disconnected youth, the homeless and formerly homeless, the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated, war veterans, people with disabilities, cancer and major illness, immigrants, and seniors, to name just a few. From the outside, telling these stories and writing from the heart may not seem like a top priority.

Yet, it is.

Our writers come back week after week to read and write, to share their work, to laugh, cry and everything in between. To create a place where that happens — on an astoundingly regular basis — takes hard work, and yes a little magic.

If you haven’t (yet) experienced one of our workshops, watch a beautiful short documentary about New York Writers Coalition here: rally.org/nywctellyourstorycampaign

I hope you will help us continue our hard work, and yes, our magic, by contributing to our “Tell Your Story” campaign, running through the month of July, and by spreading the word to others.

Support the NYWC Tell Your Story Campaign and help NYWC continue to provide free, unique, and powerful creative writing workshops to those who need them most.