by Jen Weitsen
Jen Weitsen volunteers for NYWC committees and events. She lives in Manhattan, and is working on her first novel.
Last Friday, May 18, I took the day off.
I laced up my sneakers, grabbed my notebook, camera and headed out for a day long creative writing adventure – courtesy of the New York Writers Coalition (NYWC). And the added bonus — it was Free! New York Writers Coalition was hosting NYWC Day and holding writing workshops throughout iconic spots in NYC. I was geared up to be a part of it.
The night before, I had mapped out my writing route. It was a tough call because there were so many appealing writing “hot spots” offered throughout the five boroughs. I could head to Coney Island or embark on a sunset sail aboard the Staten Island Ferry. I had the option of either hopping on the #7 subway train or popping in on one of the many Brooklyn, Queens or Bronx writing workshop possibilities.
As I stepped out of my apartment building, I was embraced by a brilliant deep blue sky perched above the Empire State Building. After the dreary and unseasonably cold days earlier that the week, Spring had finally arrived. I walked to the #6 train with the sun gently warming my face, and a light breeze drifting through my hair.
When the automated system announced that the last stop would be “Brooklyn Bridge – City Hall,” I had an impromptu idea to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge as a way to kick off my marathon of creativity.
I began my trek over the bridge, snapping pictures and people watching along the way. I soon realized that I hadn’t walked over the Brooklyn Bridge since last September. Strolling over the wooden planks and staring up at the intricate web of cables suspended from Manhattan to Brooklyn was like reacquainting myself with an old friend. I always enjoyed watching tourists experience the bridge for the first time while gazing out on NYC’s landscape with awe. It makes me feel proud to live in this amazing city.
First Writing Stop –Brooklyn Borough Hall
Nancy began the workshop by explaining that NYWC feels that everyone is a writer and can write in their own voice in a safe space. Throughout the year, the New York Writers Coalition creates writing communities where no one ever thought they could exist – for at risk youth, the homeless, the incarcerated, war veterans, seniors, and people with disabilities and illnesses.
Nancy graciously passed around the workshop guidelines and said there would be no criticism – only positive feedback in today’s session and that we would be experiencing creativity at its essence. During the session, our workshop leader Rose Gorman gave the group writing prompts. Sharing my work and listening to other writers read was inspiring.
Towards the end of the workshop, Mark Zustovich a member of Brooklyn Borough President’s Marty Markowitz’s administration presented the New York Writers Coalition with a Proclamation for NYWC Day. The proclamation commended and congratulated the New York Writers Coalition for providing a decade of unique and powerful creative writing workshops and for fostering new voices in the public sphere.
Next Writing Stop – Strawberry Fields, Central Park
I checked my watch, re-energized with a quick snack and booked it for the 2/3 express train. It was 4:45pm and if I hurried, I could try and catch the last half of the workshop held in Central Park’s Strawberry Fields. Amazingly, I made it to Strawberry Fields in just under a half hour. Oddly, the subway didn’t delay me on NYWC day. It was like the MTA knew I needed good train service for my writing marathon.
Once in Central Park, I walked pass the iconic black and white Imagine mosaic – a memorial and tribute to the Beatles musician and peace activist John Lennon. On the grass, beneath the tranquil shelter of trees, I found two large groups writing with Aaron Zimmerman, Founder and Executive Director of NY Writers Coalition, along with workshop leaders Erin Ehsani, Jaime Shearn Coan and Jaclyn Perlmutter.
I sat down, took my shoes off and let my toes feel the cool blades of grass. The light of the day had softened and a gentle breeze filled the air. Before beginning to write, I closed my eyes briefly to listen to the hum of people passing by melded with the chirping birds. There was something invigorating about writing in this section of the park which evokes peace, hope and inspiration much like Lennon’s music.
Dahiana, a participant, who shared a piece of writing, said the workshop was impacting for her. “As a writer sometimes you get insecure,” she said. “It was inspiring to hear the positive feedback, and be among other writers just like you.”
Final Writing Stop – Sunset sail on the Staten Island Ferry
I decided to power up with a cappuccino and then head to my last workshop on the Staten Island Ferry. Before we boarded, workshop leader Shaina Feinberg passed around a bag filled with writing prompts and announced we would have the entire boat ride to write and then the opportunity to share our work in small groups on the Staten Island side.
As the boat pulled away from the shoreline, I felt relaxed watching the ripples of the wake, and the Manhattan skyline getting smaller in the distance. I wrote in my notebook and gazed out on a beautiful majestic red and orange colors while the sun set behind Ellis Island.
On the ferry, I met and interacted with many workshop participants. Alison, who shared writing in my group on the Staten Island side, said the ferry ride was the perfect amount of time and a great way to segment the workshop.
Another participant Nora, who hosts an online prompt blog called http://exercisesinwriting.tumblr.com added that the workshop shows you have the ability to write anywhere even on your commute to work.
Oleg, who is originally from Russia, and now lives in Queens said he found the workshop atmosphere natural and inspiring.
Mark, a sculptor, said he found the workshop and the leaders very supportive. “The power of writing has the ability to break down barriers and open people up emotionally,” he said. “Being here tonight gave me a good feeling.”
I can relate to Mark’s sentiment. I have participated in NYWC events before and it always leaves me with a positive and inspiring feeling. It often helps break down the walls of writing isolation, and offers a community enriched with positive feedback and social responsibility.
It gives me courage to be the writer I hope to be, while also offering me an expanded vision of who I can be as a member of society.
If you want to see what I mean, join the NYWC on June 24th for the annual Write-A-Thon. Participants ask friends and family to sponsor them for a day-long creative writing event. It’s a way to give back to the New York Writers Coalition – an organization which gives so much to society.
I’ll be there – ready for another creative writing adventure.
Hope to see you there!