NYWC Tell Your Story Campaign: Tory Meringoff on when labels melt away

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  and NYWC’s campaign page. Read their stories, follow the campaign, and support NYWC by making a donation and following the NYWC Tell Your Story Campaign.

Tory Meringoff is a native New Yorker who currently leads two NYWC workshops for seniors, one at Services and Advocacy for Gay Elders (SAGE) and one at the 14th st. YMCA. She is thrilled to be part of the NYWC’s unique mission.

Like most people with a literary-themed Bachelor of Arts degree, I was grappling with the notion of what it even means to be a writer. What I knew for sure was this: the act of writing–putting pen to paper and giving my internal voice a puncture wound through which to gush–moved me and made me think better.Writing helped me to get to know myself, somehow.

 That’s why I was thrilled to find NY Writers Coalition. Each year, NYWC provides more than 1,000 free creative writing workshops specifically for historically marginalized groups (at-risk youth, homeless and formerly homeless, war veterans, and many more). The workshops are safe and supportive, with the promise of treating all writing as complete fiction and giving only positive feedback. Giving underrepresented people a place to find their voices and express themselves creatively and without fear of exposure works wonders for the human soul.

I currently have the pleasure of leading two dynamic, magical workshops with NYWC. Both my workshops are comprised of senior citizens,and  half of them are openly LGBTQ. When we get together to write, however, categories such as “Senior Citizen” and “LGBTQ” aren’t a priority. I love to watch as our labels melt away and leave us with nothing but some damn good stories to devour and savor.

Here’s how it works: I give out a prompt (which all are free to ignore), then invite people to write. Then I call people back to the table (which they don’t really have to do, they are free to keep writing) and we read our work aloud. In our responses to each others’ work, we discuss only what is working in the piece.

 In just one of these two-hour workshops, I have heard lyrical poetry about pigeons, expository magical realism used to describe growing up transgendered, an existential dialogue from a beauty pageant gone hilariously awry, and diary-entry style honesty detailing a personal and heartbreaking fear of death. I’ve seen people uncontrollably laugh and I’ve seen people uncontrollably cry. Those are equally beautiful experiences, by the way.

 It really is difficult for me to talk about NY Writers Coalition without getting sentimental, so forgive me. NYWC workshops are soulful, supportive, and life-affirming. They are the birthplaces of gritty, fresh, newborn writing. Heels-dug-in bravery. Places of support of one another and compassion for our common human struggles. You don’t get a lot of that on a day-to-day basis, especially in New York City. It’s amazing when you do.

I’ve written to you today because I want you to be a part of all of this. We need to keep our community growing and thriving, and you can help us by becoming part of this astonishing group of people. Your financial support is beyond appreciated, but more importantly, we want you to join our effort because you’re a writer like everyone else. Join us.

 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.