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World Building in Fantasy & Science Fiction: Week 1

This blog post was written by Chana Porter, this month’s instructor for the Fantasy Writing Workshops and mentee Sharon Young

I have the absolute privilege of leading a series of workshops at Girls Write Now this August, focused on World Building in Fantasy and Science Fiction. Throughout this series, we’ll be focusing on creating setting, developing complex characters, exploring ritual and culture, while using hands-on techniques to break through writer’s block and other possible pitfalls of writing long fiction.

For our first workshop, we focused on developing specificity of setting, to create the sights, sounds, and smells of our imaginary worlds. During this long writing exercise, students used a well-known fairy tale to explore setting, reframing the classic story in a modern context. Here’s a fairy tale Sharon Young, an attendee, adapted for her first exploration of developing setting. Read Sharon’s retelling below, and stay tuned for more updates on this series!

***

There’s this lizard that camouflages itself from its prey. Spiders, snakes, birds, and even other lizards all want a bite out of it. It survives by disappearing into tree bark, mimicking its surroundings. Not an exciting life, but enough to get by.

Maisie felt like this lizard. Adapting to whatever it took to survive.

Both of her parents were well respected scientists. They loved watching PBS documentaries and taking her to museums where they were granted discounted passes. At her 8th grade club fair they insisted that she signed for every science program.

The intelligence must have skipped a generation. Maisie never attended a single robotics meeting. She went to film club instead. During the robotics exhibition she casually stood by a random mechanism while her parents marveled over the wiring and coding.

And now there was this.

“Over 8 million people living in New York City. Pools of high schoolers to choose from. And Maisie has been selected to attend the prestigious Atticus High School!” Her dad proudly announced to her Gran from Alaska over the phone.

Maisie could hear him from her loft bed. Carefully pushing aside his stack of Stephen King novels, she tried to shut the door to their small bedroom crammed with various miscellany. How can they afford the tuition when they can barely fix this place up.

Maisie stepped on an astronaut Barbie she’d received many holidays ago. She’d specifically asked for a dancer. Her dad claimed it sold out. She stuffed it beneath the futon that her parents shared.

Gran was the first person he’d shared the news with. Then his close colleagues at the clinic. And probably the night class he taught at the community college

“My daughter. Can you believe it?”

Maisie stared blankly at the glossy brochure of the school campus. Students in white lab coats meticulously poured unidentifiable liquids into beakers. Another page proudly displayed the school’s mathlete champions. She never imagined that she’d get in. But something about her dad’s celebrity status in the science world told her otherwise.

Atticus wasn’t a place that could be easily overlooked. For startles, it occupied an old church building on the top of a hill. Maisie could see the tower from her apartment. The facade was antediluvian and crumbly. Paint peeled off the walls. The floors were always dusty, no matter how many times the janitors waxed it over the holidays. And with 340 students enrolled, it wasn’t a place you could be ignored.

At the school orientation a sea of navy and white uniforms occupied the lawn. For once Maisie got her wish. She blended with the crowd. Conversations buzzed around her about the renovated library and the new software for the computer lab.

“Did you catch yesterday’s episode of Supernatural?” she asked a curly redhead girl seated next to her. The fold – in chair squeaked as she shifted.

“What episode?”

The principal gave a groundbreaking message on how their generation was set on change the future. Pure intellects. She felt like a fraud.

By the middle of September she found herself struggling with her advanced math and biology courses. Why do I need to learn college material when I haven’t even seen high school material? Her parents were never home to help, always busy or working late shifts at the lab.

“If you don’t pass the final, I’ll have to fail you,” Mr. Yomishida told her two weeks before Thanksgiving break. “I’ll have to call your parents.”

“No they’re … busy during the day,” Maisie stammered. She’d lied about struggling in her core classes. Her dad beamed at her every morning like a shiny new award.

“That’s my good girl.”

“They’re going to find out eventually,” Mr. Yomishida straightened her stack of failed quizzes on his desk. “Attend homework help in the library in the meantime.”

Maisie was paired with Frank, a junior honor student. She found herself improving, just barely though. His tedious lectures dragged on. Sometimes she’d rather confront her parents than listen to Frank rant about dark matter. A boy sitting three rows in front stifled a laugh behind his book when Frank’s hands flailed in the air.

One Monday afternoon Maisie found herself dozing on her biology book. She’d tried reading a couple of pages before Frank arrived to spare her from his lengthy explanations. The LED lighting made her sleepy and she smelled like dusty books. Her phone vibrated against the oak table. The librarian shot her an irritated look.

Frank: Can’t come today. got a student council meeting

Maisie: thats ok. nobody can cover for you?

Frank: I’m the president

“Hey,” a boy slid into Frank’s usual seat. The one who always cracked up from Frank’s wild hand gestures. He flashed a smile. “Marcey, right?”

“It’s Maisie.”

“We have study hall together.”

“Right, you’re the bathroom monitor. Thought that face looked familiar”

“And you’re the one who scored a 5 on the AP world history exam.”

“So?”

“So, I’m asking you to tutor me. Mine ditched for jazz band.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Because I don’t wave like I’m about to set sail on the Titanic.”

Maisie bit her cheek to stop herself from laughing, a trick she’d learned from sitting with Frank for two hours daily.

“Ok, and if I agreed…”

“I’ll help you. You won’t be sorry”

She considered her options. Parents. Final. Frank.

“Deal.”

He got up abruptly to leave.

“Wait,” she half whispered half called. “I don’t know your name.”

“Just call me … R.”

Something about his response told Maisie that wasn’t his name. But before she could call him back, he was already out the door.

Once again, Maisie was left alone.

***

Chana Porter is a writer and teacher living in Brooklyn, New York. Her plays have been produced and developed in New York City by Rattlestick Playwright’s Theatre, Primary Stages, PS122, Dixon Place, True Love Productions, The Invisible Dog, and the White Bear in London. She has led classes and workshops in “Writing From The Body” as an artist-in-residence at Cave and Space on White, and as a guest teaching artist at Hampshire College. She is currently pursuing an M.F.A at Goddard College in Creative Writing and writing a series of Young Adult Science Fiction novels entitled New Human Classics.

Sharon Young is a high school junior at The High School for Math, Science, and Engineering. She started writing stories in second grade and never stopped. In her spare time she enjoys photography, daydreaming, walks in the park, and cupcakes.

 

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Getting College Essays Off the Ground

This blog post was co-written by program interns, Jocelyn Jacoby and Emily Becker. 

As part of our College Bound program, Girls Write Now organizes college essay writing workshops aimed at kickstarting the application process and getting a jump on the ever-important essay. Following the Morgan Stanley Resume Writing Workshop earlier this summer, volunteers and mentees met throughout the month of July to pour over essay drafts and hone their prose. Check out some personal reflections on the series below!

“For me the college essay writing process feels like it was yesterday, but I am sure glad it is over. Many of the girls come into our College Bound Essay Writing Workshop feeling unsure what they want to write about, unsure how to express themselves to a college admissions office in so few characters, even unsure what college admissions officers are looking for in the first place. Here at Girls Write Now we work to answer these questions and help the girls walk out of the workshop with a solid first draft and the confidence to continue working on it.

After being given time to first outline then write a draft, we broke into small groups to share and help each other, guided by a writing mentor. I loved being able to hear each of their fabulous essays and watch how well they were able to give and receive advice from their peers. Towards the end many of the girls asked me questions about the application process and college itself and I was happy to be able to counsel them on the subject given how enthusiastic they are. I know every one of them will bring something marvelous and unique to whichever school they attend.” — Jocelyn Jacoby, Program Intern.

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Photo by Munessh Jain

“Of all facets of the college application process, the essay is perhaps the most personal, the one place where you can abandon the laundry list of activities and instead focus on reflecting your true self. This July, our girls took a break from summer jobs and trips to the beach to hunker down and tackle the tricky business of beginning. At our Essay Writing series, our fabulous team of volunteers broke down the writing process, emphasizing the importance of letting your story shine in the essay. The girls were challenged to identify what aspect of their lives the application would be incomplete without. Faced with this gargantuan question, the girls responded with incredible, varied stories—stories of fighting gender expectations in the weight room, of celebrating Ramadan in India, of the power of a name. The girls broke into small groups, and, led by a volunteer, filled the circle with the power of their collective voices. Through discussion and critique the girls became to shape their writing, crafting the foundations of honest, funny, and moving essays. A few weeks later, the girls had the opportunity to come in again, this time to meet one-one-one with a volunteer for personalized feedback. We know their dedication and enthusiasm through the summer months will churn out some truly amazing essays!” — Emily Becker, Program Intern.

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Alum Spotlight: Heather & Isoris

Nothing breaks the Girls Write Now bond. Once pairs forge a relationship at Girls Write Now, they stay connected well into the future, to college and beyond. This week, we’re delighted to share an update on mentor-alumna Heather Smith and mentee-alumna Isoris Nivar.

Isoris & Heather’s pair portrait during their year together at Girls Write Now

They were paired together in 2007 during Heather’s first year as a volunteer and Isoris’ final year in high school. Building off of an unforgettable year together, Isoris went on to college, employing the skills and confidence promoted by Girls Write Now, and is now looking to give back to the world herself. Heather stayed heavily involved with Girls Write Now, and we are grateful for her dedication to the community. Both forces of nature, read more about what they’ve accomplished since they joined Girls Write Now.

HEATHER SMITH

Heather has been an active member of the Girls Write Now community since 2007. Isoris was her mentee in her first year. The pair quickly bonded over their shared passion for music, meeting weekly in the recording studio Heather was managing. They have stayed in touch regularly since Isoris started university, and Heather has been thrilled to watch Isoris excel in all aspects of her life.

Heather has been Drumhead Magazine’s Executive Editor for the last eight years, and recently transitioned to be Marketing Manager for Kaman Music Corp, a division of Fender Musical Instruments Corp. Although she has relocated to Lyndhurst, NJ, she will continue her association with Girls Write Now as Mentor Community Chair. You can reach her directly at mentorcommunity@girlswritenow.org.

ISORIS NIVAR

“Since completing Girls Write Now, I moved to Philadelphia and began attending college. I just graduated from Temple University with a B.A in Psychology. During my junior year of college I landed a job at the Schizophrenia Research Center located in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. My experiences with the patients, some of whom were not that much older than me, stirred up a passion to work with the schizophrenic population. I quickly realized how misunderstood and underserved they were.

I am currently still working there, and hopefully come fall will have a full-time position. I am also going to pursue an M.D/Ph.D program where I can provide psychiatric care to this population as well as conduct research with the hopes of implementing treatment before symptoms worsen.
I am forever grateful for the skills that I’ve learned in Girls Write Now, and for being introduced to my mentor Heather.”
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An Evening with Author Sarah Murray to Benefit Girls Write Now

Dancing with the Dead

This post was written by Development Intern, Megan Malloy.

Last night, acclaimed author and journalist Sarah Murray spoke to a crowded room about something we don’t usually speak about: death. All proceeds from the event went towards supporting GWN’s programs and mission. Murray is the author of the book Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre, How We Dignify Death. The book has been called “an Eat, Pray, Love for the afterlife” by the Washington Post, and it’s a medley of personal memoir, anthropological research, and philosophical insights.

“It’s so important to support young writers,” said Sarah. “I didn’t have a huge amount of support while I was at school, and so to have had something like this would have been phenomenal. If I can contribute to that in any way, that’s made me happy.”

Sarah Murray with a photo of her father, Nigel Murray, whose death inspired her to write her book.

The evening’s festivities were held in the stunning offices of Interface, the world’s largest producer of carpet tile. Not only is Interface located in the shadow of the Empire State Building, but it has a sustainable business model that will reduce the company’s carbon footprint to zero by the year 2020.

Panoramic views from the Interface offices.

Panoramic views from the Interface offices.

Board member Marci Alboher introduced Girls Write Now and mentee Misbah Awan. Misbah regaled the audience with her words, reading a fictional account of a young boy cremating his baby brother. Misbah moved the crowd with her piece’s evocative use of detail, and the contrasts she drew between the innocence of childhood and the finitude of death. After sharing her story, Misbah spoke about the influence of GWN in her life, saying that it has given her the confidence to share her work. Misbah now works at the Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE), an advocacy group for immigrant and refugee women and girls, and Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), a community organizing group for South Asian Americans.

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Our fabulous mentor, Hadia Sheerazi, spoke about what it was like to grow up female in Pakistan, and how having a father who emphasized girls’ education made all the difference in her future. She spoke about the bond she shares with her mentee, Carmen, and how she tries to impart to Carmen that “what you have to say matters.”

Overall, the event raised $1525. Thank you to all who attended, and all who gave generously to support our work!

Check out an excerpt of Misbah’s writing below.

Excerpt

  • Misbah Awan7 National Anthems
    Out of all my travels, it’s the children I remember, with perfect clarity; they are impossible to forget. Their tiny hands. Their vibrant smiles. Their eyes, dancing. Their tattered clothes, or lack thereof. But this one was different. And it was only then I had realized that this is not a personal world, no matter how much of it recognizes you in the streets…
    Out of these children, no one paid more than a second’s worth of attention to a little boy, about ten years old, walking by alongside the edge of the dirt road. The boy was wearing faded white clothes, which barely protected him from the heat of the late afternoon sun. His feet were bare and his arms stiff. He walked while carrying a baby on his back. The little head behind his was tipped back, as if the baby were fast asleep.
    Passing strangers opened a pathway for this boy simultaneously — it was a becoming routine amongst the war-weary nation. A lone black dog wagged his tail when he passed by…

Check out more photos on our Facebook page here!

 

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Girls Write Now Selected as Semifinalist for 2014 Nonprofit Excellence Awards

We’re thrilled to announce that Girls Write Now has been selected as one of ten semifinalists for the 2014 New York Community Trust Nonprofit Excellence Awards!

Produced by the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York, Philanthropy New York, and sponsored by WNYC, the awards honor organizations with exemplary management practices, better enabling them to realize their goals and cultivate their programs. Michael Clark, president of the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee, applauded the semifinalists for being ”models of key best practices that showcase how nonprofits can employ strong management to better fulfill their missions.” We aim to be transparent, efficient, and innovative in our management so that supporting the next generation of writers will happen today, tomorrow, and years into the future.  

“For roughly half of our history, Girls Write Now was an entirely volunteer-driven enterprise,” explained founder and executive director, Maya Nussbaum. “As we increased capacity across our board, staff, and budget, our aim has been to harness that volunteer power while professionalizing the organization’s management strategies. The application process for the 2014 Nonprofit Excellence Awards has helped Girls Write Now put a laser focus on our structures and systems. The process has given us pride for all that we have accomplished in the areas of outcomes tracking, board engagement, IT, finances, fundraising, communications, and more.”

We’re humbled to be in the company of such  diverse nonprofits as Bowery Residents’ Committee, Community Access, Equal Justice USA, Graham Windham, Leake and Watts, Inc., Planned Parenthood of New York City, Row New York, Safe Horizen, and Washington Heights CORNER Project. They’ll be announcing three finalists later this year, so stay tuned! Read more about the awards and each semifinalist in the official press release.

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Meet the Team: Welcome New Staff & Board Member!

This summer, Girls Write Now continues to expand, innovate, and invite new talent into the organization. We are excited to welcome our newest staff members, Katie Zanecchia and Amber West, as well as a new member of our Board of Directors, Michelle Levin.

Plus check out our newest opening for Operations Coordinator!

Our new Communications Coordinator, Katie Zanecchia, comes to Girls Write Now with a background in book publishing, digital rights, and communications. Prior to joining GWN, Katie helped create the digital rights department at Writers House Literary Agency, where she managed all things digital and self-publishing, as well as identified new, innovative channels for publication and advised on digital marketing best practices. Most recently, she was managing communications at an international-development-meets-technology non-profit in Washington, DC, where she helped kick-start their re-branding and digital outreach strategies.

Joining the Development team is our newest Senior Grant Writer, Amber West. Amber is a writer who brings more than a decade of experience in nonprofit development, communications, and management to Girls Write Now. She worked for five years as Grants Coordinator for UCSF’s Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health before moving east to earn her MFA in Poetry at NYU and her PhD in English at UCONN. West has taught creative writing in under-resourced public schools through nonprofits such as America SCORES and Community Word Project. She is co-founder and director of NYC-based artist collective, Alphabet Arts, and artistic director of the Puppets & Poets festival at The Bushwick Starr theater.

Last but not least, meet our newest Board Member, Michelle Levin. Michelle is a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP where she concentrates in white-collar criminal defense, regulatory enforcement proceedings, and complex litigation. She has represented individuals and companies in high-profile and sensitive investigations and prosecutions conducted by the Department of Justice, various US Attorneys’ Offices, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. She has also represented numerous pro bono clients in need of assistance in criminal, civil rights, asylum and family law matters. She is a native New Yorker and a proud graduate of the public school system.

We’re thrilled to have Katie, Amber, and Michelle with us. Please introduce yourself at our next event!

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GWN Grads: The Next Chapter

This post was written by communications intern, Madison Campbell.

Our senior girls were just as successful as ever this year, with a 100% graduation rate from high school. The graduates will be moving on to attend an extremely impressive list of colleges and universities, including University of Pennsylvania, Syracuse University, Howard University, Pomona College, Stanford University, Pace University, Skidmore College, Harvard College, College of Staten Island, New York University and more. Our mentees have come so far and have accomplished so much, and we are so proud of them!

Here are a few of the GWN mentees who will soon be beginning their freshman years at college:

Carmin Wong has been a mentee for two years, and will be attending Howard University this  fall. Carmin’s mentor, Hadia, says, “I have seen her grow and develop a distinct and strong voice, and as a teacher and friend, it has been an honor and a pleasure to be a part of her journey. I cannot wait to see her take on the world. And she will!” Carmin and Hadia wrote a powerful piece together called “Who Am I,” which discusses race, identity, and how others perceive them. Check it out below!

Second year mentee Karla Kim graduated from Hunter College High School, and will be attending the University of Pennsylvania this  fall – with a National Merit Scholarship! Karla’s mentor, Sherry, explains, “Helping her discover herself as a writer has reawakened my joy of the craft.” This past April, Karla wrote and performed a piece titled, “Dear Christina Yang: Farewell to My Person,” which was also featured on the Huffington Post.

Angelica Rozza, third year mentee, will be attending State University of New York at New Paltz this  fall. She graduated from Long Island City High School, and won a Merit Scholarship to State University of New York at Potsdam. Angelica says of her mentor, Joanna, “Without her support and motivation, senior year and the college application process would have been a nightmare.” Angelica wrote and performed a piece titled, “The Woman Upstairs” at our June CHAPTERS reading.

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Ambassadors of the Arts

This post was written by communications intern, Emely Paulino.

This summer, our mentees have been involved with some incredible leadership initiatives. From opening the Youth I.N.C State of the Market Conference to speaking at the YWCA Symposium, meet our ambassadors of the arts!

Rumer LeGendre — Second-year mentee Rumer LeGendre was selected to perform at a reading of Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” at the Harlem Hospital Pavilion on June 16th! Partnered with the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, the event was a celebration of what it means to be female in the 21st century, with a focus on empowering women and girls.

Taysha Clark — Mentee alum and Youth Board member Taysha Clark spoke at the YWCA Potential to Power Girls Symposium on June 2nd, 2014. Taysha is the President and Founder of the Barnard College Civil Liberties Club, and United Nations Representative for Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund. Currently, she is a sophomore at Barnard College majoring in Political Science and Human Rights with a minor in Sociology and Race and Ethnic Studies.

Priscilla Guo – “GWN has been my sisterhood of traveling pens/ Has been a place to grow/ By working a lot harder/ By being a self-starter/ By going so much farther/ I’m coming up taller.” On June 17,  recent GWN grad Priscilla Guo opened the Youth I.N.C State of the Market Conference with her poem, Coming Up Taller. Over 300 private equity representatives and senior investment professionals convened for the 7th annual State of the Market conference, with Governor Mitt Romney and David Bonderman as headliners. The two-day conference aimed to raise funds for Youth I.N.C., an organization that financially supports youth-serving non-profits — one of them being GWN!

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Steve Orr (Founder & Executive Director, Youth Inc.), Priscilla Guo (Mentee, GWN), and Rebecca Haverson (Writing & Mentoring Program Manager, GWN)

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Girls Write Now Presents: Ode to Malala

“Malala Yousafzai and Girls Write Now share the notion that one young woman’s voice can open up great possibilities. I like to think that’s true.” -Suzzy Roche

Girls Write Now presents “Ode to Malala,” a music video that was born two years ago when mentee, Priscilla Guo, was moved to write a poem about 15-year-old Pakistani education activist, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot on her way to school. On June 12th, Malala turned 17. To honor her and her ever-important work, the Girls Write Now community shared this music video as we as an organization also head into our 17th year. For us at Girls Write Now, Malala Day represents everything we’re working for. A girl’s voice matters, and Girls Write Now is making that happen, one girl at a time.

We are all Malala. We all have stories to tell. Let yours be heard. Watch this video and support the next generation of women writers. A portion of the proceeds will also benefit the Malala Fund. ”Ode to Malala” is now available on iTunes.

“Ode to Malala,” was born through a collaboration of creative forces. Priscilla Guo, a graduating fourth year mentee headed to Harvard this fall, wrote a poem inspired by Malala and performed it at the 2012 International Day of the Girl and at Lincoln Center. Legendary folk singer-songwriter Suzzy Roche, Priscilla, and third-year mentee Najaya Royal collaborated on adapting the poem into lyrics, which Suzzy then put to music. We debuted it at the 2014 Girls Write Now Awards, honoring Dawn L. Davis, Roberta Kaplan, and Gloria Steinem.

Gloria Steinem said after hearing it for the first time: “That was the best song I’ve ever heard. Absolutely great!”

The song was performed by students of the Princeton Atelier 496 program, a program Toni Morrison helped start in 1994, under the guidance of Suzzy Roche and Meg Wolitzer, and recorded by Stewart Lerman. The filmmakers Andrew Zox and Daniel Zox, directed this outstanding music video in multiple locations throughout New York City. They said of the process, “it was incredible filming a music video to a song inspired by Malala Yousafzai, written by a young female poet, and performed by a legendary female folk artist.”

Learn more about the Girls Write Now girls involved:

Priscilla Guo is a rising freshman at Harvard University. In 2014, Priscilla was named one of Business Insider’s “Most Impressive High School Graduates.” She was appointed by Mayor Bloomberg to serve as a youth representative on the New York City Youth Board and is tasked with advising the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development on growing youth programming. Priscilla founded her high school’s UNICEF chapter and served as its President for four years. An impassioned champion for girls’ education, Priscilla serves as a National Teen Advisor to Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation campaign that empowers American teens to raise awareness and funds for U.N. programs that aid some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls. She also recently worked with Congresswoman Grace Meng on the Girls Count Act, which ensures girls receive birth certificates, documentation that is critical for accessing education, health and social services and career opportunities. As a writing fellow for NYCAN, she wrote and researched articles for education reform. Priscilla has been a mentee and Poetry Ambassador at Girls Write Now for four years. She says of Girls Write Now, “It has been my sisterhood of the traveling pens.”

Najaya Royal’s mother heard about Girls Write Now when she was eleven, and Najaya waited eagerly to apply. School was not always a safe place for her, much like Malala. In middle school, Najaya was cyber-bullied. Writing, a comfort to her since elementary school, gave her an outlet for expressing herself during this time. Now, she’s making waves with her poetry, already earning a Silver Key in Poetry from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and serving as a Brooklyn Community Foundation Peter Jay Sharp Youth Arts Fellow during 2013-2014.

Nishat Anjum was a second year mentee with Girls Write Now and is headed to Macaulay Honors at Brooklyn College this fall. A native of Bangladesh, Nishat is a recipient of the Silver Key in Short Story for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. She reflects on her experience with her mentor, “Being a teenager is about developing your own identity and finding your place in the world. While I haven’t discovered what the universe wants me to do, I wouldn’t have realized my potential as a writer if I weren’t paired with Julie. Meeting Julie was like opening my eyes to the world beyond my island. I learned that sometimes the best story you can tell is your own, and that fewer words can have more significance. By encouraging me to reach past my comfort zones, Julie has given me a better perspective on who I am.”

Mennen Gordon will continue with Girls Write Now this fall, as she heads into her senior year at the Institute for Collaborative Education. She has already received a Silver Key Honorable Mention from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

Rumer LeGendre, born and raised in New York City, is headed into her third year at Girls Write Now. In 2014, Rumer was chosen to perform at a reading of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow Is Enuf” ​at an event hosted by the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc.

Ariana Nicoletta is a member of our Youth Board, and describes Girls Write Now as the first creative outlet that accepted her freely and without judgment. Arianna attends New York University – Steinhardt, and majors in Communicative Sciences & Disorders.

Jade Rodriguez joined the GWN community as a sophomore, and will begin her junior year this fall. She attends the Urban Assembly Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists and writes for her school newspaper the BSSWA Bulletin. Because of Girls Write Now, she’s “taking risks and breaking through.” We are looking forward to watching her and her writing grow as she continues with Girls Write Now.

Natalia Vargas-Caba is a proud 2007 mentee-alum who works to further solidify the sense of sisterhood in the community by exploring new outlets and new inspirations. In 2014, she returned to Girls Write Now as a spring semester intern to give back for all the inspiring experiences the community had delivered to her as a young writer. She completed her English Associates Degree at Bronx Community College and will continue her studies at Sarah Lawrence in fall 2014 with a major in Creative Writing and Women’s Studies. When not interning or studying, Natalia can be found enclosed within the quiet, protective walls of an undiscovered cafe sipping hot green tea with Rimbaud’s words on hand.

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June Chapters Recap: Breaking Through and Moving Forward

This post was written by Mentee Shannon Daniels

Shannon at CHAPTERS

Shannon Daniels reads her piece at CHAPTERS on June 20th 2014.

        It didn’t hit me when I’d spun before the vanity mirrors of the green room, munched on granola bars and pretzels, and rehearsed with Amanda in the stairwell. It didn’t hit me when we practiced the first lines of our pieces one at a time, recited tongue twisters, and shook out our bodies before the show. It didn’t even hit me once I was on stage. Not when I walked down, not when I high-fived the row of mentees who’d cheered for me in the crowd. The thought that this would be my last CHAPTERS performance and as a Girls Write Now mentee is still hard for me to believe.

    After the show, my mentor, Whitney, flung her arms around me.

    “I hope they’re not taking pictures of me crying.”

    I laughed. “I think you’re good.”

    “I’m just so happy and proud of you,” she said. “I mean, this is your last CHAPTERS, our last year together, and you’ve grown up so much.”

        It was the best compliment anyone could’ve given me: not that my writing was “nice” or “interesting” or that I was special for winning awards, but that I had changed. I was different from the Shannon who never thought she could write plays or make a video game or create characters with complex, real relationships – none of which I could’ve done without Whitney’s guidance and encouragement.

        I made my way through the crowd. As I hugged and chatted with the mentees and mentors I’d befriended over the past three years, I realized that this really would be a good-bye, at least for a while. I’ll attend college on the opposite coast, miles from the community that has made New York a beautiful, bustling, electric part of me. I’ll miss the water towers and slosh of cars going over puddles outside my window. I’ll miss my parents, my friends, and the mentees who have become as engrained in my story as a stars in a constellation. But, more than anything, I feel ready for all the “breakthroughs” that lie ahead. I know that when I make my way back to New York, I’ll have a community of women waiting for my stories and eager to share their own

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