Erica Silberman fell in love with Girls Write Now when she group-taught a playwriting workshop for them in 2005. Through the years, she has stayed involved with the organization as a mentor, a teacher in various outreach programs, and a member of both the Program Advisory Committee and the Host Committee. Erica comes to Girls Write Now from the luxury paint and wallpaper brand Farrow & Ball where she managed their flagship showroom, produced local marketing events, and worked as a color consultant. Erica has an extensive and wide-ranging background in the theatre as an actress, playwright, director, teacher, acting coach, and producer. She formerly served as co-president of the Women in the Arts and Media Coalition and on the board of the League of Professional Theatre Women. Erica is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and the Dramatic Question Theatre, where she runs a monthly literary and music salon.
Before joining Girls Write Now, you experienced the program up close as a mentor. What is it about Girls Write Now that resonates with you? And why did you return/what do you hope to give back and learn in your new staff role?
I was a mentor between 2005 and 2008. I’m still very much in touch with my two mentees. When I first came to Girls Write Now to group-teach a playwriting workshop, I was struck by how little the girls needed to get them going — a clearly structured exercise and they were off. They had so much percolating inside of them. I was also struck by how much planning and consideration of the girls’ needs went into the program, and the mentors…I’ve met some really great women through the organization who have become friends and collaborators.
Girls Write Now changes lives. Working towards that, and bouncing ideas off of a group of like-minded people, is not a bad way to spend your workday.
Girls Write Now has achieved so much over two decades, and provided countless girls with opportunities they normally wouldn’t have. I want to build on that and amplify the voices of the girls, make sure they’re front and center and reaching into every nook and cranny of our culture — emphasize how writing skills pave the path to college and career. Writing well affords them a myriad of professional possibilities. I want to expose the girls not only to amazing writers, but to professionals in various fields related to writing, so they learn that their ideas matter and are relevant. I want to demystify the process a bit by introducing them to the people who make the choices so the girls can forge a human connection and have someone to reach back to after they’ve graduated college.
I’d like to expand the college bound program. There’s a huge demand for the program and a huge need to level the playing field. The same with the digital program.
I’m all for partnering not only with the publishing world, but with any industry that relies on writers to tell their story – science, technology, fashion, design, and beyond.
I’ve spent the last seven and a half years in the interior design world, and I want to bring that to the Girls Write Now space – give the girls a beautiful environment to go to that says, you are important, you belong here. Mentors want to get to know mentors, and mentees want to get to know the other mentees, but there’s little time in the workshops for socializing. A beautiful welcoming vibrant space for events brings the community together.
I look forward to learning from the mentees again. They’re at such a creative age and are engaged in daily acts of courage. I’m also looking forward to learning about the various ways of learning.
What experience can you share with us from your time in the program?
I’ll never forget the moment at a public reading when a girl, who was a very powerful poet, was reading a piece that really went deep for her, and she flooded with emotion. My mentee and another mentee spontaneously jumped up on stage, flanked her with hugs and love, and helped her ground herself so she could continue. It was such a beautiful moment and I think it really speaks to what Girls Write Now is all about.
Who are your mentors and what have they taught you?
Mentors – I was slightly afraid of adults when I was young, so mainly my smart-beyond-their-years friends were my mentors. Though, I do think that over the years, as I got over my fear, anyone who said anything wise to me unknowingly became my mentor. Also, I’m the daughter of two shrinks, so I overanalyzed everything. Anyone who could still my mind and simplify things became my mentor. My acting teacher Deborah Hedwall was a mentor for a while – she taught me about getting my creative furnace burning, finding the genuine, and being open to beauty. Whatever day I’m having is the day I’m having – the day doesn’t wait for us to be perfect to start.
What was the last book you read that you’d love to see incorporated into the Girls Write Now curriculum?
Behold the Dreamers – by Imbolo Mbue. The immigrant experience.
Any last thoughts you want to share with the community?
I host a monthly literary and music salon for a theatre company that started as a fundraiser but has since morphed into this thing that lifts everyone out of the loudness and the rancor of this challenging time we’re experiencing in America. It’s hilarious and it’s the only way I’ll ever finish this book I’ve been writing for about ten years.