How One Nonprofit Uses Social Media To Build Writers & Encourage Storytelling

A few months ago, I found myself longing to be in a writing workshop class like the ones I'd taken in college. I missed sitting in a room with other writers, talking about craft and each other's work.

I did some quick research online to see what was available through my local community college, but nothing worked with my schedule. I forgot about my quest for a while, and then one day on Instagram I saw I had a new follower: a local non-profit called Project Write Now. They were located in my area and they had exactly the kind of classes I'd been seeking.

Since Instagram brought us together, I thought it would be interesting to talk to Project Write Now about how social media plays a role in how they communicate with their community and how they get their message out.

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What is Project Write Now?

Project Write Now is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a writing community and helping people of all ages become better writers. We provide free writing workshops for qualifying organizations and schools, as well as fee-based classes to children, teens, and adults in our Red Bank studio. Last February, we launched an after-school writing program called "The Studio," open by application to 12- to 14-year-old local students. We also hold literary events, including our "An Artist's Perspective" seminar series, which runs monthly and features local artists speaking about their craft. Our goal is to bring people together to write and share their stories.

How was Project Write Now founded?

Jennifer Chauhan started a private writing studio in her career change, following her love of writing and teaching. But she wanted to reach more people, people who might not seek writing support or identify as a writer. In August of 2014, she teamed up with Allison Tevald and together they created the nonprofit organization, offering studio classes as well as an outreach program for local schools and mission-based organizations.

How has social media impacted how you spread your mission?

Some people have told us that they discovered our organization through Instagram or Facebook. One of our favorite history buffs, Sarah Vowell, has been "liking" our posts on FB and we're a bit starstruck by that! Each social media channel also has a slightly different audience. Many parents find out about summer writing camps and studio classes through Facebook, but we can't reach our young students that way. When we have a schedule change for The Studio, we let the participants know via Instagram, and ask them to spread the word.

How has Instagram, in particular?

Instagram has helped us connect with local organizations as well as attract some worldwide attention through hashtags like #amwriting. It's great to be able to show the community how we are helping our youth. Sharing a picture of a child reading their [singular] work to a group is one of our favorites. It's a special moment of risk-taking in a safe environment, where people are really listening and hearing what the student has to say about their experience or opinion.

What was #GivingPoetryTuesday?

#GivingPoetryTuesday was an exciting and fun idea that started out at the Red Bank train station with an actor reading a poem to very cranky commuters in the cold, rain, and dark. We took photos and videos of all the performances throughout the day around Red Bank: a firefighter in full gear at library storytime; the mayor at a restaurant; the schools reading poetry over morning announcements; and more. We raised awareness about our organization in Giving Tuesday by "giving poetry" in surprise locations. We popped into some local businesses. Some of our students translated their English-written poems for Spanish-speaking proprietors.

What are your plans for the future?

We are always envisioning the future growth of the organization, and we've grown tremendously in the past year and a half. The after-school students are learning about publishing their work and will be launching an online literary magazine at the end of the fall. In the near future, we'd like our adult students to begin reading their work in public.

How do you plan to use social media, going forward?

We're going to continue to use social media to let people know about our programming and events. #givingpoetrytuesday readings will be chronicled on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. We're also toying with the idea of hosting a podcast interviewing "tweens" and what their lives are like in terms of writing, human connection, and technology.

If someone wants to support or get involved with Project Write Now, how can they go about doing this?

During the summer, we have an internship program for teens. We’re also always looking for more young and adult students to sign up for classes in the studio. Our instructors love everyone's stories and helping them discover the possibilities in their writing projects. We're always seeking funding to support our outreach work and the after-school program.

To learn more about Project Write Now, donate, or find out more about opportunities, you can visit projectwritenow.org or email info@projectwritenow.org.

 

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