In the world of traditional publishing, it can be difficult for newcomers to find a place for their work. Without influence and a large social media following, the voices of unknown writers are often silenced. Aaron Zimmerman has been trying to change that. As the Founder and Executive Director of the New York Writers Coalition, Zimmerman wants to encourage the writer in everyone.
After facilitating a poetry writing workshop in a residence for homeless and low-income working people, he saw the need to give a voice to a community of writers that is seldom heard.
“I was aware of the power of writing and community to lead to all kinds of transformations for people and help them connect with different experiences they’ve had,” Zimmerman says.
Since 2002, the New York Writers Coalition has offered free and low-cost writing workshops across New York City. And while most of the workshops are open to the public, the organization’s primary mission is bringing their writing programs to communities that are often underserved including LGBTQ youth, victims of sexual abuse, and the incarcerated.
Headquartered in Fort Greene, the NYWC’s services are offered in several locations around the city, including various branches of the Brooklyn Public Library, transitional housing facilities, and Rikers Island. At each workshop, volunteer group leaders offer an optional writing prompt to workshop participants and allow them a chance to share their finished product and receive feedback from the group.
Zimmerman notes that the workshop experience is unique to each participant. Some attendees are seeking advice on getting their work published, while others are simply looking for an opportunity to express themselves and be a part of a larger community.
And once the writers put down their pens, the NYWC does their part to help program participants share their work with the rest of the world. In addition to hosting a monthly read-aloud series, the NYWC has compiled and published nearly 50 anthologies of some of the writing generated in their workshops.
Through their varied programs and partnerships, the New York Writers Coalition strives to offer a diverse group of writers a place where they can work side by side to express themselves and inspire social change.
“The way writing is taught traditionally, leaves a lot of people out. What we’ve seen after 15 years and 15,000 people coming through our workshops is that everyone can write if you create the right space and are encouraging, people will amaze you. It’s magic,” says Zimmerman.
You can learn more about the NYWC here.