Girls Write Now pairs professional writers with underserved young women to help them discover the power of their own voices. As NYC’s schools feel the strains of transitioning to remote learning, GWN mentees have reported increased stress and anxieties.
We asked Maya Nussaum, Founder & Executive Editor at Girls Write Now, how is the organization adapting its services during the Coronavirus pandemic, and this is what she shared with us.
Photo via girlswritenow.org
How have you adapted your services because of the Coronavirus?
Maya Nussaum: We already had a good system in place to allow for the programming to go digital, including Slack, and overnight we adapted our programming to reach not only our GWN community but a global community. A few highlights from these digital and programmatic innovations include:
●Virtual Curriculum: Transforming place-based pair sessions and group workshops into interactive experiences with facilitated small group discussions in breakout rooms on Zoom and Slack.
● Pods & Slack: “Pods” of mentors and mentees—communities within our community—are fully activated to share/write/guide, and encourage each other.
● Girls Write Now Live: This year our spring performance series has become live multi-genre, multimedia experiences on Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube, available for an expanded audience. For our April pilot alone, over 1,000 viewers participated worldwide from Brooklyn to Botswana.
● Wellness/Mental Health: We are also offering new ways of addressing the mental health and professional development of our mentees as they cope with these challenging times:
● Wellness Wednesdays: We share curated life resources from food and internet accessibility to mental health and finances—along with plenty of weekly exercises for the mind, body, and soul--through our website and Slack.
● Community Chats: We are hosting weekly chats for mentors and mentees only to meet their unique needs in a more regular and concentrated way.
● Writing Works: Our workforce development program, Writing Works, moves entirely online, as mentees receive professional development from employees across industries, learning valuable best practices which are being fine-tuned in real time—keeping mentees competitive candidates on the trails they choose to blaze.
● Expanded Daily Programming: With Pair Prompt Parties every Tuesday and Thursday, Community Chats on Wednesdays, our beloved Friday Night Salons Series opened up to the public every Friday, and our regular full-day Saturday workshops, we have dramatically increased our innovative, inspiring, and customized programming—nearly every day of the week!—and for a wider audience.
● Professional Development & Alumnae Development : Much of these programs double as professional development for mentors and alumnae, many of whom are artists and struggling more than ever. GWN is here to help them with tools, networking, peer support, and socialization.
● Social Media Footprint: We share much of our valuable resources and curriculum through our social channels. Over a 28-day period, we saw on Twitter a 118% increase in tweets, with an average of 3K impressions daily, double the amount of previous months; on Facebook a 1,189% increase in post engagement; on Instagram, an average impression rate of 1.2K with ~300 visitors on our Instagram profile each day. Over 300 people joined our mailing list.
● Multimedia Publications: Our online showcase of writing and art takes on even greater importance in the COVID era. In times of crisis, we find ourselves turning to art and writing to help make sense of the world around us—to remind us that there is always hope, that words help bridge the gaps of isolation, and that we are never alone. Now our storytelling becomes more interactive and dynamic. We have used this opportunity to not only develop online portfolios, but for the mentees’ original multimedia work to drive an entire website redesign positioning GWN as a “channel” of mentee podcasts, videos, design, writing, and more. Our community even collaborated on a new zine called “GWN Guide to Life in the Time of Corona”, chronicling the kind of wellness-focused writing and activities they need most now, from recipes and meditation mantras to recommended guidelines on crafting and weaving.
● Pair Prompt Parties (double as professional development for mentors): To facilitate continuation of consistent weekly mentor/mentee sessions, twice each week mentors lead sessions for small groups of pairs on a rotating basis, capitalizing on their specific area of writing expertise. This relieves the burden of mentors to innovate virtual curriculum themselves, allows the community to organically build its virtual curriculum arsenault, and further connects individuals during a time of extreme isolation. Some recent examples of Pair Prompt Party themes: Audio Diaries, Silly Prompts for Smart People, Writing With Your Senses, Six Word Stories, and more!
● Media/Performance Tech Training: In advance of all public performances, mentors and mentees will receive customized coaching, focused on the virtual presentation.
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