“Where I’m from, if you tell your mom and dad you want to write poems for a living, they have no clue what that’s about,” Ms. Taylor said. “It can be very isolating. I never had a mentor until graduate school. That made all the difference.”
One non-profit organization is attempting to make that kind of difference available to girls much earlier in life.
Girls Write Now is a New York-based organization developed in order to “provide guidance, support, and opportunities for New York City’s underserved or at-risk high school girls, enabling them to develop their creative, independent voices, explore careers in professional writing, and learn how to make healthy choices in school, career, and life.”
GWN combines a one-on-one mentoring program with creative writing training, putting high school girls in contact with poets, novelists, and other writing professionals, in order to model leadership to a new generation of women writers.
Founded in 1998 by Maya Nussbaum, a creative writing major at Columbia, GWN has worked with almost 6,000 young women through weekly meetings, monthly writing workshops, and college prep. The program was featured in The New York Times in 2008, and recently received the Coming Up Taller Award for youth arts and humanities work.
One of GWN’s most compelling features is the relationship it builds between mentor and mentee. As the program’s founder told The Christian Science Monitor in 2005, “These girls are often learning how to write from the mentors, but the mentors are often learning how to live from the girls.”
When literature and writing act as a catalyst for this type of caring, two-way relationship, it would be difficult to deny the positive influence that words — in conversation or on paper — can have in the life of another individual.