Raise Your Words: Creating Community Online

"Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder."
-Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

Join Our Vibrant Community of Writers!

Through our Raise Your Words community initiative we will share and celebrate you and your stories. Our stories matter, now more than ever. 

Since its inception in 1983, the goal of The Writing Institute has remained the same: to help each writer become the writer they want to be. Over the last three decades there has been a revolution in technology; the internet has made it possible for writers to dialogue with each other, and to share their work in ways that many would never have thought possible back in 1983.

Yes, a lot has changed over the decades. However, what remains as true today as the day we held our first workshop: writers want and need community to flourish. Here at The Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, our extraordinary community of writers, with diverse life experiences and histories, writing across genres, teachers, mentors, readers, editors, publicists, publishers, administrators, experts in marketing, and experts in technology work together to help writers create and share their stories. #SarahLawrenceTogether

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Wrexham Road Featured Reader Series

The Writing Institute's Wrexham Road Reading Series brings together writers from within and outside the Sarah Lawrence College community to share their work. In its new remote format, The Writing Institute will regularly share video recordings of featured writers reading their work on this page, and on our Facebook and Instagram pages and, if you are on our mailing list, delivered right to your Inbox!

Jacqueline Friedland

This week we are featuring Jacqueline Friedland, the author of Trouble the Water (2018) and That's Not a Thing (2020)A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and NYU Law School, Jacqueline practiced as a commercial litigator at the New York law firms of Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP and Boies, Schiller & Flexner, LLP. After determining that office life did not suit her, she began teaching Legal Writing and Lawyering Skills at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan and working on her first book in her limited spare time. Finally deciding to embrace her passion and pursue writing full time, Jacqueline returned to school to earn her Masters of Fine Arts from Sarah Lawrence College, graduating from the program in 2016.
When not writing, Jacqueline is an avid reader of all things fiction. She loves to exercise, watch movies with her family, listen to music, make lists, and dream about exotic vacations. She lives in Westchester, New York with her husband, four children and two very bossy canines.

Cindy Beer-Fouhy

Cindy Beer-Fouhy is a poet, freelance writer, arts consultant and has been teaching writing in public and private schools and community facilities for almost 50 years. She studied poetry writing with Billy Collins, Patricia Spears Jones, Molly Peacock and Ron Price. Her poetry and essays have been published widely in literary journals, magazines and anthologies including Bronx Accent: A Literary and Pictorial History of the Borough (Rutgers University Press) and her articles and interviews have appeared in Westchester Arts Council’s Arts News, Roll Magazine and Westchester Family. Cindy’s poems have been winners of the 2011, 2012 and 2013 Greenburgh Poetry Competitions. She currently teaches Life Stories Writing Workshop for 50+ at The Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. She is a Teaching Artist through ArtsWestchester, Creative Aging, Lifetime Arts, Inc., and BOCES, and facilitates writing workshops in Senior Centers, schools and mental health facilities. Cindy is on the Advisory Committee of Hudson Valley Writers Center’s Slapering Hol Press.

Cindy would like to acknowledge that her poem "Bronx Childhood" was published in the anthology Bronx Accent, A Literary and Pictorial History of the Bronx, Rivergate Books, an imprint of Rutgers University Press, 2006 and her poem "Why I live in the Woods" was honorable mention winner of the Greenburgh Poetry Competition and is published in Let the Poets Speak 2012. Her poem "Childhood Latte" was published in The Rosewell Literary Review March/April 1997.

Kathy Curto's Thank You

Kathy Curto teaches at The Writing Institute and Montclair State University. She is the author of Not for Nothing-Glimpses into a Jersey Girlhood, published by Bordighera Press. Her work has been featured on NPR, in the essay collection, Listen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We’re Saying Now, and in The New York Times, Barrelhouse, La Voce di New York, Drift, Talking Writing, The Inquisitive Eater, VIA, Ovunque Siamo, Junk and Lumina. She has been the recipient of the Kathryn Gurfein Writing Fellowship, the Montclair State University Community-Engaged Teaching and Learning Fellowship and she also has served on the faculty of the Joe Papaleo Writers’ Workshop in Cetara, Italy.

Marianela Medrano

Marianela Medrano was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, and has lived in Connecticut since 1990. A poet and a writer of nonfiction and fiction, she holds a PhD in psychology. Her literary work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines in Latin America, Europe and the United States. In 2015 she did a TED-Talk at Ursuline College; click here to watch. Her books Rooting and The New Book of Revelations were published in 2017 & 2019 respectively.

Akanke Tyra Washington-Adeyinka

With uncertainty, I walked to my bedroom window. The sun peaked through. I'd seen sunrises from this window before. This one was different. It radiated strength, commitment, and consistency. Sunrays always make it over the horizon. They never forget to show up. I’m reminded of my husband. His love. I remember his power, his reliability and the safety it brings. I remember I walk boldly in the world, because my husband is as consistent as the sunrise. A smile seeps through. I grabbed my phone, and send a text, “GM. I’m certain now! I can’t meet you at lunchtime.” 

Lucy Iscaro

During this  isolation my family’s usual warm presence was achingly absent. My husband and I found other ways to reach out. 
Papa Jim became Galayna’s 5th grade math tutor. They spent hours on FaceTime communing over the multiplication of mixed numbers. 
I shared my passion for bread baking. I stood in my kitchen, she in hers. Our ipad screens were trained on the same recipe for cinnamon rolls. The sweet dough got  mixed, risen and baked at the same time, miles apart.
Fear of contagion separated us but love, bread, and technology united us.

Amy Lynn Lewis

Cleo’s mother is slipping. Only last week ago she was still a semblance of herself, criticizing Cleo with apparent satisfaction.
“Your lower lip is thinning,” she’d sweetly pointed out. “Your eyelids are starting to droop.”
 Amassing her strength, she’d reached out and touched Cleo’s hair. A rare tender gesture.
“Touch-up,” she croaked.
Today, she’s animated but unmoored, beckoning excitedly to the clowder of cats she sees racing across the wall, mumbling hoarsely to her parents, dead forty-five years, chuckling with her deceased siblings over some inside joke. The entire family—almost.
Behind her, Cleo hears her father's ghostly voice.
"Notice anyone missing?"

Guen Sublette


Being homebound, this time, feels different. Continuous cups of scalding liquid keep me going; the kitchen seems, somehow, the safest place to be. From countertop to fridge and back again to peek into a Bell jar beside the sink. The New York Times recipe for homemade sourdough starter promises eventual chewy, sink-your-teeth-in satisfaction--just like ancient times.The grayish glop has indeed started swelling and bubbling; to the nose it is sweet and dark--perhaps primal. One reviewer notes, “It’s not rocket science; all you need is patience.” Days, weeks, months: In this particular squall, we may have that.

Sam Paryzer

I used to write every day until I had surgery and somehow I lost my pen, a lovely fountain pen at that. 

Now you ask for 100 words. 100 words is not writing it’s just shaking out the pen, the lovely fountain pen. To make up for the 18 month hiatus I need to do half of War and Peace, the Moby Dick half at that. 

How much is 100 words when it comes to that? Any padding allowed? Word 81 and my lovely fountain pen has run out of ink. Luckily I have not run out of words. Yet...

Linda Shapiro

The UPS driver pulled into my driveway. I was outside. The driver sat checking his list.  I waved to him. For some reason, I drew a heart in the air and mouthed thank you.  He stepped out and bowed to me, put his hand over his heart and smiled. He put the Amazon box down for me to pick up.  I wanted to cry thinking he’s so exposed, handling all those packages I don’t touch for a day or two. There he sits in that open-air truck, up against much more than the weather, bringing us everything we need. 

Maxine Brown

          The line of her dress
         Her long curvy silhouette
           The way she moves
           The way she walks
               She turns
               She talks
                I stare
               So aware
          Is this really happening
             Am I really here

Susie Johnson

I begin each day sitting on my front steps. I wrap up in a big sweater and tuck in with a huge mug of Earl and my pup. The night noises slowly turn to morning noises while the light changes by the minute, and with this metamorphosis comes a steely calm. I know that no matter what is thrown my way I will meet it head on, and with as much strength as I can muster. I see hope and possibility, and I channel all those who have come before me and have awakened to the same sun. 

Tom Cooke

A Question
As a quadriplegic they tell me I’m “vulnerable.”
But I feel like I’ll be fine.
My regular home attendant is out sick.
And now you – who I don’t know –
Come here –
And on your 2nd day, in the middle of the afternoon, getting comfortable –
(I’ve made you wear masks and driven home the need to wear gloves)
You give me some water to drink.
Without wearing your gloves.
And now I have to think:
“Am I going to die?
Because you can’t wear gloves?”

Rachel Khanna

I thought that being an introverted hermit would make quarantine life easier than it has been. I was wrong. Just when I started enjoying being an almost-empty nester, all the girls came home. That—and the fact that my husband quarantines in whichever room I am in—means that this situation is taking some adjustment on my part. The bulk of my time is spent cleaning and cooking. And, between the two vegetarians who don’t eat mushrooms, squash, or carrots and the non-vegetarians who don’t eat beets, or leafy greens, I am left with cooking onions…and lots of carbs!

Carolyn Lyall

The sound of rain showers. Birds squabbling over nesting grounds and courting rituals beginning. Bullfrogs singing their nightly chorus. These are the usual sounds of Spring.

The forsythia, daffodils, and magnolia flowering. New green shoots decorating bare limbed trees. Fairways stretching green as grass, no longer dormant, grows. Flashes of wing color in the air and trees. The ripple of water on the once frozen pond. These are the usual sights of Spring.

No cars in the parking lot. Closed sign at the club house. Silence from the playground. No humans around. These are the abnormal realities of 2020’s Springtime.

Cindy Beer-Fouhy

Excerpt from Bronx Childhood

First grade, PS 7, 1952. Nuclear-age air-raid drills began in schools in “target cities.” Like small soldiers in the army, every child wore a “dog tag” inscribed with our name and our parent’s name. In case a bomb dropped on us, our metal tags would survive and workers digging through rubble could identify children’s bodies. Air raid sirens signaled drills in the streets and in schools. Interrupting a penmanship lesson, our teacher would yell “Drop!” We’d “duck and cover” under our desks, legs crossed, heads down, hands clasped behind our necks.   Silent.  Protected.   Believing our teachers were smarter than bombs.

Alice Myerson

Under the Pink Moon

Discordant to spring,
deaf to its laughter and song, 
they leave us barren

staggering through the landscape
of an earth stunned by malice.

Breathless, we kneel down
flooding the dry, acrid soil
with a stream of tears.

The Pink Moon hangs above us
igniting our tangled hair.

We begin to dig.
We tear away bloody weeds
florid with decay

until, our knuckles braised red
and raw, we unearth green moss

wedged between the roots
of a hollow, leafless tree.
We work through the eye 

of dawn, cleansing the earth with 
honey drops of sacred dew.

Ricki Nenner

So What’s New?

How many times have I heard my telephone ring to hear a familiar voice ask, “So what’s new?” and a standard answer might be, “Not much, same old same old. Want to get together this Saturday for dinner and a movie? We can eat before at our usual standby, catch an 8:00 show and be home pretty early.” Now, it’s usually Popcorn that tells me to pick up my I-Phone and I hear a familiar voice ask, “Can you believe I’ve been trying to get a delivery date from Fairway for three weeks? ”  

Benita Goldstein

Triumph over covid

Never thought much of biking except when went from training wheels to a 2 wheeler. Time to resume this feat for feeling accomplished mentally and physically.

This child wanted more; I began swimming in our pool thinking of it as eye candy before. Now a gift  to enjoy. My next endeavor for aerobics started with one lap as I imagined
covid sinking from my strength.

All this was irrelevant before covid 19 deprived us of our life while attacking our bodies. The antidote was rekindling the spirit of the child when we rejoiced in life whatever came our way.

Deborah Levin

I have been almost obsessively drawn these past few weeks to writing personal essays related to the COVID-19 pandemic. I feel overwhelmed by this new reality of self-isolation and social distancing and have found solace each morning heading upstairs to my home office, sitting myself down in the warmth of the morning sun and letting my thoughts and feelings spill through my fingertips onto the computer page. This is my time for peace and reflection. It calms me to write and comforts me to be heard. Three of my pieces have been published to date. I expect to keep writing.

Estha Weiner

New Orleans Has Collapsed!
In appreciation of Frank O’Hara
 I was watching the hurricane news
thinking it’s bad but it’s not as bad
as they thought when all of a sudden
it was worse why?? the levees broke
and the water poured through the sexy sweet
City of New Orleans through
cemeteries and jazz
Zydeco and oysters
booze and Blues
balconies and Brennan’s
Black and White
 Congregation Named Desire
Queen of the River Excess
did the God of those Righteous Boys
now running
the U.S. of A.
visit this flood upon your sensuous
banks No Noah in these boys’ plans
Oh New Orleans I love you get up!

Faculty Highlight

Our incredible faculty often reach out to us with blog posts, editorials, student testimonials, and other amazing content related to their writing lives that we will share here.

Mindy Stockfield on Publishing Your Book Under Unforeseen Circumstances 

My eight year old reminded me of something last night as he begged for me to read him another book before bedtime.  Despite everything that is surrounding us right now, we crave for connecting with each other and a good story. It is our escape.

I think we forget social distancing does not mean emotional distancing. Books are easily the best and most critical antidotes to bring us together.  The difference from other types of entertainment right now is that there is always a single human being behind that story. And that human being - you the writer and author - have a key moment right now to build a relationship with current and future readers more than ever before.

With respect to the incredible people who are working tireless days and nights to help stabilize our health situation right now and the countless others who are working on external solutions to maintain our safety, education, and economy, we are going through somewhat of a “National Pause Moment.”   For some this is packed with a variety of mixed emotions including but not limited to - anxiety, gratefulness, isolation, stress, resilience, fear, and relief.

First, I want to address the elephant in the room especially if you are a debut author.  This is a huge disappointment not to enjoy the physical aspect of a traditional book launch - the coming together of friends and family, the potential signings and events, and the thrill of seeing your book in your local bookstore for the first time.  For writers, ready to share their work with the world as they prepare for a launch date, it should have been a special moment. You have every reason to cry, scream, and be just plain angry for missing out on something so important to you. It is not selfishness.  It is just pure disappointment. You are allowed to be upset. It is human.

Just like with any life event - that so many people are being forced to put on pause or rethink, the birth of your “book baby,” which should have been that moment of celebration, feels like it has arrived at the worst possible time.   I have heard some mention they feel guilty for wanting to share their joy or concerned that people will view them tone-deaf to the craziness going on around us.  

The truth is that your book is a gift right now.  Stories have remained the backbone to help us translate the world we live in and provide escape.  You just need to position yourself and your writing in an appropriate an authentic way.  

Here are a few points to consider to get you in the right mindset as you think about your book promotion:

  1. Books have a natural “long tail.”  Chris Anderson, addressed this directly in his book THE LONG TAIL - explaining that many books have lifespans that extend way past their book launch.  It is one of the reasons why publishers spend countless time cultivating their backlist of titles. They are constantly seeking to elevate books during the most timely moment.  That could mean a particular holiday, news event, or social movement. Every story comes with a theme and the ability to leverage this way beyond the day it launches. Authors should be exploring these moments as they write their book or after it is published.  Work on defining what are those key points that make your story have longevity and identify when are the best times to promote those messages. 
  2. Book sales are actually remaining steady vs other industries. The New York Times recently reported (“They Were Meant to Be the Season’s Big Books. Then the Virus Struck,” March 27, 2020), that despite stores temporarily closing, “there are some encouraging signs for publishers.”  According to NPD Bookscan, “unit sales of print books remained steady in the week that ended March 21st.” In addition, select genres are performing especially well - including children’s nonfiction - “rising by nearly 70 percent.”  Parents see books as solutions away from screen time - especially when their children are required to move their in-class time onto a screen. 
  3. You know where you can find your reader now. Normally, it is a guessing game for marketers on how reach their readers.  In this current climate, and the push for social distancing, schools closed and employees working from home, we are dealing with an unprecedented time of knowing how and where to reach people now.  It is simple. They are home.  
Knowing this, here are a few ways you can approach your promotion as you look to build readership, a platform, and your writing:
  1. Your expertise.  Many authors are using what inspires them to inspire others.  Never forget that your book is so much more than the words on the page.  It is about you and what you bring as a person. Some authors such at The Writing Institute’s Eileen Morowitz-Palma is leveraging her background as a former elementary teacher and creating online Writing Camps for kids where she can share her passion with future young writers.  Whether your passion is cooking, fitness, astrology, art, music - use this time to bring something fun and engaging to all of us at home.
  2. Reach out. People want to hear from you. Reconnect with your friends, former colleagues, and family.  Tell them about your book - or book about to come out. Share why your writing is important to you and how reading helps you in times like this.  Be thoughtful and share other books you would recommend reading to. Build these relationships. People are listening and responsive right now. Use that to your advantage.
  3. Use your innate gift for words and share them with the world. Story-tell on social media.  Take photos and write that ideal caption that others will want to send to others.  Create your own greeting cards with your own words (Vista Print offers many low cost options) or use Paperless Post and share digitally.
  4. Explore outlets for Reviews.  If you are about to publish, you have probably taken advantage of getting your book out there to book reviewers.  However, for those who are about to share their book with the world, start to read the publications that currently review books and identify the best ones to approach once you are ready. 
  5. Apply to Writing Contests,  Grants, & AwardsPoets & Writers provides free access to upcoming contests.  This is a great way to build your credentials and expand your notoriety as an author. 
  6. Learn.  We often have little time to really learn about our craft and understand best practices from other authors.  Create at least an hour a week to educate yourself on something new about publishing. Take a webinar. Sign-up for an online class, such as the ones offered through The Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College.  Review your comp titles - see what those authors are doing or have done to market themselves.  Study some of the keywords that show up for similar books as yours on Amazon. This is also a great opportunity to familiarize yourself more with social media by simply following your favorite authors.  It is also the chance to learn online communication platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype. Even after we come out of this crisis and can once again engage in traditional, in-person events, do not forget that the costs for in-person events are expensive.  You will want options to be able to still connect with your readers and having this skillset now - which will make you incredibly valuable later on. 

I am sure we have all experienced this - when things do not go as planned.   Sometimes you can overly focus on the problem before you realize there are actually solutions.  Coming from the book publishing world, I want to stress that we have never been immune to these unforeseen circumstances with a book launches.  Just a Google search away can remind us of countless moments when our lives and businesses were disrupted by things out of our control including September 11th, Hurricane Katrina, the fires on the west coast, and the recession.  There are also personal issues that have derailed book plans including family deaths, weather-related issues, and other tragedies out of one’s control.

Nevertheless, books have remained the backbone to help all of us translate the world we live in.   It is why it is even more important that ever to use this time - whether you are publishing your work now or later, to see how you can appropriately connect and build a relationship with your reader.  

Mindy Stockfield will be teaching the one-day intenstive Book Marketing 101 on April 25th. She has held senior positions in publishing, entertainment and media with a focus on marketing, and digital. She has led critical launches for a number of new and culture-defining initiatives utilizing some of the latest approaches in digital and social media. Coming fresh from working several years at Scholastic as Senior Vice President of Marketing, Creative, and Digital, she has driven these A-list publishing brands including: Harry Potter, Dog Man, The Babysitters Club, and Goosebumps as well as helped to build the careers of emerging authors.  In addition, she has worked with top authors and talent including Mitch Albom, Caroline Kennedy, Maria Shriver, Michael J. Fox, and Jamie Oliver. Prior to Scholastic, she held prior senior roles at MTV, Disney, and Cartoon Network. In addition to her consulting practice, she is currently an Adjunct Professor at NYU teaching Introduction to Marketing and Branding to graduate publishing students.  

Celebrating Accomplishments in Our Community

Here we post shoutouts to members of our community for their successes, and updates on upcoming community-related events.  

Eileen Palma and Barbara Solomon Josselsohn Virtual Lunch-Break Launch

In lieu of an in-person celebration, The Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College would like to invite you to the Facebook live Lunch-Break Launch for Eileen Palma's middle-grade novel Camp Clique, book one in a two-part series called The Popularity Pact, and Barbara Solomon Josselsohn's new novel The Lilac House. Children are welcome!

lunch break launch flyer for Eileen Palma and Barbara Josselsohn

Publication by Alum Dvora Rabino

We want to congratulate Dvora Rabino, alum of Dan Zevin's First Person Funny: Writing the Comic Essay, on the publication of her essay "A Sixty-Something's Guide to Morning Survival" (p. 102) in the most recent issue of The Ignatian.

Debut Novel by Alum Brook Lea Foster

Brook Lea Foster, alum of The Writing Institute, has just published her debut novel Summer Darlings . She will be streaming live to her facebook page along with several guests to celebrate on May 8th at 8pm EST.

Story_Hub with C.B. Lyall

C.B. Lyall, an alumna of Susan DeWalt's  Writing Institute class The Future of Podcasting; Storytelling for Writers, is publishing regular episodes of her podcast Story_Hub on Apple Podcasts. Go take a listen! Susan Dewalt's class is being offered this Summer remotely; registration is open now.