Susan Buttenwieser

Susan Buttenwieser
New York, NY
Creative Non-Fiction, Fiction, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Poetry
After School Program, Arts/Cultural Organizations, Community Center, Correctional Facilities, K-12 Schools, Library

Since 2004, I have been teaching creative writing to some of New York’s most marginalized communities. I am interested in helping participants find their voices and creating a platform to share their stories with one another and with a larger audience. In addition to teaching in New York City public schools, I have taught workshops in a variety of locations outside of the classroom. For the past nine years, I have facilitated a writing workshop inside a maximum-security prison for women; the participants are all serving long sentences and many of them are mothers, and grappling with the pain of the separation from their children. Additionally, they all work in the facility’s nursery center, a unique program where pregnant incarcerated women are able to keep their babies with them for the first year of their child’s life. My writing workshop serves as an outlet for the emotions surrounding their work and circumstances. I have also facilitated poetry workshops in a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth, many of whom were runaways and working in the sex industry; with youth at Rikers Island who are in pretrial detention; in a group foster home for girls; and in after school programs at The LGBT Center in Greenwich Village as well as in branches of the New York Public Library. I believe that everyone has something important to say and that we, as a society would greatly benefit by the ability to hear from everyone.

I am interested in teaching creative writing to older adults because I believe that they have vital stories to tell. I am particularly interested to work with people who may find writing difficult, who don’t feel confident in their ability as writers, and may not yet see that what they have to say is important. I have always designed my workshops and lessons to include all voices of participants, to build self-esteem and to celebrate participants’ heritage, backgrounds and life stories. Throughout my teaching career, I have always worked with reluctant writers, from New York City public school students to women serving life sentences. And it is always exciting to learn about the experiences and life histories of people that don’t ordinarily get a chance o have their voices heard. Older adults are a crucial part of our society and everyone benefits when we are given the opportunity to hear about their lives. Their childhood memories are important historical documents that should be recorded for the benefit of us all. Their reflections on their own lives as well as the ability to compare and contrast the past with the present is a unique perspective and should be given a platform.