50th Stories: Finding Community

By Jenny D. Williams

Teachers & Writers Collaborative will turn 50 years old in fall 2017. To celebrate this milestone, we asked people who have been part of T&W’s work over the last five decades to tell their stories. Author Jenny Williams remembers being a T&W Fellow alongside poet Christina Olivares.


We’d been staying in the little museum house on the wooded estate for several days, Christina and I—lost in pages written and unwritten, surfacing every now and then with fistfuls of fresh words—before I fully understood what a gift it was, what a gift it all had been: eight months in the bright yellow-walled room in the Teachers & Writers office in Manhattan, planning readings and visiting teaching artists in the classroom and slowly beginning to own the identity of writer, and now two weeks of this extraordinary residency at the Rockefeller Estate in Kykuit.

When I moved to New York City for the Teachers & Writers fellowship, I’d never been part of a literary community before. Teachers & Writers opened a door to belonging. I’ve carried that bright yellow-walled room and the dewy red leaves of the trees on the wooded estate across other continents and back. The people I met through T&W—Susan and Jeffrey, Matthew and Christina—I still count among the shining, constant constellations of my literary life.

Recently I returned to the city for the first time in half a decade. Christina and I met in the middle of a downpour and spoke of those days in the little museum house, marveled over our books (hers already in the world, mine soon to be), and we laughed in our wet shoes, laughed as we walked the Manhattan streets in search of shelter.


Image (top) credit Rockefeller Brothers Fund

About the Author:
Jenny D. Williams was a fellow with Teachers & Writers Collaborative from 2008–2009. She earned her MFA in fiction from Brooklyn College in 2011. Her debut novel, The Atlas of Forgotten Places, will be published in July 2017 by St. Martin’s Press.


Tell Us Your T&W Story:
We want to hear your T&W story. Please send submissions—written reflections, videos, images—to 50thstories@twc.org by September 30, 2017. Thank you!


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