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The Girls Write Now 2023 Awards Ceremony: A Night of Collaborative Storytelling

Monday, October 30, 2023

Zibby Owens, Ayesha Curry, Nicole Avant, and Maja Kristin Are Honored Among Others at the Nonprofit’s 10th Annual Ceremony

by Katie Song

At the Diane von Furstenberg Studio Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, the decorative room was alight with a lively crowd of about 100 guests, fit with festive clothing, all there to celebrate one thing: the power of storytelling and empowering the next generation to tell theirs. “Words are magical,” opened Furstenberg, the renowned fashion designer and host of the night. “Words are therapeutic. They also have power.”

Founded in 1998 by founder and executive director Maya Nussbaum, Girls Write Now is a nonprofit mentorship program that serves 14 to 24 year olds, and focuses on career goals, internship opportunities, as well as general wellness.

From left: Maya Nussbaum, Stephanie Gordon, Ayesha Curry, Valerie June, Maja Kristin, and Zibby Owens

“Our plan is not just a wish or an abstraction. It’s a real thing,” said Nussbaum. Now available to mentees in 33 states, Girls Write Now boasts that 100 percent of their mentees experience an increase in positive identity; and 80 to 90 percent grow significantly in social skills, academic self efficacy, contributions, self management, and social capital.

“And once Girls Write Now invests in you, no matter the background, circumstance, or age, we never stop,” continued Nussbaum. “We won’t let you go. We support mentors and mentees to every stage of their lives, from 14 to 94 and everything in between.”

The annual Girls Write Now Awards Ceremony honors exceptional leaders in writing, as well as showcases storytellers, mentors, and creatives that are driving change and making a difference across all industries. This year, the ceremony honored Nicole Avant, producer, author, and activist; Ayesha Curry, CEO of Sweet July and Co-Founder of Eat. Learn. Play.; Maja Kristin, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and author; and Zibby Owens, author, podcaster, and CEO of Zibby Media. The honorees shared their own advice for aspiring writers as well as their experiences with mentorship.

“The best way to know who you are is to write,” shared honoree Avant. “The more you write, the more you’re going to understand yourself, you’re going to understand life, you’re going to understand people.”

“I’ve interviewed over 1,600 authors at this point and they all share one commonality,” said Owens. “It was one teacher, one relative, someone who saw their talent and told them and propelled them to keep going.”

The best way to know who you are is to write.
— Nicole Avant

“Tonight’s event is a beautiful display of what is possible when diverse, multigenerational communities of writers, creatives, leaders, artists, and activists join forces to pave the way for the next generation,” added Curry. “We are empowering you to take the reins of the work we’re doing and reminding them that their voices and stories not only matter but have the ability to impact industries and promote change. The results speak for themselves. We saw these incredible, bright, young individuals this evening.”

In line with the theme of the night and support of their mentees, the Girls Write Now ceremony would not have been complete without the appearances and performances by mentee alum Brittany Barker, editorial intern and mentee alum Dolores Haze, mentee Megumi Jindo, and mentee Justine Ramirez. Barker and Jindo both performed their own pieces titled “If It Weren’t For the Poets” and “Somewhere in The Near Future: An Ode to All of You.”

The ceremony also featured words spoken by designer and author B. Michael; CEO and Founder of Zando Molly Stern; and NBC News Anchor and Co-Host of Stay Tuned Savannah Sellers, as well as Stephanie Gordon from the RBC Foundation and the NBC Corporate Social Responsibility Team Hilary Smith, Jessica Clancy, and Samantha Cammarata.

The night closed with a musical performance by Valerie June and her song “Astral Plane,” featuring floating joyful vocals and an acoustic guitar, as well as an earnest plea to guests and supporters of the nonprofit from the Girls Write Now Board Chair Ellen Archer.

“It costs about $10,000 per girl to go through this program,” explained Archer. “It’s a lot of money, but you see the results. So let’s change the world, right? Because the world needs to change.”

Next spring, Girls Write Now will be releasing their new book written by their mentees and edited by the community On the Art of Craft: A Guidebook to Collaborative Storytelling. “If you care about women’s and trans rights, equity in education, the climate, peace, invest in Girls Write Now,” said Nussbaum. “Because these are all women’s issues. And women’s issues are everybody’s issues. Our mentees, they’re our best bet and the best investment we can make.”

Spoken plainly and clearly by mentee Jindo: “ The beginning is always forward.”

More information on how you can help support Girls Write Now can be found here.