Green Windows was born after Peggy Simmons went to see Pat Schneider and the movie Tell Me Something I Can’t Forget at the Pacific School of Religion in 2007. Peggy had been writing in groups using the Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) method for a few years, and had met Pat and seen this movie before. But after this event, she finally realized that the AWA method linked perfectly with the other work she wanted to do: bringing people of very different backgrounds together as equals, especially young people in Oakland, California, as a continuation of the anti-poverty work she did in Europe with The International ATD Fourth World Movement.
In 2007 Peggy received her certification as an AWA facilitator. In 2008 Green Windows got fiscal sponsorship with Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco, enabling it to act as a nonprofit. After learning a lot about fundraising, Peggy decided she didn’t want to run a nonprofit organization and she didn’t want to squeeze Green Windows into the desires and expectations of various funders. She decided that she would pay her rent another way and let Green Windows grow organically and slowly, trying to focus on building spaces where people very different from each other could come together comfortably and learn from each other indirectly and creatively, while also focusing on working with young people.
Nine years later, Green Windows has had over ninety monthly drop-in creative writing workshops which have been called “The most diverse writing workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area.” These workshops have had hundreds of participants over the years and currently average 12 participants, with ages from 15 to 83, formal educational levels from adults who haven’t graduated from high school to people with MFAs, and socio-economic levels from those who pay $1 per workshop to those who donate hundreds of dollars every year. Writers in this workshop are constantly struck by the originality and authenticity of each other’s writing, knowing that without this workshop, many of them might not otherwise cross paths.
When time and funding have allowed, Green Windows has also brought very different writers together in weekly workshops, partnered with youth organizations and nonprofits to help advance their missions or projects, and run workshops in affordable housing projects.
Green Windows is developing workshops in the local juvenile hall, relying on local volunteers to type and give feedback to the writing, which creates a connection which is transformative for the adults as well as the youth. Peggy is looking for funding to develop connections between Green Windows’ community workshops and the juvenile hall workshops.
Green Windows is currently undergoing an expansion: adding consulting and apprenticeship to its base service of creative writing workshops and changing its name from “Green Windows: Writing Groups” to “Green Windows: The Art of Interchange.” (A new website encapsulates this expansion which should be live when you read this, or shortly after.) Our first apprentice, Jenna Frisch, has just completed her AWA certification, bringing her from Green Windows apprentice to Green Windows’ first staff besides Peggy.
Peggy and Jenna are very excited in this next step in their work. You can read more here: greenwindowswriters.org