About Jena

The only thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a poet.

For over  twenty years, I’ve been exploring the intersections between writing, coaching, connecting, and living. And while I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, it took years of trial and error to fully integrate writing with my other passions: Connecting, creating community through sharing stories, and witnessing and mirroring each other’s human experience.

In 2007, I began blogging as a practice. I had a full-time job, and my kids were little at the time — Aviva was five and Pearl was nine-months old. Other than sporadically writing in a journal, I had begun wondering if I was even a writer at all. I also signed up for a 15-week writing class.

I had exactly one reader for the first 11 months.

Then something happened. I began “meeting” other bloggers, many of whom were also women with young children at home, looking to reconnect with the other parts of ourselves. Over the next few years, I wrote and wrote and wrote. I also began writing what I thought might be a memoir, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was about. Something was missing, and for the life of me I couldn’t articulate what it was. I secretly wished for something big to happen. So I wrote about that.

In June, 2010. Something big did happen — and it was not something I couldn’t imagined or predicted, though in hindsight I could see that I’d written my way there: I told my then-husband of 10 1/2 years that I was gay. It was not something I’d known, until I knew, and I announced this discovery within three days of realizing it myself. It was shattering, as I knew deep-down it would mean the end of life as I knew it, a life I loved deeply in many ways. And it was the thing I’d been writing my way towards without consciously realizing it for years.

My whole life suddenly made sense.

In the years since, I’ve self-published three collections of poetry and prose, all of which reflect my journey as a woman, a mother, and a writer. I’ve written about grief, about love, about loss and sex and fear and God. I’ve written about smoking and quitting smoking and loneliness and new love. I’ve written about getting remarried, about life-threatening illness, and about staying. And I continue to come here as a place to practice — both the writing itself, and the showing up fully to life as it is rather than as what I think it should be.

In September 2014, I married my beloved wife, Mani Schwartz, in Amherst, Massachusetts. Around this time, her health was precipitously — and mysteriously — declining, and I reached out to a fellow writing mama and entrepreneur in a moment of financial fear and emotional struggle. She suggested I lead an online writing group. I was scared shitless.

Miraculously, twelve women signed up for my very first group, “What If You Knew?” For two weeks, we wrote together every day, to prompts I’d created pairing my own photos and musings. And you know what?

It was like a magic portal.

Long story short, about six months and many groups later, I resigned from my full-time job as a career counselor at a small liberal arts college. It was a terrifying decision, and one I’ve never once regretted making. Doing so enabled me to focus on my wife’s healing journey, as well as to finally do the thing I was put here on the planet to do:

I encourage people to show up and practice, in writing and in life.

To share our words, our truth and beauty, with each other. To shed shame and self-consciousness in the name of courage and the creative process.  To start and keep going, by setting a timer for 10 minutes, trusting not knowing what will come, and staying put long enough to find out. Instead of critiques, we give and receive encouragement.

Jena SchwartzEducation + Credentials

  • B.A. in Russian Studies from Barnard College, Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa (1995)
  • M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College (2000)
  • Advanced training with the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) (completed in 2003)
  • Founder and Owner of Strong Coaching (2003-2010)
  • Published over 1,200 posts since I started my first blog, Bullseye, Baby! (2007-present)
  • Self-published author of three collections, Don’t Miss This, The Inside of Out, and Why I Was Late for Our Meeting
  • Professional experience as a Hillel director, academic advisor, college writing instructor, and career counselor
  • Worked with hundreds of people, individually and in small groups, online and in person, as a coach and promptress
  • Described by members of my writing + coaching community as bringing generosity, clarity, authenticity, grace, empathy, insight, intuition, honesty, and fierce acceptance to my work, writing, and life.

Come find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Feel free to contact me; I love hearing from people and will always respond.

Writing Groups

Two-week freewriting groups (18 distinct sets of 10 prompts each)
One Story: Ten Facets
Mini Memoirs
On the Corner: Writing at the Intersections
It’s All Made Up: Freewriting Fiction
Get Your Muse On: A Place to Practice
Jewels on the Path: Quarterly Intensive for Women Writers
Dive Into Poetry: Quarterly group
Focus on Form: A Poetry Workshop
The Republic of the Body: Yoga + Writing
Unfurl: An Annual Summer Retreat

Anthologies, Journals & Magazines

Mamalode, What Are Moms Good For? March 2016
On Being, The Spaces Between the Consonants, January 2016
Full Grown People, Beyond the Lonely Bench, October 2015
The Manifest-Station, Free Associating about Fear & Faith (Or, What I’ve Forgotten), September 2015 (Winner of a full scholarship to Jennifer Pastiloff and Emily Rapp’s Stowe, VT Retreat)
Barnard College Alumnae Magazine, The Intrigue of Just Passing Through, August 2014
Truck, Gestation, July 2014
Rebelle Society, What Spirit Will Do, June 2014
G.R.I.T.S.: Girls Raised in the South, An Anthology on Southern Queer Womyns’ Voices and Their Allies, Go Fuck Yourself; Half-Lounge; When it Happens; Alabama, September, 2013
Amulet: A Field Guide, Interview with Marybeth Bonfiglio, Spring 2013
Inside: Lebrón-Wiggins-Pran Cultural Center Publications, Hampshire College, Politics as Usual?, Spring 2013
Goodreads, Throwdown, May 2013 (Newsletter Contest Winner)
New Millenium Writings, Sudden Village, 2013 (Honorable Mention)
Survive & Thrive: Start with the Heart, What Our Hearts Are; Give Thanks, 2012
Loonfeather, Farmsong, 2001
Many Mountains Moving, Sculler’s Club; My Love, 1999
Analecta 24: Dreaming Pasternak; A Rowboat, the Dock, 1997 (Featured Writer)

Guest Posts

Madhuri Blaylock, I Support We Need Diverse Books (WNDB): The Series: Let’s, December 2014
Survive & Thrive, Tell Me About It: At least 10 minutes a day and vlog reading, Tell Me About It, September 2013
Kajama: Your Spiritual Home on the Web, Bottom Out; Done. Ready; and Why We Are Here, August 2013 (Featured Writer)
Daily Hampshire Gazette, A Mother Looks for Good in a Sorrowful Week, April 2013
Blackhouse Studio, So It Goes, 2012
Roots of She, What if it Were Easy? 2012 (available upon request)
Tracy Clark, I Am Enough series, Rambling about Coming Out, 2011
Karen Maezen Miller, Busting out of the Perfect Pantry, 2009

Interviews

Becoming a Force of Nature, Interview with Julie Daley, March 2014
Holding Your Grace: Messages of Hope, Interview with divorce attorney Keri Kettle, April 2013
Amulet Magazine: A Field Guide to Living Wise, Interview with Marybeth Bonfiglio, Spring 2013 issue
WomensRadio’s V for Vitality, Interview with host Susan Brender, August 2012