What People Are Saying

Accolades for Kelly Jean & No, YOU Tell It!


One of the best things about attending Kelly Jean’s classes is you can tell that she loves teaching. She makes her workshops fun for herself, and that translates into making each class a great experience for the students. I’ve been totally surprised by what I write in reaction to her prompts and by the insightful conversations I’ve had with other students in our “Nerd Pods.” (Kelly Jean’s term for Zoom break-out rooms.)

I am not a disciplined writer, but Kelly Jean’s classes are a low-key and enjoyable way to make sure I continue to learn, read, and create. Whenever a class is coming up, I look forward to seeing Kelly Jean’s smiling face and hearing her duck timer at the end of each writing prompt!

Rosalie Chandler, Aspiring Writer

When you told us to just pull out a single tiny moment and suspend it in time that really helped. My brain never stops interrupting the action with brainsplaining. That prompt was exactly what I needed to get unstuck. To stop removing my reader from the transcendent moment — to let them just feel it without all the back story and explanation. Stop brainsplaining!

Eileen Whyte Springer, Co-Director, Gloucester Writers Center

I’ve workshopped under a number of writers and published authors —from Syracuse U to The 92 Street Y; from predominantly white circles, to all Black circles except for me, countless Latino literary crews… Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons is one of my bests. You can trust her; WE can trust her with our work and our stories. 95% of the facilitators I’ve worked under are talented — you don’t get too far with no talent — Kelly Jean is honest, genuine, and supportive on top of talented. It’s the integrity that makes the difference.

Vivian C. – Associate Director, Scholarship Operations

College Application Essay

I can understand the beauty in reading someone else’s story and finding out about a person’s life.

Megan – House of SpeakEasy Summer Workshop

I used to hate writing, but this class made me realize my full potential.

Isabella – House of SpeakEasy Summer Workshop

I wanted to say thank you, thank you, for dedicating your time to help us all write our college essays. I have not only learned so much about how to write a really compelling college essay but also skills I will use later on in the future with creative writing!

B.M. – Center for Fiction Summer Workshop

Thank you so much for this workshop! I learned a lot from the exercises and found different methods for storytelling. I’m going to miss the duck timer, and I think “Peeps” would be a great fit to call the students in your August Sessions. 

U.I. – Center for Fiction Summer Workshop

I was pleased we could write about small moments that made a big impact on our lives. Before this class, I didn’t think I had anything that was ‘good enough’ for my college essay.

M.B. – Summerfuel Virtual Student 

Kelly Jean and I worked together for three years at Columbia University where she deeply and dynamically worked with college-bound students from around the world on shaping their personal narrative and writing their college essays. She is both culturally humble and fluent. I’d be fortunate to have her teach my own children. I’d recommend her to anyone.

Lawrence Alexander II – Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

I have no word to thank you for all your help. Your notes were just what my essay needed to come to life and be ready for my applications.

Rodrigo M. – Summerfuel Virtual Student

Ms. Fitzsimmons was able to create a great environment for me where I was truly able to reflect and learn something new about myself through my writing. She encouraged my ideas and gave tips to make my writing better. Even when I could not put something in my mind into words, she was able to help me formulate it and take my writing to the next level every time. Thanks to her, I was able to produce some of the most reflective and best writing that I have done in my life.

Kohen Rahman – Williams College LEED the Way

I had the amazing opportunity to work with Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons my senior year of High School. Throughout the college application process, Kelly Jean pushed me to be a better writer. She provided me with new writing skills and strategies to produce different supplemental writing pieces. Kelly Jean played a big role in my application process and I find myself continuing to use a lot of the skills she taught me in college.

Carolina J. – Ithaca College, Business Administrative Major concentrating in Management. Double Minor in Sociology and Latinx Studies

Ms. Kelly Jean was a thoughtful and dedicated writing coach. She helped us open up by being honest and open with us. For many of us, we had the content but could not construct it in an emotive scene. Ms. Kelly Jean created activities and discussions that allowed us to consider different approaches to the mental blocks we felt that we could not overcome. With Ms. Kelly Jean, the challenges became more comprehensive and less daunting. The college essays and supplements we wrote were crucial to our admissions process, and I would gladly put my future in Ms. Kelly Jean’s hands again. 

Kayla – Legal Outreach student

High School Application Essay

Kelly Jean was a pleasure to work with, she is a great teacher. Kelly Jean taught me to be a better storyteller by showing me how to put the reader in the moment using sensory details. I was working on an application essay, so she taught me how to not say what the admissions office had heard a million times and get them to imagine the situation from my point of view. Kelly Jean showed me how to do these things by having me read passages from other students’ finished essays. I learned how to show what I wanted to convey in a more interesting and immersive way. I also learned to edit my essays, cutting away unnecessary sentences rather than important details. All in all, I learned a lot from Kelly Jean.

O.S. – Eighth-Grade Student

Kelly Jean coaxed out the best in my son’s writing. Through a very focused series of activities and clear questions, she taught him to tell his story in a vivid and engaging way. Although we hired Kelly Jean to help with one particular essay, the tools she gave my son will serve him forever.

K.C. – Parent

No, YOU Tell It!

I had a wonderful experience working with Kelly Jean, Erika, and Mike. Being exposed to the processes of the other writers in our group was valuable and enlightening, and I know my own work benefited greatly from our conversations around the table. I was particularly taken with the public reading event itself, attended by a supportive and enthusiastic audience, in an atmosphere of warmth and levity. I would gladly participate in No, YOU Tell It! again, and would recommend the experience to anyone who’s interested in writing or storytelling.

Noah Diamond, 400 Years in Manhattan, NYTI “Uproar”

When I walked into the first No, YOU Tell It! story meeting, I felt a lot of trepidation. Why had I agreed to do this? Who was I to even attempt a prose form? A performance piece? Why did I think I deserved to have any kind of attention? Nevertheless, I stepped through that door and was richly rewarded for that small act of courage. What a pleasure and nourishment it was to be an NYTI storyteller! My work was read with a gracious and astute lens, and the comments and suggestions I received were instrumental in shaping the final piece into something compelling and true to the emotions I sought to convey. I came to No, YOU Tell It! as a relative newcomer. I haven’t been writing seriously for very long. I don’t have an extensive network of writers and artists. Now, I feel so fortunate to have made these connections. Everyone at No, YOU Tell It! is so encouraging and supportive. I’ve found many muses, and I feel so bolstered and confident by my experience. As an emerging writer, I cannot express how vital this support has been to my ongoing work. Thank you, Kelly Jean, Erika, and Mike!

Pichchenda Bao, Poet, NYTI “aMuse”

I found the most frustrating part of writing stories, memoirs, anecdotes is repeating the same voice without a grasp of how I sound.  I came across No, YOU Tell It! by accident and it proved to be super valuable for hearing the voice and rhythm in my story. After the first session and hearing someone read my piece I was able to chop off some bad habits I had developed (mostly dealing with the flow of words and poorly placed humor). The breakdown of sessions helped develop the themes I was overlooking from the piece and find a strong balance between humor and grounded narrative. The most valuable piece of No, YOU Tell It! was literally hearing work read and interpreted by different participants each week, ultimately being performed and curated by a different performer – a very, very unique opportunity. It’s had a positive effect on the development of further work.

Mark Pagán, Performer, Multimedia Artist, and Writer, NYTI “Revival”

I was delighted to participate in No, YOU Tell It! “aMuse” for the Brooklyn Book Festival’s Bookend Event. I loved the process: from the welcoming—and hilarious—round-table editing sessions, to rehearsing with Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons, to the standing-room-only performance itself. The NYTI team — Kelly Jean, Mike Dressel and Erika Iverson — are fantastically organized and focused, and provide an encouraging and spirited space for the writer-performers to create and grow. I look forward to attending future events!

H.E. Fisher, Cross-Genre Writer, NYTI “aMuse”