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What's Your Story?

Let's put it together and get it out 
to the people you most want to reach.

About Me

Carolyn Swartz

I'm a  seasoned writer and filmmaker, published essayist, stand-up storyteller, speechwriter, and former NYU instructor in marketing and writing.


For twenty-five years, I've been helping people and organizations develop narratives, refine messaging and tell compelling  stories across all media.

My client list spans the gamut from Fortune 100 companies in technology,  professional services, banking, and the health care industry to arts organizations and smaller not-for profits.  

My essays have been published in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, and New England lifestyle magazines. Several of my films have been shown on invitation at the Berlin Film Festival, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Ann Arbor Film Festival.  The videos I've produced and directed  for organizations have won numerous industry awards, including gold and silver Tellys. 


My Story  (or one of them)

Growing up in Marblehead, Massachusetts, I dreamed of having straight blonde hair, blue eyes and a family that knew how to ski.  I played piano well, and thought I might become a professional musician until the age of twelve, when my  piano teacher brought me to a Boston "expert", who informed her that my  hands were "too small."  A few years later,  I learned about a college endowment for girls from Marblehead majoring in art at a four-year college.  


That clinched it. Never mind that my sister and I are among the very few women who are color blind.  I would become a visual artist, most likely a painter.  But after graduating from Connecticut College (as an art major, of course), life took a different turn - back to music and up to Maine (for a couple of years) as singer/pianist/songwriter in a series of  bands that performed around New England.  


Back in Boston, I studied jazz with the renowned teacher Charlie Banacos.   And while I was playing "out" in clubs with other jazzers, I began to to think about pursuing  a "real" career.  Aha. An art teacher, maybe. After one session of an art education class at Mass College of Art, I switched to one in  filmmaking and was immediately hooked. It suddenly became clear my interest in the arts - drawing, painting, songwriting, performing - revolved around storytelling.  At the time, MIT had a small but strong documentary filmmaking program (later absorbed into the Media Lab) headed up by seminal filmmaker Ricky Leacock.  I got in, and my first half-hour documentary was screened on invitation in  the Forum of the Berlin Film Festival.

This led to a move from Cambridge to Berlin - where I worked for a year as Kamerafrau  on a German feature feature,  and then  to New York City, where I edited for a director who told me (with a Polish accent and no article),  "You are VRITER."

Okay, I thought.  Maybe I am.  Through friends and colleagues, I began working with agencies that served Fortune 200 corporations, writing  and directing not 30- or 60-second  commercials -  but thoughtful or funny or  storytelling longer-form films.  Very soon I was working in other capacities - as creative director, speechwriter, content strategist, web copywriter -  helping clients deliver compelling, authentically real-deal stories live, on line, in print, and across all media (while also  telling a few of my own.)


It all  starts with a great story.  Let's work together to tell yours.


 (Some of) What I do 

Content and brand messaging strategy and writing

Video: concept and scripting, production and direction from concept through delivery

Magazine features: food, lifestyle, profiles, humor and personal essays

Website communications: design strategy and content creation

Speechwriting and presentation coaching

Creative concept and facilitation

College and life-event essays for others

What I Do


Sit! Stay! Dine!


Anovernight getaway, Mid-Coast, mid-winter. Not just any winter, but this one? After nearly a year of hunker-down, just the two of us (if you don’t count dinner with Wolf, Erin or Anderson) we were craving even a brief change of scene... read more...

Numbers Game


This adversarial relationship is not with my spouse, a family member, co-worker, friend, or even another human being. It’s with an inanimate object that came into my life about two decades ago: my bathroom scale. And over the past year, it’s gotten a lot worse... read more...

The Lost Kitchen

Better Than Excellent


Unless you’re Martha Stewart or Pope Francis, there’s just one way to get a seat at The Lost Kitchen, a seasonal 50-seat restaurant in Freedom: You have to win the lottery... read more...

The People's Maestro

Eckart Preu, Portland Symphony Orchestra

Tall and lanky, with straw-colored hair that falls in wisps over the collar of his morning coat, Eckart Preu strides onto the stage as if sent by Central Casting—for a period piece set in 19th century Berlin... read more...

Haydn: Life as a Surprise Symphony

For classical composers of the 18th century, there was something to be said for steady, salaried employment. To be sure, freelancing offered greater personal and artistic liberty. But then, as now, independence came at a price: financial uncertainty and the continual stress of having to curry favor with multiple patrons.... read more...

Beethoven Bites

When it comes to eating, Germans – like people everywhere – enjoy their food. But across Germany, gastronomy has never been the national obsession it is in Italy and France.  So it’s not surprising that Beethoven – whose mind overflowed with groundbreaking musical ideas – regarded food as little more than sustenance to get him from one page of writing to the next... read more...

Mendelssohn: A Complex Legacy of Music and Identity

Some music lovers think of Felix Mendelssohn as the great Jewish composer. Others view him as not so great at all. Speculation about Mendelssohn’s Jewishness, along with whether or not he deserves a place in the pantheon of classical composers, have given fodder to scholars since the composer’s death in 1847... read more...

The Haddie and the Dugong

Master smoker Richard Penfold cares about tradition, and not for the bragging rights or cachet. But because he knows that smoking fish the way it has been done for centuries makes his products authentic in ways that matter to him and his customers... read more...

Art, Squared

A conversation with Tile Designer Deborah Todd

So art and design were in your blood?

In my blood and all around me. We lived in Manhattan, and our apartment was a relaxed mix of styles—no rules. So my parents would have an Eames chair next to a Saarinen table across from a couch they picked up at an antique shop on Cape Cod. Their friends were artists and photographers... read more...

Hers: All That Glitters is the Tub

THE MOMENT I hear that someone will be dropping by my apartment, I find myself draped over the side of the bathtub, a can of Ajax in one hand and a sponge in the other. It doesn't matter who's coming, how long the person will stay or what I happen to be doing at the time. I hang up the phone and head straight for the bathroom... read more...

Love Handel

George Friedric Handel occupies an exalted place in the pantheon of great composers – revered not only by centuries of music lovers, but also by generations of composers.Bach is said to have called his esteemed contemporary “the only person I would wish to see before I die, and the only one I would wish to be – were I not Bach.” read more...

The Chickpea

Miss Congeniality?


If there were a beauty contest for beans, the chickpea would likely be crowned Miss Congeniality. A little lumpy and just shy of round, it isn’t much to look at.But when judged on versatility, compatibility and all-around friendliness to cook with, the chickpea is a total winner... read more...


Pride and Prejudice


As Mainers in spirit or in residence, we hold an emotional attachment to the sea. Those are our waters that stretch from craggy shores to beyond the distant horizon. We want them to remain vibrant, resilient and rich in bounty for generations to come... read more...

The Beet Goes On

Like people, beets can look a lot of different ways. At farmers' markets, you'll find the widest range in color, size and shape: taut and round, slim and tapered, fat and irregular in a dazzling array from whites and golds to pinks, reds and deep purples... read more...

Edible Complex

When the food aversions of the mother are inadvertently passed on to the son... read more...


view more of my films on Vimeo

Writing Coach
If your high school senior is stressing out over the college application essay...

While on the faculty of the NYU Graduate School of Professional Studies, my writing students routinely sought out my guidance in crafting essays for their applications for professional positions or further academic study.  


Working closely with the administration, I also got to look at and weigh in on the essays included in student applications to the program. 


I can help kids uncover, explore and craft a standout college essay–in their own voice, from their own experience and observations. 

Most often, a small personal story creates the strongest impact - not the one about "saving the world" by participating in a  volunteer program in a third-world country.

Working one-on-one, I’ll guide your senior through a process of self-discovery that’s revelatory and productive, non-threatening .and fun.  Having a sense of humor helps.

The result: a college essay that's personal and compelling,  free of bombast and unintentional cliché, and - most importantly - in the student's own words.

Contact Carolyn Swartz

Get in touch!

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