Musing to Fruition: A ‘Write Now!’ Series for Creatives of all Persuasions

I try to shake loose my mind, so something fresh can fall out… This process acts like a sifter – sand falls through and bright nuggets come to light.
Natalie Goldberg, Thunder and Lightning

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One cold, dark, beautiful morning…

vt in october

I wrote this post almost nine years ago, in November 2009. My life looks very different now — I no longer need to lay out my children’s clothes, for one thing, thank goodness! — but the main message, that we all need support and friendship, is particularly on point for me right now. 

When I originally wrote this post I didn’t have a true friend with whom to share intellectual conversation or a listening ear over coffee or wine. But just a couple of days ago a relatively new friend, whom I feel so, so fortunate to have in my life, and I were talking about how important interpersonal relationships are and in particular how incredibly vital it is for women to surround themselves with other strong and supportive women. I re-post this today in honor of my dear friend and all the other women out there who believe in the power and beauty of women who hold each other up. Thank you.

~~

Yesterday I dragged myself out of bed an hour earlier than usual. The coffee wasn’t on, and, because I had forgotten to do so the night before, I had to lay out the kid’s school clothes and get their backpacks ready in the dark and cold. I dug out my own dusty winter coat and gloves, kissed my sleeping children goodbye, and went out to my chilly car.

As I huddled over the steering wheel I wondered if this trip was worth it. But as I wound along a road that hugged the feet of golden tree-shod mountains, through small villages and farmland where woodsmoke and cow breath was visible in the frosty air, I realized the journey itself was more than worth it. When I arrived at Hildene, the summer home of President Lincoln’s only son, Robert Todd Lincoln, in Manchester, VT the mist hovered over the mountains, muting the splendor of fall foliage. Oh, Vermont!

Inside I found the room I was looking for – warm and smelling of coffee. A small group of women were chatting over their paper cups and I suddenly felt shy and lacking in confidence. But a friendly woman shook and my hand and welcomed me to WBON: Women Business Owners Network.

The speaker, Chris Berkhout of Alchemy Productions, was funny and shared great information about making goals, sticking to them, and being confident your own ability to get where you want to be. She spoke about how writing down what you want makes it happen. I know this so well! My writing refuge is just one example .

The camaraderie in the room was inspiring; although a new “business” woman and feeling inferior, maybe even doubting that what I was doing was a business, I felt accepted and motivated. We were not a bunch of catty women competing against or judging each other, we were there to offer advice, encouragement, and… business cards, lots of business cards.

I once had a boyfriend who was so deeply stuck in his own creative rut that he couldn’t see over the sides into the real world. He believed if he stayed in his room practicing his art night after night that he would one day “make it big.” He didn’t think he needed anyone else’s input, inspiration, guidance, or even fellowship. When I mentioned he might consider getting a mentor (at the suggestion of my professional artist father) he flipped out and accused me of thinking he wasn’t a real artist and not believing in his talent. Our relationship never recovered from my offense.

I confess I would probably have had the same response. I used to believe that if I couldn’t do something well without help or practice then I obviously lacked the natural talent and shouldn’t be even attempting it. I have applied this philosophy to piano playing, singing, art, and most recently, giving birth and parenting (I still struggle with that one). But the truth is, we all need help. Just like the flower needs the bee to help it fulfill its own destiny, we all need the input of others in order to discover our full potential. It is not a weakness to seek out assistance – it is a strength. Utilizing other people’s strengths can only give you more stability and resistance. No two people think exactly the same which means we can all offer each other something new – maybe even better.

This is why I came away from this meeting of fellow business women feeling sturdier. I now know I have a buttress of local, creative, ambitious, imaginative, self-believing women to whom I can turn for help and connection. Although I already believed in myself and my dreams, knowing this made the cold, dark morning a truly beautiful one.

Let the river take me: Learnings from facilitating an at-risk group

I originally wrote this article for Chrysalis, The Journal of Transformative Language Arts (which is currently under maintenance), April 2016 

 

Let the river take me,  a compilation poem

Let the river take me —

Even when it hurts, it breathes with the joy of laughter, undulating.

I choke on life, I’m really here in the world.

I keep trying. I am a survivor.

Manipulate the truth; truth to be heard.

The road to hell is as slow as molasses.

Sometimes it feels like a web of pointlessness — all shit.

I keep trying. I am a survivor.

Let the river take me, to be free.

I’ve come to acknowledge that… my life has been heavily influenced by broken relationships, terrors of my past bad influences or bad teachings from my childhood. Breaking free of the twisted mold of my childhood is no easy task. Knowing, acknowledging, and a desire for change is a beginning. – Grant, “Write to Recover” participant

I can’t deny it: I’ve lived a sheltered existence. I have seen only glimpses of the tougher sides of life – a couple screaming at each other as they walk down my street, an addict sitting in a car on my corner before the dealer’s house was busted, the child at the street fair asking for more free cotton candy because she’s hasn’t eaten all day. 

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Path to Publication, pt 18: Book Launch!

2 books 2 authors2-page-001

This photo of Lilian Baker Carlisle, the subject of my book, from 1970 when she published her first book, has been a source of inspiration for me over the last two years. I envisioned creating this side-by-side from the first time I came across it. 

Well, I did it. The book is finished. Lilian Baker Carlisle: Vermont Historian, Burlington Treasure — A Scrapbook Memoir is, finally, gosh-darn really real!

I truly didn’t believe it was real until the moment I first held it in my hands at the book launch. It’s always just been a one-dimensional design on the computer, even the printer’s proof was digital. Now I can literally flip through the pages instead of figuratively doing it by clicking the “next” arrow. And, oh, it feels good. Continue reading

Path to Publication, pt 17: It’s happening! (pt2). Subtitle: ARGH, the Critic!

Good grief.

Nine months ago I wrote a post in celebration of the fact that the first draft of the book manuscript was imminent and that layout was finished, meaning in just a few months more the book — a (mostly) visual biography of a local historian and writer — would be ready for publication.

HAHA… heh.

Yeah. No, that didn’t happen. Why?

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Hear myself out

This is one poem in a series from the “Write to Recover” group I facilitate. I put them together from phrases that resonate with me while participants read, adding nothing but punctuation and the occasional conjunction. This one is comprised of the words of four participants who were writing on the theme, “Your own voice.

Distractions of the necessary,

Ants scurrying around the concrete of life.

 

But I am not spineless;

My spirit can fly.

A shimmer of aliveness,

Fresh,

Like a baby carries a big lot of love.

 

I remain quiet

To protect my being,

The true essence of me;

This gnarly mess–

My very “I am” self,

A fresh flowing fearless frequency.

 

Sit gently like

A grain of sand in time — rock time

To hear myself out,

Another human hand holding hope, and

Nurture lovingly and meaningfully

Because I am real and worthy of love.

I’m not here to teach you anything: Some thoughts on facilitating & coaching

I originally wrote this post in 2014 for the blog of tlanetwork.org, the website of the Transformative Language Arts Network. It seems appropriate to re-post as I am preparing a graduate course on Expressive Writing in the classroom for Castleton University’s Center for Schools. Although in this situation I will be technically a lecturer/teacher/professor rather than a facilitator and I will be imparting more information than I would in a workshop, I will still apply the methods I know best and which have proven to be helpful to participants.

~

Justus Sustermans - Portrait of Galileo Galilei, 1636

Justus Sustermans – Portrait of Galileo Galilei, 1636

“I am not here to teach you anything.”

Expressions of confusion flicker across the faces of those circled around me. Wasn’t the very reason they signed up for this workshop to learn something?

I continue: “I am here to show you how you can learn from yourself.”

Smiles break out and the workshop begins.

While this is not intended to be an op-ed on the benefits of teaching critical thinking, how I facilitate is how I believe children should be taught: Teach them to learn for themselves. And this is how I approach my workshops. I give guidance, I provide prompts, and then I sit back and witness my “students” learning from and for themselves (and from the words of others in the room) — not to impress me, the “teacher.”

How does this work with TLA?  Continue reading