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

Scars to prove I showed up

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 five participants who were writing on the theme “Overcoming an obstacle.”

mountainI am a letter written to the world,

Trying to be self among all this chaotic happening,

Scared to be anyone but me.

`

Madness, the veil of darkness,

The gift of my mother,

My normal has been misconstrued.

My demons pretend they have healed me,

Then I blow away on the next strong breeze.

`

My biggest obstacle has been me,

Sinking down of my hopeful self.

What do I trust? What is real?

`

I have scars to prove I showed up,

Survived to face another one,

Another corner to turn.

I keep the breath coming,

Attempting to win completeness.

`

Take three steps away from me and see me,

Inside I am all good,

I am beautiful —

Like an old leather shoe.

Focusing on being focused,

Awaring I am.

`

I will always be part of that mountain,

Breathing through the gap.

Release the sunshine,

Come out to shine.

Authentic Voice Project: B is for Belief

The Authentic Voice Project: Week 2

books

I was near tears already. Angry-sad tears at the current state of affairs in our country and world. So it wasn’t with the most gracious heart that I took in the message on the frame around the license plate of the SUV parked in front me:

“If you are living as if there is no God, you better hope you’re right!”

To this I thought:

If you claim there is God but are living with a Belief that dictates that Roe vs. Wade should be reversed or claims all Muslims are evil, LGBT rights should be denied, or that Black Lives don’t matter, you better hope you’re WRONG. Continue reading