Good morning (it’s still morning technically) — I have here a little cup of decaf coffee loaded up with cream and a sleepy pup and a full and achy heart. Is Monday welcoming you in with its tender arms? (I know Monday often feels more like a grabber — I just wondered about shifting that story a little.)
Today I feel softened and broken open and a little weepy. Writing Ourselves Whole’s tenth anniversary benefit and celebration on Saturday was a gorgeous success: a roomful of writers and friends, wonderful food and drink, and about fifty items donated for our silent auction and raffle! What an astonishing space we made together.
At the raffle/silent auction table were donations from Carol Queen and the Center for Sex and Culture, Shar Rednour, IMsL, Pat Schneider, Ami Lovelace, Emma Yisraela Cohen, Val Killmore Castro, Dorian Katz, Jill Posener, Beth Baron, Renee Garcia and Write the Fuck Now, Cary Tennis, Marty Williams, Peggy Simmons, Amy Butcher, Sockshop of Berkeley, Industrial Tattoos and Piercings, Zebra Tattoo, Zoe Balfour and Trip the Light Fantastic, Daphne Gottlieb, Matthew Korbel Bowers, Alexandria Nichandros, Jennifer Rose Jones and Eat My Love For You, Jessica Judd and Big Moves Bay Area, Majeeda Made, Dark Entry — I am overcome by all of this support!
We had our Fierce Hunger chapbook ready for sale (see the image up there at the top of the post): 150 pages and 44 writers — an eruption of explosive, hungry brilliance. (You can order your copy here!)
We had such great volunteer assistance, too: Mike with the CSC got the stage all set up, my sister Sarah and her husband Ryan helped set up the room and ran all over the place for us, Alex Renn was our silent auction master, Marissa Korbel was our spokeswoman and raffle wrangler, Ellen went all the way back to my place in Oakland and grabbed the chapbooks when I forgot to get them in the car in the first place, Eanlai and Meg helped with setup and raffle tix, Annalee worked our drinks table, Shelby worked the door, Nakachi set up food tables and made our donor thank you board and managed the food and took photos and helped us break down — then danced with the djs!
Our writers — Carol Queen, Blyth Barnow, Jacks McNamara, Renee Garcia, Manish Vaidya, Barbara Henry and John Zic — brought a stunning diversity of words. We had stories of hunger and learning to eat, about finding love and longing and identity in the digital machine, about redefining ‘good’ and longing for lost friends and communities that are safe from violence; we had poems wrangling with whole survivorness, family and loss, and hunger for relationships that hold us like we deserve to be held and bodies we can feel safe within. We heard about how to be a bad girl. Carol Queen talked about the Erotic Reading Circle that we co-facilitate, and several of the writers spoke about how their lives and work had been impacted by the workshops. I didn’t expect this at all, and was deeply moved by and grateful for what they shared.
Carol and Robert at the Center for Sex and Culture, were, as always, absolutely accommodating and helpful and spacious and supportive and lovely! And then we got to share our words and dance with the CSC library — who doesn’t love that?
We had about seventy people come through, maybe a few more, and we raised about two thousand for the scholarship fund. Up until now we’ve only been able to offer partial scholarships — now we can offer some full ones, too! Eight to fifteen writers who would otherwise not have been able to afford it will have the chance to come through the survivors writing groups, to find community and languaging and witnessing and and space for his/her/hir/their voice. Thank you thank you thank you thank you.
This is by far the biggest event that Writing Ourselves Whole has ever thrown, and we could have done none of it without Renee Garcia (who runs Write the Fuck Now). Renee is Writing Ourselves Whole’s Program Assistant (and my good friend), who wrangled donations and contacted community support members and volunteers, kept us on schedule, organized the flow of the night, and generally created an absolutely fabulous atmosphere. I am full of thanks for you, Renee. Renee and I share a birthday, and so we got to sing to her (and then folks tricked me and sang to me, too!) and then there was a lovely red velvet cake with candles to we got to blow out together.
(What have I forgotten? There’s the story of getting to share this space and event with my sister, the story of several of my original writing group being in the room on Saturday night, the story of letting Writing Ourselves Whole be bigger than just my two hands — those stories will have to come later!)
After the mingling and the readings, folks cleared the chairs away and we got to dance. This is the very best way that I can imagine getting to celebrate a birthday: good and inspiring community, powerful words, joy-inducing music and plenty of room to move around on the dance floor — and then, the next day, on my actual birthday, I got to gather with one of the Dive Deep groups to move right back into the workshopping.
Today I have thank you notes to write, a Write Whole workshop this evening, and then tomorrow, for a few days, I’m gonna rest and write and rest. This weekend I’m up in Sacramento for an erotic writing group. We keep going!
Thank you for sharing this space with us and for writing your own necessary story. Here’s to ten more years of healing community and full & complicated storying.