Last week I had the great pleasure to attend the Healing Art of Writing Conference/Workshop, offered at Dominican University here in San Rafael and organized/led by Dr. David Watts, a poet and UCSF GI doc. What can I tell you about this event? When I first saw the information about the conference (shared by Dr. Aronson at USCF, who runs the Medical Humanities listserv there), it felt like the absolute right place to be — a writing conference, about writing and healing and writing as healing? And Jane Hirshfield, Dr. Rachel Remen, John Fox, Terese Svoboda, Robert Hass and other amazing poets/writers/thinkers will be presenting? And it’s at Dominican, just two miles from my new home? Yes, please! However, the conference fee (which, at $700, is completely reasonable for an event of this length and caliber) was out of my budget, and so I thought maybe I’d be able to catch the evening talks or save up for next year’s offering.
And then Cindy Perlis, who leads the Art for Recovery program at Mt Zion (where I lead Healing Through Writing workshops with folks living with life-threatening/life-altering illness), asked if I wanted to go. She’d been offered a spot, but couldn’t take it herself. And so it was that on Sunday evening, after a weekend of queer-lib-madness (given that it was the end of Pride week in San Francisco), I found myself on the second floor of Guzman Hall on the Dominican campus, listening to a roomful of healers, poets, novelists, new writers, long-term writers, those living with illness or life-altering physical experiences, nurses, therapists, and doctors introduce themselves to one another. I felt wholly out of my element and terrified (and not a little bit awe-struck). I learned that night that the folks who had signed up for the Prose workshop (as I had) would be expected to share a 10-15 page chunk of their writing with their workshop groups. This was new information for me, and I had to scurry that night to get together the material I wanted to share with my group.
What else can I tell you? The Dominican campus is tree-and-deer filled, a peacefully-riotous green. Often during the week I was reminded of being at Goddard, from the reminders to be in one’s own process to the old wood frame buildings, there was something familiar about this place and these healing-focused folks gathered to attend to their own stories, their own writing.