o In the Write Whole: Survivors Write workshop, you’ll gather with other survivors of sexual trauma to create new art and new beauty out of life’s difficult and complicated realities. We freewrite together in response to exercises chosen to elicit deep-heart writing, and deal with such subjects as: body image, family/community, sexuality, dreams, love, faith, and more. Learn to trust the flow of your own writing, and receive immediate feedback about the power of your words in a supportive, transformative, and survivor-centered community.
This group is open to all who identify as women, and ‘survivor’ is intended to be self-defined as well. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’re worried about whether or not you’d “fit.”
Pre-registration is required. The fee for an 8-week session is $375. (I can generally work out payment plans; please contact me if you have question or concerns about payment.) Please register early! A $75 deposit will confirm your space in the workshop.
No previous writing experience necessary. We’ll meet in El Cerrito in a beautiful garden space, 1.5 blocks from BART and close to other public transportation.
At last night’s Write Whole meeting, I invited the gathered writers to create two lists, one titled, “This is what my body knew,” and the other titled “This is what my body didn’t know.”
Over there to the left is what my list looked like.
And down here below is what I wrote (all the way at the bottom is what it sounded like):
You do not teach a body this thing, the ability to uncouple itself from its own awareness, the capacity to wrench apart from knowing like a rusty bolt tears away from a wall, following the pull of gravity. This ability can only be discovered. He puts her beside him on an afternoon bed and he has already insisted that she shape her teenage mouth around words that look like Yes.
This is the spoken sentence you would diagram the next day in class: Yes, we can go upstairs.
This is the underlying meaning you would tease out in your essay: Yes, you can remove my clothes and make my body respond to your actions.
This is the meaning so deeply encoded in the sentence, so clogged and clotted in the throat, so wholly without meaning, that any analysis of the spoken sentence would miss it altogether: No, don’t touch me. No, I hate you. No, please leave me alone. I let you do this yesterday why won’t you leave me alone? If I let you do it today you’ll stop bothering me. No I don’t want to No I don’t want to No I want you to die —
These words bubble in the throat and under the skin these words become the wings of small tree birds caught in a windstorm these unspoken sentences clog around the throat tear up through the brain lift off the top of the head rise up to the ceiling these words escape from their locked dungeon these words make themselves palpable they latch their claws into consciousness and pull hard as they fly they rend the singularity he expects her to pretend she is made of but as soon as he ignores her shaking her head or her tensed muscles or held-together thighs or flailing arms or whispered no or shouted no or wept no or invisible no she splinters she erupts into at least two selves the belly of her sinks deep into midbrain dives into the holy darkness goes supernova explodes she is lit with new terrain she was always more possible like this she lies fingers down beneath fragments of his body she peels him apart to discover what pieces of his strata still hold the words she was forced to say where in his nebulae does her unwilling yes still appear? where in the dust of his destruction exists the shapes of her pretense? she is not the only animal with the capacity for unsolvability when he reached into the pockets of his being and pulled out the self that was willing to bend her backward into unselfness, how could he be anything but an empty star, a dead planet, a rock floating dense and heavy at the center of her universe? What light left his eyes when he put his fingers in her mouth? What consciousness willingly takes itself apart, hangs its soul on a hook, so its catatonic body can go wilding? What warmth does his body gain my wringing no out of her tongue and painting that good muscle false yellow with yes?
She erupts nuclear beneath his malevolence she becomes the unreckonable force no and yes are forever intertwined in the explosion there is no distance her innumerable consciousness cannot contain now he will never be able to hold her again
Are you seeking a space to write that will welcome the depth and complexity of your whole story? Do you want the weekly invitation to write and the knowledge that you will receive honest, kind and generous feedback about your words? Join us at Writing Ourselves Whole, and let your writing flow.
We’ve had to juggle the winter workshop schedule at Writing Ourselves Whole, which means you still have time to register for our survivors writing group or our general-topic daytime writing group:
Meridian Writers, a new, general-topic group open to all writers, now begins Wednesday morning, February 12 (meets 9 Wednesday mornings, 9:30am-12:00pm)
Read on for more details about these groups! Contact meif you’d like to join us, and please feel welcome to forward this information to those you think might be interested in joining us.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Workshop descriptions:
o In the Write Whole: Survivors Write workshop, you’ll gather with other trauma survivors to create new art and new beauty out of life’s difficult and complicated realities. Learn to trust the flow of your own writing, and receive immediate feedback about the power of your words! Remember: we’re open to ALL trauma survivors, and ‘survivor’ is self-defined! Fee is $350; partial scholarships are available for all trauma-centered writing groups.
o Meridian Writers invites you to join a new community of writers who are connecting more deeply with their writing practice. Find your center and write your story. New Wednesday morning group forming now! At the end of our nine weeks together, you will have a new creative community, and a strong body of original writing. Spaces are limited to 9 writers per workshop session. Fee for our regular 9 week workshop is $425. Fees from this workshop help support Writing Ourselves Whole’s workshops for trauma survivors.
No previous writing experience necessary! All groups use the Amherst Writers and Artists workshop method. We meet in Oakland, near Lake Merritt, close to several BART stations. Space is not wheelchair accessible. Spaces are still available, though limited, and pre-registration is required! To write with us, email Jen at jennifer(at)writingourselveswhole.org.
What is a story? It is a rehashing of events, a narrative, an anecdote, a lie, a truth. The dictionary isn’t helping me here, just giving me synonyms. What is a story? It’s a telling or a making up. It’s offering an account of an experience, so someone else can can come to know or understand what happened. It’s a fabrication, a weaving into existence something that wasn’t, that didn’t exist, until we put it into precise words.
Story is contextual. And who determines a story’s context? “She’s telling stories” is the way some folks call us liars. But we know what truths come from storyteller’s mouths.
Thomas King also writes, “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.” He repeats this line throughout his slender book, driving the point home: we create ourselves, we know and understand ourselves, through the stories we tell and/or listen to and believe about ourselves, about those like us, about our communities, society, families, world.
Trauma is a story. Identity is a story. Religion is a story. Sex is a story. The body is a story.
Yes, the body is also bone and tissue, chemical reactions, pulses, electrical leaps. The body is fluid and organ, is emergence and excretion, is breath and heartbeat. The body exists as an object in this precise moment, entirely independent of its context, its historical situation, its experiences. Doesn’t it?
Would this body be what and how it is independent of the stories I have told about it? What is my body without its stories, its histories and herstories? What is yours?
Is my DNA a story? My musculature? What can you learn from the story of my skin, her scars and stretch marks, her stains and curves? What can you read in the complicated interweaving of my neuronal infrastructure (which would be transformed if the stories of my body were transformed)?
We use story every day, throughout the day. When someone asks how we slept, we offer a story of deems and waking. When a friend calls to tell us about her morning, she gives us a story, an anecdote. We tell childhood stories, baby stories, coming out stories, the story of how we met, the story of an illness, the story of our experience of abuse, the story of our recovery. When I ask someone, “Do you know my story?” – I have a particular story in mind. I meant the story of my trauma, most of the time – and this is the story of my body.
Every story is an illumination and an occlusion. Every story highlights one side of a situation while leaving out other information. This is out of necessity. We can’t remember or apprehend every detail of a happening or an experience. We remember what’s important – we tell what we remember and, over time, what we remember is what we’ve told repeatedly. We believe our own stories. We can forget that there are other ways to tell, understand, consider those stories – and each different telling provides a different lens through which to consider ourselves and our experiences.
How we tell our stories matters. The words we use for our stories matters. The metaphors and symbolic language, the imagery – all matter, all influence how we perceive ourselves, our bodies, our physical being, our agency, our history and our possibility.
What stories do you have about yourself and your experience that no longer serve you? What happens when you shift, examine or change the stories you’ve been living with, and by, and through? What happens when you expose yourself to other people’s stories, really listen to them, and consider how they compare to your own?
Do you have stories or poems, lines or images that want to find their way onto the page? Join one of our writing groups or workshops, and connect with an engaged and fiercely gorgeous writing community while you release those words onto the page!
The new year is the time for a new dedication to your writing practice — and we’ve got a whole host of offerings, beginning in January and February, one of which might be just right for you or someone you love!
Please pass the word, and let me know if you’d like to join us! I’m looking forward to writing with you —
SF-based 8-week workshop for women who are survivors of sexual trauma or sexual violence
Winter ’12 Workshop begins Monday, January 16
Meets 8 Monday evenings, 6:00-8:30pm.
This workshop is open to all women survivors of sexual trauma.
Gather with other women survivors of sexual trauma in this workshop, and write in response to exercises chosen to elicit deep-heart writing, and deal with such subjects as: body image, family/community, sexuality, dreams, love, faith, and more. You’ll be encouraged to trust the flow of your own writing, and receive immediate feedback about the power of your words!
8-week workshop fees: The fee for an 8-week session is $350. (I can generally work out payment plans; please contact me if you have question or concerns about payment.) There is a reduced-rate early bird fee of $315 if you register by December 20. The regular registration fee will be in effect through January 1, 2012. The late registration fee is $385; last day to register is January 9.Please register early!
Tuesday mornings in Tiburon beginning 1/31: 10am-1pm (women’s group);
Wednesday evenings in San Rafael beginning 2/1: 6-9pm (open to all writers)
Make a commitment to your writing in 2012!
New writing group forming: Bayview Writers is open to all writers seeking a fun, generous and supportive atmosphere in which to create powerful new writing. Using the Amherst Writers and Artists workshop method, we write together in response to exercises designed to spark your creative imagination. Whether you’re in the middle of a larger project, beginning something new, or going through a time of ‘writer’s block,’ this workshop is for anyone looking to connect with their writing, regardless of experience level. Connect with other local writers and release the words that you’ve been longing to write.
The fee for an 9-week session is $425. There is a reduced-rate early bird fee of $380 if you register by November 23. The regular registration fee will be in effect through January 1, 2012. The late registration fee is $465; last day to register is January 6. Please register early!
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Dive Deep An advanced, project/manuscript-centered working group
Inaugural group meets January 5, 2o12!
This workgroup is designed for those who have delved into (or are ready to commit to) the deep dive of a large* writing project:
poetry, story or essay collection;
play or screenplay;
preparing work for publication;
or any other long-term writing project.
Though writing is a solitary pursuit, no writer has ever completed a long work alone!
Divers will meet three times per month for writing exercises, project check-in and accountability, manuscript feedback, coaching and peer support. This group can help you meet your writing goal, and provide community and encouragement as you go deep into a writing project. This is necessary work you’re doing: give yourself all the tools and support you need.
Workshop fees: This is an ongoing group; the fee is $200/month, with a three-month initial commitment required; the group will remain closed for three-month cycles, then will open at the end of those cycles for the possible addition of new members. Dive Deep is limited to 6 members at a time. Please contact me to register!
* “large” is relative — whatever your writing project is, if you want support and accountability and regular connection around that work, we would love to have you!
I’ve reformatted this workshop from an 8-week series to 10 Saturday writing retreats! Each month, come together with a fun, powerful, and supportive group of writers to dive into some sexy and surprising new writing! We will work with a theme every month, and you will be invited to write into the ideas that theme inspires in you, or you are welcome to use the workshop retreat time to do whatever writing is most pressing for you.
In DOE writing groups, we write in response to exercises that bring up different aspects of our erotic, sexual and sensual selves, in a safe and confidential group of peers. This workshop is designed to leave you more confident with sexual language, erotic expression, and your own writing practice. You’ll receive immediate and concrete feedback about what’s already working (and hot!) in your writing, and will leave with several new pieces of work.
Previous participants have found the group to be transformative, feeling that the work they’ve done has opened up and changed not only their relationship with their erotic selves, but with many other aspects of their lives as well.
Unless otherwise noted, this workshop meets on the third Saturday of the month, 10am-5:00pm. Light lunch provided. Limited to 12. Fee for Declaring Our Erotic Saturday retreat is $100 (with a sliding scale). Please contact me to register!
Early 2012 retreat dates — mark your calendars!:
Saturday, February 5, 2012: New Beginnings
Saturday, March 3, 2012: Writing the Body (and Jen’s 40th birthday!)
Saturday, April 7, 2012: Edging into Fantasy
Every third Saturday, 1-4:30pm
(unless otherwise noted)
The first Writing the Flood of 2012 meets on 1/21
Writing The Flood is a writing group for anyone looking to prime the writing pump: using the Amherst Writers and Artists method, we will write together in response to exercises designed to get those pens moving, and get onto the page the stories, poems, essays, images and voices that have been stuck inside for too long. This is a time to work on a larger project, get started on new work, play on the page, or write yourself through a block and back into your writing voice.
Unless otherwise noted, this workshop meets on the third Saturday of the month. $50 (with a sliding scale) Limited to 12. Please contact me to register.
Early 2012 Writing the Flood dates — mark your calendars now!
Every fourth Wednesday at the Center for Sex and Culture, 7:30-9:30pm
suggested donation: $5+
Since 2006, we’ve been meeting on the fourth Wednesday of the month to share and celebrate the breadth of erotic artistry in the Bay Area! The next Erotic Reading Circle meets on September 28, 7:30-9:30 at the Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission Street, San Francisco (cross streets 9th and 10th). $5+ donation requested (no one turned away); donations support the Center for Sex and Culture. This month’s circle will be a collaborative effort with the Sex Worker’s Arts Festival events at the CSC!
Bring whatever you’re working on, or whatever you’d like to be working on.
Come join readers and share your erotic writing! Bring something to read or just be part of the appreciative circle of listeners. This is a great place to try out new work (ask for comments if you like), or get more comfortable reading for other people. Longtime writers will bring their latest… newly inspired writers, bring that vignette you scrawled on BART while daydreaming on your way to work. Carol Queen and Jen Cross host/facilitate this space dedicated to erotic writers and readers. No registration necessary — just drop in!
I’ve got the summer 8-week workshop schedule up, finally —
~Write Whole: Survivors Write
8 Monday evenings, 6:00-8:30pm, beginning 6/13
Open to all women survivors of sexual trauma
(Workshop held in downtown San Francisco)
o In the *Write Whole: Survivors Write* workshop, you’ll gather with other survivors of sexual trauma to create new art and new beauty out of life’s difficult and complicated realities. Learn to trust the flow of your own writing, and receive immediate feedback about the power of your words! Remember: we’re open to ALL women, and ‘survivor’ is self-defined!
o We each need safe space in which to be our whole erotic selves. In the Declaring Our Erotic: Reclaiming our sexuality workshop, you’ll try your hand at some explicit erotic writing, and, in so doing, will get more comfortable exploring and talking about sexual desires, explore the varied and complex aspects of sexuality and desire, receive strong and focused feedback about your new writing!
Pre-registration is required. The fee for an 8-week session is $350. (I can generally work out payment plans; please contact me if you have question or concerns about payment.) There is a reduced-rate early bird fee of $315 if you register by May 20. The regular registration fee will be in effect through June 5. The late registration fee is $385 (this will be in effect June 5-June 12; June 12 is the last day to register). Please register early! A $75 deposit will confirm your space in the workshop.
No previous writing experience necessary. Unless otherwise noted, workshops held in San Francisco in an accessible space near BART and MUNI lines.
Good morning! It’s a Monday — how’d that get here so fast? I’ve got decaf espresso on the stovetop (and yes still the magnet on my fridge, bought long long before I stopped drinking caffeinated coffee, that says, “Decaf Espresso? What’s the Point?”). Mmm — espresso w/ cardamom and lemon zest, and a bit of sugar.
In a couple hours, I’ll be heading out to the airport, getting on a plane, flying East, for the Power of Words conference. First I get a day in Boston, with the Lady Miz M & her Lady, and then an early morning drive up through NH and VT to a day-long conversation about what Transformative Language Arts is and could be. Then, on Thurs, the Transformative Language Arts Network Council has its annual meeting. Then the Power of Words conference starts Friday — I get to talk about the liberatory power of our erotic story. I get to introduce Kim Rosen‘s keynote, and then, too, I get to facilitate a panel discussion about the ways that transformative language arts work can be social change work.
I will work to post at least once or twice from New England — it would have been smart to set up a few automatic posts (huh? like Jianda’s been tellin’ me. *sigh*), but I haven’t done that yet.
When I get back, we’ll have one more week before the Write Whole and Declaring Our Erotic: Reclaiming our Sexuality workshops start. We’re about half-registered for DOE, and almost full for WW. Please do let me know if you’d like to join us, and please pass the word about the workshops if you know someone who you think might be interested! Most folks who come new to the workshops heard about them from someone they know…(thanks for that!)
Oh: I did it! I went swimming! (I wrote, a week and a half ago, that I’d go swimming once last week. Then I got sick and though I probably wouldn’t do that after all. but by the end of the week I felt a lot better, and woke up on Saturday with an urge to move through water. I headed up to the Terra Linda public pool, here in San Rafael, for the adult swim. remember when the Adult Swim was the super-boring time at the pool, cause all the kids had to get out and let the adults just go back and forth across the pool, in straight lines, like that was something fun? well, that was us. And it was fun, after all. This was the last weekend that Terra Linda’s going to be open this year, so now I gotta check out the Marin Y.
I have a write I want to share with you, from this past weekend’s Writing the Flood. We did the exercise where you start writing with a phrase (In this case, it was “In the palm of your hand…”), and then after a minute, I through out a random word that you have to, right away, put into whatever it is you’re writing. I do that for the next four minutes: every minute, I say a new word, and you bring that word into your writing. Then, after the five minutes are completed, you pause a moment, and keep on writing for another 10-15 minutes, following your writing wherever it seems to want you to go. (You can do this yourself by writing the words on 3×5 cards, turning the cards over, and every minute, looking at one of the cards and using that word right away.)
It can take us to writing we’d never imagine doing, this prompt, sometimes something surreal and very different for us. Here’s what I wrote in response:
In the palm of your hand, I put the bald story of my heart, in all its plastic anguish, in all its grief, in all its weight. In the palm of your hand, teeth dig in and around the flesh, angry and swollen (the teeth or the heart?), gnawy and hopeful and hard. In the palm of your hand, I put heart’s background, prescient and timely, orange and dangerous, cactus-spined with sadness and also with wanting. Sob out all yesterday’s angries, sob out the places blue and pushy, the places still ratcheting like pulses inside your mouth. Blue out all the angries. Write what hurts, first.
This waving, this hardying, this shore, this hesitation — this is what I’m talking about. How the palm of your hand is this conductor, holding forth the light, asking for more from my heart than just grief,l asking for the weight history to bleed out–
In the palm of your hand I put the hot weight of my heart and let you fold your slim fingers around its heft, cradle it like it’s something worth tendering to, push maybe now and again against its tough meat. And it’s your job, now, this carrying, the way you have to do the work of your day while still holding on to my heart, soothing its crusts and anguishes even while you go about, one-handed, making your oatmeal for breakfast, or texting, one-thumbed, the clients who need to hear from you.
And what about how your heart is in my palm, the way we bloody ourselves for love, the way I settle myself into your gush not of the carnal kind, but of the cardiac — how I soak in what you’d come to believe no one would ever even want to see.
What am I trying to get into here? The tenacious stuff of the heart, how I let you take it in your mouth when you need both your hands for other tasks, how you set it down sometimes, how sometimes you forget where you left it., How its easy to say, sometimes love is like this — you, scrambling, searching, asking like you do, not about your glasses this time but, Babe, do you know where I left your heart? and I think, Look in your hands. There it is.
Not a magic trick. Hard labor, thick salty trust, aches of arguments and resolutions, how we, brown-skinned transbutch and paler skinned femmedyke, were never supposed to know the contours, the inner workings, the mechanics of one another’s heart beats, how much is established to keep us from listening, from holding your hand to your ear in the night and listening to the doubling up of a blood swell, your pulse the backdrop to my own, there in your hands. There in the palm of your hand.
Thanks for the gentleness you’re going to show yourself today, and for the ways you’re gentle with others as well, even in your fierce honesty. It’s a kindness, that honesty, and a generosity, too. Thanks for your writing, always.
Sunflowers are golden. Tarnish is not golden, unless it’s on earrings that were too silvery shiny to begin with and they needed some dark – lilacs and freshly broken playground rocks and crocus blooming through the last of the winter snow and seeing the redbuds on the maple tree and trusting that Spring was really, actually, finally coming for real this time: all golden. Snowstorms in mid-April and a brown Christmas: not golden.
These are the nature things, the Midwest things, the snow shoe shallow things, the walking back home things.
Walking through love into a wall of fear is not golden but bursting that fear with one’s faith in oneself and thick love for one’s compatriots is so golden it’s liquid.
He asked me not to bring you because he’s afraid of how it’ll look if you show up there with me, all of my fierce queer family un our leather and pansy dresses and tattoos and brave dye jobs and outspokenness and brazen truth fever and strong flaring unflinching eyes, all of us and our hands locked with lovers or tricks, our hands outstretched toward the pale bodies of a town in the middle of Nebraska that’s not all that far, in philosophical terms, from where Brandon Teena was murdered.
He asked me to come alone, without you, and unspoken was: you can fix your hair nice and put on a black skirt and no one would be the wiser. He wanted me to leave you off the list of my grandmother’s mourners, you heavily-mascaraed boys and fine suit-n-tie wearing girls. He wanted me to put my politics on the slide and my love on the swing and let them occupy themselves while my naked shameful body said goodbye to the woman who taught me about steadiness and safety and comfort and rhubarb-strawberry pie.
He says that if the other mourners see you, they will forget what they were gathered for, they will forget the woman whose life they are at the United Methodist to celebrate and remember, they will turn away from her and focus only on you, on us, on all of us in our un-American oddity.
And I remind him that I have grown from the seed that she planted and they tended, this middlest of middle America, with their water and sunlight and locusts and lies, with their long farms and endless faith and foreverable silencings, with their protestant hymns and communal supers and casseroles brought to the homes of the ill and the dying and all the unspoken sorrows of 200 years of homesteading: I am the fruit of those labors, harvested. They cannot deny us our legacy or our home. They can consider us abnormal, but if we are of them, then we are as strawberry-rhubarb as they are.
I am tired of these transparencies lain over my life, the requests to just be in the closet a little while – as if the closets our families lived in weren’t the most hospitable breeding ground for abuse, as if I want to refabricate those conditions, as if I don’t want to bring some queer sunshine into my family’s hometown, some golden probability for the one or three queer kids still living there and seeing themselves reflected nowhere, living between the crosshatch of Brandon and Matthew, expecting the closet is their only refuge.
He says my grandmother would never ask, herself, that I hide you, and unspoken it’s always unspoken is the point that she would prefer it that way but I look through her photo albums and find, among all the images of grandchildren and their families, several pictures of me with my ex-wife, and I see my grandmother honoring who I am, who she silently, steadily, helps me to be.
6. What has been the impact of the workshops for survivors of sexual abuse?
I love this question, and it’s a challenge for me to answer: while I can say what’s been my experience, I can talk about what I think happens for some folks sometimes, but I can’t speak for all the survivors I’ve written with. So I’m going to say some things I think about the workshops can impact or have impacted folks who’ve participated (myself included), but I’d love to hear your thoughts, too!
(Note: there’s a little bit of sexual language in this post — just fyi!)
We have our bodies. We have our hands and feet thighs legs arms eyes noses breasts mouths bellies chests butts foreheads fingers lips toes and yes genitals yes cunts and cocks yes they always are of us. Through [this] writing, I open to the world around me. I walk around heavily awake, I smile more amply, I touch the cats on the ledge with my eyes. I am seen and I see. I am witnessed. I am heard. I am differently present. This is the opposite of dissociation. This is the practice of embodiment.
We can change the world this way, through writing deeply and openly—I mean, with this and other practices of knowing and living ourselves into the vast elemental of art. Don’t ever think that our work, the very practice of writing—the very fact of taking the time to sit down with one’s own thoughts, committing them to paper, doing so in community –is not revolutionary. We undermine and examine the old teachings. We take the old language and turn it inside out. We name our hidden truths. We true our hidden names. We crack through the surface of the advertised world and take hold of the reins of our lives. As long as we keep on writing and knowing each other as constantly changing peers in this process, as long as we are free to tell ourselves and our stories however we choose, as long as we play in the memory and myth of the thickness of metaphoric language, as long as we climb into other writers who speak to us and experience their words viscous with reality (whether those words are published in a collection or read aloud in a writing group), we will walk ourselves, together, into freedom.
Remember the guidelines of the AWA method writing workshops (as developed by Pat Schneider in her book Writing Alone and With Others):
1) Confidentiality: everything shared here stays here;
2) Exercises are suggestions;
3) Reading aloud is optional;
4) Feedback is positive and treats all new writing as fiction.
We build trust in a space in which we hold ourselves and each other in confidence. Writers have the structure and possibility of exercises offered by someone else, and the freedom of interpretation and play. We can then choose to “perform” (read aloud) our new writing, or not. If and when we choose to share what we’ve written, we know we will receive a warm and strong hearing that focuses on the artistry of our words, our language, our imagery. We ourselves aren’t deconstructed, analyzed or pathologized.
Many writers in these workshops seem to “break open” right from the beginning. And that power is magnificent. We do it because we can and we are ready. We have a kind of “public performance space” that is also private, confidential. The writing room becomes our stage and our quiet bed. We have the assurance of privacy, which allows for the audacity, bravery, and cojones of recital. We come and write because we know someone will be there to hear us, and that we will be able to construct ourselves in the sight of others and yet not be held or tethered to any one permutation of ourselves. Finally, it’s out in the open, and other people are talking about it. No longer do we as individual (so-called) victims have to remain silent: we have a place where we can receive others’ stories, experiences, recovery, struggle, contradiction while offering our own.
In this space, no one has any authority over another in the realm of experience. How I receive a piece of writing is how I receive it, and how you experience it is how you experience it. What we hear and like might be similar or disparate, but any disconnect in our experiences/hearings does not render one or the other more right or better or more important. Also, each person’s interpretation of an exercise is correct.
For survivors, those of us–so many of us, in so many different ways–trained into wrongness, trained into silence, trained into the invisibility of our language: when I say that the workshops are “transformative,” I mean that we create ourselves a space in which to alter how we have come to know ourselves through words. When we tell newly-re-framed stories and we are heard… how can that not empower and open the heart?
This can take awhile to sink in for writers in the workshops. But you know how it is: Over time, and through hard and serious risk, each person learned the primacy and power of their words, their experience, their interpretation, their artistry. It’s revolution. It’s gorgeous.
Now, it’s y’all’s turn: What about for you? Have you participated in this or another AWA-method workshop? What’s been your experience about how survivors can be impacted by this work?