Tag Archives: workshops

the strange glitter of celebration

young girl's face wearing sunglasses

Good morning! It’s wet and chilly here — what about where you are? I’m learning about space heaters in houses with very little insulation, but more I’m learning about how grateful I am just for space heaters, and a house.

Yesterday was the last Write Whole workshop for 2010 — we had a gorgeous potluck (a plenitude of chocolate offerings!) and powerful writing. (Thank you!) This morning I was up at 5 without the alarm, and went ahead and let myself get up, out of bed, make tea and head out to the small space that I’m reallocating for creativity. I put my candle on and wrote my morning pages in dark and quiet and hope. A lot of my writing these days is about being in my body — what if I let myself be in my body? What if I got help as I re-find myself here? How do people do that? I have a project in mind — I want to tell you about it, but I think I better do it first, get it started, and show you along the way.

It’s important to me to have places in my home that are devoted to creative energy, to my own dreaming. Yes, I make altar space around my desk, which means i put up images and words that help me dream and remind me of what’s important to me (nature, healing, radical queer feminism, poetry, my sister, etc) and, too, there’s something to dedicating spaces to creative impulse, to creative engagement. Something about a corner or a room that begins to accrue creative energy and expectation — so that when I go to that corner or that room, over and over, in the early morning (which is my favorite creative time), I know & my creative self knows that this is a good and safe space for emergence and play. In the space that I’m settling into, I’ve covered the walls with images and phrases, color and faces and windows. I’ve put up the hangings that so often can’t find a place elsewhere in my home — suddenly, the space feels like a container.

(Once again the power goes out because we have on heaters in both the office & bedroom. and why not? why should two people be warm at once? So now I need to finish this quickly and get into the shower so I can get warm.)

So, a prompt for today, and a write.

Last night, for our second write, I offered the word ‘Thanks’ as the prompt. Just that.

(Of course, we are always welcome and invited to alter the prompts in any ways interesting to us, which sometimes includes adding a “no” or negating the prompt — so another option was to write to ‘No thanks.’)

Here’s my response to that prompt:

I want to find thanks for the ways that the workshops make it ok to hear, teach me not just to listen but to be witness, be solidarity, be not a fly on the wall but a body in the room with open eyes and breath, aching and accepting into horror and loss and also the strange glitter of celebration when a wrong thing has had words found for it.

Yesterday I did an exercise with some folks at a leadership retreat that I was only part of by marriage and in one of the exercises we were paired up and one of us was supposed to be in a strong visible emotion and the other was supposed to meet that emotion exactly and just walk with the first person in that emotion — so I paired with someone called Joe and he played the one with the strong emotion and scrunched up his face and squinted his eyes and balled his fists and he’s slender and scrub haired and goateed and muscly and he started rarr-ing and growling, so I fell into step with him and scrunched my forehead and growled and argh-ed and we paced shoulder to shoulder and then started laughing and he said, It gets so much lighter when you take half of it

and isn’t that true even so much fucking later, when suddenly there’s someone else, there’s a roomful of grace-laden warrior artists, in the room with me and her or him just bearing witness to atrocity, who can see the shape of the couch under him, the one who’s over me, those artists who can hear the tv blaring, hear my mother’s key not unlocking the door — time is unlaced this way, the pages open up around us, I am each of those girls at every age and I am here now, too, and there with the circle of fierce writers who are watching and listening and taking notes and wheat-pasting those notes to the concrete sides of buildings, who are not alone, who were never alone, or were and are and still shimmer around the edges with lacing like light through the tellings that were never meant to escape our throats

I say thanks for this sacred thing, placing word upon word after word in your presence and reclaiming a home and a hand for that young woman that girl there on that couch way back then.

Thanks to you, always.

truths in our fictions

Brilliant drawing of hyenas laughing

from Dorian Katz's "The Hyena Report" -- click the image to see more of her amazing work...

I need to be at the bus stop in half an hour — yet, here I am in front of the computer and what should be, but isn’t going to be, my morning write. Some writing on the bus, maybe —

Last night was getting to hang out with the very amazing Dorian Katz and Poppers the Pony, and her/their students at Stanford; she’s teaching a class called ” Drawing the Imaginative Figure: Characters, Alter-Egos, Avatars and You,” which I just love; we did some writing exercises designed to bring us into our alter egos. I wish I could spend the rest of the semester with them, seeing what all they do with the characters they were embodying last night! Dorian’s a generous teacher and powerful role-model; imagine if you’d had her as a professor in college!

We talked about the sort of truths that can emerge through our fictions —

I want to remind folks about the Body Empathy workshop coming up on the 13th of this month (can it already be November?): this is a day-long writing and body mindfulness workshop for all queer/genderqueer/same-gender-loving/trans folks who are also survivors of sexual trauma. We provide a light breakfast as well as lunch, and move back and forth from writing exercises to movement exercises, gently easing us into different parts of ourselves. Let me know if you can join us!

Also, this month’s Writing the Flood will be on Nov. 20 — I’m looking forward to that workshop, too; I like how the culture of the Flood workshop is shaping up!

No more time today, but what about this article? Introverts unite (just not all at one time, ok? 🙂

Thanks for your gentleness today, your presence with your resilience and ferocity, and thanks, thanks, for your good writing, for your words!

the things I can choose to live for might be very small things

graffiti, a smiling woman's face, with the text, "celebrate your joy!"

(click on the image for more of Frank H. Jump's collaborative project, documenting vintage mural ads and more)

Good morning! This is a very sleepy morning — is going to be a very sleepy day. I’ve been awake since 4 at least, earlier, I think. My morning-self was ready to write early, I guess, but my physical-self wasn’t quite ready to pull hirself out from under the warm covers and into the chill dark until about 5.

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I think music is one of the reasons for living. I don’t understand it, by which I mean I don’t understand where it comes from in people, so it’s always magic to me. I mean, I don’t think in music; it’s not a way that I express myself creatively — and I’m grateful for that not-understanding. It means I can sink into the sound with wonder, without the technical eye that sometimes arises (not often, but sometimes) when I’m reading a book I like and I want to attend to how the writer did what they did.

And curiosity, possibility: these have kept me alive, too. Listening to other people’s writing, especially at an open mic, in the workshops: experiencing how much there is to our us-ness. And the way the sky looks, at almost any moment. how a candle moves on its own inside the glass. the taste of coffee. a really good kiss (thanks for that, you). laughter. how my body feels when its moving in water. the feel a of a pen moving across the page — that’s a good thing to live for. the body’s endless possibilities. I want to say the body’s endless capacity for joy; but there’s also the endless capacity for sorrow, for loss: how very much we can hold. What other reasons to live? a dog’s head under your hand, holding eye contact with an animal or a very young child: there’s communication that happens there that we don’t have language for yet.

Maybe I’m thinking about how we decide to stay alive, how I have decided to stay alive. We can always choose not to, and we can choose to die quickly or die slow. So many many of us choose to die slow. And then there are the decisions to live: every day. Moment to moment, some days.

I’m not trying to be Pollyanna-y or Follow-Your-Bliss-y here: I’ve been kept alive (kept myself alive) by inappropriately-placed lust, by drinking (because I knew when I was drinking I could flirt with the wrong people, I could be too loud, I could be the parts of me that people don’t recognize otherwise, I could cry and cry and cry), by swimming around in depression and soaking in self-pity (and by this I don’t mean to say that depression is a chosen thing; rather, that there have been times that I decide I’m going to go with the grain of it into the hollow of my sorrow and feel around for the core and curvature of that place, instead of setting myself at an angle against depression’s pull and trying to find joy even when I’m at my saddest and most grey). Guilt has kept me alive: imagining how terribly sad my sister would be if I died, how sad my love would be. And so, I’m grateful right now for those things, too, weirdly.

The things I can choose to live for might be very small things — how good it feels to walk through the city and look at all the people and places; a cup of coffee; writing time in the morning, even though it’s not as much time as I want  — those very small things are everything.

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A prompt? Want to make a list of some of the reasons you have, today, for living? Making the list might be the writing exercise, or you might choose one of the items on the list and write more about that one — what is it that captivates you (or your character)? What catches you in about it?

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Today, I’m grateful for every decision you’ve made toward living, even if that meant, sometimes, moving closer to death. We’re complicated in our humanness. I’m grateful for your curiosities, your joys. Thank you, too, always, for your words.

more visibly messy than I already am

You know those times when something really big is happening in your life and all you can manage to do is just hold open the space for it to emerge? I’m pretty sure I’m in the middle of one of those times.

Something very important in my life transformed itself over dinner last night — which means it ended, and it’s about to begin again. It’s something confidential, and one day I’ll tell you more about it. For today, I’m in kind of a quiet mourning place, and a place of enormous gratitude. (Thank you & love you!)

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Also, feeling nostalgic, and missing home; and by home, here I mean the land, the way Omaha smells (and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way), the way the people sound. I would like to be able to be there today. We could rent a three bedroom house in Dundee for less than half (way less than half) of what we pay for our place here. Don’t get me started (Jen, don’t get started) on the brutality of the Bay Area’s cost of living.

Have you read Tim Redmond’s essay that introduces the latest Guardian? It made me feel like crying. What’s true is, when I moved here 7 years ago, I thought maybe all the excellent radical artist dyke/queer culture and survivability that I’d been reading about since the early 1990s still existed in San Francisco: but it’s gone. So many of us can’t afford (For as much as I could pay for a house to rent in Omaha, I couldn’t even get a room in an SRO) to live there and do our art, do what we love, without a patron (be it in human or govt form) or student loans or many jobs.  Even if the people are still there, the culture, the city, looks/feels so very different from what I expected. I expected difficulty; I didn’t expect a community that could hardly manage to get together because it was so damn busy scrambling/working to pay the fucking rent while also jealously guarding tiny bits of time here and there for its art. Maybe that’s just my experience — maybe others are managing to do it better.

I don’t honestly know if this is a place I can stay; I don’t mean I’m leaving tomorrow, or even next year (because how could I go away from this ocean?!); I mean that I’m broken-hearted. The cost of living feels personal, feels like, why don’t you want us here? I know I’m protected from most of the worst of it: I have a good-paying part-time job that leaves me with energy for my workshops, and during the workshops, I can get some writing done. And yet, I’m getting tired. And I just don’t see things turning around here — now that the developers know they can take the city, why would they give it back?

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I just discovered there was a TEDx in Omaha just last weekend — please don’t make any jokes about that, just go check it out.

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Today’s my two-workshop day: first, I meet with the MedEd Writers at UCSF for an hour of creative writing-as-professional development, and then I head to the Flood Building for tonight’s Declaring Our Erotic meeting. The writing that always emerges from these spaces will fill me up — I can’t wait.

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I’m sorry I don’t have very much this morning. I can’t tell what exactly I’m feeling. Some days are like that. If I were at a cafe, in front of a notebook, I would pour it all out — but for right now, it feels too intimate, more of my insides spread all over the blog. That doesn’t mean I don’t trust you; maybe it means I’m scared of being much more visibly messy than I already am.

Maybe a prompt for today: Take 10 minutes or 20, and write about mess, about things that get messy (spaces, people, relationships, landscapes, cities…). Follow your writing wherever it seems to want to go.

I’m grateful for you today. I keep on being grateful for you.

Coming up! Body Empathy on Sat, November 13

(Please help us pass the word!)

First Congregational Church of Oakland

2501 Harrison St.

Oakland, CA

No previous experience necessary! Pre-registration required. Fee: $50-100, sliding scale (Please check in with us if funds are an issue—payment plans are always possible, and we may be able to work out trades or other arrangements as well!) Register here — or write to jennifer@writingourselveswhole.org with any questions!

What if we could truly experience empathy for our bodies as they are – and then, by extension, for ourselves, as we are?

As queer, genderqueer & trans survivors with a wide array of backgrounds and identities in a sexuality-/gender-restrictive culture, our self-protective tendency can be to “check out” by detaching mind from body to such great degrees that it can be dangerous. Physical activity and writing are two ways to check back in with your embodied self.

With deep respect for the privacy and variety in our personal experience of gender expression and our individual histories, this workshop will create safe space for participants to embrace our bodies as they are, and to write the stories our bodies have been wishing to speak, while allowing possibility for the integration of identity and physical presence. Using brief writing exercises and low impact body mindfulness exercises derived from improvisational theater, Zen meditation practice, and the internal Chinese martial arts, participants will have the opportunity to fully embody our gender complexity in a healing and playful environment.

The exercises we practice can be easily incorporated into our daily lives and can enhance our ability to reflect mindfully on our experiences, while interacting with others from a place of self-acceptance, internal power, and confidence, as we move through the world as the fabulously feisty queer & gender warriors we are…
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Your facilitators:

Alex Cafarelli is a Jewish genderqueer femme trauma survivor with a background of 17 years of martial arts training. Currently teaching body mindfulness classes in Oakland, Alex also works as a gardener specializing in drought-tolerant and edible landscapes, does Reiki/massage bodywork, and develops and leads element-based rituals to support women, queers, transfolk, and genderqueers in moving through transitions and healing from trauma. Contact Alex at petals_and_thorns@yahoo.com.

Jen Cross is a queer incest survivor and a widely-anthologized writer who has facilitated survivors and sexuality writing workshops since 2002. She offers two weekly AWA-method workshops (Write Whole: Survivors Write and Declaring Our Erotic) in San Francisco. Find out more about Jen at
writingourselveswhole.org or write her at jennifer@writingourselveswhole.org.

Writing the Flood begins this Saturday, 6/19!

Just a reminder — this new, monthly Saturday afternoon writing space commences this coming Saturday, 6/19! This new group is in direct response to the folks who’ve been wanting a general-topic writing space — read on for more info, and then visit our Contact page to reserve a space!

Writing the Flood

Open the gates and let your writing voice flow

A half-day, open-topic writing workshop!

Third Saturday of every month

beginning Saturday, June 19, 1pm

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. You can expect to end the day with: a several new pieces of creative writing, feedback from your peers about what’s already strong in your new writing, and some new writerly community!.

Unless otherwise noted, this workshop meets on the third Saturday of the month. $25-50, sliding scale. Limited to 12.

No previous writing experience necessary! Workshops held in San Francisco in an accessible space, a half-block from BART and on many MUNI lines. Pre-registration is required — please write to jennifer@writingourselveswhole.org with questions or to register.

About your facilitator: Jen Cross is a widely published freelance writer. She’s a queer incest survivor who used writing as a transformative and integral part of her own healing process. She’s a certified AWA Facilitator, has led writing workshops with survivors since 2002, and writes with folks about trauma, sexuality, and more.