Tag Archives: write whole

Another chance to write your story this winter!

Rockridge HeartsAre 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:

  • Write Whole: Survivors Write, open to all trauma survivors, now begins Monday evening, February 10 (meets 8 Monday evenings, 6:30-9:00pm)
  • 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 me if you’d like to join us, and please feel welcome to forward this information to those you think might be interested in joining us.
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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.

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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.

I look forward to writing with you!

Fall workshop schedule at Writing Ourselves Whole

graffiti of a butterfly hovering a branch that contains two nests of heartsFall is upon us, and many folks are in the back-to-school mode. Maybe you’re ready to pull out those composition books and let your words flow. Maybe you’re finished with summer’s travels and are ready to settle back into a relationship with your words. Maybe you’re ready to find community support for your stories. Whatever your reasons, join us in a group or workshop this fall, and write yourself whole:

Write Whole-Survivors Write. Open to all survivors of trauma
8 Monday evenings beginning October 14, 2013.
Fee: $350
Meets in private workshop space in Oakland, near Lake Merritt.
Gather with other trauma survivors and write in response to exercises chosen to elicit deep-heart writing around such subjects as body image, family/community, sexuality, dreams, love, faith, and more.

Reclaiming Our Erotic Story: Open to all women
8 Tuesday evenings beginning October 15, 2013.
Fee: $350
Meets in private workshop space in Oakland, near Lake Merritt.
Safe space in which to explore our gorgeously complicated erotic selves! Find community around the complexity of desire — and transform your relationship with your creativity and your sexuality! — as you try your hand at explicit erotic writing.

Online writing groups
6-week summer sessions begin October 13, 2013
Final group offered at introductory fee of $100-150.
If you are not comfortable joining an in-person group, we offer online groups as well. This summer, our Write Whole: Survivors Write online is open to all queer/LGBTQ survivors of trauma; Reclaiming Our Erotic Story online is open to all women. No special software required — just a computer, internet connection, and desire to write in supportive community.

Writing the Flood: A monthly writing workshop open to all
Meets the third Saturday of every month
Limited to 12. Fee is $50 (with a sliding scale)
Meets in private workshop space in Oakland, near Lake Merritt
Write in response to exercises designed to get those pens moving, and get onto the page the stories that have been too long stuck inside
Next Flood Write meets Saturday, September 21 (waiting list available).
Mark your calendars now for the Fall Flood Writes: Oct 19, Nov 16, Dec 21.

Dive Deep: An advanced manuscript/project workgroup
Next series begins begins January 2014
Fee: $200/month (multiple-month commitment)
Limited to 6 members per group; contact me to be added to the waiting list for the first DD of 2014.
Meets in private workshop space in Oakland, near Lake Merritt
Designed for those working on (or committing to) a larger project, such as a novel or memoir. Divers meet three times per month for writing, project check-in/accountability, feedback, coaching and peer support.

Create the space this fall for your good words. All workshops facilitated by Jen Cross. Email me with any questions, or visit our contact page to register. I look forward to writing with you!

just once before I die I would like to know I’ve flown free

The prompt I offered at one of our last Write Whole sessions was “things we aren’t supposed to talk about.” (You can make a list of those things, if you want, or simply dive into the first thing that comes up for you when you hear that phrase); we wrote for twenty minutes.

Here’s what I wrote:

I am afraid of dying. I am still afraid of dying. It has been twenty years since last he put his hands on me, he has been in prison for seventeen years, and still something in me remains stalled. 

I’ve had friends who don’t want to hear that I am still afraid of my stepfather killing me, that I bear the steel-rod terror still along my spine and through my shoulders that one day he will be released or escape from jail, come and find me and do, finally, what he promised so many years ago, when I first tried to get him to stop what he was doing to me, when I tried to stop the “sexual part of our relationship,” as he liked for me to call it. How had we gotten into the conversation, my friend and I? I said I was afraid I would freeze if I ever opened the door to find my stepfather standing there. My friend was aghast – and though he didn’t try to be, was profoundly shaming. He wanted a different response from me, and so I gave him one: I stopped talking about it. His telling me that I should remember that I am not the 19 or 23 or 21 year old I was when he last threatened me didn’t help. His grimace of feminist disappointment didn’t help.

I remembered – this is my fear to carry alone.

And it’s a site of shame – of course I know I should let it go. I know I shouldn’t believe one more of his lies. Where is this going? Last month, a friend dies at 50 with      yes      so much more of his life left to head and yet a gorgeous legacy of work and craft and community – and, at 41, I feel like I am still in limbo, still waiting for this man to die before I can truly open up the spigot of my heart, still sure that anyone I open my heart to will get killed as well, still afraid that any ambitions I pursue or life I build will be precisely what he will take delight in tearing away from me, burning in front of me. Torturing me until I relinquish. This was always his way. Why would twenty years make any different to a sociopath?

And so I try to remember to breathe, how to breathe, try to remember that, if he’s going to kill me, it probably won’t be today – and today I have some of my own beautiful and free life to live. I want to understand how to rid my body, my hard-grasping psyche, of this terror. I want to know how to communicate freedom and safety to my body, I want to know how to love freely into this life, how to stop mourning my inability to heal faster than I have. Maybe it all comes down to breath.

It seems true that I am not supposed to talk about the way this terror still lines my shoes, lives beneath my knees, behind my eyes; no, I no longer wait for him to come through a window. No, the place where this terror lives is inside my bones now. It stops up my reaching, my wingspan. Just once before I die I would like to know I’ve flown free.

unsolicited advice for a survivor

Rockridge HeartsThis is what I want to say: It won’t end. You won’t get fixed. You won’t reach a place where you name is Healed and incest doesn’t feed you breakfast anymore. The people who tell you You’ll get over it don’t know what they’re talking about, because they live in their own closed cage of denial. You have been transformed. You are not the same as you were Before. And you will never not also be who you were Before — but it may be some years before these layerings of yourselves can sit in the same room with you and have coffee in the morning. There is no such thing as getting over it. There is the business of living through. There is learning to breathe again, there is learning you are worthy of the air you breathe, there is having to breathe when you know you are not worthy. There is you, just breathing. You will have years called Night and years called Drunk and years called Weep and years called Frozen and years called Broken and Fuck. You look at this and think you can’t bear so many years of pain — but what’s true is that all those years are also called Freedom.

You will not always be in pain. Your heart will harden and soften at the same time. You will forget all the names you ever had, you will climb into a skin so different from the one you were fucked into that not even your mother — especially not your mother — will be able to recognize you. This may or may not be a cocoon. It might just actually be the true face of your new eyes. Every stage of healing is a phase, like this breath you are taking is a phase, like this heartbeat is a phase, like a single kiss is a phase is an instant an instantiation of your personhood. Phase means nothing except you are still alive. Ignore them when they tell you that whatever you’re experiencing now is just a phase. Ignore their relief, if it comes, when you enter a different phase. They do not sing with all the tendons of your body and they can’t speak the truth of your soul. Sit with the people who can hold your surfaces and your undersides.

One day you will say yes to your skin, yes to sex, yes to the feel of your body alive and inhabitable. The next day you will wrench up with No again. There will be years like this. There will be two yes hours in a row. There will be days when you don’t say his name, nights when the dreams in which you cannot move begin to stretch and taffy in your psyche, one day inside you will take the knife he brandishes and turn it on him. That will be a good day.

Know that this that you’re in right now will change. Be with people who can hold the shimmer of insurrection that is the space between who you were raped to be and who you are becoming. Be with those who can open their hands out to rage, who are imperfect in their holding, who want to fix it, who understand that there is nothing to fix. Understand that you will emerge from broke, that broken is a necessity, that no human passes through life whole, that none of us are anything other than whole. Believe that broken is necessary if one wants to see all sides of a thing. Know that you are because of and in spite of, you are of and not of, you are welcome in this human family, you have never been outside its true skin. We are just a people who has forgotten how to open our hands to those who need our receiving, who deserve a welcome, a yes, an apology. Know that the platitudes people offer you exist so that you can climb inside something together, that they are a doorway that you can meet each other through when the words don’t work anymore. Know that words will fail you but you will keep trying to unwrap them to find what lives inside, because for all the pain there you will never stop wanting to know and to share what lives truly inside yourself.

(A write from last night’s Write Whole survivor’s writing group meeting.)

I believe in the topology of regeneration

This is a new day. My body is sleepy, thick with desire for the covers. The candle blossoms new color into the dark room, and I am here with these early words. Fit me into the couch cushions, cover me with my mother-knitted afghan, hand me my tea cup and my novel. What do these words want from me today? What do your words want from you?

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I have two survivors workshops going right now, one in person (Write Whole) and one online. Last night was the third meeting of the spring Write Whole session, and got to be amazed at how deep the writing went, and how fast. We wrote hard about memory and grief, and in-between writes, we talked and connected and laughed. We wrote anguish and struggle last night, and after the workshop was over, I felt energized, lighter, and so grateful. It was a big one last night.

Sometimes people say, when I share with them about the work that I do, “Oh, that must be so hard.” I don’t know how to convey to them how much it’s not hard. How grateful I am every time I’m in the presence of a story that was never supposed to be told, how I appreciate the effort and risk involved in sharing brand new words, how honored I am to get to be in circle, over and over, with writers who are willing to language what we are trained never to be able to say. That’s not hard, I want to tell people; that’s a gift! Continue reading

Spring 2013 Workshop Schedule!

HowAliveThe Spring workshop series kick off in April, and there are still a few spaces available in each — I’d love to write with you!

  • Saturday, April 6: Writing the Flood (our monthly writing group open to all)
  • April 7: Dive Deep (our advanced, manuscript-driven workshop)
  • April 8: Write Whole – online (open to all queer survivors of trauma)
  • April 15: Write Whole – in Oakland (our trauma survivors writing group)

Read on for more information about each of these events— and visit our Sign Up page to register!

Continue reading

Follow your words — Winter ’13 Workshop Offerings!

heart vidaDo 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!

Read on to learn more about Dive Deep (our advanced, manuscript-driven workshop), Write Whole (our trauma suvivors writing group), Meridian Writers (our daytime writing workshop for women) and Writing the Flood (our monthly writing group open to all). Continue reading

Workshops: Summer ’12 Write Whole session begins August 6!

Because July means travel and vacation for so many people, I have postponed the Summer session of Write Whole until August! The new dates are below — if you or someone you know would like to join us, please let me know.

The next Write Whole: Survivors Write workshop will begin on Monday, August 6, 6:00-8:30 pm, and will run through Monday, October 1. We can have a maximum of 9 writers in this workshop — please let me know if you would like to join us! This workshop is open to all women who are survivors of sexual trauma.

Continue reading

Winter 2012 Workshops — Here’s what’s coming up!

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 –

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Write Whole: Survivors Write

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!

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Bayview Writers

A new and supportive writing workshop for Marin.

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:

  • a novel;
  • poetry, story or essay collection;
  • play or screenplay;
  • daily blogging;
  • 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!

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Declaring Our Erotic

A monthly erotic writing retreat open to all

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

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Writing the Flood

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!

  • Saturday, January 21, 2012
  • Saturday, February 18, 2012
  • Saturday, March 17

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The Erotic Reading Circle

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!

Upcoming dates for the ERC:

  • Wednesday, December 28, 2011
  • Wednesday, January 25
  • Wednesday, February 22

See you at the Circle!

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do over

graffiti of a sunflower, drawn onto red brickGood morning good morning — how is Tuesday feeling so far? Here the candles are low, flickering and sputtering hard, working hard for the last interweavings of oxygen and wax before losing all fuel.

The tea today is Moroccan mint – nettle/dandelion – cardamom – anise. Bitter with sweet undertones; a good wake-up tea.

We had a fantastic first meeting of the Fall ’11 Write Whole group last night — such powerful writers. I’m excited and grateful to be working with them! I woke up this morning and spent the first part of my writing time doing some reflective writing about the group — I’ve wanted to start a reflective practice after each workshop meeting for more than a year now, so it feels good to have begun that.

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For our second write last night, I filled the center of our writing table with images, asking each writer to choose one or two (I like it when we can notice which images seem to be choosing us) and let themselves imagine what was just about to happen in that picture, what had just happened, or to notice what the image reminded them of. We wrote for 20 minutes.

Here is my write in response — there were a number of images of older women, and older hands, and that was what I was responding to, initially:

There’s a backstory to all these women — I sat in a room yesterday and looked around at all the people smiling and thought, Every one of these women has been hurt. They were singing, all the people, we were in a circle, there was light overhead, how could they be smiling. It’s history. I wanted to know each of their stories, to hear them unfurl. I sat in a roomful of strangers and wanted to understand how it could be taht we could all sit together and be so composed when we were all fragile and braking every second, like humans do.

This writing is coming hard. When we were little we didn’t break glass or windows, we didn’t slam hammers into red Pinto or Nova hoods, we didn’t reach out or hands and scrape angry nails across other kids’ faces, what did we learn to do with our anger? How do you get trained, so successfully, to swallow, so early? How did we learn to disappear our anger?

This isn’t like that. This is another story. My mother has my grandmother’s hands now. I don’t have strong memories of my grandmother’s hands, but they were powdery, soft-skinned, bony — I want those to be tenderer words than they are. My parents are aging, hair long gone white or grey, strong and resistant bodies beginning to slow, and I am still waiting for the do over to begin. I see them and I’m startled. Wait, I think, we’re supposed to go bike riding around Holmes Lake today. We’re supposed to take a ride in the old VW bus out to  see the wild buffalo all caged up at Pioneer Park, we’re supposed to crawl around the statue of the Indian, carved out of red sandstone, stain our hands with the dust of him. When do we get to go back to the time before mom marries that man and he grabs at our hair by the roots and swings us around and unlearns us from our history? Before he shakes out the memories we let tangle on the surface of our skin, before he tells us his hands belong everywhere on us and so we learn that we belong nowhere inside us — when do we get to go back to Before him?

The horror is that I’ve been waiting these years, some awful lonely girlchild bit is sitting at her desk in a quiet classroom, finishing all her homework like a good girl is supposed to — she is from Before, and the room smells like chalk dust and night, like soft-soled teacher shoes and polyester and wood polish, and she is practicing her cursive on a big lined sheet of paper, she is doing her numbers, like her grandma would say, she is reading the part in her social studies book about the founding of America. She is there and doing her work and knows that when everything is done, when the bigger parts can feel and hear and remember everything again, then she will get to go home. She will meet her little sister at the side steps of her school and walk down the  block to the busy street that they have to wait a long time to cross and when they get home, Mommy will be making dinner and Daddy will be taking a nap on the couch. This is the time from Before — she expects to walk into that house and not find strangers there, she expects to walk into that house and have a real lifetime with her parents, she expects to walk into this skin and not find these scars layering out in front of her one-two-three. She will not be happy with what she finds. She is going to want her do over. When is that going to start?

As a prompt for today, you might let yourself get drawn to an image around you (on the front of a magazine? a piece of art in your place? a remembered image from film or tv?) and write about what’s there, or what associations you have with that image. Or you might also write about ‘do over’ — what could happen with that phrase when you copy it into your notebook and just let the associations come? Follow your writing wherever it wants to go.

Thank you for the way you gather, tenderly, all the different parts of you, and how you listen to the parts who want the impossible things. Thank you for your breath today. Thank you for your words.