Tag Archives: writing the flood

What’s coming up at Writing Ourselves Whole

Do you have some writing to do this summer? Let us provide the support, structure, and community that you deserve; come and join us at one of our many writing groups and workshops. Here’s what’s the summer schedule looks like around Writing Ourselves Whole!

Write Whole-Survivors Write. Open to all survivors of trauma
8 Monday evenings beginning July 28, 2014.
Fee: $365 (ask about scholarship/payment plan, if needed)
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.

Dive Deep: An advanced manuscript/project workgroup
Our SummerFall 2014 Cohort is full. The next series begins January 2015
Fee: $200/month (6-month commitment)
Limited to 6 members per group
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.

Write Whole Online writing group
6-week summer sessions begins July 20, 2014
If you are not able or comfortable joining an in-person group, we offer online groups as well. This summer, our Write Whole: Survivors Write online is open to all women survivors of sexual trauma. No special software required — just a computer, an internet connection, and the desire to write in supportive community. Fee is $225.

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, July 19. (And mark your calendars now for the rest of the summer: August 16, September 20.)

Create the space in your summer for the power of your good words! All workshops facilitated by Jen Cross. Email me with any questions, or visit our contact page to register!

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!

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

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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Fall 2011 workshop schedule!

graffiti of a pink-purple pencil standing up next to a doorwayHello writers & writers-to-be!

We’ve got a few workshops coming up this month and next around Writing Ourselves Whole, and I’d love to write with you!

  • September 17: Writing the Flood
  • September 28: Erotic Reading Circle
  • Beginning October 3: Write Whole: Survivors Write: 8 Monday evenings, 6-8:30. Open to all women who are survivors of sexual trauma
    Registration is open — Please sign up early, and avoid that late-registration fee!
  • October 15: LitQuake’s LitCrawl! I get to participate in Carol Queen’s Good Vibrations reading again this year, during Phase 2 of the LitCrawl (7:15-8:15)
  • November 12: Reclaiming our Erotic Story (Sacramento)a daylong writing workshop (10am-5pm); open to writers of all genders and all sexual orientations!
  • November 13: Write Whole: Survivors Write (Sacramento)a daylong writing workshop (10am-5pm); open to survivors of all genders

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

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Writing the Flood

Every third Saturday, 1-4:30pm
(unless otherwise noted)

September’s group meets on 9/17


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. Register or email me with questions: jennifer@writingourselveswhole.org.

Upcoming dates:

  • Saturday, September 17
  • Saturday, October 15
  • Saturday, November 19
  • (we break for December — no Writing the Flood this month)

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Write Whole : Our SF-based 8-week workshop

Write Whole-Survivors Write –  Beginning Monday, October 3

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.) The regular registration fee will be in effect through September 15. The late registration fee is $385; last day to register is 9/30. Please register early!

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The Erotic Reading Circle

Every fourth Wednesday at the Center for Sex and Culture

9/28, 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.

See you at the Circle!

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Reclaiming the Erotic Story
The Liberatory Potential of Writing Desire

November 12, 2011 – with Sacramento Sutterwriters

Can erotic writing liberate more than our libidos? Does greater comfort with sexual expression lead to greater agency in our communities? Many of us assume that the erotic is solely the province of the individual, and not the realm of social change or communal liberation – but what happens when we all have wider access to and more comfort with erotic language and sexual expression? The full breadth of our erotic power can challenge what our society teaches us about our sexuality, which is both damning and provocative when it comes to personal expression and human relationships.

When we bring our longing into the light and find common ground with others, when we risk exposing that which we’ve been trained to be ashamed of, I find that many of us step into a deeply empowered (and more embodied!) self.

In this workshop, we’ll take try out some explicit writing, and will consider how empowering a creative engagement with sexual identity, desire, and expression, as well as the ability to write out our fantasies and desire, can affect our intimate relationships, our communities and our work in the world.

The cost for this workshop is $100.  A $25 deposit would secure your place with the balance due on the day of the class (there will be a substantial discount for participants who attend this workshop and Write Whole on Sunday the 13th.)

If you are interested in attending, please give John Crandall a call at 916-708-9708 or an email at johnalbertcrandall@yahoo.com

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Write Whole – Survivors Write
For Survivors Of Sexual Trauma
November 13th, 2011 – with Sacramento Sutterwriters

Many of us who are survivors of sexual trauma feel fragmented or disjointed and have come to believe we must always live our lives this way.

In this Write Whole group, we are offered the opportunity to learn that we can live and feel whole in our experiences and desires – that we can create new art through writing, and transforming our pains and fears into power and love.


It bears repeating: Transforming our language is one way we transform our lives. Altering and expanding our language has the effect of changing who we know ourselves to be.

In this Write Whole workshop, you’ll write in response to exercises chosen to elicit deep-heart writing, engaging with such subjects as: body image, family/community, sexuality, dreams, love, faith, and more.

Though we come together as survivors, we are never required to write any particular version of “our abuse story.” In this space, you have the opportunity to write as you feel called to write, no matter what the subject.

Although the setting is a supportive one, this workshop is different from a “support group,” as the focus of the workshop itself is on each person’s writing. We create beauty out of the sometimes extraordinarily difficult stuff of our lives.

The cost for this workshop is $100. A $25 deposit would secure your place with the balance due on the day of the class (there will be a substantial discount for participants who attend this workshop and Reclaiming The Erotic Story on Saturday the 12th.)


If you are interested in attending, please give John Crandall a call at 916-708-9708 or an email at johnalbertcrandall@yahoo.com

Phase 2 (7:15-8:15 pm)

passionate reason

pictograph graffiti -- an eye, a heart, and a female sheep (eye love ewe)This morning it’s nice and cool out — I woke up to the commingled sounds of birds waking and foghorns warning. Nice to be in that space between alarm and exuberance.

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We’ve got a full house for this weekend’s Writing the Flood — that means more opportunities for folks to connect with one another and build writing community. Plus I’ve got all these new workshop ideas after spending a weekend with AWA facilitators. I’m looking forward to Saturday!

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I believe I have mentioned (can’t stop mentioning) that I’m preparing for to take the GRE on August 1. So I’m re-learning old arithmetic, algebra, geometry formulas (dividing by a fraction or quadratic equation,  anyone? triangle inequality theorem? isosceles triangles? the volume of an irregular quadrilateral?), practicing vocabulary (I’ve recently learned mulct and mountebank) and reminding myself how to write the five-paragraph essay (about which in particular I have a great deal of anxiety — more on that in a minute). I’m doing practice tests and reading practice/prep material, all of which reminds me that the GRE is not a math test, not a vocab or spelling quiz — this is a critical thinking and reasoning assessment. So, in addition to all the rest, I am dusting off my inner skeptic.

I tend to think of myself as relatively un-skeptical — at least,about most topics. Of course, when someone in a position of authority over those with little or no power speaks, my skeptic wakes up. When the president opens hir mouth, my skeptic pays attention. When the mainstream media asserts most anything, I question their declarations. Hm — I even talk back to commercials, refuting their blithe and cheery diatribe whenever possible. So what gave me the idea that I wasn’t skeptical, that I couldn’t find logical flaws in arguments, that I’m not able to think critically?

Here’s what — when someone wants to have a ‘reasonable, measured’ conversation about something I care passionately about, I freeze. Do any of you have this response? Say someone wants to talk calmly (that is, unemotionally) about child sexual abuse in the country. I have to turn off half my brain, half my heart, to talk in an unemotional way about something I have such strong feelings about. And what happens when I enter into the conversation is that I 1) get triggered and shut down and 2) feel a trainwreck of thoughts and ideas piling up inside my throat, unable to all emerge at one time. When did I get the idea that it wasn’t ok to be both emotional and logically reasoned? Well, from Western cultural indoctrination, of course, that pits emotion and logic against each other — and that has equated emotion with womanness and logic with maleness. To be emotional is to be a woman, to make a weaker argument, to be always attenuated. I felt it was inherently impossible for me to engage in these conversations successfully, so I avoided them. This meant, in some cases, that I avoided some important critical thinking about, critical engagement with, issues that are important to me.

I had a great conversation with my friend Chris deLorenzo last week — he’s an AWA workshop facilitator (check out Laguna Writers) who also has taught composition classes to college freshmen. He reminded me of the need to interweave logos and pathos (and ethos) into a good essay — we need both the logical/rational reasoning and the heart-engagement (and we want to create a credible, trustworthy voice in the writing). A piece of writing that’s all logos, all logical reasoning, feels like it has no center, no heart, and is hard to connect with. Writing that’s all pathos ends up feeling sentimental and mushy, like it has no core to hold it up. When we bring them together, however, we provide an emotional connection with information or a new way of thinking, and this brings readers into the work.

So I’m practicing remembering a couple of things: first, that I know how to do this, and second, that I can slow down and still have room, time and space, to present my argument. There’s no stepfather here to interrupt and move the goalposts halfway through the writing, changing the terms of the discussion so that it’s impossible for me to engage consistently. I remind myself that heart and passion in writing, even in essay and nonfiction, isn’t just a good thing — it’s necessary. And I remind myself that I have the capacity to think and engage both open-heartedly and critically. We each do.

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Is there a topic that you find it hard to write or talk about because there’s so much you want to say and it gets jumbled inside your mouth or about which your mind goes blank when you’re asked to speak ‘rationally’ about it? Want to take a few minutes today for that topic? Maybe it’s the rights of animals or child trafficking or rape laws or gun ownership or environmental protection or… just notice what comes up for you. Give that subject 10 minutes today — take a few deep breaths, and write down what you believe. Then write down why.

Thanks for your heart-centeredness, your passionate reason, your thoughtful, though-out exhuberance, your creative acts, your compassionate logic — thank you for your patience with others, and thank you for your words.

slippery encapsulants

graffiti of a tree with purple bulbs-bubbles as leaves!Hello my friends!

Just a quick note — these posts might be a bit erratic/brief over the next couple weeks, as I get down to the wire for GRE prep. Yowza. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me, ok?

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Also, this weekend brings this month’s Writing the Flood session — registration is just about full, but there are still a couple spaces left. Will you be able to join us?

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This weekend I went out to Alamo, CA to assist with the AWA Facilitator/Leadership Training — it was my first time acting as an assistant trainer, and I’m so grateful to have been able to be there. I got to work with 13 women (11 trainees plus two amazing trainers, Jan Haag and Mary Tuchscherer, both of whom I feel so lucky to have trained with!). I want to tell you about the vision, the passion, each of these 13 women carry for the power of words, the power of language and writing to transform and open. I got to spend about an hour on Friday night, talking about my roots in this work, pontificating about why I think this work is so important, why this method works so well for survivors of sexual trauma and folks who want to write about sex, for anyone who wants to tell difficult, intimate, tender stories. I can start to proselytize — thank goodness we moved into an erotic writing exercise.

Here’s what I wrote, using this line from Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Two Countries“: “Skin had hope, that’s what skin does.” It was a short write, just five minutes.

Skin had hope — cunts have hope. They’re just part of these portable bodies, aren’t they, just small gloves, slippery encapsulants, contained amongst themselves, they are our blood and flesh of hope, they are our most resilient hagiographies — they write us throbbing, they wake us into possibility each time they press us open, even with nobody else’s help — sometimes with the wrong somebody else’s help. They don’t know the nature of the pressure, who’s behind that finger, that breath on the neck, that knee between thighs;

Cunts are our ever-present resiliency. They keep on waking — it’s what they know, isn’t it, their one recursive, incipient thought, this inchoate hope that doesn’t have to have a glove to flow into but that shines like morning in us even when we’re aching and ashamed: cunts hold hope for us — that’s their lovely, lonely job.

thanks for your work, your words, your love in this world.

renewing old strengths

graffiti of a small green-eyed child reading a book, with a stack of books next to her; the title of the book reads, "the more I read/the more I know"This morning we just had clean, flush air that was bulbous and bright with the early morning sun — the light reflects off the windows in the houses across the bay, on Belvedere Island, and they look like talismans, no, like beacons. No animal friends, though — well, lots and lots of birds, always.

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Writing the Flood is on Saturday, 7/23 this month — want to join us and give some time to your writing?

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In studying for the GRE, I am reconnecting with the academic in me — by which I mean, I’m remembering how to think the way school wants us to think. I remember being good at this once upon a time, could easily determine what test-makers would determine to be the main point of a paragraph or reading selection, make test-appropriate inferences, think well inside their boxes.

When I withdrew from school at the end of 1993 because I no longer had any money to pay for classes (when I told my stepfather he couldn’t touch me anymore, and he ‘fired’ me from the company that had been paying for school, withdrawing all financial support, of course, from anyone making fear choices) , I wanted to be done with the mainstream Academy; what I was doing in school (computer science, primarily) seemed to have nothing to do with the real world I was living in, couldn’t help the friends I was meeting who’d been raped by fathers or brothers or mothers or grandfathers.

I wanted out, into real work with real people. And I began to distance myself, once I moved away from school, from my educational-class background: I wanted to forget how to talk like an academic, never mentioned where I went to college, thought that these things would make me suspect in the social change world, and, too, with the battered and formerly-battered women I wanted to help/work with.

Never mind that I completely associated that particular academic world with my stepfather and his pursuit of and into an elite society that deemed itself better than others and thus able to behave without compunction for any societal rules or taboos. You see, maybe, where this is going: Did I believe in my inside heart that if I stepped out of my book learning and school-taught self and into the ‘real world’ (i.e., working class society, or rather, non-profit class society, in my case) (Because, wait, working class can’t also be book learned? I was working with some simplistic thinking), I could be safe and free of his classist (and class-climbing) elitism and racism, free always, too, of his hands on my body?

It was a running away, a part of distancing myself from who I’d been when he’d had access to ever part of me. And now I am reaching back through the fire to get some of those parts back. I spent a good part of my 30s wrangling with a femininity I thought I’d left behind for good; and now I want the full breadth of my ways of thinking and interacting with the world: critical thinking and skepticism can be powerful tools, not just wedges or doors used to slam down social change movements (this has been my experience of them).

Is it possible to bring these old tools forward, learned under the worst conditions, and apply them fresh and new? I am afraid, now, that it’s been too long — I’ve been outside this way of thinking for such a long time, maybe I can’t step back inside. How do I reclaim it — or claim it new?

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What’s something you and/or your character used to be good at, something you used to love, something you left aside when you thought you were supposed to outgrow it, or when you began to associate it with something negative? Want to take 10 minutes for that old skill or practice today? Describe how it felt, what you liked about it, what happened when you put it down?

Thank you for the breadth of your abilities, including those you’ve lost awareness of. You’re amazing. Thank you for how easy you’ll be with others today, how you’ll let others be easy with you. Thank you for your words.

saturday nights in 1987

pen & ink drawing of a young woman in hot pants kneeling down next to brick wall

click the image to see more of Friend Called Five's drawings!

When the puppy is sick at 4am, the parents don’t get up early to blog, unfortunately —

(she seems to be better now — whew!)

However, here’s a write from this weekend’s Writing the Flood workshop. We had a great time and got some powerful writing done!

(Mark your calendars: the next Writing the Flood will be on July 23.)

Our first write on Saturday was this: describe what Saturday nights looked like when you or your character were in high school…

We took 7 minutes for this introductory exercise, but you might want to set your timer for 10 or 15.

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Here’s my response to this prompt:

She didn’t go out with friends, no girls banging up in beat up cars, crashing against or through her front door, filled with giggles and Jean Naté and lust — she wasn’t out roaming the Midwest city streets with a pack of old friends, not even double-dates were allowed. This is what it means to be under lock & key. She swept the floor, stood under the shower, all too aware of his awareness. If she was dating somebody — and this was the best reason to be dating somebody — she could go out. A boyfriend unlocked the front door, up to and until the moment that it became clear (if it did) that she and this boy weren’t going to have sex — then the door locked again.

Going to dances meant going with her younger sister, most often. So Saturday nights in 1987 might look like hot shower and wash out the long hair that fell to just above her butt, scrape off all other unwanted hair, smooth on lotion, act like it’s perfume, and stand in front of the mirror with the radio playing Top 40 on Sweet 98 while you set your hair up in bendy rollers, paste on your makeup, pull on a too tight purple Lycra dress and slip into the flats that you can dance in. Get into the car with your baby sister, two years younger, act like you’re both ok. Hope someone at the all-ages dance will be cute and from a different school; hope to forget about your stepfather while out on the dance floor.

Thanks for the tender way you hold your memories — thanks for the power in them. Thanks for your words.