2018 Writing workshops
5/5 Life Stories Writers Center, White River Junction, VT.
5/19 Life stories Rockingham Public Library, Bellows Falls, VT
5/2-9-16-23 Identity &Cult on the Page Green Mt. Academy, Manchester, VT
6/9-30 Writing Our way to Resistance Main Street Arts, Saxtons River, VT
6/6-13-20-27 When Art Imitates Life Green Mt. Academy, Manchester, VT
9/27 – 11/16 (8) Life Stories CALL (adult ed.), Keene State College, Keene, NH
~ A Sampling of Recent Workshops ~
Identity and Culture on the Page: A Writing Workshop about Our Roots
"It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences." — Audre Lorde, African-American
“By having roots, you can see the direction in which you want to go.” — Joenia Wapixana, Brazilian
Culture and tradition play a large part in shaping our individual and group identities. This workshop, which draws upon cultural traditions, rituals and experience, provides an opportunity to write about who we are and where we come from – geographically, historically, and emotionally. Whether whimsical or wise, join in crafting written explorations that takes us back to our roots!
Making Meaning of Memory - Without Falling Down the Rabbit Hole !
Memories provide insight into our lives and help us to understand who we are (and how we got that way). They can offer meaningful triggers for writers in all genre, not just memoirists. Often, however, writing from memory can lead us down a dark rabbit hole of introspection. Take heart! As George Gershwin knew, “It ain’t necessarily so!” This workshop focuses on our interiority with rigor and honesty, but without falling down the dark hole of humorless self-absorption. We will emphasize the funny side of things as we remember and reflect upon the loony world in which we live.
When Art Imitates Life: A Workshop on Writing Creative Non-fiction
"There is a line between fiction and non-fiction. We all have our different ideas about where that line will be." - Lee Gutkind
Creative non-fiction has been defined as that branch of writing which uses literary techniques and artistic vision (like fiction or poetry does) to report on real people/events. It can include such works as essays, autobiography, journalism, and dramatic, true stories that use scenes, dialogue, detailed descriptions and other techniques usually employed by poets and fiction writers. A relatively recently recognized “genre” that involves writing from personal experience and/or reporting on other peoples’ experiences, effective creative non-fiction entices the reader with all the force of a good short story. We will reflect on examples before crafting our own work and sharing it on a voluntary basis.
Breaking Silence: Writing Our Way to the Truth of Our Lives
“What would happen if just one woman told the truth about her life?” That simple question, posed by poet Muriel Rukeyser, became iconic in the 1970s, when women writers of the “Second Wave” first began telling their stories openly and honestly. Rukeyser’s answer to her own question was “The world would split apart.”
With the help of women’s diaries, journals and memoirs, we explore the enforced silence of “good girls and fine ladies” that kept women marginalized and invisible for centuries -- until a few brave souls among them put pen to paper, which they have done throughout history. What will these women inspire in us as we break our own silence in order to tell some truths about our lives?
From Harriet Tubman to Harry Potter: Exploring Our Archetypal Journeys
What do King Arthur, Luke Skywalker, Harriet Tubman and Harry Potter have in common? Sure, they all have a great story to tell. But it’s more than an exciting narrative: Each of them has been on an archetypal journey – a heroic exploration, full of adventure, fraught with risk, and ultimately rich with reward. As they seek to find meaning in a complex world, each of these characters is changed forever by their experience, an experience peopled with mentors, villains, jesters, and other archetypes. This workshop will help us explore our own archetypal journeys, with all their symbolism, as we reach for the “Golden Fleece” in our lives.
LIFE STORIES: Memories of Love, Action and Thought
“We are all the same, that is human, [but] in such a way that nobody is ever the same as anyone else…”
Inspired by the work and thinking of 20th century writer and philosopher Hannah Arendt, and by Diving for Pearls, a book about Arendt by Kathleen B. Jones, this workshopguides participants as they write and share stories “to know precisely what the past was, to [explore] this knowledge and these memories, and then to wait and see what comes of knowing and [remembering],” as Arendt put it.
Through writing prompts and facilitated exercises, we will celebrate what Goethe called “life’s labyrinthine, erring course,” as our narratives “recall significant events in our lives by telling one story among many, so that they can live on.”
Come prepared to compose, share, laugh, ponder and discover your inner writer!
- On Collaborative Writing -
This essay offers an idea of how I can work with you as a collaborating writer. Take a look at our book, Birth Ambassadors, and you’ll see the happy result!
Five Considerations for Happy Collaborative Writing
Writers are often faced with new challenges. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, those challenges come with happy consequences. Collaborative writing can offer just such a pleasurable experience.
I discovered that through collaborating with lead author Christine Morton in producing the book Birth Ambassadors: Doulas and the Re-emergence of Woman-supported Childbirth in America (Praeclarus Press, 2014).
Christine lives in California and I live in Vermont. We’ve only met face-to-face once in the two years we’ve worked together to produce our book, but our friendship will continue long after our work appears on bookshelves and Amazon.com.
Both of us are doulas whose professional lives revolve around women’s health. She is a medical sociologist; I am a health communications and gender specialist. We found each other when I was collecting stories for a possible anthology about doula-supported birth, an idea I abandoned when we decided to collaborate, using stories I had collected and edited to illuminate the Ph.D. thesis she was turning into a book. It turned out to be an ideal partnership.
What made our collaboration so successful? Here are five tips that can be applied to any writing partnership:
1. A Common Goal. From the get-go, we had the same goal; i.e., to publish an inviting, intelligent, comprehensive book about doula-supported birth in the United States that would be informative, accessible, and user-friendly in its approach. We were philosophically and practically on the same page. For example, as doulas we both embraced the midwifery model of childbirth and we had a shared knowledge of birthing issues. Also, we agreed on the purpose and parameters of the book. And while we liked the idea of being accepted by an academic publisher, we were both comfortable with having a respected lay press bring out our book. The important thing to both of us was to birth our collaborative baby in a classy, credible and enticing way.
2. A Commitment to Good Communication. We communicated well together. We spoke honestly, easily and regularly, either by email or phone. When we didn’t agree on something, we listened actively to each other and then reached a mutual decision about how to proceed. We had some good laughs and when spirits flagged or individual tasks seemed overwhelming in the face of other personal or professional demands in our lives, we supported each other with good cheer and practical help. We remained flexible regarding tasks and timelines and we focused on the important issues at hand. We remained committed to the project, and to each other’s role in it.
3. Complementary Skills. Each of us had specific skills, experience and knowledge to bring to the collaborative effort. Christine’s research and writing skills coupled with her deep experience in maternal health and birthing issues provided the meat of the work. My years as a women’s health educator and advocate, along with a track record as a writer and journalist experienced in editing, book production and promotion added another necessary dimension to the project. And we were both experienced doulas!
4. Camaraderie. From the start, we liked each other. Neither of us was ego-driven and it was clear at the outset that decisions would be made mutually. In addition, we shared a deep respect for each other’s work and our individual commitment to this project and its purpose. We knew we could work well together.
5. A Contract. Even then we negotiated a contract that formally laid out our agreement in all its dimensions, from respective responsibilities to royalties. We have never had to revisit it but it was good to have it.
Sometimes a writer needs to work alone to produce great works, especially fiction. But when it comes to non-fiction, often two heads really are better than one, a good reason to consider a happy collaboration.
“Elayne’s enthusiasm helped me find the confidence to do the hard labor of birthing this book. I honestly believe I wouldn’t have done it as well, and with as little emotional trauma, without her. Every author needs a doula, and I found mine in Elayne.”