Super Early Bird Sale on TLA Network 2023 Classes: Now through November 30!

Don’t miss the super early bird sale on our winter 2023 online classes – now through November 30.

Save $60 off the regular fee on each of these New Year’s offerings – three amazing classes taught by a trio of transformative language artists, plus a brand new weekend retreat with master teacher Caits Meissner.

Marianela Medrano will be teaching Pathways to Wholeness: Mindful Writing Toward Momentous Leaps of Meaning for the Network in January 2023.

Medrano is a Dominican writer, poet, and psychotherapist, with aPh.D. in psychology, whose practice includes Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness, Transpersonal & Integral Psychotherapy. Medrano has extensive training in Mindfulness Based-Stress Reduction with Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli, and Mindful Eating with Jan Chozen-Bays and Char Wilkins. She has taught at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, now Sophia University, in Palo Alto, California, and as a visiting scholar at Goddard College.

Her work as a poetry therapist was recognized with an outstanding award from the National Association for Poetry Therapy. in 2007. She is also a mentor/supervisor for the International Federation of Biblio/Poetry Therapy.

Through the Palabra Training Center, she offers on-site and remote programs for individuals and groups in poetry therapy, applying literature and psychology to help participants forge their own paths to wholeness. She also presents, with poet Annie Finch, Woman, Poetry, and Spirituality at the Garrison Institute. Her Four Pathways to Wholeness workshop has been presented at the Expressive Therapies Summit in NYC, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Studies World Conference in Seville, Spain in 2017, the National Association for Poetry Therapy Annual Conference, and the Mount Carmel College in Bangalore, India.

Her individual publications include: Oficio de Vivir (Buho,1986), Los Alegres Ojos de la Tristeza (Buho,1987), Regando Esencias/ The Scent of Waiting(Alcance,1998), Curada de Espantos (Torremozas, 2002), Diosas de la Yuca, (Torremozas, 2011), Prietica (Alfaguara, 2013).  Rooting (Owlfeather Collective, 2017). Her poetry has been translated into Italian and French. In 2015 she did a TEDTALK at Ursuline College.

Riham Adly is an award-winning flash fiction writer from Giza, Egypt. Adly will be teaching Flash Fiction Forms: Exploring Elements of Craft Through Archetypes & Metaphors in Dreams, Tarot, & Fairy Tales for the Network in early 2023.

In 2013 Adly’s story, “The Darker Side of the Moon” won the MAKAN award. She was short-listed several times for the Strand International Flash Fiction Contest. Riham is a Best of the NET and a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work is included in the “Best Micro-fiction 2020” anthology. Her flash fiction has appeared in over fifty journals such as Litro Magazine, Lost Balloon, The Flash Flood, Bending Genres, The Citron Review, The Sunlight Press, Flash Fiction Magazine, Menacing Hedge, Flash Frontier, Flash Back, Ellipsis Zine, Okay Donkey, and New Flash Fiction Review among others.  Riham has worked as an assistant editor in 101 words magazine and as a first reader in Vestal Review magazine. Riham is the founder of the “Let’s Write Short Stories” and “ Let’s Write That Novel” in Egypt. She has taught creative writing all over Cairo for over five years with the goal of mentoring and empowering aspiring writers in her region.  Riham’s flash fiction collection “Love is Make-Believe” was released and published in November 2021 by Clarendon House Publications in the UK.

Angie Ebba will be teaching This is Who I Am: Exploring Personal Identity through Poetry and Art this coming January.

Ebba is a queer disabled writer, educator, and performer who has taught writing workshops and performed across the United States. She has poetry published in Closet Cases, Queering Sexual Violence, and several literary magazines. She’s also a published essayist with a focus on writing about health and disability, body positivity, and relationships. Angie teaches poetry and writing online and in person. Angie believes strongly in the power of words to help us gain a better understanding of ourselves, to build connections and community, and to make personal and social change. Angie can be found online at rebelonpage.com.

Caits Meissner is running a very special offering for the Network in late January – don’t miss her weekend workshop (space is limited), What Next? Launching Your Work in the World. Meissner is the author of the illustrated hybrid poetry book Let It Die Hungry (The Operating System, 2016), and The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You (Well&Often, 2012), co-written with poet Tishon Woolcock. The recipient of multiple artist residencies and fellowships, including the BOAAT Writers Retreat and The Pan-African Literary Forum, Caits is widely published in literary journals including The Literary Review, Narrative, Adroit, Drunken Boat and The Offing. She has taught, consulted, and co-created extensively for over 15 years across a wide spectrum of communities, with a special focus on imprisoned people, women, and youth. Caits holds a BFA in Communication Design from Pratt Institute, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York. She currently serves as the Prison and Justice Writing Program Manager at PEN America.

A Workshop on Making A Living From TLA

Join us in early December when TLA Network founder, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, and her colleague Kathryn Lorenzen offer an intimate, two-hour workshop focused on supporting you to make a living from the transformative language arts. Register now for Your Calling, Your Livelihood, Your Life: Making a Living from TLA, offered on Saturday, December 3, 2022.

Transformative Language Arts can be your way to make a living, follow your calling, and fill your life with meaning, connection, and even joy. You’ll write and map what’s calling at large and in particular, how to focus in on what the timing is right for now, and what next steps to consider. You’ll also explore what self-care and a community ethic of supporting each other can look like for you and yours. Finally, there will be time to talk about your questions and possibilities.

This wonderful workshop is sliding scale and has been offered as a fundraiser for the Network – your generosity will make a difference!

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, PhD, is the founder of Transformative Language Arts, author or editor of 24 books of poetry, fiction, memoir, and more, and with Kathryn Lorenzen, she leads Your Right Livelihood: The Work Art and Service You Love (YourRightLivelihood.com). A long-time community workshop facilitator and coach, she makes her living working with many communities and individuals, giving talks and readings, and collaborating with other Transformative Language Artists. Her other projects include Art of Facilitation classes with Joy Roulier Sawyer and Brave Voice writing and singing retreats with Kelley Hunt. More and her blog at CarynMirriamGoldberg.com

Kathryn Lorenzen is a career coach, creativity coach, songwriter, and poet. Her songs have appeared in feature films and TV series, and she writes for both self-expression and social change. With an earlier career in copywriting and marketing communications, she is now a career coach to freelance writers and artists seeking livelihood in support of their art. Kathryn now partners with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg as co-leader of Your Right Livelihood (YourRightLivelihood.com), and you can find more about Kathryn at KathrynLorenzen.com.

Re-Visioning TLA in the World: A Community Conversation

Please join us for a community conversation on Sunday, December 4, 2022, about what comes next for the Transformative Language Arts Network. All are welcome!

Re-Visioning TLA in the World: A Community Conversation will be led by TLAN founder Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and members of our board of directors. 

We invite you to a conversation about reimagining and re-envisioning the future of TLAN. Consider how you might be involved, in whatever big or small ways that are possible for you. 

Register for Re-Visioning TLA in the World: A Community Conversation. The event is free and open to the public, and will take place online via Zoom. A Zoom link will be sent to all registrants the day before the event. 

As always, at this moment, we are reminded of the power of words, especially in this time of rising challenges to democracy, attacks on our beloved BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities, political turmoil, and war and the climate crisis. 

We honor the poets, journalists, writers, novelists, songwriters, playwrights, and other wordsmiths who risk their very lives to speak truth to power around the world. Your voices matter, your words have power, and together, we can effect meaningful change by listening deeply to each other’s stories, and speaking our truths.

We invite you to join us. 

To the power of words,  

Hanne Weedon
Managing Director

Note to Self: A guest post by TLAF Certificate Graduate Sharon Bippus

Editor’s note: Sharon is a graduate of the Transformative Language Arts Foundations Certificate program. This blog post is the final of five reflection posts she submitted as part of the certificate requirements.

Note to self: You got this!

In the course Changing the World with Words [to be offered again in 2023], Joanna Tebbs Young asked us to think about how we would apply the lessons we learn in the TLAN program to our individual lives and our work in the future. That prompt provided me an opportunity to consider the next chapter in my life.

As an ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) teacher, I have spent almost three decades in the classroom working with English language learners. I have taught teenagers in middle and high school, and I currently work with adults at a community college. I have also had the privilege of teaching in other countries – summer programs in Slovakia and China and two years in Russia as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I have become very comfortable in the role of “ESOL teacher.” The classroom has provided a safe space to learn and to grow. It is a place to find one’s voice, and not just for my students. Being an ESOL teacher has helped me find my voice too.

I don’t remember exactly when I realized this, but I slowly started noticing that the advice I was giving to my students was actually advice that I needed to hear as well. The quotation from Richard Bach that I had heard years ago was finally beginning to make sense:

“We teach best what we most need to learn.”

For example, I often tell my students, “It’s OK to make mistakes.  It’s NORMAL to make mistakes. That’s how you learn.”

Note to self: How often has perfectionism or doubt held you back?

Or another of my favorites, “If you don’t know something, ask a question. Don’t be afraid to ask because someone else probably has that same question.”

Note to self: It’s OK to ask for help. Thinking you have to do everything by yourself might just be a trauma response.

The list goes on.

“Don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t know what the other person’s background is. Maybe that other person has spent more time studying English than you have, or maybe that person speaks English very well but has terrible grades in writing. Just focus on yourself and the progress that you have made.”

Note to self: Remember Anne Lamott’s wise words, “Never compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides.”

“Trust yourself. Your first instinct may not be correct 100% of the time, but it’s usually pretty good.”

Note to self: Stop doubting yourself. Do not allow your inner critic to have the final say.

“Baby steps. You are not going to master the English language in one semester or one year. It takes time.”

Note to self: It’s OK to be a beginner and to start learning something new, but be patient with yourself. You won’t become an accomplished writer or artist or fill-in-the-blank overnight. Keep trying!

“You have to practice in the real world. It’s great to participate in class, but you also have to step outside of your comfort zone at some point.”

Note to self: People won’t always understand you, even if you speak the same language, and it is not your job to change their minds. Get out there and go for what you want!

By offering this advice to my students, I have tried to make my classroom a safe container, a place of belonging and acceptance, because that is something that I lacked in my early years. I never felt like I fit in anywhere, but finally as an ESOL teacher, I felt like I belonged. Now, as I think about moving on to the next chapter in my life after being “the ESOL teacher” for so long, I worry that I will lose that sense of belonging. Will I be able to find my new niche?  Will I lose my voice and my confidence?

Note to self: If you are still in doubt, reread this essay. You’ve got this.

Sharon Bippus, PhD, is an ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) instructor who finds inspiration in the intersection of creativity, mystery, and synchronicity. As an undergraduate, she was awarded two scholarships to study in Germany which fueled her desire to learn more about the diverse world we live in. Since that time, she has taught English in Slovakia and China and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Western Russia. She currently teaches ESOL at a community college in the suburbs of Houston, Texas where she works with students from all over the world. In her free time, she enjoys mixed media, collage, and photography and has received training in trauma-informed expressive arts and nature-based therapeutic practices. She is a SoulCollage® facilitator, a Veriditas-trained labyrinth facilitator, and a student in the Haden Institute’s Dream Work Program.

Photo: Pixabay

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Changing Myself with Words: A guest post by TLAF Certificate Graduate Sharon Bippus

Editor’s note: Sharon is a graduate of the Transformative Language Arts Foundations Certificate program. This blog post is one of five reflection posts she submitted as part of the certificate requirements.

As an adult, I know I can rewrite my story.

Changing the World with Words is one of the required courses [to be offered again in 2023] in the Transformative Language Arts Foundations certification program. In my opinion, it brings to mind the famous quotation erroneously attributed to Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Apparently, this is actually a paraphrase of a longer idea that Gandhi expressed:

We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.

In this vein, I wonder if a better name for the TLAN course would be “Changing Myself with Words.” It seems a slightly easier place to begin before I actually tackle the reformation of the entire world.

In an interview I heard last year, the Irish poet Padraig O’Tuama discussed the healing effects of writing poetry to a younger version of himself who had undergone a severe trauma. He stated:

There’s something so redeeming for me all these years later to be able to speak that poem back to that frightened 18-year-old…somehow eventually to have recovered the capacity to be able to say something back. It doesn’t undo it, but it’s enough. I can somehow feel like I’m able to have a conversation between the me then and the me now. That is enough, and I can examine it.

Like O’Tuama, I have the ability to use my words to examine my past. Through my words, I have the power to write my own narrative and develop a new story for myself. For me, that change in perspective began after attending the first day of Changing the World with Words. When we met on Zoom, we were given five sentence stems to use as we introduced ourselves to our new classmates. One of the prompts seemed innocent enough:

When I was a kid, I wanted to be…

From my perspective, the other participants must have spent a few enjoyable minutes reminiscing about their favorite childhood memories and games – playing dress up, playing with imaginary friends, playing outside with the neighborhood kids – because the answers they shared were exciting and diverse. One wanted to be a dentist, another a potter. There was a teacher, a welder, and an actress. Most people listed multiple future professions and abilities – so many choices that revealed great imagination and inspiration.

My response was, “When I was a kid, I didn’t know what I wanted to be.”

I was embarrassed when I read that sentence aloud. I was the only one in the group without a dream or an imagination. What did I do as a child? I read. I watched TV. I drew pictures and floorplans. In middle school, I took sewing lessons in Home Ec. But most of all, I kept to myself. I had learned at a young age that to reveal any personal information was to open myself to ridicule. Today, as I look at the list of the activities I enjoyed as a young person, I realize that I could have fantasized about being a writer, an actress, an artist, an architect, or a fashion designer, but I don’t recall ever having those thoughts. It’s hard to imagine a future when you’re busy simply surviving each day.

Now, as an adult, I know that I can rewrite my story. I can acknowledge what that little girl wanted to be. She wanted to be held in a warm embrace. She wanted to be encouraged. She wanted to be seen and heard. She wanted to feel valued and accepted. She wanted to know that someone supported her.

She wanted to hear the words “I love you.”

I can’t change the past, but I can use my words to reassure that little girl. I can offer that innocent child-that-I-was compassion and tenderness. I can use my words to work through issues and to achieve clarity, and in turn, the woman that I am now can dream of changing the world one day.

Sharon Bippus, PhD, is an ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) instructor who finds inspiration in the intersection of creativity, mystery, and synchronicity. As an undergraduate, she was awarded two scholarships to study in Germany which fueled her desire to learn more about the diverse world we live in. Since that time, she has taught English in Slovakia and China and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Western Russia. She currently teaches ESOL at a community college in the suburbs of Houston, Texas where she works with students from all over the world. In her free time, she enjoys mixed media, collage, and photography and has received training in trauma-informed expressive arts and nature-based therapeutic practices. She is a SoulCollage® facilitator, a Veriditas-trained labyrinth facilitator, and a student in the Haden Institute’s Dream Work Program.

Photo: Pixabay

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Join Us for an Evening of Transformative Monologues!

Presenting a showcase of recent work created by Kelly DuMar’s TLA Network class, Your Memoir as Monologue.  We hope you will join us tomorrow, Wednesday, October 12, 2022, from 7-8:30PM EST.

In writing monologues for the stage, a story begins as words on the page. The next stage of development is to have the monologue performed by an actor in front of an audience. In this monologue showcase, class participants who have been developing monologues over six weeks will have the chance to see their writing performed by an actor for an audience––you.

Stella Adler called theater the “seeing place”––the place we come to see the truth about our lives and social situation. Oscar Wilde called theater “the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” And August Wilson was, “fascinated by the idea of an audience as a community of people who gather willingly to bear witness.” We invite you, our audience, to share in making dynamic theater with us, by being present for this showcase of brand new stage monologues. This intimate and powerful experience will present writing by class participants––read by actors––is part of the critical page-to-stage development process that all new plays need. Please join us, and share the vitality of your presence and your witness as our much-appreciated audience.

The show is free and open to the public – although donations are always welcome! – and will take place via the online video conferencing platform Zoom. A link to the show will be sent out the day of the event.


About the Director
Kelly DuMar, M.Ed. 
 is a poet, playwright, and workshop leader who generates enlivening writing experiences for new and experienced writers. Author of three poetry collections, girl in tree barkTree of the Apple, and All These Cures, Kelly is also author of Before You Forget— The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your Children. Kelly’s award winning plays have been produced around the US and Canada, and are published by dramatic publishers. She founded and produced the Our Voices Festival of Women Playwrights at Wellesley College for twelve years, and she is a past president of Playwright’s Platform, Boston. For the past seven years, Kelly has led the week-long Play Lab Intensive at the annual conference of the International Women’s Writing Guild. Kelly is a certified psychodramatist, former psychotherapist, and Fellow in the American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama. Currently, Kelly serves on the board & faculty of Transformative Language Arts Network.  You can learn more about Kelly at www.kellydumar.com.

About the Actors



Jamila Capitman, MA. is a Staff Counselor at Simmons University, a Youth Development Specialist and a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultant with VISIONS Inc., Jamila is the former Director of Multicultural Student programming at Milton Academy and was an educator in the Boston Public Schools. Jamila is an actress, playwright, and producer/director, with a Master’s degree in Drama Therapy from Lesley University who works on various creative independent projects that center her passions for beauty, justice, and transformative healing.



Franci DuMar is a member of the playback theatre troupe, True Story Theater, in Arlington, MA. She has trained, performed, taught and conducted playback theatre in a wide variety of community and therapeutic settings over the past ten years. She has a Master’s Degree in Expressive Arts from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA, in drama therapy and mental health counseling. She lives in the Boston Area.



Tonya Quillen is an Actor, Licensed Psychotherapist, Trainer of Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy, Clinical Supervisor, and an Executive Leadership Coach. Prior to pursuing her career as a Psychotherapist, Tonya performed professionally for many years. She graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy where she double majored in Theatre and Voice and then continued her studies at Florida State University. After completing graduate school and training as a Psychodramatist, Tonya co-founded a Playback Theatre troupe where she served as Artistic Director, Conductor, Actor and Musician. Tonya also develops scenarios and enacts characters in role-training workshops for law enforcement officers, threat assessment professionals, and security operations personnel to provide them with the experience needed to effectively interact with, and interview, persons of interest.



Elizabeth Rose spent a considerable part of her life as an actor, both in film and industrial work along with local theater in Massachusetts. In addition, Elizabeth has written both screenplays and theatrical works as well as a popular blog that captures the life of a midlife woman. She works as an editor supporting other writers, and as a mediator, helping couples end their marriages while sustaining their families. She also works with couples who choose to stay together and want to explore new ways to communicate and strengthen their relationship. She is a Mother, Partner, Friend, Sister, Daughter, Dancer, Dog and Cat lover. Elizabeth lives in Ojai with her husband, spirit cat and soul dog. 

Healing, One Letter at a Time: A guest post by TLAF Certificate student Sharon Bippus

Editor’s note: Sharon is a student in the Transformative Language Arts Foundations Certificate program. This blog post is one of five reflection posts she will be submitting as part of the certificate requirements.

I have always loved children’s literature – the illustrations, the simplicity of the language, the uplifting stories. So imagine my surprise when I was triggered by a picture book as I was browsing in a bookstore in my hometown of Houston, Texas in the fall of 2018. I was still carrying that anger when I sat down at a restaurant a short time later. As I waited for my food, I wrote the following on Facebook:

I went to Barnes and Noble this afternoon, and I saw a new children’s picture book called H is for Harvey. It contains sentences such as “H is for hurricane blah, blah, blah” and “H is for hope blah, blah, blah.” The very last sentence is “H is for happy.” Apparently, the home of the author of this book didn’t flood and has her happy, normal life back. How nice! So I’m going to write my own Hurricane Harvey book. It’s called P is for Post-Traumatic Stress. I was playing with that idea as I went across the street to have linner (too late for lunch, too early for dinner) at La Madeleine. When the cashier gave me the “P” spoon, I knew it was a sign! I’ll be posting the story in the comments below…

While not appropriate for a children’s book, what followed was an outpouring of my grief, anger, and confusion.

  • P is for panic, what you feel when you know for certain that your house is going to flood.
  • P is for patience, something that you lose.
  • P is for privacy, something else that you lose.
  • P is for pain, something that you feel a lot of.
  • P is for psychiatric, the kind of help you need now.
  • P is for puppy, like the one who lives in #187 and was able to enter #190 and pee on the floor because we no longer have any walls dividing us.
  • P is for paper plates, what you have to use because all of your dishes are packed away.
  • P is for pessimism because it’s been over a year and your house still hasn’t been repaired.
  • P is for property value, something that has gone down about 35%.
  • P is for plummet, what happens to your energy level.
  • P is for pregnant because one of my former students had a baby since Harvey. He and his wife actually produced a living, breathing human being faster than my house could be repaired.
  • P is for pray, the only thing I can do at this point.

Now I am writing the sequel to this story. It is mid-August of 2022, and the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey is approaching. I’ve been thinking about how to commemorate this event that turned my life upside down on August 29, 2017, and I realize that now I can find comfort in the letter “C.” The book I would write today is called C is for Complex PTSD.

While there are similarities, Complex PTSD differs from PTSD. A simple definition is that Complex PTSD refers to an accumulation of traumatic events that usually occurs in childhood whereas PTSD is the result of a single event. What I didn’t understand at the time is that I was reliving the emotional trauma of my childhood through the events that surrounded Hurricane Harvey.

With this knowledge, I am writing a new story:

  • C is for clarity, what I have gained since learning about Complex PTSD.
  • C is for cathartic, the releasing of grief through the infinite number of tears I have cried.
  • C is for compassion, what I need to give to my inner child.
  • C is for curiosity, the ability to stay open and continue learning.
  • C is for consistently, the way I need to show up for myself day after day.
  • C is for my creative practice, one of the ways that I heal.
  • C is for change, what I am doing with my life and my outlook.
  • C is for connection, the healing relationships I forge with people, nature, and myself.
  • C is for care, specifically self-care, actively taking steps that contribute to my well-being.
  • C is for calm, what happens after the storm passes.
  • C is for the courage to heal myself.
  • C is for the commitment to live my best life.

C is also for closure which I will commence by returning to the letter “P.” This particular “P” was a gift from a friend who added it to my Facebook post back in 2018:

P is for permission, permission to own my feelings and permission to express myself.

Sharon Bippus, PhD, is an ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) instructor who finds inspiration in the intersection of creativity, mystery, and synchronicity. As an undergraduate, she was awarded two scholarships to study in Germany which fueled her desire to learn more about the diverse world we live in. Since that time, she has taught English in Slovakia and China and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Western Russia. She currently teaches ESOL at a community college in the suburbs of Houston, Texas where she works with students from all over the world. In her free time, she enjoys mixed media, collage, and photography and has received training in trauma-informed expressive arts and nature-based therapeutic practices. She is a SoulCollage® facilitator, a Veriditas-trained labyrinth facilitator, and a student in the Haden Institute’s Dream Work Program.

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Spotlight on the Teacher: Riham Adly

We re delighted to welcome Riham Adly back to teach for the TLA Network this fall, with Dreams, Fairytales, and the Tarot: Exploring Self using Flash Fiction Forms. The class runs from November 2 – December 14, 2022, and the early bird rate for the class ends in mid-October.

Riham is an award-winning fiction writer and editor from Giza, Egypt. In 2013 her story “The Darker Side of the Moon” won the MAKAN award. In 2019 she was long-listed in Brilliant Flash Fiction’s food-themed contest and in 2020 her story “How to Tell a Story from the Heart in Proper Time” was a winner and was included in the 2020 Best Micro-Fiction Anthology. In 2022 her story “Two Peas in a Pod” won second place in the Strand International Flash Fiction Contest.

Riham was nominated for the Pushcart in 2019 and was nominated for Best of the Net in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Her flash fiction has appeared in over sixty journals such as Litro Magazine, Lost Balloon, The Flash Flood, Bending Genres, The Citron Review, The Sunlight Press, Flash Fiction Magazine, Menacing Hedge, Flash Frontier, Flash Back, Ellipsis Zine, Okay Donkey, and New Flash Fiction Review among others.

Riham’s was the first female from Africa and the Middle East to have a debut flash fiction collection published in English. Her collection “Love is Make-Believe” was published in November 2021 by Clarendon House publications in the U.K.

Riham has worked as an assistant editor in 101 words magazine and as a first reader in Vestal Review magazine. She’s worked as a writing coach and developmental editor accepting mainly manuscripts by local writers for whom English is their second language.

Riham offers her signature workshops “ Flash Fiction: Writing From the Subconscious” and “ Flash Fiction: Writing From Where We Dream” through various platforms, including the TLA Network. She is also the founder of “ Riham’s Cairo Book Club” and the “Let’s Write Short Stories” workshops in Egypt.

Along with Riham’supcoming TLA Network class, Dreams, Fairytales, and the Tarot: Exploring Self using Flash Fiction Forms, Riham will be hosting a flash fiction Open Mic showcase for the TLA Network, on September 15, 2022. The event is free and open to the public and all are welcome – we hope you will consider sharing your own flash fiction work, too!

Majd Kurdieh: Finding Meaning and Purpose Through Art , by Renu Thomas

My colleagues at the gallery find it amusing that I stand in awe and silent dialogue before Majd Kurdieh‘s paintings or look around for new ones each week. The merchandise promoting his work has grown from cards and mugs, to include fridge magnets, coasters, and now T-shirts, which are all displayed at the entrance of the quaint café attached to the gallery. Kasha who works there informs me when new products arrive and translates the Arabic script for me.

Kurdieh is a Syrian refugee and currently lives alone in a small house with just two rooms in the mountainous area of Lebanon, close to the Mediterranean Sea. His art practice dominates his life and in his free time, he enjoys fishing. His images are whimsical and childlike and include Arabic text inspired by his love of books, poetry, and music.

Majd Kurdieh

The animated characters Kurdieh created, the Fasaeen – which means ‘tiny people’ in Arabic – are a boy (Fasoon) and a girl (Fasooneh). They look deceptively innocent and have an unusual gang of friends, including a hyena and a monster. Kurdieh calls the gang ‘the very scary butterfly gang’ and each painting offers a narrative of how they work together, to steal sadness from the world and replace them with flowers. The butterfly, Kurdieh explains, is a fragile creature, so our instinct is to approach it delicately, afraid to harm it and in this context, he uses the word ‘scary’. His message is that we should approach each person in our lives with that kind of fear – of knowing that unless we are cautious, we can do them harm.

The Fasaeen are often painted with missing arms, which to me suggests a feeling of helplessness and perhaps the artist’s as well, but Kurdieh’s intention is to portray connection; that when two people truly connect, they must connect with their hearts. The little girl is the leader of the pack and he relates most with her. The characters act as a conduit through which his stories flow and he says that they seem to control him. The narrative develops as the painting progresses and he does not begin with the end in mind.

Majd Kurdieh

I am unsure exactly what it is that draws me to his work. I wonder if it is my Syrian roots on my father’s side or the simplicity of his work that makes one feel that if he can paint, well then, so can I. Perhaps it is the stories of war, displacement, and trauma that have come knocking on my
door since I began my clinical placement as a student of Art Psychotherapy. Something in me awakened as they revealed their stories, the impact of war, the senseless loss of lives, and the strength of the human spirit to survive. They had left in a hurry and were not prepared for what lay ahead.

Irrespective of our circumstances or where we live, there is a need to know in our innermost being, who we are, and where we belong, and in the comfort and safety of that knowledge we no longer just survive, but we begin to thrive. Majd Kurdieh stays anchored to his roots through the stories and poems of his favorite authors. Books occupy a big part of his home and are a tangible reminder of where he came from.

The initial paintings of Kurdieh seem hurried and the words of the poem look as if they were placed without much thought of alignment. Some of the words in a few paintings have even been crossed out with a line running through them, as if the artist is granting permission to make mistakes. The rawness of his work is appealing. I was intrigued to learn how his method of drawing the monster morphed intentionally from the way he draws the dove. Nuances like this draw the viewer in for a closer look at Kurdieh’s work, and new layers of meaning are revealed.

The first series, ‘Stealing Sadness’ showed the characters outlined with bold black lines. The removal of those boundaries in his second series ‘Surrender to Love’, was a simple but inspired way to visually free the characters of the restrictions they faced, and empower them to do more.

For the past two years, I have been facilitating creative art and writing workshops in collaboration with an art gallery in Dubai, and of all the artists I have seen exhibited here, Majd Kurdieh and his series ‘Stealing Sadness’ remains my favorite.

Kurdieh’s poems written in Arabic on the paintings are replaced in later work with more concise statements like “the country is the wound and you are the honey”. Other than the motley crew of animals, most of the repeated motifs in his paintings are from nature and include the sun, moon, clouds, flowers -particularly the poppy.

Majd Kurdieh
Majd Kurdieh

There is an invitation to look at what is within us in his paintings and the condition of the heart appears to be a popular theme. An elephant with the heart of a butterfly has the message, “If your heart is as light as a butterfly, anyone can fly”. In another, the elephant is seen to have the heart of a fish.

Kurdieh is in no way bitter about the path that has led him to Lebanon. Art making and poetry have served to channel his pain through the Fasaeen, transforming it into a message of hope and optimism. He is the best-selling artist at the gallery here in Dubai and his work is gaining global attention and popularity.

Majd Kurdieh

The very scary butterfly gang Kurdieh says, lives in the hearts of each one of us and the artist poignantly tasks us with the responsibility of finding ways to take away the sadness from the lives of people and make the world a better place.

Don’t miss the chance to check out Renu Thomas’ online class, Identity and Belonging: An Exploration through Visual Art and Creative Writing. The class runs from October 26 – December 7, 2022, at the TLA Network.

Renu Sarah Thomas is an Art Psychotherapist (British Association of Art Therapists – BAAT) and workshop facilitator. She has several years of experience in introducing and conducting programmes that promote the personal, social, and emotional well-being of individuals in Dubai, India, and Scotland and adapting these programmes to suit the cultural climate of the region.

She is a self-taught artist and although Renu finds pottery making and acrylic painting centering and enjoyable, it is through writing that she has found liberation and empowerment. Her growing areas of interest include displacement and trauma and through her spontaneous creative art and creative writing workshops, she passionately encourages people to pursue some form of creative expression, embrace their authentic selves, and intentionally find their purpose.

Born in India and raised in England, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia, Dubai has been her home for the past 20 years.

Our voices matter and need to be heard.

Dear TLA community,

In the midst of a very hot summer here in the eastern continental United States, it is ever more clear how needed and significant our collective voices are in this time of increasing political turmoil, attacks on our constitutional rights, escalating war, and the climate crisis. 

The decision to remain hopeful in the face of so much challenge is a powerful tool – as radio host Krista Tippett recently shared in a New York Times interview: “I talk about hope being a muscle. It’s not wishful thinking, and it’s not idealism. It’s not even a belief that everything will turn out OK. It’s an imaginative leap, which is what I’ve seen in people like John Lewis and Jane Goodall. These are people who said: I refuse to accept that the world has to be this way. I am going to throw my life and my pragmatism and my intelligence at this insistence that it could be different and put that into practice.”

We invite you, the poets, journalists, writers, novelists, songwriters, playwrights, and other brilliant wordsmiths, to join us as we set our sites on hope, speak truth to power, and harness our collective courage to step beyond what has been familiar and comfortable to move much more quickly and in much bigger ways. The time is now.

Our voices matter, and need to be heard. 

To the power of words, 

Hanne Weedon
Managing Director