Your invitation to the journey of purposeful memoir! By Jennifer Browdy, PhD

Looking for some winter nourishment? How about giving yourself the gift of a weekend memoir writing retreat—from the comfort of your own home! 

This weekend, from Friday, January 14 to Sunday, January 16, I’ll be offering an intensive series of five writing workshops, carefully designed to stimulate your creative imagination and open up a safe, convivial space for reflection and inquiry. Hosted by the TLA Network, The Quest of Purposeful Memoir: Exploring the Past, Creating the Future, is open for registration now through Friday.

We’ll start by saluting the positive in your life experience, before dipping a pen into the inky waters of the more challenging moments, which we’ll transmute through what I call the magic of alchemical writing. 

We’ll quest into the past in search of the gold of life lessons inherited and learned that can serve us well in the present, and help us move with grace and intention into the future that is ours to create with each new dawn. 

The journey will unfold over three days—an introductory session on Friday from 12 – 1:30, followed by two sessions on Saturday and two on Sunday, from 12 – 1:30 and 2 – 3:30 pm. There will be some optional homework on Friday and Saturday, in case you are inspired to keep the quest going between sessions. 

To illustrate what can happen when you purposefully explore your past with the intention of creating a thriving future, I made a couple of photo collages I want to share with you. 

When I was writing my memoir, What I Forgot…And Why I Remembered, I went looking for positive moments from my childhood, trying to remember what it was that most brought me alive as a child. 

Childhood Memories, by Jennifer Browdy

The first collage of childhood photos shows me loving the woods, the beach, my family, and my pets—all of which I still love now, decades later. What’s missing is a childhood love that apparently never got photographed—my love of horses and riding, something I had totally given up as I moved on into adulthood.

It was only after doing the writerly quests that culminated in my memoir that I remembered how much joy horseback riding had given me as a child, and went looking to bring that exhilaration back into my life, decades later. 

Et voilà! The second collage shows the happy results of that quest. 

Riding Memories, by Jennifer Browdy

My point in sharing this is to emphasize how the inner work we do through purposeful memoir can lead to all kinds of transformative changes in our present and future. It’s a contemplative journey that is valuable even if you don’t seek to complete and publish a full memoir.

You will come away from the weekend with a pile of new writing, along with many new questions and new avenues of inquiry to explore as this long winter continues.

I hope you’ll try it with me and see for yourself.  I look forward to greeting you in the circle on Friday! 

Jennifer Browdy is a professor of comparative literature, writing and media arts at Bard College/Simon’s Rock in western Massachusetts, where she has taught for more than 25 years, with a focus on women’s personal narratives from around the world, and communications strategies for social and environmental justice. She is also a professor in the online Open Society University Network, administered by Bard College with partner institutions around the world. 

Jennifer’s environmental memoir, What I Forgot …And Why I Remembered, was a finalist for the 2018 International Book Awards. Her writer’s guide, The Elemental Journey of Purposeful Memoir, won a 2017 Nautilus Silver Award. Her latest book, Purposeful Memoir as a Quest for a Thriving Future, features her photographs of beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada, where she is a longtime summer resident. She has also created the Purposeful Memoir card deck of provocative photographs paired with evocative catalysts for writing.

Jennifer provides coaching and manuscript review for authors in fiction and nonfiction, and offers memoir workshops online and in person. Current online workshop series include Birth Your Truest Story, and Purposeful Memoir as a Quest for a Thriving Future. 

Find out more at JenniferBrowdy.com.

Your Life is Your Life, by Renu Sarah Thomas

Each week in the TLAN course, Changing the World with Words, I  looked forward to the prompts and resources that took me on unexpected paths of self- discovery. My writing was almost always an outpouring from the depths of my heart, often as a poem and I did not focus on the craft. The more mature writing of others was invigorating but also intimidating and I hesitated to share my work which paled in comparison, and the way I used rhyme. 

A deep dive into the reading resources led me to viewing an interview with Pádraig Ó Tuama who says that poetry and rhyme offer a boundary that can help to contain our thoughts. This simple insight shifted something within me, in understanding my current style of writing and unashamedly accepting my creative process without comparison. So,  albeit with mild trepidation, here’s a poem of mine:

Inspired by the poem ‘The Laughing Heart’  by Charles Bukowski, one of the creative prompts on the course.

Your life is Your Life

Your life is your life.
It may not seem so now
Your life is your life,
It’s ok to ask how.

Your life is your life
Even when you feel caged in
Your life is your life
Scratch a way, use even a pin

Your life is your life
It ebbs and it flows. 
Your life is your life
In the midst of the blows

Your life is your life
Take the wheel in your hands
Your life is your life
Fly and decide where to land

Your life is your life
Be the change you want to see
Your life is your life
It always was, blessed be

Renu Thomas is a BAAT registered Art Psychotherapist, educator and workshop facilitator. Born in India, she has spent her growing years with her parents in England, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia and has lived in Dubai (UAE) for most of her adult life. She has a Masters in Textiles and Clothing from India and a Masters in Art Psychotherapy from Edinburgh, Scotland . She has extensive experience working with adults and children of varied ethnicities and having witnessed their stories, has a growing interest in the field of displacement and trauma. She is a self-taught artist and although she finds ceramics and acrylic painting centering and enjoyable, it is through writing that she has found liberation and empowerment. She passionately encourages others to pursue some form of creative expression, embrace their authentic selves and live on purpose. 

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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Embracing the Unexpected, Welcoming a Change of Plan (pt 2), by Kimberly Lee

I’ve seen how a disruption in plans can lead to beautiful, unplanned results.

In one group I led, just four people were able to attend a session intended for twelve. Instead of canceling, I plowed ahead. It turned out that the four participants knew each other in a “six degrees of separation” type of way, and this led to a heartfelt time of deep and open sharing which unexpectedly became an ongoing, private group that I facilitate.

Another time, I attended a zoom workshop in which the facilitator’s screen froze and she eventually disappeared, leaving us staring at each other blankly, wondering what to do next. We were engaged in a scholarly discussion of archetypes in film and literature, and the glitch in technology led someone to bring up the fool, a figure who often appears in situations when things need to be shaken up. The facilitator returned, we all laughed about how the fool was at work, and she proceeded with a more energetic, interactive conversation.

I gave more thought to the topic of planning as a student in “The Art of Facilitation,” a TLAN course I took this summer. A prompt about allowing for the unexpected in workshops led me to write this:

After William Stafford

You reading this, be ready.
Things may not always go as planned.
And you’re a planner
As evidenced by your ever-increasing stack of 
Daily planners
Weekly planners
Monthly planners
Next-year planners

Your
To-do lists
Color-coded post-it notes
Snippets of goals and visions
Written hastily on random scraps of paper towel and restaurant napkins
Stuffed in the side pockets of your purse
Then carefully transferred into these books of burden.

But things don’t always go as planned
Sometime plans have a mind of their own
Breaking away, breaking apart
Becoming something gloriously unplanned 
And unrooted 
A refusal to be reduced to a pre-made plan
The sparks inside bursting into the open
Revealing a shimmer that defies even the best-laid plans
And births worlds of wonder.

I send gratitude to the Universe for the insight that came from working on this poem and the wisdom it offered. My acute self-awareness tells me I’ll probably never stop planning, though —some level of preparation is crucial to my confidence and peace of mind, especially when facilitating workshops. I couldn’t change it anyway; it’s set deeply in the swirls and twirls of my DNA. But I’ve realized that allowing for fluidity in the execution of a workshop can result in moving, meaningful moments benefiting both participants and myself. From now on, my agendas will be less rigid, my schedules less imposing, my timetables less absolute—and more “highly flexible, suggested.”

(Editor’s note: Part 1 of this piece can be found here.)

Kimberly Lee practiced law for some years, then turned her attention to motherhood, creative pursuits, and community work. She is a SoulCollage® and Amherst Writers & Artists facilitator and an editor and contributor at Literary Mama. Her work has appeared in Fresh Ink, Words and Whispers, Toyon, The Ekphrastic Review, Minerva Rising, and elsewhere. She lives in Southern California with her husband and three children. Connect with Kimberly at http://kimberlylee.me

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

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Embracing the Unexpected, Welcoming a Change of Plan (pt 1), by Kimberly Lee

My pre-workshop checklist is dense and lengthy. With the level of detail, one might wonder if I mistakenly think I’m creating the manifest for a space shuttle launch. I even write it that way, with a full-scale countdown.

10 — Ensure all devices are charged to 100% capacity. Panic if they aren’t.

9 — Increase lighting in room and on all devices to their highest, squint-inducing value.

8 — Cue up power point and ensure smooth movement through the slides, but remember to speak in an off-the-cuff manner during the presentation. Reading slides prompts participants’ eyes to glaze over.

And so on. I print out a clear-cut agenda, timed to the minute, important points highlighted. I jot out a list of the participants on a separate sheet with columns, to keep track of who is present and who has shared their work. A must-have is a schematic that helps me decide how long to allow for sharing and in what format—large group, breakout rooms, the chat box—depending on the number of participants and their mood. I keep a blank notepad for notes and comments to make in support of a piece of writing, and another blank one for any writing that I may do in response to a prompt. I also have an extra activity or two in mind in case an empty block of time looms.

All of this springs from my belief that extensive, exhaustive planning is the key to a successful workshop. It’s my security blanket, my spare tire, my five extra outfits for a weekend trip. “Be prepared”—the Scout’s motto from way back. They must know what they’re talking about, right?

The planning trait emerged early in me. As teachers in the local school district, my parents each received a complimentary appointment book each year. These spiral-bound books, with their black, pebbled, vinyl covers and gold block letters, inevitably found a home on our kitchen counter, unused. My parents had their own ways of organizing lesson plans and scheduling parent meetings; all I had to do was ask and the datebooks would be mine. As a third grader, this arrangement worked for me. I dutifully recorded my important engagements—ballet lessons, piano recitals, salon appointments, an upcoming trip to Lake Tahoe—in the cursive I’d recently learned. Cue the beginning of my life as a “planner.”

By high school, I’d adopted a 6 x 9-inch steno notepad with lined, pale green paper to keep track of homework assignments. Later I moved on to the binder planners, called “systems,” blanketing them with stickers (“messy bun, getting things done!,” “you got this!”) and neon pink highlighter. On some days, every hour would be taken with some appointment or task, every blank space filled with extra things to do.

My tendency to over-plan has continued over the years, including packed trip itineraries that have left my family exhausted at times, in need of a vacation after the vacation. We recently hosted a retreat for extended family. Leading up to their arrival, I sent a comprehensive agenda for the week. After a complaint disguised as a polite inquiry from my cousin, I re-labeled it, calling it “a highly flexible, suggested itinerary.”

I was starting to get it—even if a ton of fun is in store, plans that don’t allow for spontaneity can feel confining, restricted…

(Editor’s note: Look for Part 2 of Kimberly’s piece next week.)

Kimberly Lee practiced law for some years, then turned her attention to motherhood, creative pursuits, and community work. She is a SoulCollage® and Amherst Writers & Artists facilitator and an editor and contributor at Literary Mama. Her work has appeared in Fresh Ink, Words and Whispers, Toyon, The Ekphrastic Review, Minerva Rising, and elsewhere. She lives in Southern California with her husband and three children. Connect with Kimberly at http://kimberlylee.me

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

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Meet the Keynote: Kathleen Adams

The TLA Network is pleased to include Kathleen Adams, founder of the Therapeutic Writing Institute and the Center for Journal Therapy, as one of three keynotes at the upcoming TLA Network’s 2022 Power of Words Conference. The conference also features keynotes poet and writer Camille Dungy, and noted Irish Poet Pádraig Ó Tuama

The conference will be online October 13-16 next fall, and the super early bird registration fee (20% off the regular price) is available now through December 31, 2021

Kathleen (Kay) Adams is one of the most prominent and established voices in the field of therapeutic writing. She is an author, psychotherapist, registered poetry/journal therapist (PTR) and master mentor/supervisor (MM/S) whose gift and life mission is sharing the power of writing with all who desire self-directed change. Kay is the author/editor of 12 books on the power of writing, including the best-selling Journal to the Self.

In 1985, at the beginning of her graduate training, Kay taught her first journal workshop. Three years later, at graduation, she founded the Center for Journal Therapy. It has grown into an international training and consulting company offering workshops, on-line classes, certification training, retreats, intensives and individual consultations on the use of writing in therapy, health and wellness, coaching, and spiritual direction. She has worked as a journal therapist in private practice, in-patient, and intensive out-patient psychiatric programs. Kay is adjunct faculty in the Professional and Creative Writing Master’s program at University College at the University of Denver, where she teaches Writing & Healing.

Kay holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from Colorado State University (1972) and a Master’s degree in psychology and counseling from Boulder Graduate School (1988). She has been a licensed professional counselor (LPC #770) in Colorado since 1994.

Registration is now open for the 2022 Power of Words conference, which will be held online from October 13-16, 2022. On sale now through December 31, save 20% off the 2022 conference fee!

Meet the Keynote: Camille Dungy

The poet and writer Camille Dungy (USA), New York, New York, May 30, 2019. Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan

“Earthly and visionary.” –Yusef Komunyakaa

The TLA Network is pleased to include poet and writer, Camille T. Dungy, as one of three keynotes at the upcoming TLA Network’s 2022 Power of Words Conference. The conference keynotes also include noted Irish Poet Pádraig Ó Tuama, and Kathleen Adams, founder of the Therapeutic Writing Institute and the Center for Journal Therapy. The conference will be online October 13-16 next fall, and the super early bird registration fee (20% off the regular price) is available now through December 31, 2021.

Camille T. Dungy is the author of four collections of poetry: Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan UP, 2017); Smith Blue (Southern Illinois UP, 2011) winner of the 2010 Crab Orchard Open Book Prize; Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, 2010) winner of the American book award in 2010; and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006).

Her debut collection of personal essays, Guidebook to Relative Strangers (W. W. Norton, 2017) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.  As a working mother whose livelihood as a poet-lecturer depended on travel, Camille Dungy crisscrossed America with her infant, then toddler, intensely aware of how they are seen, not just as mother and child, but as black women. The Kirkus Review noted of this lyrical memoir, “Each essay flows smoothly into the next, and they are all interlinked with themes of race, fear, joy, and love, bringing readers eye to eye with the experiences of being a black female poet, lecturer, mother, and woman. Forthright, entertaining, often potent essays that successfully intertwine personal history and historical context regarding black and white in America.”

Dungy is the editor of the anthology Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (UGA, 2009), the first anthology to focus on nature writing by African American poets. About the anthology, a Booklist starred review notes, “Just as nature is too often defined as wilderness when, in fact, nature is everywhere we are, our nature poetry is too often defined by Anglo-American perspectives, even though poets of all backgrounds write about the living world. Dungy enlarges our understanding of the nexus between nature and culture, and introduces a ‘new way of thinking about nature writing and writing by black Americans.’” Black Nature brings to the fore a neglected and vital means of considering poetry by African Americans and nature-related poetry as a whole. Dungy serves as the poetry editor for Orion magazine.

Dungy is also the editor of several other anthologies, including From the Fishouse (Persea, 2009) and Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade (University of Michigan Press, 2006).

Dungy is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Sustainable Arts Foundation, The Diane Middlebrook Residency Fellowship of the Djerassi Resident Artist Program, and other organizations. She was the recipient of a 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship. Her poems and essays have been published in Best American PoetryThe 100 Best African American Poems, nearly thirty other anthologies, and over one hundred print and online journals.

Dungy is currently University Distinguished Professor in the English Department at Colorado State University.

Registration is now open for the 2022 Power of Words conference, which features Camille Dungy as keynote. The conference will be held online from October 13-16, 2022, and is on sale now through December 31 – save 20% off the 2022 conference fee!

Meet the Keynote: Pádraig Ó Tuama

“Putting to work poetry and gospel, side by side with story and Celtic spirituality, Ó Tuama explores ideas of shelter along life’s journey, opening up gentle ways of living well in a troubled world. The reader can’t help but be drawn in, slip-sliding into the harbor of the author’s soulful words.” —Chicago Tribune

“Probably the best public speaker I know.” —William Crawley, BBC

The TLA Network is pleased to include noted Irish Poet Pádraig Ó Tuama as one of three keynotes at the upcoming TLA Network’s 2022 Power of Words Conference. The conference also features keynotes poet and writer Camille Dungy, and Kathleen Adams, founder of the Therapeutic Writing Institute and the Center for Journal Therapy. The conference will be online October 13-16 next fall, and the super early bird registration fee (20% off the regular price) is available now through December 31, 2021

Pádraig Ó Tuama is a theologian, conflict resolution mediator, and the author of four volumes of poetry, Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community (2017), In the Shelter (2015), Sorry for your Troubles (2013), and Readings from the Books of Exile (2012), which was longlisted for the 2013 Polari First Book Prize.

For Ó Tuama, religion, conflict, power, and poetry all circle around language, that original sacrament. Working fluently on the page and in public, Ó Tuama is a compelling poet, teacher, and group worker, and a profoundly engaging public speaker. He has worked with groups to explore story, conflict, their relationship with religion and argument, and violence. Using poetry, group discussion and lectures, his work is marked both by lyricism and pragmatism, and includes a practice of evoking stories and participation from attendees at his always-popular lectures, retreats, and events.

Ó Tuama has been a featured guest on On Being with Krista Tippett twice, and is a regular broadcaster on radio on topics such as Poetry, Religion in the public square, Loneliness, Conflict and Faith, LGBT inclusion, the dangers of so-called Reparative Therapy, and the value of the Arts in public life. In 2011, with Paul Doran, Pádraig co-founded the storytelling event Tenx9 where nine people have up to ten minutes each to tell a true story from their lives. From 2014-2019, Pádraig led the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organization. Currently, Pádraig guides the weekly podcast Poetry Unbound through NPR’s On Being, which dives and immerses the listener into one poem every week

His poetry collection Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community draws on the spiritual practices of Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation community Corrymela—of which Ó Tuama was a leader from 2014-2019. Described by Canterbury’s Poetry Laureate Patience Agbabi as “compassionate, contemporary and formally innovative,” this prayer book was structured over 31 days, offering a daily Bible reading with accompanying prayer. His book In the Shelter interweaves everyday stories with narrative theology, gospel reflections with mindfulness and Celtic spirituality with poetry, ultimately revealing the transformational power of welcome. Network Magazine praised it as being remindful of Augustine’s Confessions and Newman’s Apologia: “It comes from the heart, it recognizes the hurts and the triumphs, and it encourages us to say ‘hello’ to new things.” Sorry for Your Troubles, arose out of a decade of O’Tuama’s experiences hearing stories of people who have lived through personal and political conflict in Nothern Ireland, the Middle East, and other places of conflict. One poem, ‘Shaking hands’ was written when Padraig witnessed the historic handshake between Queen Elizabeth II and Martin McGuinness, who has since used the poem publicly. His first book Readings from the Books of Exile interweaves parable, poetry, art, activism and philosophy into an original and striking expression of faith.

His poems have been published at Poetry Ireland Review, Academy of American Poets, Post Road, Cream City Review, Holden Village Voice, Proximity Magazine, On Being, Gutter, America, and Seminary Ridge Review.

Pádraig Ó Tuama holds a BA Div validated by the Pontifical College of Maynooth, an MTh from Queen’s University Belfast and is currently engaged in a PhD in Theology through Creative Practice at the University of Glasgow exploring poetry, Irishness and religion.

Registration is now open for the 2022 Power of Words conference, which will be held online from October 13-16, 2022.
On sale now through December 31, save 20% off the 2022 conference fee!
 

Your Right Livelihood in the Arts — By Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

When I developed TLA, I knew that Right Livelihood, the Buddhist tradition of work that builds our communities and betters our world, was essential. By holding brave spaces for people to share their truest words and name and claim their own visions of healing and transformation, we are doing the work of Tikkun Olam, the Hebrew term for helping repair the broken world. Yet we can only do this work if we find ways to sustain our livelihoods and respect our time and gifts.

Likewise, many of the qualities we cultivate for TLA—showing up fully, starting where we are, trusting our innate voices, and taking creative leaps into what wants to be written, said, or sung—are the keys to creating livelihoods that support you and grow the reach of our work. That’s what called me to create the Your Right Livelihood class and retreat, which began as a project of the TLA Network, then grew to be its own small business with new co-leader Kathryn Lorenzen. What’s more, thanks to a generous partnership agreement, all TLAN members receive a discount on our class and retreat.

Both Right Livelihood and TLA are actively revising some myths that don’t serve us, such as the myth of the damaged, starving, or invisible artist, or the myth (so popular in the writing world) that there’s only so many ways the pie can be sliced, leaving many of us with only the crumbs at best. Both Kathryn and I believe that writers, storytellers, and other word artists should be paid (or otherwise compensated) fairly for our time, effort, experience, and education.

We’re big advocates for bypassing the old only-so-much-pie storyline by baking more pies. After all, we’ve had the power all along to create our livelihoods to nourish ourselves and our communities. It’s important we get cooking because artists and facilitators of the arts are essential to this world, especially in times of polarization and uncertainty.

We come by this understanding naturally: Kathryn is a singer-songwriter who found her way into cross-country touring and having her music featured in films along with her twin calling of coaching hundreds of people in career transition over the years. As a poet and writer, I discovered my twin calling in teaching and facilitation, which, along with writing are how I support my livelihood, do my service, and create my art.

It’s no wonder that what we do in Your Right Livelihood is rooted in so much of what we’ve discovered as writers, performers, coaches, facilitators, and teachers is at the core of TLA: deep conversation, expansive writing, the power of the stories we live, the guidance we can glean from our creativity, and the importance of building a loving and wise community. Our annual class, Jan. 23 – Mar. 19, features a combination of all of this to help us grow our vision, plans, courage, clarity, and community, including:

  • Weekly Zoom discussions, many featuring luminary teachers (including Eric Maisel, Yvette Hyater-Adams, Gregg Levoy, Kevin Willmott, and others),
  • Online exploration and writing (and other arts) about our callings as well as the inspiration and nuts-and-bolts resources we need to put them into action,
  • One-on-one in-depth coaching on how to integrate our dream work into our lives,
  • A guided, personalized portfolio to create step-by-step sequences and priorities to make our next work happen.
  • To find out more, please contact us today for a Discovery Call (you can reach me here or directly set up a call with Kathryn here), and please consider joining us for our Jan. 4th Life & Livelihood Small Group Coaching session. Our super early bird rate ends Dec. 10th, so please contact us soon.

To consider whether the time is right for you, please take a look at Kathryn’s new blog post, “Waiting for the Perfect Time: Why?” Surely this is your time to shine, especially when the world needs your gifts so much, so please consider how to write and live your own Right Livelihood story in TLA.

P.S. Many wonderful people in the TLA Network (including a bunch of past and present board members) found the Your Right Livelihood class especially helpful in their work — see their testimonials here.

New Scholarship Fund Supports Access to Conferences and Classes.

The Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg Fund was established in the fall of 2021 to honor the founder of the transformative language arts and the TLA Network. The Fund provides Power of Words Conference and TLA Network classes support for both BIPOC people and people who are living with serious illness and/or disabilities.

The following remarks by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg were made at the TLA Network’s online Power of Words Conference, on October 30, 2021.

I am so honored by this fund in my name, which will provide scholarships for people of color, people living with serious illness, and people with disabilities.

Why these communities, all of whom are negatively impacted in our problematic world:

As a survivor of both a very common cancer and a very rare cancer, and as someone who’s had the joy and education of facilitating writing workshops for 18 years for people living with serious illness – patients, survivors, caregivers, and community members, I know first-hand how essential is to to have supported spaces for big writing and witnessing.

I’ve also been involved with disabilities rights and communities through my husband’s work for 30 years as an occupational therapist and activist working with people living with disabilities.

Both people living with serious illness and disabilities, which sometimes go hand-in-hand, are so often limited in accessing workshops and conferences like what TLAN offers, and not just by a lack of wheelchair ramps. The isolation and pain, overwhelm and fear we face in such situations can make us feel so alone with our pain, dread, anxiety, difference. 

We are missing such important voices at the table, ones that have so much to teach us about resilience in real-time, what it means to age and change, and how to grapple more directly with being humans who are mortal. Scholarships can help us bring life-giving creativity and community into people’s homes through their laptops. 

Black, brown Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, and other marginalized people of color have too often and so extensively, to the detriment of all of us, been silenced or had their voices abused. My more personal connection is that I live in the home of Haskell Indian Nations University and the ghosts land burial ground where so many children died when it was a boarding school. I’ve also witnessed many people’s stories through teaching at Haskell and facilitating workshops for many years with Indigenous women.

When we started the POW conference, we began with a commitment to continually work on undoing racism and inviting many more voices to the table, or even forgetting the old table and making a new one. From our first conference, we had scholarships for POC, a determination to bring in keynoters from unrepresented communities, and outreach to communities of color. Most arts-based organizations like ours are primarily white and although we’ve come a long way, we have so so so long to go. 

Removing financial barriers where and when needed is part of this work, and it also helps foster new leadership and a more attuned vision to how TLA can bring voices previously ignored or debased into our civic conversations. 

In 2014, we were able to bring close to a dozen people living with serious illness and disabilities to the POW conference to share their stories and truths. A year later, we brought 15 young people of color, all in the foster care system, to the conference. How wonderful it would be to have scholarship funds available for people who want to attend Angie Ebba’s superb upcoming TLAN class, “Not Enough Spoons: Writing About Disabilities and Chronic Illness” and to next year, have even more black and brown faces, people undergoing heavy cancer treatment or navigating disabilities in an ableist world at this conference.

Please consider giving what you can give to make our offerings more accessible to others. Please help create this new table where we can all come and speak our lives and visions.

Contribute to the Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg Fund here.

All funds will be processed through the TLA Network’s fiscal sponsor, The Foundation for Delaware County. When contributing via FDC, make sure to note your donation is made “in honor of Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg.”

Smoke on the Water: a poem by Lisa Paige

Editor’s note: Lisa Paige recently completed the TLA Foundations class as part of TLAN’s certificate program. In the class, students are given weekly prompts to which they may respond in any form they feel called to. The following is Lisa’s reflection on both this aspect of the class and the poem it inspired. The poem itself was in response to the July 2021 Oregon wildfires.

Participating in a TLAN course has opened my eyes to the unpredictable responses to prompts; not so much from others, because I expect that, but from myself! Who knew that after a reading for a class on facilitating writing workshops I would write a poem? It flowed like a waterfall when I had believed I was in a drought.

Experiencing the very thing we hope our workshop participants will has been the best inspiration to continue the work I’ve just begun engaging in with TLAN.

And now, humbly, my poem.

Smoke on the Water

The sky turned gray tonight. 
Oregon’s smoke reached New England, 
lapping at me like a needy puppy or
maybe more a teething bitch.

She stole the sunset, 
swirling in secretive 
ghostly spirals 
atop the pond. 

“See me?” she said,
susserating.

Once, the sky looked gray to me even on the sunniest of days. 
Now, my bright light shines even in the darkest night.
Once, I had little energy for the troubles of others -- 
never mind strangers living on a distant coast. 
Now, with every leaf that ignites in Oregon, 
I lose a part of my soul.

So is this day gray? 
Or light?

Through the clouds of Mother Earth, 
I reach for hope. 
If my life could be saved, 
so too can our home.

Lisa Paige’s essays and features have been published widely; she also ghostwrites, edits, teaches writing for wellness workshops, coaches teen writers, and is at work on a YA novel manuscript. www.insightlearning.co

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