Poems as Catalysts and Seeds to Plant Change — By Tracie Nichols

Tracie Nichols is offering “Listening With Our Bodies: Writing Toward Resilience” through TLAN April 19 – May 10. Register by April 10 and save 20%. Details here.

August of 2021 found me deep in the magic of “Future Casting,” an online class offered through the Transformative Language Arts Network (TLAN) and facilitated by the astonishingly creative Caits Meissner. In the sixth and final week, Caits suggested we write a statement of poetics. For me, this was a very new and not entirely welcome idea. The following is what I wrote in response to that invitation. (Warning: this piece mentions violence and employs some salty language.)

For most of my life, whenever anyone asked me to summarize myself or my art I panicked, froze, then fled, usually leaving a comet tail of epithets. If cornered, I deflected. “Want to know me?” I’d hiss, “Go read my poems. They’re scraped from the inner walls of my ascending aorta.” Similarly, questions about my writing process often ran into a big old slammed door of “none of your damn business.”

I always thought it was because I’m an introvert with a bit of social anxiety. Lately, though, I’m coming to understand that it’s because writing poetry is how I wrote myself back into a breathing presence in my own mind and trying to codify that feels like I risk diminishing its creative, sustaining, power. Sharing my purpose and process as a poet feels x-ray intimate.

When I was a child, I was in so much pain—so deeply psychically displaced—it seemed I was only holding on to this world by a forefinger and thumb. My seventh grade art teacher tossed me a rope when he asked our class to write a poem in response to an art film of stampeding wild horses. There were foals in that snorting, screaming, rampaging mess. I recognized their terror and out-of-control turmoil. I felt it in my body and then streamed those messy, shouting word-feelings onto the pages of my tidy school notebook. And that, as they say, is where it all started.

I continued writing poetry to locate myself in myself and in the world, to imagine a place where I belonged, to make a space for myself that made sense despite nearly nothing around me doing so. The process of writing poetry—at least the way I interpreted it—let me circumvent my indoctrinated, gas-lit mind and write what my body felt, noticed, and perceived. I could write about the tall white pine tree and how I first, finally, felt real belonging when wrapped in their branches, listening to the wind.

I write because words and images live in my bones and itch. I write so those words detach their atoms from my marrow and coalesce themselves into poems. I write because my arms ache from holding the unflinching truth of violence in one hand and the equally unflinching truth of compassion in the other. I write to make sense of violence: the large and small violences we impose on each other, the cuts and digs we carve into ourselves, the narrow, restrictive, suffocating norms a culture inflicts on its members, the ongoing rape of this planet. I write to find respite in everyday moments of connection and the steady reliability of natural rhythms—small, quiet things like morning following night. I write because my body is etched with violence and betrayal and understands how finding respite in small, everyday beauties helps survival turn the corner into living.

In the beginning, I wrote so I could know I existed. These days, I write because I hold the truth of both violence and compassion in my body and I know there are people who need to hear that is possible. I write because I have lived sixty years of life in the face of a beginning that should have ended me and there are people who need to know that’s possible, too. I write poems to be catalysts. I offer them as seeds. I hope they plant change.

Tracie Nichols is a Transformative Language Artist writing poetry and facilitating writing experiences from under two old Sycamore trees in southeastern Pennsylvania. She is the Co-founder of two writing groups, as well as a board member and newsletter editor for the Transformative Language Arts Network. Putting her master’s degree in Transformative Learning and Change to good use over the past two decades, Tracie has designed and facilitated many virtual and in-person lifelong learning experiences on a truly wide range of topics for small groups. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Rogue Agent and Text Power Telling as well as two anthologies. You can connect with her at https://tracienichols.com/.

How Pictures Heal: Writing From Your Photo Stream by Kelly DuMar

One of the many writing prompts I use in my How Pictures Heal workshops is to have participants write a three-sentence story sparked by a personal photo. A lot of wisdom, emotion and beauty can be expressed in three sentences:

  1. Fractured or whole, I am a bowl.
  1. My body contains who I am, how I have lived, my scars, my wrinkles and beauty marks.
  1. Fractured or whole, my spirit is a bowl containing the airy remarkable essence of my unique wholeness.

Here’s how one participant answered a three-sentence prompt from the question “What resistance did you overcome to get here to the workshop?”

  1. I am getting out of my comfort zone and exploring my love of words.
  2. I am overcoming the story I have said to myself––that writing is only for intelligent people and no one would be interested in what I have to say.
  3. I am feeling empowered and creative. I am exposing the ways I have been small for other people’s comfort.

Here’s something exciting I hear in all my photo-inspired creative writing workshops:

When I first saw my photo, I never imagined I would write what ended up on the page.

Writers I work with are experiencing the power of making imaginative leaps from their personal photos that allow them to express a meaningful story hidden beneath the surface of a photo.

One young man wrote from a photo of himself and his brother as a child posing in the arms of their mother for the camera. As soon as he began writing from the photo, he realized he’d never thought about who had taken the photo. Then, he realized it was the last family photo his father had taken before leaving the family. His poem germinated from with this awakening. He said:

I was able to use what I learned in class to not only write something I’m proud of, but to process and communicate emotional difficulties I hadn’t been able to find words for in years.

My workshops are inspired by the words of Jane Hirshfield in her essay, “Poetry, Permeability and Healing”:

Among the fracturings of the psyche, powerlessness and invis­ibility are not minimal things. But a person who can ask words to do things words have not done before is not powerless. To make phrases that increase what is possible to think and feel is both exhilaration and liberation. To expand reality is to counter despair, depression, and impotence.

Personal photos and expressive writing are a dynamic combination for TLA artists and writers. Your pictures hold the stories only you can write. Writing is an act of creation that puts your spirit, your mind, your mood, in transit as your pen takes you where you have been and where you have never been before.

Another writer in my How Pictures Heal workshop asked me a great question about the “magic” of how this creative writing and healing process works:

It seems to me that something quite magic happens in this work in terms of moving the mind into a positive space.  What do you think happens in the process of writing about photos and memory, Kelly, that affords this shift?

Well, let’s agree that it is mysterious. But I think it has to do with engaging our imagination, suspending our disbelief, being willing to see what’s real and remembered–– the facts of the photo and the specifics of memory––and then leap or drop into what we know that we don’t know we know. As the iconic depth psychologist, journal writer and Intensive Journal founder, Ira Progroff said:

When our attention is focused inwardly at the depth of our inner being, in the context of the wholeness of our life, resources for a profound knowledge of life become accessible to us.
Writing from our personal photos provides a quickening of spirit, an entrance into our imagination, a transit into what brings meaning, purpose, beauty, and healing into our lives. Writing from our photos is an act of transforming feelings of powerlessness into power, invisibility into visibility.

My photo-inspired writing workshops are:

  • Safe places
  • Non-judgmental experiences
  • Creative spaces for exploration self-expression
  • All levels of writing are welcome
  • All genres of writing are supported

How we will work together:

Our online webinar experience is writing-generative. We’ll meet, personally, live online in a weekly 90-minute Zoom videoconference. Additionally, each week will consist of a “Lesson” sent via e-mail for you to download that includes content designed to spark personal reflection on healing aspects of your personal photos as well as a transformative writing prompt.

Each week, you will receive insightful feedback on your writing from Kelly, and others in the group. We’ll also meet ON ZOOM in the following combinations to give those who need day versus night options. ALL ZOOM SESSIONS WILL BE RECORDED

TUES April 18, 12:30-2:00 p.m. ET

WED April 26, 7-8:30 p.m. ET

TUES May 3, 12:30-2:00 p.m. ET

TUES May 9, 12:30-2:00 p.m. ET

WED May 17, 7-8:30 p.m. ET

TUES May 23,  7-8:30 p.m. ET

I hope you’ll consider moving toward healing from your personal photos in your creative writing practice with me. You can register here.


Kelly DuMar, M.Ed. is a poet, playwright, and engaging workshop leader who generates enlivening writing experiences for new and experienced writers. Her photo-inspired creative writing method elicits profound personal awakenings, deepens connection with others, and fosters beautifully crafted writing in poetry and prose. Kelly’s fourth poetry collection, “jinx and heavenly calling,” was published in March 2023 by Lily Poetry Review Books. 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. Kelly is a certified psychodramatist, former psychotherapist, and Fellow in the American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama. She teaches online for TLAN and the International Women’s Writing Guild, where she leads the Annual Summer Play Lab and more. Kelly also hosts the monthly Journal of Expressive Writing Open Mic with feature. Kelly inspires readers of #NewThisDay – her daily photo-inspired blog – with her mindful reflections on a writing life. You can learn more about Kelly, at www.kellydumar.com.

Introducing….The Alchemy of Purposeful Memoir

From Jennifer Browdy:

Everyone who begins a memoir does so in the hope that through telling their story, they will come to understand their lives more fully. And the process is valuable, whether or not the goal is a published book. 

Purposeful memoir as a contemplative practice is different than journaling, because it’s more intentional: as we follow the spiraling elemental journey of purposeful memoir, we explore our lives in a fairly methodical fashion, starting with the Earth years of childhood, moving on through the Water years of adolescence and young adulthood, exploring the passions and challenges we face at all stages of life (Fire) and engaging in deep reflection, from our current vantage point, of the patterns in our lives, and how our experiences lead us into finding meaning and purpose for our lives going forward (Air). 

The practice of purposeful memoir is multifaceted and multi-temporal, spiraling through past and present in an effort to create, through the process of writing, a solid foundation for the future. It’s also multidimensional: we can’t really understand our individual lives if we don’t take into account our time and place, the broader social and physical landscapes that shaped us. 

Through years of leading individuals and groups on this elemental journey of purposeful memoir, I’ve come to realize that this process has alchemical power. Through writing our life stories, we have the potential to transmute the inevitable sorrows and pain of existence into something more positive—the philosopher’s stone of understanding, which truly is worth its weight in gold.

The alchemical gold we seek in purposeful memoir is understanding—of self, society and world.

In writing my own memoir (a process that took about eight years and went through many changes in direction), I came to realize the value of the various trials and tribulations that life had put me through as an adult. As I wrote in What I Forgot, “I came from a family, and a culture, that always tried to avoid shocks of any kind—that held comfort as the highest value.” 

But my most important teachers, like Gloria Anzaldúa, “always insisted that we need precipitating shocks to push us to move in new directions and grow.” Like Rumi, who famously observed that “the wound is the place where the light enters you,” Anzaldua valorizes pain as a source of wisdom and healing. 

I didn’t really understand this until I went through the process of purposeful memoir and discovered that I was able to transmute my struggles—for example, the end of my marriage and my frustration with my career—into a deeper understanding of myself and my culture. 

On a planetary level, it was only by wrestling with the scary reality of climate disruption that I was shocked into remembering my deep childhood connection with and love for the natural world, which I had been socialized into forgetting. Purposeful memoir enabled me to rekindle my fiery passion for the natural world, and thereby find a renewed commitment to environmental stewardship, the sense of purpose that had been so strong in me as a child. 

The alchemical gold we seek in purposeful memoir is understanding—of self, society and world. The elemental journey—exploring childhood (Earth), youth (Water) and the passions and trials of all life stages (Fire), through a spiraling process of deep reflection (Air)—leads us to an understanding of what we value and want more of in life, and what negative baggage we want to jettison as we move forward. 

In my Alchemy of Purposeful Memoir workshops, I offer opportunities to explore different stages of your life from the vantage point of positive qualities like Joy, Love, Strength, Courage, all of which are presented in my latest award-winning book, Purposeful Memoir as a Quest for a Thriving Future.

My writing catalysts are meant as provocations and stimulations rather than instructions; thus you can’t get it wrong.

Each workshop session starts with Lists, a tried and true way to call up and organize a lot of memories from different stages of your life. These lists can be returned to again and again as sources of memories that can be developed into the stories of your life. 

Next, the Scene catalysts invite you to develop an item on your list into a full-fledged story, using as much detail as possible. Should you decide to begin weaving your stories into a longer, more fully developed account, these short scenes can serve as narrative entry points. At this stage, the assumption is that you are writing as an explorer, looking to generate new material and find out what gold may be stored in the nuggets of your memories. 

To this end, I use the focused free-write approach, inviting you to write freely, in short timed bursts of anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, not worrying about form or grammar. Write to find out what you know, and to get images, sensations and emotions down on the page. You’ll have plenty of time later to expand, revise and refine the scenes that come up for you through this free-form initial process. 

After the Scene catalysts come the invitations to Alchemy, where we explore the potent boundary between what is and what could be.  It’s a powerful practice to give yourself permission to imagine paths not taken; to wave your magic wand and create different outcomes at key turning point moments in your life story.

Although it is important, ultimately, to speak your truth in memoir, there are times when venturing into fiction will help you understand your truth more deeply. When we invite some alchemical magic along on the journey of purposeful memoir, sparks start to fly and we find the courage to reach down and bring to light the more profound revelations of our life story.   

Finally, each session ends with a catalyst for Reflectioninviting you to do some informal writing reflecting on the mini-journey of exploration you have just taken. In my training as a writing teacher through the Bard Writing & Thinking Instituteprocess writing is a key strategy: we are encouraged to reflect in writing on the written inquiry we’ve just undertaken. I give specific catalysts for these reflections, which are meant to be open-ended starting points that you can take wherever your thoughts lead you. 

All of these catalysts are meant as provocations and stimulations rather than instructions, and thus you can’t get it wrong. The only requirement is that you undertake your alchemical journey of purposeful memoir with an open heart and the sincere intention to probe your life experience deeply and honestly, using writing as your vehicle and these catalysts as your guide. 

In a profound sense, we are the world.

Although the journey of purposeful memoir starts from personal experience, all of us exist as individuals embedded in the larger social and planetary spheres that surround us. We are the world, in a profound sense that most of us are only just beginning to realize. The process of purposefully revisiting our lives through writing memoir is thus a form of world-making: as I re-member my life, I re-member the world.

At each step of the journey we have a choice in how we approach this work: will I write to bemoan my hardships and mistakes, or will I write to share what I have learned from my life, for the benefit of others coming along behind or alongside me on the trail? In either case, we are not shying away from the tough passages in our lives, but the emphasis is on transmuting our negative experiences into the philosopher’s stone of understanding, with which we can brighten our own lives, going forward, and perhaps provide some wisdom that will lighten others’ lives as well. 

The alchemical journey of purposeful memoir starts with the personal, and radiates out into the political and planetary spheres. Saluting the positive and transmuting the negative, we can and will transform our collective relation to the world we make together. It’s my conviction that as more of us undertake this journey, we will improve the well-being of the entire Earth community. 

Come write with me, and see for yourself! Register here.

Today and Tomorrow – 20% off TLAN Classes!

This Valentine’s Day, we are sending you a very special Valentine: 20% off class/workshop registrations!

February 12 – 18, 2023, register at the discounted rate for one or more. And why not give a little love? Share this with those who need a little support and encouragement in “using their words.” LEARN MORE AND REGISTER HERE!

Be my Valentine,

Chad Gurley, TLAN Coordinator

Will Create for Love & Money: Your Right Livelihood and TLA – by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

“Will create for love and money” could make for a perfect bumper sticker for many of our cars or a good sign on our front doors. We write, sing, facilitate, coach, collaborate, and work deeply in the arts with others and ourselves because it’s our calling and birthright. Yet what it takes to make a living, find even more of our purpose, or craft the next season of our lives isn’t something that easily fits on a car bumper or front door. Finding our way takes courage, guidance, clarity, and often, help along the way.

Scroll down for special offers for TLAN Members

That’s why, starting many years ago when I first 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.

The Your Right Livelihood class began as a TLA Network project, then grew from there, having helped dozens of people since 2018 discover their work (whether for livelihood, art, service, or purpose) and how to make that work come true. I’m delighted to be offering our comprehensive class with singer-songwriter and creativity and career transition coach Kathryn Lorenzen Feb. 19 – April 16. The class surrounds you with guidance, support, best resources for your work ahead, and good company for the journey, including:

  • Weekly Zoom discussions, many featuring luminary teachers, such as Gregg Levoy (author of Callings), Yvette-Hyater-Adams (facilitator, writer, consultant), Vi Tran (arts organizer and performer), and Alana Muller (networking expert) to explore the depths and breath of callings, personal strategic planning, networking tailored to you, and finding support and care.
  • Online exploration and writing about our emerging visions as well as the inspiration and nuts-and-bolts resources we need to put them into action, plus visiting podcast teachers sharing their wisdom, including creativity expert Eric Maisel, Oscar-winning filmmaker Kevin Willmott, singer-songwriter Kelley Hunt, poet and facilitator Marianela Medrano, and others.
  • One-on-one in-depth coaching on how to integrate our dream work into our lives through completing a pick-your-adventure portfolio guide so that you’ll have all you need (such as web copy, funding resources, proposals and descriptions of your work, outreach plans) when you complete the class.

As part of a generous partnership agreement, all TLAN members receive a discount on our class and retreat next October. Additionally, we invite any TLAN member to attend our Sun., Feb. 5 small group coaching session “Will Create for Love and Money” as our guest (7 p.m. CT/ 8 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. MT/ 5 p.m. PT on Sun., Feb. 5). Just email me and we’ll register you.

A number of TLA members have found great gifts and direction in Your Right Livelihood, and you can read their words directly here. We know through our experience how much a strong cohort group, excellent guides, and lots of good resources can help people make the leap into the work they love.

We come by this understanding naturally: Kathryn is a singer-songwriter who found her way into cross-country performing and having her music featured in films, along with her twin calling of coaching hundreds of people through 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.

Find out more about the class here, and if you’d like to explore whether this is a good match for you, please click on the “Discovery Call” button to set up a free consultation with us. You can also peruse of “Is Your Right Livelihood Right For You?” page here.

Welcome to 2023 TLAN!

I am overjoyed to begin this year as your new TLAN coordinator and am grateful for your kindness and grace as I transition into this new role. Joining TLAN is especially important now as we frequently witness words evolve and change in our society saturated by incessant information. Thus, I am excited to serve you and the vision of TLAN, and I look forward to what this new year brings…

Like workshops and classes! With your time divided among so many different things, why not dedicate some of it to igniting your passions and nourishing your hopes? This year, TLAN is offering a variety of opportunities sure to benefit you personally, professionally, and communally. Start the year off with one of our January offerings:

  • Pathways To Wholeness: Mindful Writing Toward Momentous Leaps Of Meaning with Marianela Medrano
  • Flash Fiction Forms: Exploring Elements Of Craft Through Archetypes & Metaphors In Dreams, Tarot, & Fairy Tales with Riham Adly
  • This Is Who I Am: Exploring Personal Identity Through Poetry And Art with Angie Ebba
  • What Next? Launching Your Work In The World with Caits Meissner

Click here for more details! And while you are at it, consider joining the TLA Network. Learn more here.

Again, thank you for welcoming me to TLAN! Please do not hesitate to contact me with any thoughts, questions, or general chit-chat at tlan.coordinator@gmail.com.

Wishing you all the best,


Winter Sale on TLA Network 2023 Classes: Now through December 31!

Save 20% 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 and a wonderful weekend retreat with TLAN favorite Jennifer Browdy.

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.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, PhD is the founder of Transformative Language Arts, the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected PoemsMiriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. A beloved writing workshop facilitator and writing and Right Livelihood coach, she offers writing workshops widely, particularly for people living with serious illness, adults in transition, humans looking for greater connection with the earth, and poets and writers seeking their most courageous voice on the page and in their lives. She loves life-giving collaborations, including YourRightLivelihood.com with Kathryn Lorenzen, Bravevoice.com with Kelley Hunt, and TheArtofFacilitation.net with Joy Roulier Sawyer. She offers weekly “Care Packages for a Creative Life” through her Patreon page, and her long-time blog, “Everyday Magic” at CarynMirriamGoldberg.com.

Born hard-wired to make something (in art, music, and especially writing), Caryn’s long-time callings include writing as a spiritual and ecological path, yoga, cultivating a loving marriage, family, and community, and helping herself and others make and take leaps into the miraculous work of their lives. For over three decades, Caryn has worked with many arts and ecological/bioregional not-for-profit organizations as a grant-writer, fundraiser, staff or board member, and consultant on collaborative and community arts, group process, and better meetings. She lives in the country on land she and her husband, ecological writer Ken Lassman, have put in a conservation reserve and are restoring as prairie and woodlands.

Jennifer Browdy PhD is a professor of comparative literature and media arts at Bard College/Simon’s Rock and the Bard Open Society University Network. She coined the term “purposeful memoir” in her award-winning writer’s guides, Purposeful Memoir as a Quest for a Thriving Future (2022 Nautilus Gold Award) and The Elemental Journey of Purposeful Memoir: A Writer’s Companion (2017 Nautilus Silver Award). Her memoir, What I Forgot …And Why I Remembered, was one of six memoir finalists for the 2018 International Book Awards. The editor of three anthologies of global women’s writing and the online magazine Fired Up! Creative Expression for Challenging Times, she offers workshops in purposeful memoir along with coaching, manuscript review and publishing services at Green Fire Press. She is also the co-founder and host of the online community for writers, Birth Your Truest Story.

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