Creating Our Stories

Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”
-Yehuda Berg

by Melissa Rose

Words hold power. They are the tools we use to construct our universe. We all have stories. We all tell stories every day. Stories are how we gather information about who we are, how we see ourselves and how we see the world. In my work as a spoken word artist and mentor I have discovered that the stories we tell about ourselves, are perhaps the most profound. We learn our stories, or we grow our own. Through life and its challenges, we discover that the stories we create about ourselves influence how others see us and how we want to be seen. The labels we claim or reject. The experiences we choose to share or hide.

We are the gatekeepers of the stories in our lives, and how we express those stories creates us as heros or villians. Forges us as survivors, or achievers or failures. Draws light to the spaces we most want seen, and shadows the secrets places we would rather turn away from.

I have many stories about myself. Here’s one:

I am a writer. A mother. A friend. I am a caring individual who uses my natural gifts to help others in the world. I am a natural optimist who overcomes obstacles and owns up to my mistakes. I am fiercely forgiving. I am a natural leader, who is innovative and always thinks outside of the box. I love to laugh. I love to love. I am skilled in many areas of creative expression. I am strong.

Here is another story about who I am:

I have been sexually assaulted multiple times. I grew up in an abusive, dysfunctional environment. I am a suicide attempt survivor. I have a mental illness which has affected my quality of life. Sometimes I don’t leave the house for days because I am afraid of interacting with anybody. I have hurt the people who are closest to me. I have been called “toxic”. I have disappointed friends and family. I feel lonely all the time.

Which of these stories is more “true”? Which of these stories do I want to tell? Which of these stories define who I am? Can they exist together?

I’ve always been fascinated by the stories we tell about ourselves. The drops we use to sum up an ocean. I have always wondered what prompts us to leave out pieces of our stories. Which things we don’t want to think about or share. Where do those parts of our story go? Do we want to find them?

Spoken word and oral tradition predate writing, and stories passed down from generation to generation sink into our bones. The memories we share aloud to our children and grandchildren become the new stories they will tell to their own offspring. Our stories begin with the spoken word. With the power to create the lives we want by exorcising our true voice. The little whisper that desperately wants to scream. To shout. To proclaim. To announce “I am here! I am still here”

Spoken word poetry is not where I first learned how to use my voice, but it was the first place I discovered its true power. I’ve never felt more like myself than when I am on a stage performing poetry. For a few minutes, I get to say exactly what I mean. I get to share the parts of myself I would rather hide. The pieces of me that I am still polishing. The parts I want to call “ugly”. The space I want to run away  from. Writers, performers or audiences members who are attracted to this form of expression come to these events for a number of reasons, but ultimately, it is to share in the storytelling we crave as people. To know that we are indeed not alone. That despite all of the surface interactions we encounter on a daily basis, for a few moments in time, we have the chance to be fully honest about our lives and ourselves.

There is a world inside of you that needs to be shared with others.  Which part of you feels like it’s screaming inside of you, raw and ready to take the stage?

This is your beginning.

What story do you want to tell?


Melissa Rose is a spoken word poet and playwright. She has hosted community spoken word events since 2003 and has been a member of 5 National Poetry Slam teams. She has performed her work across the United States and Germany and was a featured poet at the German National Poetry Slam in 2010. She currently lives in Eugene, Oregon.


How To Turn Trauma into a Warrior’s Adventure with Amy Oestreicher


Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, survivor, award-winning actress, and playwright, sharing the lessons learned from trauma through her writing, mixed media art, performance and inspirational speaking. As the creator of “Gutless & Grateful,” her BroadwayWorld-nominated one-woman autobiographical musical, she’s toured theatres nationwide, along with a program combining mental health advocacy, sexual assault awareness and Broadway Theatre for college campuses and international conferences. She has studied as a playwright and performance artist in the National Musical Theatre Institute at the world-renowned Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.

Poetry as Therapy with Rachel Mckibbens

Rachel combines her personal story with her spoken word poetry to explain how the practice of sharing written words aloud in an environment of safety, encouragement and support is an invaluable, cathartic experience of emotional and intellectual re-framing.

Rachel Mckibbens was born in Anaheim, California. She is the author of Into the Dark & Emptying Field (Small Doggies Press, 2013), Pink Elephant (Cypher Books, 2009) and Blud (Copper Canyon Press, 2017). McKibbens is a two-time New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellow and the 2009 Women of the World Poetry Slam champion. She co-curates the monthly reading series Poetry & Pie Night with poet Jacob Rakovan in upstate New York.

TLA Professional Training Opportunity

As part of the launch of the Right Livelihood Professional Training, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Laura Packer are offering two separate 90-minute small group coaching sessions at a highly discounted rate. Normally, their rate for such a session is $40 a person, but they are offering these special sessions for just $9.99!

Here’s an opportunity to discuss what you’re looking for in your vocation and avocation and hear about other’s passions. Each participant will have time to ask a question and listen to Laura and Caryn’s suggestions on:

  • Making a living,
  • Balancing work and life,
  • Connecting with community,
  • and other aspects of doing our life’s work for each member of the group.

Click to register for the first session on Sunday, December 10th. The second session will be offered on Thursday, January 11th.  Enrollment is limited to 10 people, so reserve your spot today!

When: 10 Dec 2017, 7:00 PM CST    Where: Online video conference (Zoom)

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Chrysalis is open for submissions!

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Chrysalis is an online, peer-reviewed, international journal that publishes critical, creative, and reflective work on the use of language arts to create personal and community change.

Dedicated to the research and practice of Transformative Language Arts (TLA), it is a foundational resource for those who are currently studying or practicing TLA; for those interested in the power of the spoken, written, and sung word to engender change in both the reader and the writer; and for those who seek to discover that power.

You are invited to submit material to Chrysalis that challenges, inspires, educates, and guides us to grow the community of Transformative Language Artists.

  • Creative writing, audio and video products (poems, short stories, essays, etc.) accompanied by a short reflective paper regarding the process of writing the piece and its relevance to the transformation of the author and/or the author’s community.
  • Narrative accounts of TLA projects in action in communities, or experiences practicing TLA alone and with others.
  • Critical writing related to the power of words, including qualitative and/or quantitative studies, and other related investigations of TLA scholarship.

Submissions are made through Submittable on the Chrysalis website. The open submissions period is November 1, 2017 – February 1, 2018.

Sparks Meeting November 7th!


“Constellations of Work, Art, Self-Care, & Life” with special guests, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg & Laura Packer

Moderated by Kelly DuMar

Sparks is a free bi-monthly teleconference moderated by Kelly DuMar, interviewing notable Transformative Language Artists on their work, followed by a poetry open mic.

Seeking your own best right livelihood in balance with your life, health, creativity, and community? Join us for a cozy conversation with Laura Packer and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, who are facilitating the first Right Livelihood Professional Training through the TLA Network.

Laura and Caryn will share stories, strategies, and tips about how they continually dance with their own constellations of making art (Laura is a storyteller and Caryn a writer), practicing self-care, and evolving ways of making a living. They’ll also answer questions about the Right Livelihood Professional Training and how it supports writers, storytellers, performers, educators, coaches, healers, and others in finding their best constellation of work.

About the Special Guests

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of two dozen books, including the forthcoming Miriam’s Well, a novel; Following the Curve,poetry; and Everyday Magic, a collection of beloved blog posts and personal essays. Founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College where she teaches, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely, particularly for people living with serious illness and their caregivers. With singer Kelley Hunt, she co-leads writing and singing retreats. She also is a writing and right livelihood coach. Caryn has worked extensively with many arts and ecological/bioregional not-for-profit organizations as a grant-writer, fundraiser, staff, board member, and consultant, and she also founded several long-term groups.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.

Laura Packer has been performing, coaching, writing, consulting, andleading the storytelling field for almost 25 years. She knows the best way to the truth is through a good story, and that this universally accessible artform creates empathy, builds bridges, and has the power to both heal and change the world. When she isn’t performing, Laura is the sole proprietor of thinkstory, llc, one of the nation’s foremost organizational consulting firms. Laura considers her whole life her calling, which includes the depth and breadth of her storytelling and writing work, building and growing healthy relationships, loving the people in her life, practicing radical forgiveness, spending time in nature, cooking, listening, demystifying and destigmatizing grief and other powerful feelings, and trying to live as authentic and engaged a life as possible. You can learn more about her storytelling and coaching work at, her organizational work at, and read some of her writing at

Learn more about the Right Livelihood Professional Training.

Poetry Open Mic

And there’s more to share — Bring an original poem! This unique discussion and networking opportunity will be followed by a Poetry Open Mic. Everyone who participates in the teleconference is welcome to share an original poem. Whether you’re reading your poetry aloud for the first time, or you’re a seasoned reader, this is a chance to share your writing in the supportive presence of appreciative listeners. It’s a remarkably fun and moving experience.

Format of the Gathering

  • Kelly will interview the special guest for 30 minutes

  • We’ll then have 10-15 minutes to ask questions and discuss TLA, your own practice, goals, or vision.

  • We’ll devote the next 15 or so minutes to the open mic poetry readings.

  • You don’t need to be a member of TLAN to participate!

Joining the Call on Zoom

Kelly will arrive on the video conference at 6:45 p.m. CENTRAL so you can connect early & work out any glitches! You will receive links and numbers in your email after RSVPing.

Register Here!

About co-host, Kelly DuMar

Kelly DuMar, M.Edis a playwright and poet who facilitates expressive arts writing workshops for creative writers across the US, including The Mass. Poetry Festival, The International Women’s Writing Guild, The Power of Words Conference, Southern Writers Conference, and Winter Wheat Conference. Her poems are published in many literary magazines, including “Lumina Online,” “Corium,” “Cape Cod Review,” “Kindred,” “Apeiron,” and “Tupelo Quarterly,” and her award-winning poetry chapbook, “All These Cures,” was published by Lit House Press in 2014. Her newest chapbook, Tree of the Apple, was published by Two of Cups Press (2017). Kelly’s award winning plays have been produced around the US and Canada, and are published by dramatic publishers. She founded and produces the Our Voices Festival of Women Playwrights at Wellesley College, now in its 11th year, and she moderates, SPARKS!, a bi-monthly teleconference and poetry open mic for the Transformative Language Arts Association. Kelly is a certified psychodramatist and a Fellow in the American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama, and a member of Playback North America. Her website is, and she blogs daily in #NewThisDay Writing From My Photo Stream