The transformative power of language and art… [in] every aspect of living and working in an evolved world
Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of interviews with students who have completed the TLA Foundations Certificate.* Answers may be slightly edited for space and clarity.
Hollie Ziskind is a mindfulness teacher and creative consultant, founder/creator of pen and portal, and the KEY method. Using a mindful approach in 1:1 consulting and group teaching, she helps women experience transformation and healing through their creative practice. Certified through the Awareness Training Institute, Amherst Writers and Artists, and the Transformative Language Arts Network, she’s been featured in Choose901, Swimming with Elephants, Meniscus Journal and Chrysalis.
TLAN: Why did you originally apply for the TLA Foundations certificate?
Hollie: The idea of learning from, and working with, other like-minded artists at the intersection of art and transformation called to me. I work with creative women in mid-life, and I believed this certification would enhance that, and my own creative work.
What TLAN courses did you find most useful? Why?
I really enjoyed Pathways to Wholeness with Marianela Medrano because of the mindfulness component, and also because of Marianela’s own groundedness, and attention to the subject matter. I work in a very similar area, and it felt nurturing to be led through this course. I took lots of notes and really enjoyed the sharing there too.
What was your greatest learning(s) from the process?
The big picture takeaway for me was the reiteration of the transformative power of language and art, not only in social justice, but in politics and climate change, and seemingly every aspect of living and working in an evolved world, and courses that actively engaged in that effort.
For more from Hollie, and to learn more about using mindfulness and inquiry as a path to healing and transformation, stop by https://www.penandportal.com or @penandportal
*TLA Foundations (TLAF) is an introduction to TLA in theory and practice with opportunities for reflecting and acting on ethical work, community networking, and TLA in action, completed on one’s own time over two years. Applications accepted on a rolling basis. More details can be found here.
Recently we asked our staff, board and founder what they are currently reading, and why. We thought you might enjoy getting a glimpse of our latest literary delights, listed below.
Share with us what YOU have been reading, and we might just feature you and your favorite book(s) in an upcoming newsletter, or as part of a Network book club! We would love to hear from you!
Kimberly Lee – TLA Network board member: The Happy Writing Book by Elise Valmorbida. Contains 100 bite-sized, spirited essays on writing inspiration and craft, for both aspiring and established authors who want to infuse energy into their work—and their lives.
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré. A Nigerian teen, married off by family for her dowry, is determined to change her destiny and find her voice by achieving the education her late mother dreamed of.
Finding Me by Viola Davis. An honest, revealing memoir that chronicles the rise of the Oscar award-winning actress from a disadvantaged childhood to international acclaim, and the emotional demons she slayed on the way.
Jen Minotti– TLA Network board member: All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto by George M. Johnson. Super important, beautiful, honest memoir by a Black, queer voice for the YA population. I loved this book before it was banned from libraries and schools in 15 states, but now I am making sure to read all of the books on these banned-book-lists as my personal form of protest.
All about Love: New Visions by bell hooks. After bell hooks’ passing earlier this past Winter, I revisited her work. Although written over 20 years ago, this book is as relevant today as it was two decades ago, maybe even more so. My yellow highlighter practically dried out from all of the use it got while reading this book! And I now use the word “love” as a verb, as bell hooks instructed us to do!
Renu Thomas, TLA Network board member: The Girl with the Suitcase, by Angela Hart Angela Hart has fostered many children over the years. This is a true story about the joys, doubts and challenges in raising Grace who has had a difficult upbringing before coming to Angela’s home. It offers a fresh look at parenting and the nature vs nurture debate. Inspiring.
Hanne Weedon, TLA managing director: Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken. I’ve been reading this incredible book with my 14-year-old daughter over the course of the past year – a few pages every week, and we are slowly turning our time, focus, and attention to how we navigate the climate crisis as a family. Each section is engaging and accessible, addressing the 100 most substantive solutions to reversing global warming, all based on meticulous research by leading scientists and policymakers around the world.
For Goodness Sex: Changing the Way We Talk to Teens About Sexuality, Values, and Health, by Al Vernacchio. This is a fantastic, illuminating, funny read by a thoughtful, youth-empowering sex educator who really knows his stuff. An incredible resource for anyone who is parenting/close to/working with teens, this book helps bridge the gap between what we thought we knew and what we actually need to know to help our young people navigate this complex and rapidly-shifting issue in their lives.
Palmares, by Gayl Jones. A 2022 Pulitzer finalist, this incredible epic novel is at once a love story, a fugitive slave’s odyssey, and an investigation into the meaning of freedom. Set in 17th-century colonial Brazil, the novel is that perfect combination of mythology, history, and magical realism – plus, Jones’ mastery of language and voice are a delight. This is the perfect read you will not want to put down.
Gabe Seplow, TLA Network intern: The Sentence is Death, by Anthony Horowitz. A fascinating murder mystery that has you on the edge of your seat, wanting more answers the further you get into the novel.
Kelly DuMar, TLA Network board member: The Rainbow, by D.H. Lawrence. Exquisite prose in this classic novel by a master about three generations of a British family who live in the east Midlands of England spanning 1840’s-1905, focusing on love, coming of age, marriage, family. Lawrence’s descriptions of nature are gorgeous and precise.
There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century, by Fiona Hill. Really smart and thoughtful memoir of a brilliant British woman who rose to a powerful government position in the US from her working class, disadvantaged roots in County Durham, England as the coal industry failed. She does a superb job of exploring the role of privilege in the US and British educational systems. She stood up to Trump by testifying against him at his first impeachment from her role of serving in the Trump administration. Courageous and honest and authentic––and funny.
Liz Burke, TLA Network board member: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong. Ocean Vuong’s novel is one of the most beautiful I have ever read. It’s a coming of age story and an intimate letter to his mother written by a poet whose language stings as forcefully as it soars.
Postcolonial Love Poem, by Natalie Diaz. There have only been a handful of poets whose work, upon reading it, causes me to gasp in awe at the beauty. This is one of them. I feel Diaz’s work in my bones.
Jade Eby, Manager, TLA Network Classes: The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland. I’m a huge fan of family drama stories… especially where there are hidden secrets just waiting to be exposed. I love that the backdrop of this novel is Australian land and culture.
I Heard You Scream by Emerald O’Brien — My favorite summer reads are fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat thrillers. And I Heard You Scream fits the bill! This is a binge-able read with satisfying twists and turns.
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, TLA Network founder: Embroideriesby Marjane Satari I fell in love with this graphic novel about the inner lives of Iranian women, written and drawn by the author of the astonishing Persepolis, a historical and deeply personal memoir in what Satari calls comic-book style.
frank: sonnets by Diane Seuss Here is an astonishing collection of poetry that’s a combination of fierce memoir, experimental language, and pure poetry, and hey, it’s by a TLAer at heart, and she just won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry!
The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich I’m re-listening to this novel by the unparalleled Erdrich about a powerful legacy, haunting questions of identity and home, and brave forays into real love in many forms.
Beth Turner, TLA Network board member: The Diné Reader/An Anthology of Navajo Literature, edited by Esther G. Belin et al. Powerful testimony to keeping culture, faith, family, land connections alive via the written, spoken or danced word. This is a peaceful and powerful read, a rarity for me to experience both within so many different poems and essays. I found the works to be awakening and stirring – there is no shame or blame, but facts and truth.
Liminal Thinking: Create the Change You Want by Changing the Way You Think, by Dave Gray. This book is about the power of thresholds. Liminal space sits between you and me when we meet, when teams meet, when people groups gather – it is a rich land. I think this space as one filled with low-hanging, ripe fruit. Anyone can reach up and pick the idea, solution, opportunity, revelation, wisdom and share. I look to cultivate this sort of atmosphere in classes, retreats and within small groups. It is an activating read. I am pondering what action may be required/explored personally and communally.