What Some of Our Teachers are Reading Now…

Following up on last month’s post about what our staff and board members have been reading, we asked some of the writers, editors, poets, and facilitators who teach for the TLA Network what they are currently reading, and why. We thought you might enjoy getting more of a glimpse into our teachers’ worlds – see their selections, listed below.

We would love to hear what YOU have been reading – share your latest favorite reads with us, 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!

Jennifer Browdy, PhD – professor, editor, community organizer & group facilitator.

LSD and the Mind of the Universe: Diamonds from Heaven, Chris Bache.
The author is a distinguished professor emeritus of world religions, who spent 20 years researching the nature of reality and metaphysics by taking himself on more than 70 high-dose, carefully set and monitored LSD explorations, with fascinating results.

The Quantum Revelation: A Radical Synthesis of Science & Spirituality, by Paul Levy.
Levy has done an outstanding job of bringing the insights of quantum theory, Jungian depth psychology and mystical spiritual traditions like the Kabbalah to bear on foundational questions of reality and human consciousness.

The Radiant Heart of the Cosmos: Compassion Teachings for Our Time, by Penny Gill.
Gill, a retired professor of political science and longtime dean of the college at Mt. Holyoke College, unexpectedly began to channel the voices of two Tibetan deities, Manjushri and Kwan Yin, who taught her about the “tsunami of Spirit” that is accelerating the pace of change on Earth at this time, and how we can learn to keep our psychic balance and ride with it, rather than getting swept up in fear and resistance. This book, written in three voices, tells Gill’s personal journey as well as relating the conversations she’s had with Manjushri and Kwan Yin. 

Lisa Chu, M.D. – multidisciplinary artist, illuminator, and community catalyst.

The Apology by V (formerly Eve Ensler).
The concept and content of this volume — an imagined apology written to the author in the voice of her long-dead father — are a healing salve to those among us who are still searching for the roots of the harmful, invasive, or violent behaviors of the ones who proclaimed to love us. V’s cleansing work speaks to the heart of anyone who has spent time inquiring into, deconstructing, and reconstructing internal narratives in an attempt to liberate from the invisible yet unmistakable tendrils of these violent inheritances.  I take this book in small sips, returning to pick it up again after walking with it in my belly for awhile.

Sara Berman’s Closet by Maira Kalman.
This is a short illustrated volume that I didn’t expect to have such an impact on me. At first I flipped quickly through it, but as I neared the end I realized there was a twist, an unexpected turn inside me that planted a seed for reimagining a definition of a well-lived life. Everything by Maira Kalman astonishes and delights me, but this was an added surprise and life lesson inspired by the story of her mother’s closet.

Remarkable Diaries: The World’s Greatest Diaries, Journals, Notebooks, & Letters by Kate Williams.
This one sits on my art desk and reminds me of the long lineage of thinkers – artists, explorers, writers, inventors – whose notebook practices have been reproduced as images with historical context here. I feel like I am in the company of my people whenever I leaf through these pages. I feel grateful for the existence of these notebooks, their preservation, and the fact of the existence of the minds and hands which made them. To me these are as much a product of their lives as any final works published. They are each a piece of multidimensional evidence of the uniqueness of creative process and the shared medium of the notebook across centuries of human existence.

Kimberly Lee – Writer, Editor, Workshop Facilitator.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin.
This book’s  compelling premise was hard to resist: Four young siblings visit a woman who can supposedly predict the exact date of a person’s death, and as the characters move into and through adulthood, we learn how this knowledge affects their choices and behavior in all aspects of their lives. 

Goddesses of Self-Care: 30 Divine Feminine Archetypes To Guide You, by Stephanie Anderson Ladd.
This nourishing workbook offers a wealth of information on a wide variety of feminine archetypes from cultures around the world, inviting readers to harness the wisdom and ways of these entities to craft a self-care strategy through reflection, journaling, art making, and other activities. 

Infinitum by Tim Fielder.
A gorgeous graphic novel that begins in ancient Africa, then moves through history to the present and beyond, spanning the globe as the main character, Aja Oba, seeks to destroy the curse that binds him while finding love and purpose. 

Robbyn Layne McGill – writer, editor & producer.

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, by Douglas Carlton Abrams, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
I’m actually listening to the audio version of this book while I do my daily chores – a simple practice for elevating the mundane into a joyful experience. Two friends, who also happen to be two of the world’s most influential spiritual leaders, come together for a weeklong event to share their thoughts on living with joy, even in the face of adversity. In the audio version, two actors read the parts of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond, as the writer weaves his insights around them. It’s a thought-provoking, inspiring, entertaining, and uplifting read (or listen). 

Falling in Honey, by Jennifer Barclay.
Inspiring for aspiring memoir writers, and anyone who loves the Greek islands. This book gets some mixed reviews as far as the quality of writing goes, but I am still putting it here for two reasons. One, I’m a huge fan of memoirs about travel and love, and this one is an entertaining story about the British author’s experience of discovering and moving to a tiny Greek island in the Dodecanese (one that I just visited, and also fell in love with), with a twist. 

And two, you can learn a lot from the way other memoirists craft their stories – good, bad, and in-between. This was only Barclay’s second book, and she continues to write, improve, and follow her creative heart, so I find that very inspiring.

Storycraft, by Jack Hart.
This book brings readers into the process of developing nonfiction narratives by revealing the stories behind the stories. Hart shares tips, anecdotes, and recommendations he forged during his decades-long career in journalism, with examples that draw from magazine essays, book-length nonfiction narratives, documentaries, and radio programs. A great resource but also a fascinating, fun read. It also greatly improved my ability to write blogs, newsletters, and articles for my clients.

Angie Ebba – Writer, Activist, and Performance Artist.

Odes to Lithium by Shira Erlich.
This collection of poetry looks at the author’s mental health and her relationship to the medications she takes. I love the raw honesty and vulnerability in many of the poems in this book, and the way that we see the struggles and triumphs that can come with learning how to navigate mental illness.

The Boy With a Bird in His Chest by Emme Lund.
I loved how this novel tackled the question of what it means to be different, the cost of hiding ourselves, and the courage it takes to show who we are, even when people don’t like it. This book has great representation with a variety of LGBTQIA main characters. Despite the book being full of surreal elements, I found myself completely believing them, and looking for the birds that may be living in the chests of others.

Marianela Medrano – Psychotherapist, Writer, and Poet.

What the Dead Want Me To Know, by E. Janet Aalfs 
These poems have a life of their own and speak of justice and inclusivity while whistle-blowing the rich old boys who “behind our backs launder money/fumbling hands in drawers the same old way….”  In this collection, lyricism meets reality, crudeness, and injustice with the mastery of great poetry. Aalfs knows that “not looking away” is the “given prize.” 

She understands the relationship between body and mind as a continuum. Her white body crosses a black one, breathing in the same lines, knowing that “budding bruises” come up from the breathing ground… healing. She prays and revises her prayer, asking for calm, giving it to us on each line that breathes now and forever.

Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer, by Jamie Figueroa. 
Jamie Figueroa gets us into the world of two siblings rooting meaning and a sense of self in this brilliant and well-plotted novel. They meet at the intersection of humor, sorrow, and loss that crosses generations. One can say it is a novel that puts generational trauma into perspective.

Riham Adly – Writer and Editor 

Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us, by Lynn Mundell.
The collection explores those tender moments in the lives of women and young girls who could not embrace or explore their sexuality. They need to fit but they could not belong. Coming from a culture where women are treated as lesser beings,  I felt intrigued when I realized women struggled everywhere. 

One-Sentence Journal: Short Poems and Essays from the World at Large by Chris La Tray.
This is one of those books that I return to over and over as a writer. It is both touchstone and inspiration, reminding me of the power and pleasure of staying curious and writing down what I notice. 

The Darling Dahlias and the Red Hot Poker by Susan Wittig Albert.
A delicious summer read where the characters feel so real I could pop next door for some lemonade and a chat, the setting and history is well researched and accessible and the mystery stays a mystery until the end. I’ve never been disappointed by anything, fiction or nonfiction, that this author writes and she is prolific!

Tracie Nichols – Facilitator, Copyeditor, and Poet. 

One-Sentence Journal: Short Poems and Essays from the World at Large by Chris La Tray.
This is one of those books that I return to over and over as a writer. It is both touchstone and inspiration, reminding me of the power and pleasure of staying curious and writing down what I notice. 

The Darling Dahlias and the Red Hot Poker by Susan Wittig Albert.
A delicious summer read where the characters feel so real I could pop next door for some lemonade and a chat, the setting and history is well researched and accessible and the mystery stays a mystery until the end. I’ve never been disappointed by anything, fiction or nonfiction, that this author writes and she is prolific!

What We’re Reading Now…

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.

Katia Hage, TLA Network board member:
La fin est mon commencement: Un père raconte à son fils le grand voyage de la vie, by Terzano Terziani.
A book about an Italian journalist’s journey and his observations through his many voyages to Maoist China, Vietnam, Cambodia before communism, India and more. A fascinating new perspective about world events lived through in those countries. 

Untie the Strong Woman: Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Love for the Wild Soul, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
The book reminds me of the many faces of the divine feminine and the power of healing through storytelling in returning the bones to their own people. 

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!

Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain.
Hot off of the presses, I couldn’t wait to read this book by the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, a bedside favorite in my house! It’s as great as her previous book, combining research with personal narrative and is perfect for anyone going through a transition (basically all of us!).

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.

Slaughterhouse-Five: Or the Children’s Crusade, a Duty-Dance with Death, by Kurt Vonnegut.
An easy, summer read that includes comedy, drama, action, and heart-wrenching imagery from WWII.

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.

Recollections of My Nonexistence: A Memoir, by Rebecca Solnit.
A literary feminist memoir in a powerful voice of poetic prose about the impact of the threat of sexual violence toward women in our culture.

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.

Welcoming the Unwelcome: Wholehearted Living in a Brokenhearted World, by Pema Chödrön.
Pema Chödrön shares necessary wisdom, guidance and practices to navigate and bring more compassion to our difficult world and all its inhabitants. She offers me hope as I face life’s challenges.

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:
Embroideries by 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.

In Gratitude for Martin Swinger’s Life and Music, by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Martin Swinger, singer-songwriter

Martin Swinger, a virtuoso singer and songwriter, died suddenly in early July, leaving behind his husband (and partner of 35 years) Brian and many broken hearts in his Asbury Park, N.J. home community, and prior to that, central Maine, where he was a mainstay of the music scene for years.

But when I think of Martin, I see him at my kitchen table, serenading the then-coordinator of the TLAN, Deb Hensley, volunteers Nancy Hubble and Laura Ramberg, and me as we stuffed folders for the 2014 Power of Words conference.

He was like this: always bringing joy, humor, and the power of music to wherever he landed. He was gifted at helping in multiple other ways too: for the conference, he coordinator participant transportation, helped Deb with many pieces of the conference coordination, and generally brought a sense of peace and homecoming to all of us.

Martin Swinger keeping the TLA Network volunteers company as they prepared for the 2014 Power of Words Conference.

Then again, Martin knew how vital hospitality and art are to this world. He grew up gay in the South, falling in love with music and books of all kinds. In recent years, he went on to be quite decorated as a songwriter, winning many notable big-time contests and performing across the country, even to the delight of the late Pete Seeger and very-much alive Vance Gilbert and John Waters. His seven CDs won lots of well-deserved awards, including from American Song Competition, SolarFest, Rosegarden Coffeehouse and more. Audiences have adored him for decades for his warm and vibrant voice and eclectic blend of Americana, swing and jazz, traditional music, show tune, Klezmer music, and improvisation. Deb and Martin sang together like angels from an enchanted land.

Deb says of Martin: Martin was a true prince, a friend to me and to so many others who knew and loved him. He had a heart the size of Mars and talent to match. Frost says, “Nothing gold can stay.” But Martin’s songs will stay. Oh yes they will. And so will his love. 

His generosity extended in other ways: when one of our keynote performers for the conference didn’t show up, Martin graciously volunteered to perform on the spot and for free (although we did extend to him a small stipend anyway). When he performed, he lifted a full house of conference goers, who had been waiting a while for the keynote, to their feet with original songs such as “Betty Boop and Buddha,” “Consider the Oyster,” and my favorite, “Little Plastic Part.” That song, about how breaking a tiny part of a vacuum that “makes the whole thing work” speaks to having a little part of our heart broken so that it doesn’t work anymore.

I can’t help thinking about how Martin himself was a little vital part with a big impact himself. 

Find more about Martin here: https://martinswinger.com/

With great gratitude and appreciation for the life of Martin Swinger, singer-songwriter.

Facilitating For Change & Community

Facilitation21Do you want to learn more about facilitating workshops, meetings, collaborations, or coaching sessions? Come join Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Joy Roulier Sawyer for “The Art of Facilitation: Facilitating for Community and Change,” June 2 – July 13. This online class also includes video-conferencing and lots of resources to give participants a rich experience of and education in effective and soulful facilitation.

As Joy and Caryn write in the class description: “We’ll explore how creating intentional communal spaces, taking an inward look, and working across vast definitions of “difference” (including race, religion, gender, class, living with ability or health challenges, and more) can help foster greater cohesion and expression in a fragmented culture. We’ll also learn how to navigate difficult situations and people more smoothly and compassionately, as well as how to joyfully sustain ourselves in our own individual TLA callings.”

Joy and Caryn also share this video about what happens in the class and who comes. Continue reading

TLA in Action Series–A Virtual Greenhouse Roundtable: an interview with poets Diane Glass, Liz Burke, and Rachel Gabriel.

Note: In an effort to encourage online creative communities and friendships within our TLAN membership, we will continue to examine models of creative small groups as we develop new ways for TLAN practitioners to keep in touch. We hope this article is the first of many to feature how members support one another. 

Do you have an idea for how TLAN could grow small groups for creative nourishment and support? Please share! Contact Hanne Weedon, TLAN managing director.

Well before the pandemic began, three friends from the Transformative Language Arts Network community created a literary friendship using virtual technology. They shared a passion for poetry and a desire to support one another’s writing. Through monthly meetings, they cultivated, nurtured, and sustained a welcoming environment for producing and revising their poetry. 

“A Virtual Greenhouse–Cultivating, Nurturing, and Sustaining Creative Growth through Literary Friendship” was one of several opportunities offered in the winter of 2020 by TLAN as part of our TLA in Action Series. What follows is a summary of the conversation between Liz Burke, Rachel Gabriel, and Diane Glass, as moderated by longtime TLAN teacher and community member, Kelly DuMar. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length. 

Kelly DuMar: Tell us about your passion for poetry.

Liz Burke: My love of poetry began with a love of language, the musicality of it, and its potential for creating worlds.

Diane Glass: Yes, with poetry, you’re able to go to the essence of something and really get at the heart of things. 

Rachel Gabriel: Humanity has always expressed its thoughts and dreams through poetry. When I write a poem, I am making one small observation yet joining a community of voices. Poetry is also a wonderful way for me to connect words with images and words with music. 

Kelly: How did your literary friendship develop?

Liz: We met through TLAN, but we really got to know one another during the Right Livelihood Professional Training. That first weekend together, we went through an intimate process of inner discovery. And we also considered how we want to live in this world. 

Diane: I came to the group with an intention: I wanted to write a book, something beautiful for family and friends. Along the way, the primary focus of our group became learning how to write poetry. This is a safe place to bring our work. We focus on the poem, not on our feelings.

Rachel: I studied so much literature in college that I couldn’t write for a long time, but I’ve done a lot of journeying as a writer and as a teacher of writing. In TLAN, you know that if you fall on your face, no one will mock you. They will pull you up and say try again. I [feel comfortable] bringing a little silliness and playfulness to this group. 

Kelly: How does the group work? 

Liz: We meet once a month for an hour, and everyone has about twenty minutes to share their work. We have clear guidelines, but we are always responsive to one another’s needs.

Rachel: We consider whether the poet’s intention is there on the page. Instead of saying whether or not we like a poem, we discuss whether or not the poem is working. It’s energizing to engage with your colleague’s work.

Diane: We share poems through a Google folder so people can see the poem while we talk about it. We listen and receive feedback, but know the poet must make the final decision.

Liz: I like to practice experimentation with form and play. I start with a poem as a nugget and then breathe air into it to inform the poem. In our group, we investigate every word—it’s an exciting process.

Kelly: How have you grown individually and as a group?

Diane: I brought a poem about my stepson’s suicide to the group. I didn’t want to talk with anyone who was emotionally involved. Liz and Rachel opened a door for me to write more. They showed me the possibilities of something bigger.

Rachel: Intimacy develops in a small circle of friends. It’s always amazing what you learn. Diane wanted us to talk with her as a poet. We have made an investment in one another. That allowed this door to open.

Diane: Zoom didn’t get in the way of intimacy for us.

Liz: My poems have become more courageous because of this group. I bring writing about an experience that is very vulnerable, knowing this vulnerability will be held tenderly. It can be tricky [to hold this space for vulnerability] while commenting on what works and what doesn’t.

Rachel: If it hadn’t been for this “greenhouse,” if they [Liz and Diane] hadn’t been nurturing me along, I wouldn’t have been able to write this song [“Hymn for America” in response to George Floyd’s murder]. My whole city [Minneapolis], the whole country was unravelling. I could go to my poetry as a way of conversing with it all, which felt like a gift in the midst of everything. 

-Compiled by Rachel Gabriel.

Diane Glass loves reading poetry, and during a Right Livelihood Professional Training offered by TLAN founder Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Laura Packer, she discovered how much she loves writing it. RLPT’s encouragement and that of her two poetry partners, Liz and Rachel, has resulted in a poetry book released this month, The Heart Hungers for Wildness, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Diane published a memoir as well, This Need to Dance, her story of growing up with spina bifida. Diane completed the TLA certificate and considers this organization her tribe. http://www.dianeeglass.com. 

Liz Burke is a poet, interdisciplinary educator, and writing coach passionate about narrative and arts-based approaches to personal and social transformation. She works with adult students, working-class identified groups, university faculty, LGBTQIA+ communities, women living with the aftermath of sexual assault and harassment, feminist activists, and poets/writers of all kinds. She serves as the TLA Network’s Board Chair. 

Rachel Gabriel is a multi-disciplinary artist in word, image, and song. Her work as a writer and teaching artist have been honored by The Loft Literary Center where she’s shared a passion for creative writing and literature with youth and adults since 2007. She was awarded a residency at The Ragdale Foundation for her novel in-progress, and has published prose and poetry in several anthologies. In her creative work, Rachel explores topics such as spirituality, gender equality, and phenology. Her outreach and consulting work includes facilitating creative process and development workshops for intergenerational groups or private clients. She is an apprentice in book arts and bibliotherapy, and continues to develop curricula which weaves together creative expression with spiritual wellness. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband, son, and daughter. In her opinion, a perfect day includes a walk in Paris, painting by Lake Superior, and dancing in the kitchen.

Kelly DuMar is a poet, playwright, and engaging workshop leader who guides new and experienced writers to aim for astonishment, reclaim their imaginations, and generate enlivening writing experiences. Her Aim for Astonishing photo-inspired process elicits profound personal awakenings, deepens connection with others, and fosters beautifully crafted writing in poetry and prose. Author of three poetry collections, Kelly is also author ofBefore You Forget— The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your Children. She produces the Our Voices Festival of Boston Area Women Playwrights, held at Wellesley College, now in its 13th year, and she produces the annual Boston Writing Retreat and the weeklong summer Play Lab for the International Women’s Writing Guild, where she serves on the board. Kelly founded the Farm Pond Writers Collective to guide women writers to write from their personal photos, develop their artistic voices and connect deeply with their creative lives. Kelly inspires readers of #NewThisDay – her daily photo-inspired blog – with her mindful reflections on a writing life. www.kellydumar.com

Making Art That Nourishes by Robbyn Layne McGill

Robbyn Layne McGill is a teacher and workshop facilitator based in Amsterdam. Robbyn’s upcoming 6-week online TLA Network class, Kissing the Muse: A Messy, Magical, Art-Making Adventurestarts October 18.

Art feeds and enriches our souls in the same way food nourishes our bodies. Reading books, watching films, looking at paintings, and listening to music or poetry can elevate everyday reality to something sublime. But, because we are more than consumers, we also crave opportunities to contribute something of ourselves to the conversation. 

Unfortunately, we don’t find many opportunities to express ourselves without judgment, criticism, or comparison these days. Our society seems to have created a hierarchy around what constitutes a “worthy” contribution. So, only those who have gained the proper validation— through publication, professionalism, or fame—have “permission” to create. 

The rest of us are cut off from something we really need and therefore crave—the direct experience of our vital life force through uninhibited self-expression. To see and know ourselves through our own creativity, to play, like children, with materials, only for the joy of discovering who we are, what we like, what we don’t like—this truly feeds us. 

Original artwork, Robbyn Layne McGill

Images speak to us on a soul level. They bypass our rational, critical mind and allow us to feel whatever they evoke in us, intuitively. Unfortunately, that’s also how advertising works. So, it’s incredibly powerful to work with images—even if we identify more as writers who create literary images than visual artists.  We are all visually literate, and through collage, we can create our own language and meaning. 

When we learn to reappropriate the media and propaganda used to “sell” us who we are, we can turn it on its head. By cutting up glossy magazines and collaging commercially printed detritus, we change it into something else, not an externally directed expectation of who we should compare ourselves to or aspire to be, but our own reflection instead. 

Making collages, or “muse mirrors,” as I call them, is the core of my “kissing the muse” creative practice and course. “Who am I? “What do I really want, need, and value?” It’s so surprising how the answers bubble up easily through this practice.

Original artwork, Robbyn Layne McGill

Collage is accessible to everyone. You don’t need to know how to paint or draw to work visually. Different disciplines can inform each other, so my course also includes other expressive art modalities, like music, poetry, writing, and movement. It also brings in everyday modes of creative expression, like food and relationships, to stretch your definition of “creative practice.”

So, kissing the muse is an interdisciplinary, tangible, spiritual practice that puts us back in our bodies. When we’re making art simply to know ourselves, we’re connected to the moment, through our hands, mind, body, and spirit—cutting and pasting, touching and feeling, manipulating materials to make sense of our world, inner and outer. It’s so natural and human. We become collaborators with the ultimate reality: infinite, ceaselessly dynamic, swirling, potential. Through expressive art-making, we create intimacy and connection with ourselves, heal our hurt parts, and bring our inner light out to shine. And by doing this, we add our innate value as unique human beings to the world, which feeds us all.  

Robbyn Layne McGill is a writer, film-maker and painter who lives in Amsterdam, and runs workshops and trainings around the globe. Robbyn has an MFA in New Practices, an MA in Transpersonal Psychology, and a BA in Journalism—but the story of how she came to live in Amsterdam (with a man she truly loves, and a cat named Leonard Cohen), and host collage-making “Muse Dates” is far, far more interesting.  www.kissingthemuse.com.

Kissing the Muse, by Robbyn Layne McGill

Original artwork by Robbyn Layne McGill

Calling all creatives and sensitive souls attempting to navigate in this strange, new, unpredictable world. Could you use a guiding map to help you engage more consciously and courageously through all this change? The world can seem darker, depressing, and beyond our control when we forget we’re creatively powerful individuals. You can learn new ways to create from your most authentic place and more confidently express your heart’s true purpose and passion. When we remember we are the world’s contributors and collaborators, we can move towards remaking it, better, more inclusive, saner, and more hope-filled— even if it is just our little corner of it. A drop in the ocean, sure…but imagine the ripple effects one drop can make.

Kissing the Muse is a transformative practice that can help you experience your full creative potential and power. In my TLA Network course, we’ll embark on a 6-week Messy, Magical, Art-Making Adventure together designed to deepen your connection with your inner muse—your ultimate, infinite creative power. You will meet and “kiss” six different muse archetypes, each representing a particular aspect of the mythic journey (the same pattern found in stories, movies, and fairy tales around the world). This cyclical pattern also serves as a map for navigating your personal life, your artistic process, or the narrative arc of a memoir, novel, or story.

This course also offers three opportunities for live interaction—two group ZOOM sessions, on October 17 and November 21, and a personal, 1/2-hour, one-to-one coaching session with the instructor the week of November 4-11.

Original artwork by Robbyn Layne McGill

Ultimately, the purpose of this course is to help you engage in a creative practice that provides emotional clarity, conscious connection, hope, and encouragement.

So grab a gluestick and pucker up. Let’s go on a messy, magical, art-making adventure to change the world for the better.

Robbyn Layne McGill is a writer, film-maker and painter who lives in Amsterdam, and runs workshops and trainings around the globe. Robbyn has an MFA in New Practices, an MA in Transpersonal Psychology, and a BA in Journalism—but the story of how she came to live in Amsterdam (with a man she truly loves, and a cat named Leonard Cohen), and host collage-making “Muse Dates” is far, far more interesting.  www.kissingthemuse.com.

SPOTLIGHT ON THE COUNCIL: Lesley Dobis, TLA Network Treasurer

Lesley Dobis serves as a member of TLA Network’s governing body and has played an important role in helping us make strategic financial decisions that are in alignment with our organization’s mission and values.

In her spare time, Lesley runs a financial consulting business, writes a blog about parenting, and periodically posts storytelling videos to her website. When she’s not writing, she shares her ever-expanding garden in northern New York State with her husband, many cats, and lots of chickens.

With the predictable good-natured humor and that innate ability to always land on one’s feet that seems to be the hallmark of a farmer’s grandchild, in the face of the pandemic and the resulting shuttering of her massage business, Lesley plans to open a street-side farm stand this fall to sell her abundant produce and to help feed her neighbors.

Lesley writes, “I’ve identified as a writer since I was 11 years old, however, I was always reluctant to put my own work out in public.  I worked as a technical writer 30 years ago, spent the last 20 years as a massage therapist, and now run a financial planning business.  I was introduced to TLAN in 2019, and that experience helped shift my writing to become my top priority. Currently, I write on topics as diverse as parenting and personal finances. I also dabble with storytelling. Since I have such eclectic interests, I’ve never felt truly at home in any group. That all changed with TLAN. The people I’ve met are creative, passionate, kind, and strong. They seem able to delicately juggle inner exploration and walking the talk. I’m honored to be among other TLANers and look forward to the future we create together!”

Sparks! Power of Words Preview-September 12th

POW 18 header

September’s Sparks meeting is all about this year’s Power of Words Conference! 

Have you already registered for POW 2018? Or are you considering registering for our annual conference, which will take place October 12-14th at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont?

POW 2018 features Transformation, Liberation, & Celebration Through the Spoken, Written, & Sung Word – with workshops, celebrations, open mics, and fierce beauty among 50 presenters — storytellers, writers, performers,
activists, educators, healers, and more.

Want to know more about what participants will experience in this dynamic weekend? We’re thrilled to welcome special guest, POW Keynote, Amy Ostreicher, to be our SPARKS feature, along with other dynamic POW workshop presenters who will share about their Power of Words workshops:

  • Joseph Galata – Papa, Come Dance with Me Again!
  • Beth Turner – Rest x Choice
  • Liz Burke-Cravens – Discovering and Sharing Your Sacred Story for Social Change

Don’t forget to bring an original poem to the online 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.

Format of the Gathering

  • Kelly will interview workshop presenters on the call for 30 minutes about their POW workshops.
  • 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

Upon RSVPing, you will receive the Zoom call-in information in your confirmation email.

The call is from 7 – 8:15 p.m. CENTRAL, 8 – 9:15 p.m. EASTERN. Kelly will arrive on the video conference at 6:30 p.m. CENTRAL so you can connect early & work out any glitches!

Register for the Sparks gathering here

Register for the Power of Words Conference here

About Kelly DuMar

Kelly DuMar is a poet, playwright and expressive arts workshop facilitator whose chapbook “All These Cures,” won the 2014 Lit House Press poetry contest. Kelly’s poems have been published in many literary journals, and her award winning plays have been produced around the US and published by dramatic publishers. She produces the Our Voices Festival of Women Playwrights & Poets, held at Wellesley College, now in its 9th year. Kelly has a Master’s Degree in Education from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Her certification in psychodrama and training in Playback Theatre inspire her workshops with transformative energy. Kelly has presented professional workshops at Mass. Poetry Festival, The Boston Book Festival, Playback North America, The New England Theatre Conference, the Transformative Language Arts Conference, ASGPP, The National Association for Poetry Therapy, and The International Women’s Writing Guild. She is a Fellow in the American Society for Group Psychotherapy & Psychodrama, a member of the Advisory Council of The International Women’s Writing Guild, and a Council Member of the Transformative Language Arts Network. Her website it kellydumar.com, and she publishes a bi-monthly essay about the writing life to her subscribers.

Call For New TLA Blog Editors!

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Are you passionate about Transformative Language Arts? Are you seeking ways to serve the TLA Network, become more involved, or network with other practitioners?

The TLA Blog is currently seeking 1-2 editor-curators. These people should be invested in learning more about TLA practice and the TLA Network. Excellent editing and proofreading skills, as well as prompt, professional, and mindful communication with our community of artists and practitioners, is required. Experience with WordPress and social media preferred.

Your service will be approximately 3 hours each week, editing and promoting posts, seeking contributions, and participating in TLA Network discussions and calls (how this time is divided between editor-curators is up to you).

Duties would include:

  • Updates to the blog weekly, maybe more
  • Working closely with authors and interviewees to present their best work
  • Serving on the TLA Network Council in discussions on the promotion and growth of the Network and TLA work at large
  • Remember, you are both a practitioner and a curator, so other ways to serve your practice and the network are also valuable!

Posts would include:

  • TLA in Current Events
  • Posts from Practitioners of TLA, including conference presenters and online course teachers
  • Social media promotions of TLA Network events
  • Your own reflections on your practice of TLA
  • Contributions from those seeking certification

If you are interested, please email director@tlanetwork.org  with your information and any questions.