Future Casting: an interview with Caits Meissner

Caits Meissner sat down with us before the pandemic to talk about teaching for the Network and to tell us about one of her online classes – the latest version of which launches next month. Future Casting: Writing Towards a Just World Vision, begins April 14, 2021. More here.

What do you see as the relationship of poetry to future casting, and future casting to social change?

I use future casting here in the loosest sense of the word, drawing on the simple idea that when we launch our wishes and hopes into the universe with earnest intention, they amplify. The object of devotion may be a higher power, but also may be nature, the universe, the commitment to reducing harm, a deeper sense of self love or humanity itself. 

The way I’m thinking about future casting in this course, as intentional wishing and visioning that extends beyond the self, is a different energy than protest, and railing against what is—a necessary strategy, but not the only one. 

I’m thinking of future casting as an impassioned call to forces beyond the human realm to support our collective betterment, to protect who is vulnerable, to uplift who is ignored, to create harmony and equity and peace and justice and environmental responsibility. To call in the gods or ancestors or universal light energy or natural intelligence to give us the strength and tools to help dream and build a better world. 

What motivated you to put together such a visionary class?

My own desperation for something different drove me forward. I have always been drawn to resistance art, and while I find that incredibly important, in this terrifying era we’ve entered, I also craved something more—hopeful may the wrong word—perhaps more fitting is visionary. The concept of emergence in social change began to stir me up. 

It was Adrienne Maree Brown’s book Emergent Strategy that really got my gears turning about a course that tied together inspiration from a wide array of sources to propel us into the possibilities for healing our society. Brown looks at biomimicry, speculative fiction, posts tarot cards on her social media—she is ideating new social justice practices from an amazing mix of movement work, divination, nature and art. 

I am certain that hidden in the natural intelligence of our bodies is a creative force more profound than what is easily accessible in the rigid and fast pace of modern society. I think it takes playing outside our go-to inspirations to draw up what has previously been untapped. I wanted to push myself, and others, to dream forward and innovate in our poetry practices, the way Brown is asking of those engaging justice work.

What can people expect to experience, learn, and write in this class?

There will not be much, if any soap-boxing or pontificating from me, as the facilitator. I am no expert, I am a fellow seeker. Rather than reading my thoughts and ideas on a subject, I see my role as cultivating process and possibility through curating readings. 

I want to encourage participants to listen to what their bodies reveal, and then act on their gut impulses, what pulls them towards creation in what I offer. I would also like to gently push participants past nerves or fear to try something new. Therefore, we’ll engage a large range of material in order to unlock new pathways in the brain. I encourage participants to arrive expecting to play, and to challenge themselves to write towards creating an image of a just world, rather than (always) against it.

Participants should come ready to journal in response to questions, write for 15 minutes based on sometimes strange or even silly-seeming prompts, to read about a 20 page packet each week of poems and essays, to write another poem (I suggest writing a draft in 15 minutes, but it’s up to the writer) and to post the work they’d like feedback on in the forum—1 or 2 short pieces weekly. 

How has future casting and social change spoken through your writing, and can you share an example?

I often use poetry as a space to work out questions and ideas about the world—as writers tend to. And though I write from a variety of perspectives, the lens I employ that most closely resembles future casting, for me, is gratitude. I’ve written tender praise poems for women in prison, and girls in jail (this one is a poem-comic). I am also at work on a series of more personal comic-based “pep talks” that explore what is good in daily life, not always connected to an anchored social justice issue, but for example, how I’ve pulled myself out of depression, or how to connect to a partner romantically when totally broke! 

I also have a silly personal example that illustrates the kind of, wait, huh, what just happened? Did I write that into existence? As a young poet in my early twenties I was depressed. On the train home after seeing my favorite poet at the time, Pulitzer Prize-winning Yusef Komunyakaa, I wrote a poem asking him where his gift of writing derives from, and calling out for the experience of pain in order to write like him. Of course, Yusef’s life story is incomparably more intense than my own has ever touched close to, but still. A few months later and I experienced a romantic break up that kicked the light out of me—that really awful, gutting kind of ending. And then I got a letter. I was going across the world to a writing conference, on a full scholarship, completely free. To study under Yusef Komunyakaa for two weeks.

Magic? Future casting? I don’t know. I am sparked by the ideas presented in quantum physics, and what are thoughts but energy? Maybe there is something here to be harnessed intentionally in our writing towards a better world. 

Anything else participants should know?

Yes! When you take a class with me, you invest materials that can be used to make poems for years. I am not exaggerating. Each week’s packet comes with approximately 10-15 optional prompts that can be revisited again and again (you’ll only write 1-2 poem drafts each week during the course). Erika Jeffers, who took this class with me live at Poets House over the summer wrote me a wonderful email about how she used the curriculum again to produce more work. With permission, I’ll share what she told me:

“On the last day of class, I think I mentioned to you that I was planning on taking a week off from New York and staying at a cozy house in CT to write and revisit this class syllabus and I did it in just one week! In the mornings, I tackled one week and in the afternoons, I worked through another week and I had the entire 6-week workshop experience all over again, but condensed in a week. The workshop was truly a magical experience for me; and I’m not just saying that, I wasn’t writing for a year before the class. I wouldn’t say I was stuck (maybe I was), but I wasn’t really inspired and I had convinced myself that I wasn’t good about writing specific topics, but the workshop showed me that yes, I can branch out; yes, I can be experimental; and yes, I can be a witness and write about what’s going in the world around me. Overall, I left the workshop with a new confidence! Now that I’m back, I’m working on finishing up my chapbook!… Thank you soooo much! It was such a pleasure to work with you and this amazing, life-changing class syllabus.”

  I’d say, like most experiences,  you get out of it what you put into it.

More on “Future Casting: Writing Towards a Just World Vision” here.

An Invitation from The TLA Network

Dear TLA Community,

As part of our effort to grow the TLA Network, we are always on the lookout for new instructors to teach classes for our community. Over time, we have developed a strong reputation for offering classes that speak to deep and meaningful human experiences, and, we are always eager to encourage fresh voices to join in the mix. 

We invite you to consider teaching for the Network. If you are that person who has often thought, I would love to teach what I know to this community, consider joining us in learning the fine art of teaching a well-crafted, strong online class.

Curious about what it would take? Interested in learning how to market a good class? This month we launch a new series, Tools for Teachers, geared towards training people to teach for the Network – we hope you will join us in honing your craft.

We encourage you to be bold: speak your truth, share your vision, and join us in creating a learning environment that builds connection, provides replenishment, and supports our community to go out to do the important work of healing our world.

To the power of words, 
Hanne Weedon, Managing Director

Hanne Weedon comes to TLAN with 20 years of leadership and program development experience in not-for-profit and government-funded organizations. A longtime community, arts and social justice advocate, she resonates with the goals and values of the TLA Network. Hanne’s appreciation for, understanding of and dedication to building representative, inclusive and diverse communities is a core aspect in all her work. 

My Journey With The Transformative Language Arts, by Wendy Thompson

Writing poems, journaling, storytelling, monologues, singing along with Janis Ian – I have been a TLA “practitioner” since I was a teen. The written, spoken, and sung word brought me through many a dark night into transformative light. 

Officially, my journey with Transformative Language Arts began in 2006. I was teaching creative writing at a public arts school in Vancouver, WA; students often submitted highly emotive, personal narratives to which I did not feel equipped to respond. I needed professional development. 

Although I personally understood the therapeutic value of journaling and poetry, I had not heard of poetry/biblio-therapy. My introduction to the field was “Writing as a Healing Ministry” with Sharon Bry. She told me about the TLA program at Goddard. I applied, was accepted and met Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. Although I only attended one semester at Goddard, I was clear that this was the professional development I was looking for. 

I continued to study independently with Alma Rolfs in Seattle, WA and Kay Adams at The Center for Journal Therapy in Denver, CO. I attended several TLA Network Power of Words conferences, Miriam-Goldberg’s Brave Voice songwriting workshop in Kansas, and the National Association for Poetry Therapy Conference in Portland, OR. In 2015, I experienced a period of unemployment that afforded me the time to pursue the TLAN Certification program, which I completed in 2017.

I am certain that the pandemic is already affecting deep systemic change in public education – beyond reform to transformation.

Wendy Thompson, elementary school teacher & TLA Practitioner

My first foray into TLA facilitation was with a group of 5th graders, 40% of whom were directly affected by an immigration ICE raid in Portland, OR. The six sessions resulted in an anthology of student poetry From Here, There & Everywhere: Poems of Origin & Hope (available at lulu.com). This project motivated me to integrate my TLA theory and practice into standard Language Arts curriculum. I designed a unit titled Civil Writes, through which students had an opportunity to explore social justice issues through poetry and prose as well as respond with their own writing.

I have been an arts educator in multiple settings and content areas for over 30 years. This past year has been the most challenging ever. With the social and emotional health of students my first priority, I am relying on TLA experiences, methods, and processes (like Hynes & Hynes Berry 4-step method of recognition, examination, juxtaposition, and application) to guide me. I am certain that the pandemic is already affecting deep systemic change in public education – beyond reform to transformation.

Grateful for all I have gained in my journey with Transformative Language Arts, I am glad for the opportunity to give back in service to the TLAN Board. I am curious to see what we all will co-create, where this seachange will carry us!

TLA Network board member Wendy Thompson holds an MFA from the University of Utah in Modern Dance. She is an Movement & Integrated Arts Specialist at Lake Shore Elementary, in Vancouver, WA. Currently, Wendy serves as Co-chair of the TLAN Education Team, and is a Certified TLA Facilitator. She has been a member of TLAN since 2015

October Notes

Dear TLA Community:

We are pleased to announce a series of fall offerings geared towards bringing our community together. The series, TLA in Action: Connection, Collaboration & Communityis designed to showcase some of the important work TLA Network members are doing across a variety of fronts, while offering affordable options that are welcoming and inclusive of all. The series will culminate in a special evening of poets, storytellers, and other TLA artists sharing their work in early December. We hope you will join us in celebrating our community’s many strengths and talents!  

Art matters, and art matters especially in this time. Art helps us be part of the world, process what is happening, understand, grieve, and bring people together towards collective action. As ever, we strongly believe that cultivating a powerful voice in this complicated, challenging time, and using that voice for the greater good, deeply matters. 

Find your voice, make meaningful art, and work for the greater good. 

To the Power of Words,  
Hanne Weedon
Managing Director, TLA Network

Mindful Writing Toward Momentous Leaps of Meaning

by Marianela Medrano, PhD, LPC, CPT

Perhaps when you think of mindful writing, you picture a kind of writing that reduces stress, perfects techniques, or even helps you attain enlightenment. I don’t make such promises, simply because very soon you’ll discover that this kind of writing requires that we let go of any ambition and write with stillness, letting go of our internal dialogue. Mindful writing is not about the destination, but about every second of the journey.

My course, Mindful Writing Toward Momentous Leaps of Meaning, which runs on the TLA Network from August 5 through September 22, 2020, draws from the work of psychologist Clare Graves’, and specific Buddhist precepts, to create clear pathways toward wholeness. This means every aspect of our life, good, bad, or in between, is included and accepted as we also commit to living a life that is congruent with what we value the most.

In particular, we will practice the following:
Conjuring: Stretching to make the “unreal” real by engaging in rituals and activities to imagine a whole self into existence.
Offering: Drawing from the well of gratitude and examining the present, locating, naming, and amplifying the good that already exists.
Actioning: Creating writing that is restorative, and which can be the seed of change: manifestos, process notes, poems. Committing to daily spiritual practice: mindfulness meditation, mindful movement (yoga, walks in nature, etc.)

We will walk four specific pathways, informed by the four immeasurables of Buddhism: Love, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity. It is possible that, as we practice these four attitudes, we may remove tension from our mind and fill it with meaning that travels to the heart and nurtures the soul.

This course is an invitation to join other kindred spirits in a series of writing encounters to reflect, meditate and engage in discussions about what it means to free ourselves from fragmentation and what it takes to recompose ourselves whole. Previous knowledge of Buddhism is not required.

Through meditation and writing, we’ll tap into the body, mind, and spirit to awaken parts of the self that are dormant. Each day will be centered around a particular poem and theme. We are aiming at achieving the maturity that developmental psychology has conceived as achievable in human beings.

The hope is that, as we take a “Momentous Leap of Meaning,” we will do so in a centered and clear way. With each writing practice, we potentially have the opportunity to take a momentous leap towards the integration of body, mind, spirit, and shadow so we can show up as whole beings in the world.

We’ll aim at creating a space where we can solidify a mindfulness practice in the general sense and specifically about how to describe inner and private experiences with clarity. Writing from a symbolic, ritualized context allows the eye of the soul to see the depth and width of selfhood. Mindful writing is a way to be intentional and focus so we can depict our inner and outer experiences without judgment.

Final days to register for the Power of Words early bird rate ($45 off the regular fee)

Join us for the 17th annual Power of Words Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, October 30 – November 1, 2020. 

Get $45 off the regular conference fee – the super early bird rate is available through Friday, January 31!

Featuring U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo as conference keynoter, the conference will take place at the Eldorado Hotel & Spa, in the heart of Santa Fe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TLA Network Newsletter – February 2020

Join us for the 17th annual Power of Words Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, October 30 – November 1, 2020. 

Get $45 off the regular conference fee – the super early bird rate is available through Friday, January 31!

Featuring U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo as conference keynoter, the conference will take place at the Eldorado Hotel & Spa, in the heart of Santa Fe.

Our conference brings together writers, storytellers, performers, musicians, educators, healers, activists, health professionals, community leaders and more.

We invite your proposals for experiential, didactic, and/or performance-based sessions that focus on writing, storytelling, drama, film, songwriting, and other forms of Transformative Language Arts. 

Submission deadline is March 31.

We encourage proposals from people targeted by racism, low-income people, people with disabilities, queer-identified people, and people of transgender and/or gender non-conforming experience.  

Spotlight on the TLA Network Council: Brenda Magnetti

Empathy.  It’s a powerful experience to understand someone else’s condition from their point of view. Brenda Magnetti has built a strong industry reputation for being one of the best brand experience planning experts to amplify the role of empathy in changing buyer behavior. She spent her most recent years developing award-winning digital marketing and commerce strategies for Beltone, Glanbia Sports Nutrition, Michelin, Wrigley, J&J, Unilever and Mondelez International. As a life-long learning advocate, Brenda just finished advanced marketing strategy, analytics, and technology certification from Northwestern.  And she recently earned her Brain-Based Coaching credentials from the NeuroLeadership Institute on her path toward ICF certification and her consulting practice.  These additional expertise areas amplify Brenda’s commitment to the power of words and her focus on Right Livelihood in both corporate and non-profit settings. Brenda heads the TLA Network’s membership campaign.

The TLA Network is governed by a council, the membership of which is arrived upon annually. In council, we come together as equals, all drawing on our gifts and working with our challenges cooperatively to forward the mission of the Network. 

Not too Late for the Power of Words Conference and Your Right Livelihood Training

Friends and lovers of words! Please join us for two life-changing events: the 16th Annual Power of Words conference Sept. 26-29, and right beforehand, Your Right Livelihood: A Training in Doing the Work, Art, and Service You Love. If you’re in the Scottsdale, Arizona area or game for a road trip, there’s still room, and we’d love to meet you for these soulful events, all happening at the replenishing Franciscan Renewal Center.

The Power of Words Conference

Come to the Power of Words Conference to explore how we can use our words — written, spoken, or sung — to make community, deepen healing, witness one another, wake ourselves up, and foster empowerment and transformation. The conference features workshops, performances, talking circles, celebration and more, featuring writers, storytellers, performers, musicians, community leaders, activists, educators, and health professionals. The conference, founded in 2003, features workshops in four tracks: narrative medicine, social change, right livelihood (and making a living through the arts), ecological literacy, and engaged spirituality.

The 2019 conference keynoters include author and speaker, Gregg Levoy; storyteller and author, Noa Baum; and and poet and playwright, Usha Akella.  Over 20 other presenters will be sharing a variety of performances and workshops including:

  • Lisa Chu’s “Bad Asian Daughter” on transforming shame through embodied storytelling,
  • Loren Niemi’s “Walking Fields and Streets to Find Poems and Stories,”
  • John Genette and Doug Bland’s “Sacred Earth, Common Ground,”
  • Lyn Ford’s “The Path of Needles or the Path of Pins: Other Ways of Seeing ‘Red,'”
  • Valerie David’s “Fight Back Any Adversity in Life: Overcoming a Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer Diagnosis, the Pink Hulk Will Help You Find Your Inner Superhero” and
  • Rachel Gabriel’s “Writing Memoir for Empathy and Inquiry.”

As conference attendee Robin Russell wrote to us:

“The TLA Conference is an adventure of diving into a deep pool of unexpected discoveries. Some are delightful and awe-inspiring, some frightening and strange, but the immersion in diversity and the authenticity of the presenter’s (and participant’s) stories and presence is palpable and real. A necessary reminder of what we are so starved for in the current climate of media and political rhetoric. If change is going to be sustainable and humane, we need more people trained and working with the qualities of these warriors. The conference is a way to either dip a toe in or dive in head first.”

More at www.TLANetwork.org/conference

Your Right Livelihood

Consider Your Right Livelihood — a training with TLA founder and writer Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and storyteller and consultant Laura Packer. Your work in writing, storytelling, theater, and related healing and social change arts can bring you greater fulfillment and enable you to help others find and amplify the voices and visions so needed to address the challenges facing our communities, culture, and planet. Whether you’re just starting out, making a mid-career transition or revisioning your life’s work after retirement, this training guides you toward what constellation of vocation works best for you and your community now and when the path meanders.

This 100-hour training begins with a 2-day intensive September 25-27th at The Casa Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona (where the Power of Words Conference will be held immediately following), and continues through mid-December with online study and community support, weekly video conferences with entrepreneurs and leaders in the field, weekly group check-ins and discussions, individual consultations with Laura and Caryn, and a toolkit of resources for planning, marketing, further training, and next steps.

Franciscan Renewal Center

The spectacular yet secluded 25-acre Franciscan Renewal Center offers a tranquil oasis in the heart of greater Phoenix for quiet reflection, prayer, learning, healing or joyful worship. Nestled in the lush desert valley at the base of majestic Camelback Mountain, The Casa is just a quick 20-minutes from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The campus features a newly remodeled 60-ft swimming pool and spa, gift and book shop, labyrinth, healing garden, desert walkways, buffet-style dining, and private bathrooms in every lodging room. Owned by the Franciscan Friars of the Saint Barbara Province, The Casa has been renewing lives through spiritual growth, healing and transformation, and service to others for over 60 years.

Find more on all of it here.

Vital Signs and Essential Stories For Our Lives and World

The 16th Annual Power of Words conference brings together three keynotes — Gregg Levoy, Noa Bam, and Usha Akella — who know first how our stories and callings can help us weave together our work and communities for positive change. Taking place at the breathtaking Casa Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, AZ., the conference brings together storytellers, writers, performers, health professionals, change-makers, and community leaders to explore and celebrate the potential of our words for liberation and healing. Here’s a little about each of our keynoters:

Gregg Levoy is the author of Vital Signs: The Nature and Nurture of Passion and Callings: Finding and Following An Authentic Life – rated among the “Top 20 Career Publications” by the Workforce Information Group and a text in various graduate programs in Management and Organizational Leadership. He is a former “behavioral specialist” at USA Today, and a regular blogger for Psychology Today. A former adjunct professor of journalism at the University of New Mexico, former columnist and reporter for USA Today and the Cincinnati Enquirer, and author of This Business of Writing (Writer’s Digest Books), he has written for the New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, Omni, Psychology Today, Christian Science Monitor, Fast Company, Reader’s Digest, and many others, as well as for corporate, promotional and television projects. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina, and his website is www.gregglevoy.com

Noa Baum is an award-winning storyteller and author who presents internationally. She works with diverse audiences ranging from The World Bank and prestigious universities to inner city schools and detention centers. Born and raised in Israel, she was an actress at Jerusalem Khan Theater, studied with Uta Hagen in NYC and holds an M.A. from NYU. Noa offers a unique combination of performance art and practical workshops that focus on the power of narrative to heal across the divides of identity. In a world where peace is a challenge in the schoolyard and beyond, Noa’s work builds bridges of understanding and compassion. Noa’s book, A Land Twice Promised – An Israeli Woman’s Quest for Peace – a winner of the Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice Award – is an introspective memoir that mines the depths of the chasm between the Israeli and Palestinian experiences, the torment of family loss and conflict, and the therapy of storytelling as a cleansing art. With her storytelling background, Noa captures the drama of a nation at war and her own discovery of humanity in the enemy.

Usha Akella has authored four books of poetry, one chapbook, and scripted and produced one musical drama. She earned an MSt. In Creative Writing at Cambridge University, UK. She read with a group of eminent South Asian Diaspora poets at the House of Lords in June 2016. Her work has been included in the Harper Collins Anthology of Indian English Poets. Her most recent book, The Waiting, is published by Sahitya Akademi, India’s highest literary authority. She was selected as a Cultural Ambassador for the City of Austin for 2015 & 2019. She has been published in numerous Literary journals, and has been invited to prestigious international poetry festivals in Slovakia, Nicaragua, Macedonia, Colombia, Slovenia, India etc. She is the founder of ‘Matwaala,’ the first South Asian Diaspora Poets Festival in the US.

You can learn more about the conference at http://tlanetwork.org/conference. We still have a limited amount of scholarships and work-study positions available.

If you’re not able to attend the whole conference, please come for Noa Baum’s performance, open to the public – https://www.tlanetwork.org/event-3467554 https://www.facebook.com/events/319662462249450/