Imagine Yourself a Place of Unsurpassed Beauty: The Power of Words Conference on the Coast of Maine

img_13241-cropped-belownav-cropped-photoDeb Hensley and Martin Swinger, the dynamic duo co-chairing the Power of Words conference, Aug. 12-14 at Ferry Beach in Saco, Maine, share this invitation to our 13th annual conference. Read on, and register by Nov. 15 to catch the super early bird rate. Find out more and register here.

Imagine yourself a place. Imagine a chair on a wide porch next to a beach where you bask in the afternoon sun. Imagine a morning walk through a grove of sunlit trees. Imagine joining brilliant vocal improvisation sessions under a bright moon, filling yourself with poetry, storytelling around a campfire and choosing from 25 workshops on the transformative 3058162_origpower of the written, spoken and sung word.

Imagine a loving community of people, healthy, delicious food, good coffee, lots of music, time for reflection and an after dinner frolic in the surf. Imagine Ferry Beach on the coast of Maine at the Power of Words Conference, August 12-14, 2016.

I don’t know which excites me more, this fabulous conference we’re putting together or the amazing place where we are holding it. With world renowned Vocal Improv Artist and Activist, Rhiannon, Award 8117810_origwinning Poet and Author Seema Reza, Afrilacian Storyteller Lyn Ford and Quaker Minister, author and educator Callid Keefe-Perry as our keynoters, this conference promises to embody spontaneity, humor, comfort and joy. And what could be more a more gorgeous location to gather singers, poets, authors, activists, and a host of other transformative language artists than a coastal paradise only 20 minutes from the Portland International Jetport?

Ferry Beach is a retreat community with 900 feet of beachfront in Saco, Maine offering respite away from the everyday world. It is a collection of meeting spaces, wide porches, an art and pottery studio, an outdoor chapel, a performance space, many gathering places and a wonderful dining hall.2459481_orig

It is a place of unsurpassed beauty where you will experience the joy of community, challenge assumptions, celebrate, reimagine, and commit your own language artistry to nothing less than global transformation. It is a place for renewal and rejuvenation where a small but mighty group of all ages and races, for one glorious weekend in August of 2016, will lovingly and boldly explore the Power of Words. I’ll be there! You?

See more about Ferry Beach right here.

 

Joanna Tebbs Young: Changing the World with Words in Her Life and Teaching

12039647_10205649886620629_4834052489016945884_n Joanna Tebbs Young is a Writer and Transformative Writing Facilitator and Coach. She holds a Masters degree in Transformative Language Arts from Goddard College and is a certified instructor through the Center for Journal Therapy. Joanna writes weekly columns for two local newspapers and offers workshops at her writing center in Rutland, VT. Her blog and coaching information can be found at http://wisdomwithinink.com. Here’s some of her words, in response to questions Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg asked her, about her upcoming online class, “Changing the World with Words: Transformative Language Arts Foundations,” starting Oct. 26. Take the class to learn more about TLA and/or to also start your path in the TLA Foundations Certification.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg (CMG): How did you discover TLA?

Joanna Tebbs Young (JTY): I began writing a diary at twelve when my family moved to America from England. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it most definitely helped smooth the transition into a new culture and era of my life. After college I discovered Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” Morning Pages became an addiction that allowed me to navigate the new experiences of adulthood—work, roommates, boyfriends—while keeping my creative dreams of being a writer and artist alive.

After I had my first child, I left the workforce but quickly got restless. I designed and taught a journaling workshop, not knowing anyone else in the world did such a thing. While researching for the workshop I discovered the Center for Journal Therapy. After I was certified as a “Journal to the Self” instructor and I began running workshops, someone told me about Goddard’s TLA program. I had waited fifteen years after my BA to finally find the Masters degree I just knew had been designed for me! Through my degree work I not only learned more of the “Whys” behind the benefits of expressive writing, I found my own voice through the personally healing journey of writing a memoir.

CMG: Tell us some about how you make a living as a Transformative Language Artist?

JTY: My husband and I renovated a small carriage house in our backyard into a workshop space. I call it The Writers’ Room at Allen House. I run a weekly writing workshop called “Voice Quest” which has been meeting for three years. I also run workshops for local organizations, such as a tween’s class at an art center and various summer camps, writing-for-wellbeing presentations for teachers and college students, a stress-relief program at the hospital, “The Yoga of Journaling” workshop at wellness centers, writing for goal-setting at business networking events, and “writing practice” workshops at writing conferences. A college-level course on expressive writing is in the works. I am also a columnist for the county newspaper, using my words to hopefully affect positive change in my town.

CMG: This class focuses on “all things TLA.” What can people expect to get out of participating in this class?

JTY: This class is an overview of the “whats” and “hows” of TLA—what TLA is (and isn’t) and how it can be useful in the world. Using essays from The Power of Words: A Transformative Language Arts Reader, websites, videos, poems, and writing prompts and discussion questions, you will be introduced to the history, the different fields, theories and practices of TLA. You will also explore the personal growth, community-building, and social change aspects of TLA. In the last three weeks you will look at the various ways TLA can be utilized, how you might consider making a living as a TLA practitioner, and Joannaheadshotsmall2-275x300finally some concrete ways you might put your dreams and plans into action.

CMG: What do you love most about teaching “Changing the World with Words?”

JTY: is fascinating to see the different writing styles and responses to the various prompts from people with diverse backgrounds; some write prose, some poetry, some are naturally humorous, others are sentimental, some are academic, others are more heart-centered. It’s also great to see the students open up to each other, most obviously tentative at first to be sharing their writing and thoughts with strangers in a computer. But as the weeks go on, most become freer in their writing and sharing. And everyone is always so supportive of each other, giving positive feedback and relating what resonated with them. I also enjoy reading of all the different TLA experiences and plans, the different populations people work with and creative ideas they come up with for TLA work.

WRITING PRACTICE: HOW I LEARNED TO USE MY WORDS

By Joanna Tebbs Young

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WRITING PRACTICE: HOW I LEARNED TO USE MY WORDS

Writing is my life. Day in, day out, I am writing—four weekly columns, magazine articles, and my journal—or I am helping others get their own words down. And I am living this life today because I began practicing at twelve years old.

At twelve I started recording my life in a turquoise diary with a lock. At 22, I became addicted to writing stream-of-consciousness style thanks to Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. At 32, I began passing onto others through workshops the incredible benefits of writing I had experienced. At 42, I am a published writer.

And it was in my journal that I set a path for this future. I envisioned a life filled with words and using words I laid a road in that direction.

I remember sitting in my cubicle at the bank where I was a Trust Account Assistant or scribbling in my journal at the coffee shop during my lunch break imagining the day I’d be sitting at my own desk, writing in front of a big sunny window. I didn’t know what I’d be writing; I just knew my fingers and my heart ached to churn out words, not crunch numbers.

In my twenties, I tapped out the beginnings of an historical fiction novel and a mind-numbing autobiography on a dinosaur of a word-processor whose sheer size overwhelmed my small antique desk. Meanwhile, each morning I was turning out pages upon pages of handwritten drivel.

Back then, if anyone asked, I would say I was a writer. To the inevitable next question of “Oh, what?,” I’d respond sheepishly, “Mostly just a journal right now.”

What I didn’t realize then, as I penned on its pages my fears, excitements, dreams, it wasn’t just a journal, it was a journey. A journey towards my future.

Or as Natalie Goldberg would say, I was practicing. Writing practice. I was learning to write—and, more importantly, to become myself. Having no audience but myself, I was learning to write and be from a place of intuition and inner truth.

Like meditation, prayer, yoga, running, etc., it was a practice of self-care that helped calm, heal, and energize, so that with greater confidence and understanding I might face the world knowing who I am and what I wanted for myself. By practicing to see and accept my own foibles and paradoxes, I was learning to interact with others with more empathy and emotional maturity. I was learning the need for safe and sacred space in which to write one’s own truth. I was learning how to help others write theirs.

Checking in with myself on an almost daily basis—How am I feeling? What do I want to be doing? What could that dream have meant?—I was also learning to be observant. Then, by honing the skill of observing the personal, the minutiae of my life, my experiences, my feelings, and weaving them into a more universal story, I was learning to become a better public writer.

Today, whether it’s to write an article, help a client get writing, navigate the hills and valleys of everyday life, or envision my next future dream, I always feel more capable when I have practiced and processed my life and emotions through the free-flowing, free-of-judgment words of my journal.

***

Here are a few of the specific roles my journal practices:

Best Friend. It is always there to lend an ear to my concerns and hopes regardless of whether I require its services at 6AM before the kids get up looking for breakfast and a lost sock, at 10:30PM when I need to process the day before I call it a night, or at 3AM after waking from a bad dream.

Therapist. More than even a best friend could, my journal helps me through difficult situations—helping me be more self-aware and accepting. I ask myself hard questions about how I’m feeling, why I might be reacting a certain way; the paradoxes, the biases, the conflicting emotions. I try to always be truthful with myself and accept the answers that flow onto the page. I dig deep and unpeel the onion that is the emotional body: the memories, the triggers, the yearnings.

Personal Secretary. Being self-employed and working from home I am constantly juggling my schedule and brain space. When the inside of my head resembles the starting line of a marathon, my journal helps me sort through it all, to see what needs to split from the pack and take the lead, and what needs to sit it out for a while.

Creative Partner. When I was writing my memoir and thesis during graduate school, many essays and vignettes began in my journal, where, without the pressure of “perfection,” the words (and memories) would start to flow. When I couldn’t quite see the connection between some concepts I would take them to my journal, write through my confusion, ask myself questions until it clicked. Or, when faced with a particularly difficult memory, I would write it out first, let the tears, anger, hurt flow into the safe pages of my journal before I wrote the more emotionally-controlled piece for school. These days I use the journal to generate ideas for new workshops or consider themes and threads for my articles and blog posts.

Joanna Tebbs Young is a Writer and Transformative Writing Facilitator and Coach. She holds a Masters degree in Transformative Language Arts from Goddard College and is a certified instructor through the Center for Journal Therapy. Joanna writes weekly columns for two local newspapers and offers workshops at her writing center in Rutland, VT. Her blog and coaching information can be found at wisdomwithinink.com.

How Writing Truth & Beauty Helps Us Accept What We Can’t Change

Kelly & Dad

by Kelly DuMar

Our family’s plan to move my father with Alzheimer’s from an acute hospitalization into Hospice care recently did not go as planned.  We’ve all been there many times, right?

There’s what we expect will happen.
There’s what actually happens.
There’s the struggle to accept what is happening.

Coping with my father’s Alzheimer’s continues to bring lessons in letting go of my expectations, accepting reality on its own terms – and writing poetry is one way I find meaning, discover truth and beauty and, sometimes, even humor in the process.

My father’s not ready for hospice, but he can’t return to the memory care assisted living residence we’d grown fond of – where we’d grown comfortable with his caretakers What has happened is that he is now living in an Alzheimer’s Nursing Care facility. Not exactly like the one depicted in the HBO comedy, Getting On – but I relate to most of the experiences the writers depict in the show.

The other morning on my run, I listened to a podcast of Fresh Air, an NPR radio program hosted by Terry Gross, with the creators of Getting On, Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer. I’m a fan of the show because in Getting On, these writers are making meaning, finding truth and beauty, and sharing humor inspired by their experiences with their own mothers, who were both in extended-care facilities at the ends of their lives.

As a daughter, I’ve been afraid of going to the places where my father’s Alzheimer’s is taking him. But, I can really relate to Scheffer when he shares:

“I think what caring for our mothers really taught us — all the way up through the hospice experience — was that. . . . ‘Gosh, I was so afraid of this, I didn’t want to do it; I didn’t want to be here.’ But being here is starting to feel like a good thing, a good part of life — something that we avoid in this culture. That actually is a rich experience, albeit painful; it’s actually so much a part of life.”

In “Getting On,” Olsen and Sheffer have found humor and humanity in their experiences of loss and love. Writing about how we feel about our painful experiences, and sharing that writing in any way we choose, is a way of finding truth and beauty in the moments we have with our loved ones who are aging and living and dying in ways we cannot control. As Olsen says:

“When my mother finally lost the ability to speak. . . it saddened me tremendously. . . [her caretakers] would never know who this woman was. . . It hurts on a deep, true level that we really didn’t know what to do with it except put it in a show. . .

Writing about it helped. This is how I feel about taking care of my father and writing poetry. My poems about my father’s memory care and Alzheimer’s are growing into a poetic memoir that is helping me be where I didn’t want to be. A poet friend suggested I submit some of my memory care poems to the editor of Tower Journal, who accepted all seven of them, published this week. I’ve listed them below with a short excerpt from each. I hope you’ll read them in full here. I hope you’ll write your way to truth and beauty and share it with all of us who need to know what you learn.

The Color of Her Eyes

…She looked at me. We must have remembered
something like love, and then she closed her eyes
and I was gone…

Absence

Stay put I tell my dad, like a parent
warning an impulsive child to behave
in her absence. I leave the car running,
heat blowing, knowing he can’t follow me…

What This is Called

…You can hold a bright white world called
something beautiful in your hand.

Who Does Not Love a Wall

In the unit called Memory Care he grows
wild and young as a colt restless to sow his
oats and goddammit he will find the exit or
die trying, there’s a wilderness out there…

Cornered

Somewhere there’s a door but it’s locked. They paint you into a place like this
but any way you look at it there are only two sides to a corner…

Mystery Shopper in Memory Care

…My money must
have slipped my mind into your bank account and I need
to make a deposit. Will you remind me what do I owe and
what I don’t own?…

How He Asks (After Alzheimer’s)

…How did you get here? By this I mean tell me how I
brought you into this world and what you are doing
with the life you’ve been given?…

Kelly DuMar is a poet and playwright whose chapbook “All These Cures,” won the 2014 Lit House Press poetry contest. Her award winning plays have been produced around the US and she produces the Our Voices Festival of Boston Women Playwrights & Poets, now in its 9th year. Kelly’s certification in psychodrama and passion for Playback Theatre inspire her creative writing workshops with transformative energy. Visit her website www.kellydumar.com, where you can download her free 50-page guide, Writing Truth & Beauty – Using Your Photos for Poetic Inspiration. Kelly is a member of the TLA Network.

Children Who Journal: Hanging Onto Their Inner Resources

a204574e2c53124336dd72f9af6771e0By Joanna Tebbs Young

The journal is a place to nurture what is best within the self, and I think children understand that. — Lucia Capacchione, The Creative Journal for Children My daughter, who is eleven, has already managed to accumulate a pretty impressive collection of journals. While the explosion she calls a bedroom obviously doesn’t reflect the tidy genes I passed on, her love of paper and pens and writing does. Although many of the pages are filled with the inked characters that spring from her imagination, as her writing abilities grew, so did the number of written pages. And on those occasions when she comes home from school fighting tears of hurt or frustration, I send her to her journal. This tends to calm the emotional-fireworks enough for a more rational, productive, and pro-active conversation.

Journaling is an extremely flexible and beneficial method for children to explore their creativity, express their emotions, and discover their own inner resources.There are so many reasons why it is a great idea for children – even pre-writers – to keep a journal. Whether it is pages of healthy scribbling, a self-portrait in thick crayon, a retelling of an experience, or a complex fantasy story featuring themselves in the lead role, any self-expression has been proven to improve both physical and mental health. For example, the very act of writing down emotions has been found to promote healing, regulate emotional extremes, and reduce anxiety (resulting in less illness and missed days of school).

Lucia Capacchione, founder of the Creative Journal Method and Inner Child work, lists in her book, The Creative Journal for Children the many benefits of journaling for children:

• The privacy* of a journal with its freedom from judgment or failure:

• The writing and drawing practice — verbal and nonverbal expression:

• The emotional release which comes through the writing and/or drawing allows for:

o Fosters feelings of safety and relaxation

o Encourages self-honesty and spontaneity

o Cultivates a child’s innate creativity and imagination

o Encourages and enhances communication and brainstorming skills

o Develops and integrate both right and left brain functioning

o Acceptance of feelings; self-understanding

o Self-Confidence

o Self-Discovery (of own beliefs, desires, and talents)

But above all, teaching them at a young age to express their feelings in a healthy manner provides them with the skills to not only be aware of their various emotions, but to not be afraid of them. In general, our culture teaches us to suppress our “negative” emotions and intuition at an early age (and in some cases, due to family dynamics, religious/social teachings, and/or trauma, this suppression can be exacerbated to the point of emotional numbness), and re-connecting to this vital, message-giving internal language can be extremely different as an adult. We want to give our children a defense against this unfortunate human habit. Learning from the get-go that emotions are neither good nor bad but rather just messages that can and should be expressed in a safe place, your child will have a leg-up on developing into an emotionally mature adult.

*Privacy: PLEASE respect the privacy of your child’s — especially your pre-teen/teen’s — journal. I have heard from many an adult who can no longer write down their own feelings and/or secrets, or write at all, for that matter, because their trust was broken once upon a time by a snooping parent, sibling, or friend.

Children Who Journal: Helping Themselves in School and Health

Joannaheadshotsmall2-275x300By Joanna Tebbs Young

On the pages of a fat, 3-subject notebook I recorded my loves, my losses, my fears, and my (many) mortifications. Every year from age 13 until I began college I reported the details of my daily life, which to my adult eyes could seem so trivial and silly.

But I know now that those daily scribbles served as a life-line at a tumultuous time of my life. I know from my research into women’s development that it was what allowed me to hang onto my voice – my sense of self – as I was learning who I was and who I wanted to become. At a time when I most needed someone to talk to, my journal was my therapist and friend.

In school, I was a hardworking and high-achieving student, who loved to write research papers. And despite high test-anxiety on such standardized tests as SATS, on lower-stress tests I was able to recall retained knowledge fairly well. And in college I was an honor student.

I can’t say whether it was my daily journaling that helped me academically, but research indicates that it most likely did. I know for a fact it helped me through grad school–without it I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Academic

[Journaling] makes learning more concrete, personal, and alive. – Lucia Capacchione, The Creative Journal for Children

It has been found by both psychologists and teachers that children who journal have a higher success rate in school. Among the findings of the benefits for students are:

·       Improved grades

·       Lower pre-exam anxiety

·       Increased cognitive function

·       Higher problem-solving and decision-making skills

·       Expanded memory

·       Positive social-emotional development

·       Helps those with behavior problems or learning disabilities

Students tend to score higher grades when they first record their feelings about an upcoming exam or school project. It is believed that journaling allows children to gain understanding of their own particular learning style and thought patterns. This would explain why those who journal are able to enhance their own learning experience by giving it personal meaning.

Heightened self-awareness also allows for empathy for, and understanding of, their peers and the self-confidence to speak out on their (and their own) behalf. This allows for an improvement in group dynamics within a school setting.

Teachers who use journals as a classroom tool can be extremely creative with this flexible tool. Both writing and art can be used (some methods and prompts will posted at a later date), and traditional pen-on-paper journals or computerized ones are equally beneficial. Parents should also encourage their children (starting as soon as they can hold a pencil) to journal outside of the classroom as a way to process their thoughts and feelings about their home, school, and inner life. Privacy of these writings is imperative, however!

Therapeutic

Providing our children a place and permission to express themselves is one the greatest gifts we can bestow. Help them open a door into themselves. – Lucia Capacchione, The Creative Journal for Children

Children who express, explore and evaluate their thoughts and feelings have a self-awareness that encourages problem-solving and decision-making in a direction of positive change. When a child is aware of his or her own strengths, weaknesses, beliefs and values, he or she can identify and achieve goals and work through problems and their solutions.

Journaling helps children become self-actualized. Ira Progoff, founder of the Intensive Journal Method and author of At a Journal Workshop, believed that when you can identify your own resources – your own inner strengths – you can use them to proceed towards wholeness. By recording their life and their reaction to it, children learn who they are and what they want. Instead of thrashing around in a forest of fear and vulnerability, this knowledge gives them a clearer path on which to travel. Especially in trying times.

Lucia Capacchione, among many others (Kathleen Adams and Julia Cameron are just a couple), calls the journal a friend. It serves as a non-judgmental confidant during difficulty. It is always available day or night and listens to anything and all you have to say. For a child who may be feeling unnoticed and unimportant in an adult world, this is so vital to their sense of self-worth.

According to Luciano L’Abate journaling also helps develop coping and problem-solving skills and promote self-growth. As an adjunct to therapy, journaling has been found to enhance, prepare for, and clarify talk therapy and allow the client to obtain a better understanding of his own beliefs and of personal behaviors. Writing “I…” in a journal promotes personal responsibility and involvement in the healing process. It has been found through various studies, one in particular by Dr. James Pennebaker, that the actual act of putting an experience or memory into words changes the way the brain processes the information, allowing healing to begin. Dr. Pennebaker recorded statistical differences in the mental/emotional health of students who had written expressively and those who had not.

Introduce your child to a new friend, one who loves and listens unconditionally. Encourage them to express what’s inside – whatever is inside. Together, your child and her journal will navigate the sometimes choppy passage of childhood and adolescence and come out the other side a stronger, more confident and emotionally stable adult.

References

Capacchione, Lucia. (1982). The Creative Journal for Children: A Guide for Parents, Teachers, and Counselors. 

Zyromski, B. (2007). Journaling: An underutilized school counseling tool. The Journal of School Counseling, 5, Retrieved from http://www.jsc.montana.edu/articles/v5n9.pdf

Joanna Tebbs Young, MA-TLA is a writing and creativity facilitator, certified instructor through the Center for Journal Therapy, and freelance columnist living in Vermont. Her blog and workshop info can be found at her website, wisdomwithinink.com.