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/

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Right Livelihood Luminaries: Our Guest Teachers

One of the great benefits of Your Right Livelihood: A Training in Doing the Work, Art, and Service You Love is the face-to-face weekly opportunities to talk with luminary writers, teachers, and change-makers about what’s calling to you in your work, art, and life. The training, which launches Sept. 25 and ends in mid-December, led by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Laura Packer, helps people both navigate their callings and their livelihoods (read an interview with Laura and Caryn to learn more).

In addition to the two-day opening retreat — to be held Sept. 25-27 at the Casa Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona (where the Power of Words conerence starts shortly after our retreat ends), the weekly video-conference live meetings with guest teachers helps us get to know each other voice to voice and face to face, and it gives participants the chance to ask our guest teachers questions and discuss many dimensions of making our life’s work come true. The training also includes a 10-week online class, one-on-one coaching with Laura and Caryn, and lots of extra supports and resources.

This year’s crop of guest teachers includes:

  • Dr. Harriet Lerner, one of our nation’s most respected voices in the psychology of women, and the “how-tos” of navigating the swamps and quicksands of difficult relationships. She lectures and consults nationally, and is the author of numerous scholarly articles and 12 books  including The Dance of Anger, which has sold more than three million copies with over  30 foreign translations, and her recent book, Why Won’t You Apologize? Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurt.
  • Gregg Levoy, author of Callings: Finding and Following An Authentic Life and Vital Signs: Discovering and Sustaining Your Passion for Life, writes for, consults with, and speaks to thousands of people regularly on finding and following your life’s work and passions. See a SPARKS session, hosted by the TLA Network, featuring Gregg Levoy talking about callings and right livelihood.
  • Donna Washington a professional author, storyteller and multicultural folklorist who has been sharing stories for over thirty years. She has been featured at numerous festivals, schools & libraries theaters and other venues around the world, and she has released nine CDs and four children’s books.  She offers a range of multicultural folktales, personal narratives and stories of her own creation.
  • Doug Lipman is a renowned storyteller, storytelling mentor and teacher, and innovator. Doug loves to help artists and other self-employed professionals become comfortable (and effective) in marketing their own work. He says, “We tend to view marketing as something pushy and dishonest – which much marketing sadly is. But true marketing consists of discovering who is hungry for what you love to do—and letting them know you’re available to do it.
  • Kim Go is an interfaith minister, former minister of congregational life, public speaker, coach, author, ritual celebrant and expressive facilitator. A focus of her work is the project, Alive and Mortal, an online group to address grief and impermanence. She says, “We work togetherto learn expressiveness around grief and find our voice. This aids us to use the power of the group to move out into the world to speak of our grief and love story that we carry with an expanded language.
  • José Faus is an artist, writer, teacher, and mentor. A native of Bogota, Colombia and long time Kansas City resident, he has participated in mural projects throughout the Kansas City area, Mexico and SantaCruz de la Sierra, Bolivia where he traveled under a State Department grant. He is a founder of the Latino Writers Collective and sits on the boards of the Writers Place, UMKC Friends of the Library, The Latino WritersCollective and the Charlotte Street foundation.
  • Rob Peck, is an author, humorist and recovering perfectionist! True to the title of his new book, It’s a Juggle Out There, Rob’s moving speeches and uplifting seminars focuses on three things simultaneously: Stress management, Streamlining, & Simplifying.
  • Heather Forest is a modern-day bard fusing poetry, prose, original melody, and the sung and spoken word. A pioneer in the American storytelling revival she has shared her repertoire of world tales in theaters, schools, literature conferences, and storytelling festivals throughout the United States and abroad. A multiple award-winning author and recording artist, she has published seven children’s picture books based on folktales, three folktale anthologies, eight audio recordings of storytelling and a popular educational web site StoryArts Online.

Find out more about the training here.  You can also schedule a discovery call with Laura or Caryn to talk about the training and your life by going here. 

What a Deal! Your Right Livelihood and Power of Words Conference

Hanne Weedon, our managing director, recently shared this email, giving Power of Words conference attendees a great deal when attending Your Right Livelihood training too.

As we approach our 16th annual Power of Words conference, we’re excited to share a special offer: if you register (or are already registered) for the conference, you are now eligible for a 10% discount for the pre-conference Your Right Livelihood: A Training in Doing the Work, Art, and Service You Love, led by Laura Packer and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg.

Your Right Livelihood starts with a retreat at the Casa Francisco Retreat Center from Wed. evening Sept. 25 to Fri. afternoon, Sept. 27, ending in time for the conference. The 100-hour training continues through mid-December with online study and community support, weekly video conferences with entrepreneurs and leaders in the field (such as Harriet Lerner, Gregg Levoy, and Heather Forest – see special guest teachers here), 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. All participants receive a certificate of completion at the end.

It is no exaggeration to state that this training changed my life. The RLPT course not only taught me how to improve my professional portfolio, but, more importantly, how to live holistically as a creative person. I will continue to use the course materials for years to come, and will count myself very lucky to stay in touch with the outstanding community of people who were in my cohort.

~ Rachel Gabriel, writer and facilitator, Minneapolis, Minnesota

If you’d like to learn more about the training, please set up a free 15-minute discovery call here with Caryn or Laura.

To catch the 10% discount, if you’re already registered for the conference, please contact Hanne at Director@TLANetwork.org so I can get you registered. You can register for the conference and training together or apply to the training on its own. 

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.

Workshop Inspiration

by Barbara Burt

During the Power of Words Conference early in August, Caryn Merriam-Goldberg offered a generative workshop called, “Writing the Tree of Life: Midrash to Re-Vision Our Lives.” As she explained, “Midrash is the Hebrew tradition of re-interpreting and re-visioning our guiding myths and messages to foster greater meaning, freedom, and authenticity.” After examining different examples of midrash, she invited us to consider it in our writing. For some reason, the folktale of Snow White popped into my head. This and Sleeping Beauty and all the other tales of damsels in distress have long bothered me; these girls sleep until awakened by a handsome prince’s kiss—how passive and unimaginative those heroines are! Yet, through the power of Disney and myriad children’s books, they are role models buried deep in many young women’s consciousness.

I believe that midrash specifically refers to retelling or commentary on the Torah; Snow White is no sacred text but it does carry cultural weight. I decided to try a retelling of Snow White in a poem. Other workshop participants created awe-inspiring poems and stories—all in a scant half hour, once again illustrating the creative power of silently writing together.

Here is the result of my effort, with a bit of editing since the workshop.

Snow White Remembers

I was not beautiful.

That is an embellishment added by the Grimms,

who couldn’t imagine a commonplace heroine.

 

And my stepmother didn’t really hate me.

She read rebellion behind my solemn stare,

resentful questions in the crick of my eyebrow.

Because she recognized a vestige of the same in her

(tamped down,

smothered)

She had to murder it in me.

But I do not know if she poisoned that apple pie on purpose.

She was a terrible cook.

 

I’d known those seven woodsmen since childhood.

Caught in a thunderstorm, I came upon their clearing

and sheltered in their cabin.

It was strewn with books left by an unnamed professor long ago.

He’d tried solitude on a summer sabbatical,

only to flee, books in his wake.

 

As I grew, I escaped to the those bookshelves

when I could,

drinking in word of other lands, other lives.

The loggers paid no mind to my visits.

They were busy in the woods most days.

And I was neat, straightening and dusting

the rows of books.

I left bouquets of wildflowers and pine boughs on the table.

 

On the day the illness came upon me,

I ran to the cabin after the compulsory midday meal at home.

(Apple pie to finish.)

I was sixteen and sick of arguing,

and the cabin had an extra bunk where I could stay.

I chose a stack of books from the shelves

and buried myself under blankets.

In a day or two I could keep food down again.

 

She doesn’t want to be found, said the loggers,

turning away searchers at their door.

 

A year went by

as I read through the pile

until few titles remained.

I was restless;

my attempts to help with cabin upkeep

bored me.

Chipmunk chatter was no longer delightful.

Almost a housewife, I was no longer just playing house.

The loggers were kind

but their table talk described saws and stands of trees

and they were snoring by dusk.

 

So when they spoke of a young man new in town,

I listened.

He is kind to us, they said.

He fingers tunes on his fiddle.

He carries a well thumbed journal

with poems and colored sketches of birds.

Shall we invite him here? they asked.

Perhaps, I said,

coolly.

But I was fire inside.

 

That day I entwined flowers in my braids,

chose my eyelet blouse,

and rehearsed clever conversation.

I spied him walking up the path,

deep in thought,

and was pleased by his brown curls and open expression.

Just as he knocked, I opened the door,

and I kissed him.

 

More Power of Words Conference Photos

Improvilooza!

Saturday night began with Improvilooza! TLA’s executive director Teri Lynn Grunthaner warmed up an assembled group of improv volunteers with a game of Radio, which had everyone in stitches. To play it, you improvise the feed from a radio station when the mike comes to you. These players broadcast everything from preaching to traffic reports to classical music to static.

Caryn gets thanked

A surprise addition to the program was a video and gift presentation thanking Caryn Merriam-Goldberg for her many years of dedication contributing to the founding and growth of the TLA Network and the Power of Words Conference. Here Caryn is modeling a beautiful shawl, which was one of the gifts presented to her.

Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac

Saturday night’s keynote speaker was Abenaki storyteller (and small press publisher and writer) Joseph Bruchac, who held us spellbound with his telling of “Trickster’s Truth and Lies.” Joe accompanied his storytelling with hand drum and wooden flute, transporting us to a different time and place.

What's Next?

As we thought about leaving the conference and going back to our own communities, this panel, moderated by Seema Reza, explored “What’s Next? Taking TLA into Tomorrow.” Panelists differed in their emphasis but agreed on the need for TLA practitioners to reach out to empower those whose voices are not being heard in America. From second on the left: Lovella Calica of Warrior Writers spoke of her work with military veterans and their families; Susan Bennett-Armistead, University of Maine professor, told of the need for early literacy training for all children and for adults who lack literacy; and Joseph Bruchac, native American author and storyteller, told of his work with incarcerated individuals, including bringing his Skidmore College students into prisons to work with prisoners. 

It was clear by the end of the conference that there is indeed great power in words — written, drawn, spoken, sung, danced — and in this time of division in our country, giving more people more power through telling their stories is one way to bridge differences. We have a duty as artists to express and create, but perhaps we also have a duty as citizens to create space for understanding. Transformative Language Arts can do that.

Many thanks to all the workshop presenters who generously shared their wisdom and experience with all of us. I’m already looking forward to Power of Words 2018 — October 11 – 14 in beautiful Vermont!

POW! Immersed in the Power of Words

Storytellers — singers, poets, writers, actors — the buildings at Ferry Beach are full of talking, music, dancing as the TLA Network’s Power of Words Conference gets underway. Here are a few photos to transport you there:

Arriving at POWFriday was rainy. We dodged puddles and huddled on porches as we waited for the conference to begin.

True Story Theater True Story Theater of Boston opened the conference with a wonderful playback theater presentation. The topic was stigma, and five or six conference members shared examples of the pain that stigma caused to them or someone close to them. After the personal telling, the troupe acted out (played back) an improvised drama based on the personal story.

Mantra Singing for AllSaturday morning was filled with workshops, all enticing. A small group gathered for Barb Asen’s workshop “Love Is all there Is: Mantra Singing for All” — a calm way to start a hectic day. Here’s Barb listing to the vibration from the voices as a song ends.

Susan Bennett-ArmisteadSusan Bennett-Armistead gave a keynote address at noon about the importance of reading aloud, “Read it again! Read it again! How Read Aloud Builds Brains and Changes the World.” Here she is showing her five-year-old’s “literate” scribbles, already demonstrating an understanding of many conventions of western writing.

Now the sun is out! The conference continues; connections, learning, discovery, and sharing abound. More to follow in the next blog post.

 

Making Music

by Barbara Burt

“Can You Turn a Poem into a Song?” is the title of an article I just ran across. “How hard could it be for a poet and fiction writer to turn a poem into a love song?” asks the article’s author, Desiree Cooper. She concludes that it’s “Pretty hard.”

Some of us in the TLA Network might beg to differ. The fact is, even if you don’t read notes, play scales, know chords or fingerings, you have the capacity to make music. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

We are all born with music in us; whenever we sing or play music, we unleash that expressive engine. A number of ways to make music are represented in workshops offered at this month’s TLA Power of Words Conference. Here’s a sampling:

Songwriting: The Inspiration and Acrobatics of Language — Martin Swinger shares insights and processes that lead to the creation of his quirky, one-of-a-kind songs which gain national recognition and awards for their originality. Part concert, part discussion, part hands-on exploration of language, inspiration, songwriters ‘filters’ and the prosody which makes songs SING! No songwriting experience necessary.

Soul Song for Centering: An Experiment in Creating Sacred Song — Using your name as a foundation for exploration, you will be guided to create your own personal Soul Song to sing or chant whenever you want to connect with and feel the beauty of your Soul. You will create your own meaning and intention for your Soul Song and will be gently guided to find your inner melody. Whether you’re shy or comfortable using your voice to sing, we will create a safe environment for you to find your Soul Song for Centering. No singing or musical experience needed. Bring notebook, ear buds or plugs (if you have them), and an open mind and heart. Led by Tonia Pinheiro.

Sound Puzzles, Rounds, and the Meaning of Life According to the Woodthrush — This interactive presentation showcases the culmination of one woman’s modest experiment in responding to birdsong as a unique portal to re-inhabiting her own singing voice.  Interspersed with narratives from her story, “I Shall Go Singing,” spoken against a recorded backdrop of original vocal sketches, Deb Hensley’s presentation offers listeners live performances of original songs, rounds, and sound puzzles inspired by birdsong. Audience members will be invited to learn a few of these lyrical, whimsical, and sometimes quirky “why” rounds. Deb’s story offers insight into how deep attention to sound and song in the natural world promotes access to one’s own ancestral, spontaneous, innate, and amazing natural voice, as well as a deeper understanding of ecological literacy, place, and identity.

Note that none of these workshops requires previous experience with songwriting or musical training. Yet, by the end of the workshop, some wonderful and unique musical compositions are sure to have been created. I plan to record some examples of this music-making as I attend the conference; watch for videos on upcoming blog posts.

Workshops At The Power Of Words Conference

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The Power of Words Conference (POW) will soon be underway and we are so excited to see the amazing keynote speaker presentations and workshops that will be occurring during the event.

From songwriting to storytelling, to body movement and awareness, this year’s POW Conference offers many opportunities to share in the community building possibilities of Transformative Language Arts facilitated by some of the most inspiring practitioners in the field.

Here is a list of the workshops. Click  here for a full description

Friday, August 18th-Pre-Conference Keynotes and Workshops:

  • Limbs & Language — Mahogany Browne
  • Creative Empathy that Builds Bridges Across Difference — True Story Theater
  • We All Belong to Stories — Joseph Bruchac
  • Soulful Singing — Kelley Hunt
  • Can We Talk? Strategies for Building Young Children’s Language — SusanBennett-Armistead
  • Keynote Presentation: True Story Theater — Stories of Stigma and Social Healing
  • Keynote Presentation: Mahogany Browne — By Any Means Necessary: When the Narrative Interrogates a Righteous Rage

Saturday, August 19th

  •  Love is All There Is: Mantra Singing for All — Barb Asen
  • My Story In A Soundbite: Notes from A Digital Evolutionary — Brenda Magnetti
  • Wabi-Sabi Storytelling: The Perfect Imperfection of Spoken-Word Art — Lyn Ford
  • What’s Your Blue Moon Legacy?: Honoring the Uniqueness of Your Voice and the Bigger Message in Your Work — Tina Games
  • Mother’s Voice: Nurturing Self through Expressive Writing — Joanna Tebbs Young
  • Keynote Presentation: Dr. Susan Bennett-Armistead — Read it gain! Read it again! How Read Aloud Builds Brains and Changes the World!
  • How to Write the Story That Brings You Audiences and Jobs — Doug Lipman
  • Women’s Writing Circle (WWC): Using Expressive Writing in Sacred Circle — Jennifer Minotti
  • Psychodrama, Writing, & Imagination: Playful Tools for Healing, Growth, & Change — Kelly DuMar
  • Songwriting: The Inspiration and Acrobatics of Language — Martin Swinger
  • Soul Song for Centering: An Experiment in Creating Sacred Song — Tonia Maria Pinheiro
  • Drinking from the Well of Laughter: Laughter Exercises — Lyn Ford
  • Sound Puzzles, Rounds and the Meaning of Life According to the Woodthrush — Deb Hensley
  • What a Composer Hears and Sees: Sharpening Your Musical Sight — Wytold
  • Contact Improvisation Movement: ​A Nonverbal Language of Communication — Christopher Eillinger
  • Making Friends with a Poem — Cynthia Anderson
  • Keynote Presentation: Joseph Bruchac — Trickster’s Truth and Lies

Sunday, August 20th

  • Gratitude as Wisdom and Healing — Karen Edwards
  • Qualitative Research in the Arts for Publication, Research, and Funding — Emilee Baum Trucks
  • Writing the Tree of Life: Midrash to Re-vision Our Lives — Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
  • Narrative Healing: Transcending the Illness Narrative — Reggie Marra
  • Connect to the Earth & Dance your Heart, Body, and Soul AWAKE! — Katey Branch

Read about the Community Building Opportunities At The Conference 

Register for POW!

Spread The Word!

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