Please Help the TLA Network Grow! – A Letter From Liz and Hanne

Dear TLA friends and members,

Thank you for being part of the Transformative Language Arts Network. Our network continues to grow, and we are delighted to be building community with you – one of the powerhouse poets, writers, word-smiths, spoken word artists, storytellers, and deeply engaged community activists, health professionals, educators and others who make up our incredible network!

We write to ask you to consider making a contribution to support the work of the TLA Network, a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) organization.

Your contribution will go far in helping us expand our reach, and build on our Power of Words conference, online classes, Chrysalis: A Journal of TLA, and blog to offer all kinds of communities ways to amplify voices and visions for a better world.

The TLA Network serves as a supportive community of thoughtful and engaged practitioners, activists, health professionals, educators, and community leaders dedicated to making the world a better place. In these times, finding our voice, sharing our words, and pulling people together to effect change through the power of words is especially essential. With the rise of corporate-controlled media and the increasingly fractured world of social media, it is crucial that our work and our voices find solid purchase, that we develop new audiences, and that our words continue to serve as invaluable calls to action.

TLAN is also on the cusp of greater reach and effectiveness than ever before with a renewed vision, a new director, and our delight in featuring U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo as our keynoter at our next Power of Words conference, October 30 – November 1, 2020, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

At our recent Power of Words conference this past September, in Phoenix, Arizona, we met many amazing TLA Network members who eagerly shared what a difference the TLA Network and our conference make in their lives. In the short time since we started our roles as TLA Network Chair and Managing Director, we have witnessed how many dozens of people find greater meaning, vitality, and connection through our vibrant online classes, the Your Right Livelihood training, and our TLA Foundations certification.

We imagine you’ve experienced your own stories: friendships forged, collaborations created, and enormous good work enacted. People leave our conference, classes, and trainings feeling reconnected, rejuvenated, energized — inspired to continue doing powerful work that changes the world.

We ask you to contribute toward any of the following:

  • Scholarships for the Power of Words conference so that we can widen the circle to include more folks who are economically disadvantaged, more young people and people of color, those living with disabilities, and others on the margins who have something vital to say and share,
  • Scholarships for our online classes and to support people immersing themselves in right livelihood training,
  • Helping underwrite some of our keynoters, including Joy Harjo, for the 2020 Power of Words conference,
  • Website re-design to better communicate the scope of our work and depth of our vision, or
  • General operating expenses so that we can expand our capacity to reach more who would benefit from the power of words in their lives and communities.

To the power of words,

Hanne Weedon, Managing Director                                     Liz Burke-Cravens, Council Chair

Enough! — By Usha Akella: A Highlight from the Power of Words Conference

At the Power of Words conference, keynote presenter Usha Akella gave such a stunning and stirring talk on how she started Matwaala, the first South Asian Diaspora Poets Festival in the U.S., that the packed room of those of us listening jumped to our feet to give her  long standing ovation. We then asked her to share a poem of her own, and this is what she read, leading us to jump to our feet in applause again. Here is a link to the beautiful and inspiring Matwaala site.

Enough

People let us say it.

 

Bring back our caged children to a field of sunflowers,

open our land to people as we would our palms

to catch a raindrop,

bring back Aylan in blue shorts

washed up as a fish, snuggled in sand,

let us not say again: he did not make it,

let children not have to tell their stories.

 

Let us bring back Gulsoma, seven years old,

oil her back scarred like a cluster of sardines,

let us hear her laughter before it was married,

let Malala not be shot in the head, let Karla

not have to say 43, 200 raped.

 

And bring back Asifa Bano’s rosy cheeks and chirping,

let her bring back goats bare-footed,

and roast warm chestnuts on a humble fire,

let her eight-year old legs not be parted brutally for

things other than what children do,

and bring back all the murdered girl infants

still as stone swaddled in earth.

 

And the police/traffickers/abductors/

mothers/fathers/sisters/brothers

who kill/sell/abuse/rape/shoot their own,

let us hang them as rotting fruit from trees.

 

And people, we who know too much with our tentacles of knowing

like octopuses with many eyes,

how much of knowing do we need,

before we say it?

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.

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.

Three Videos on the Power of Words To Rock Your World

The 16th Annual Power of Words conference Sept. 26-29 brings together three keynotes — Gregg LevoyNoa Baum, and Usha Akella — who know firsthand 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 are three videos to show you more about what Gregg Levoy, Noa Baum, and Usha Akella have to say. 

Gregg Levoy speaks on “Callings: Finding and Living an Authentic Life,” telling amazing stories to illustrate what it means to follow and live the work and life of your soul here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrrDYIRPWZY&t=6s

Gregg Levoy is the author of Vital Signs: The Nature and Nurture of Passion and Callings: Finding and Following An Authentic Life. More on Gregg here:  www.gregglevoy.com

Noa Baum talks on “Beyond Labels: Bridging Differences Through Storytelling” in her Tedx talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vsg7VTUjYLI

Noa Baum is an award-winning storyteller and author who presents internationally. More at http://noabaum.com

Usher Akella speaks on “Why Poetry Matters” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPPgUV61hSY

Usha Akella has authored four books of poetry, one chapbook, and scripted and produced one musical drama. 

You can learn more about the conference here

We still have a limited amount of scholarships and work-study positions still available. More here.

If you’re not able to attend the whole conference, please come for Noa Baum’s performance, open to the public. More here.

The Power of Connection at the Power of Words

We believe in making the Power of Words conference, our annual gathering, a time for building community, helping participants make meaningful connections with each other, and opening up the space for all voices to be heard.

To facilitate this, we’ve developed a variety pack of ways to meet and re-unite, listen and be heard, and discover and recover our insights and visions, including:

Talking Circles: Participants meet with the same small group each morning of the conference to share responses and questions, integrate discoveries and express themselves in a safe, confidential space. Many past participants say these small group meetings are a highlight of the conference for them.

Martin Swinger performing in Kansas City

Open Mics: Two open mic sessions of our Coffeehouse of Wonder allow you the opportunity to share poems, stories (excerpts), songs, dances or other expressions of the arts aloud with one of the best-listening and most attentive audiences anywhere around. This is a great place for the seasoned performer as well as the person ready to do his/her first reading.

Large Group Keynotes & Performances: Together, we experience magic and connection, witnessing astonishing stories, songs, talks, readings and more.

Rhiannon leading us in song on the beach in Maine

TLA Network Council Meetings: We invite you to join the open sessions of the TLA Network’s governing council, a non-hierarchical body that meets monthly by phone to help guide TLAN, and we invite you to consider joining us on the council or one of the committees.

Intimate Performances and Hands-on Workshops: Our conference offerings give you a chance to make, tell, write, or otherwise create something new as well as to engage with storytellers, spoken word artists, writers, and other performers in relaxed and intimate settings.

A talking circle taking a walk in Kansas City

Opening and Closing Sessions: Many conference-goers experience the opening and closing sessions as the highlights of the conference. In each session, we cultivate an atmosphere of community, connection, deep listening and powerful sharing. The opening sessions features several powerful performances, and the closing session allows us to speak as we feel so moved about what we’ve experienced and what we’re bringing home with us.

Here’s what some of our 2018 Power of Words participants had to say:

The Power of Words conference provides a home for artists, writers, and musicians who want to help create a peaceful world. I go to learn, I go to contribute, and I go to sustain hope. ~ Diane Glass, Iowa

Come and meet some seriously interesting and diverse people with a love of transformational politics, poetry, and language. I loved the whole experience! ~ Barbara Bloomfield, Director of Groups, Lapidus International, England

In the midst of the unpredictability of daily life, for a few precious days, I found myself surrounded by beauty, reminded yet again how art and woodcraft are not luxuries, to paraphrase Audre Lorde, but tools for survival. ~ Shomriel Sherman, Massachusetts

Joseph Galata and friends in Vermont

As an artist and philanthropist who participants in artistic/humanities conferences and festivals around the world, I’m very impressed with the diverse workshops and performances, supportive audiences, memorable keynote speakers, and magnificent staff. A genuine pleasure! – Joseph Galata, Nevada

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/

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.