Amy Oestreicher on Telling Her Story on Stage

Editor’s Note: Amy has written for us before, and her story is a powerful one. With the Power of Words Conference coming in two weeks, we asked her to share more. We will also post her TEDx talk within the next week.
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Bringing Gutless & Grateful to the Transformative Language Arts Network Conference last year was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and I couldn’t be happier to be presenting again this year! In my workshop,  I’m sharing my near death experience and unique personal story with humor, hunger and heart, and helping others realize their potential as storytellers who can heal through their own word and powerful personal stories.

I’ve presented this workshop on college campus, at conferences, theatres, hospitals, and many other audiences from Hawaii to Pennsylvania, to survivors of sexual assault to business entrepreneurs, medical professionals to law students.  Everyone has a story to tell – some of us just don’t know it yet! Once we discover this, it’s incredibly empowering, and my greatest joy is watching people realize this for themselves.

From the time I could remember, I have always possessed an intense passion for the world of words and music. All my life, I had dreamed of pursuing a career in theatre.  However, at 18, I was rushed to the ER, and to summarize very briefly, my stomach exploded, I was in a coma for six months, and I was unable to eat or drink a drop of water for over three years.  After 27 surgeries, I was miraculously reconnected with whatever I had left.  However, to persevere through those tumultuous years took great inner and outer strength.  I relied on my creativity to get through.  My therapy was purely based in the world of theatre, art, writing, dance, music, and whatever else I felt was an area that I could express myself appropriately.  The arts were a way for me to express whatever felt too painful and overwhelming to put into words.  They also helped me process what I was feeling.  But most importantly, they served to be the greatest reward acting as a medium where I could still engage with my community, reach out to others, and make a difference in this world while utilizing my passion.  Arts were my way of connecting with the world, sharing my story, and spreading my message of hope, strength, and finding beauty in whatever life brings you.

I was not able to fully appreciate the beauty of my detours until I was able to share them. As a performer, all I’ve wanted to do was give back to the world.  But now I have an even greater gift to give: a story to tell.  Until I could put into words what had happened to me, I couldn’t fully heal.  Telling my story is the magic push I needed to move forward, and that is what inspired me to bring my workshop to TLAN for the second year in a row: to help others bring out the story burgeoning inside of them.

As actors, writers, creators, humans, we tell stories constantly.  I first told mine over four years ago.  Not only to myself, but to complete strangers and New York theatre-goers.   Fresh out of my 27th surgery, I performed words from journal entries I wrote years ago as a way to pass the time between the endless series of medical interventions.  Every time I “perform” what happened to me, I find myself somehow transformed in the process.  Theatre has the power to change lives, both for those directly involved and those who watch. Theatre teaches us we’re capable of anything – and usually tells us this at times we need it most.

I’m truly touched by how my story has affected so many people and it only serves to spur on my creativity more and more.  Even on the more difficult days, knowing I can have an impact is just one extra nudge to get me going in the morning.

It’s really the ability to give back, and to have my work serve as a lens, a mirror, a window that others can look through, or look into, and see themselves or whatever they need to see at that moment.  To feel whatever they need to feel.  That’s how I connect with my world – that is my aliveness.  As a member of this human race, it’s how I can contribute.  Isn’t all we ever want: to make a mark on the world?  

Gutless & Grateful,” the honest one-woman musical story of my life.  It’s my story, shared through a medium I’m passionate about. I was finally able to heal and move on once I was able to share, and now I’m so excited to help others share the story within them in whatever medium that they feel most comfortable in.

Why share at all?   It takes “guts” to talk — and sing — about my sexual abuse, my anger, my guilt, how I lost hope in things ever getting better. But I share to show that things do get better with patience, trust and resilience. I share to give courage and a sense of belonging to people who are struggling with all kinds of mental health or physical challenges, but also to help build a campus that gives everyone the kind of awareness and generosity of spirit that makes that world a better place. If we all share our “detours,” we see that our detours are not detours at all. Every road leads somewhere — we just need to hang in long enough to catch the flowers along the way. The more we share our stories, the more we realize we’re not alone.

Through the transformative power of words, we can all share our stories.  I can’t wait to hear yours!

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Amy Oestreicher B&W 2006Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, survivor, award-winning actress, and playwright, sharing the lessons learned from trauma through her writing, mixed media art, performance and inspirational speaking.

As the creator of the Gutless & Grateful, her one-woman autobiographical musical, she’s toured theatres nationwide, along with a program combining mental health advocacy, sexual assault awareness  and Broadway Theatre for college campuses.

To celebrate her own “beautiful detour”, Amy created the #LoveMyDetour campaign, to help others thrive through difficulties.

As Eastern Regional Recipient of Convatec’s Great Comebacks Award, she’s contributed to over 70 notable online and print publications, and her story has appeared on NBC’s TODAY, CBS, Cosmopolitan, among others. 

She has devised workshops for conferences nationwide,  and is this year’s keynote speaker for the Hawaii Pacific Rim International Conference on Diversity and Disability.  Learn more: amyoes.com.

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POW Workshop: Self-Expression Through Movement and Play with Marguerite Walker

Thank you for this opportunity to exchange ideas with the other presenters for the POW conference in August!
My workshop “Self expression Through Movement and Play” is designed to enable the participants, regardless of background, to experiment with their childhood curiosity. They will be encouraged to use voice and movement in a play -like atmosphere. Scenarios will be provided or the participants may develop their own. These stories will be shared with the group in a supportive atmosphere.
I enjoy enabling others to experience the freedom of letting our adult guard down
and then allowing our creativity to find new ways of looking at a situation.
This workshop is an outgrowth from my passion for improvisation with voice and song. In watching and learning from artists such as Rhiannon and Bobby McFerrin and locally from improv director, David LaGraffe, I have been motivated to share my joy of play with others.

Marguerite WalkerAfter 35 years spent as an RN, Marguerite Walker  brings a cornucopia of life experiences to her workshop. As a lover of word play and seeing the zany side of situations, she enjoys helping others experience that sense of enjoying the moment.
Marguerite presently resides in South Portland enjoying time with her dog, going to Meet ups, visiting with friends, reading historical fiction, singing daily for the joy of it, and looking forward to her next adventure.
She agrees with GK Chesterton regarding play:
“The true object of all human life is play.”
She would like to thank Debra Hensley for suggesting that she submit a workshop proposal to the TLA Network.

“Oh My Stars and Garters!” with Lyn Ford, POW Keynote Speaker

Editor’s Note: I’ve known Lyn for several years, and she is an incredible human being. Listening to her talk would itself be worth the conference registration.


OH, MY STARS AND GARTERS…I’M TALKING ABOUT BELLY BUTTONS!

THE HERNIA JOURNAL:  MY WORD-DANCE THROUGH DARKNESS TO JOY – A journey in progress, from belly-ache to belly laugh, from abuse to a-ha, from hell to Hafiz, shared in personal narrative, folktale, and poetic joy.

That’s the blurb I passed on to TLAN for my Saturday, August 13 keynote performance for the 2016 Power of Words Conference.  Then I set aside any thought on the subject, so that, in a couple days, I could look at that blurb with fresh eyes.

04crw_2102-1Five days later, I looked at what I’d sent, and my fresh eyes blinked as if I’d been smacked by a hard gust of wind.  I said to myself, “Self, you’ve just committed to sharing a portion of the map of that dark walk into and through the woods, the one that frightens and confuses and excites you, and makes you laugh and cry at the same time.  Just a few steps, reflection and folktale connection and poetry.  You are going to share from your hike through personal muck and mire, in 45 minutes.”

Oh, my stars and garters…

This writing project grew from journaling while I worked on socio-emotional development activities and stories for educators and storytellers.  That work became difficult as I maneuvered over several rough patches—illness and injury, problems with medications, emotional situations…you know, life.  In the worst of it all, I wrote and shared my stories.  Folks laughed with me, which made me laugh more.

I’ve selected stories and verse from my journal, offered because they lend themselves to the conference theme, “Begin with YES!”  But “yes” isn’t just the beginning of transformation.  It’s the effective affirmation of every step of each human being’s personal journey.  “The Hernia Journal” presentation has its emotional ups and downs, but, yes, we will laugh, because that’s how I roll…or, reel, or trundle, …it’s all good.  I always pack joy for the journey, even when I’m crawling, with “yes” in my heart.

The preconference workshop that I’ll facilitate is titled “LAUGHTER, BREATH, JOY: COMMUNAL COMMUNICATION”.  That’s what we’re going to share.  As a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader (and now, I’m a Certified LY Teacher, too—yay!), I’ve become more aware of the important empathetic connections of laughter, play, and simple stories.  Most big folks just don’t play enough, or feel the excitement of telling their own stories without self-criticism and with the lightness of the child’s heart that still beats inside us.  I’m hoping folks come to the conference early, and play and laugh and communicate with an open heart and mind.


Lyn FordLyn Ford is a fourth-generation Affrilachian storyteller and workshop facilitator. Lyn is also a Thurber House mentor to young authors, a teaching artist with the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education (OAAE) and the Ohio State-Based Collaborative Initiative of the Kennedy Center (OSBCI), and a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher. Lyn’s work is published in several storytelling-in-education resources, as well as in her award-winning books, Affrilachian Tales; Folktales from the African-American Appalachian Tradition, and Beyond the Briar Patch:  Affrilachian Folktales, Food and Folklore. Lyn’s 2015 book, Hot Wind, Boiling Rain: Scary Stories for Strong Hearts is a creative-writing resource; Lyn’s fourth book (with friend, Sherry Norfolk), Boo-Tickle Tales: Not-So-Scary Stories for Kids, is set for publication in the summer of 2016.   For more information on Lyn’s work, go to her website at www.storytellerlynford.com. Or contact Lyn at friedtales2@gmail.com.

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.

 

Wisdom from Youth: Voices from Kansas City

On July 25, about a dozen members of the Power of Words conference committee met with teenagers from Kansas City, MO who are likely going to join us at the conference through special funding from the Jackson County Family Court Emergency Children’s Fund. Thanks to poet, writer and artist Jose Faus’s wonderful mini-writing workshop with all of us, we enjoyed and were moved by the writing from the teens, all of whom are in court-mandated programs (such as foster care, diversion, etc.) and have a lot of lifetime stories already percolating through them. Jose invited us to describe a room, real or wished for, where we could feel comfortable ourselves and comfortable and even stay for 24 hours. Here are some samples of what the teens wrote:

My Perfect Room

 

I walked into my room. I look left, then I look right.

I see this is my room, not any kind of room.

My room so as I look left, I could see my bed, also dresser.

Then I look right, and I could see my TV and

my mini basketball goal. Then I see my closet,

then I see my shoes all messed up.

Also I see posters on both sides.

I say to myself, this is no ordinary room.

It’s my room, and it’s the way I want it to be,

the perfect room for me.

~ Daveontae

 

The Perfect Room

 

I walk in the kitchen, and all I see is a stove and a refrigerator.

That means I can eat all day.

I see a bed and a class room.

That means I’m already at school.

Last but not least, I see a bathroom.

Basically, I don’t have to get up.

I’m the luckiest person in the world.

Oh, I forgot I had to call my coach and tell him

I quit because I had a trainer and a 10-foot basketball goal.

This room is big enough to fit my whole family in here.

~ Donnell

Thanks to Kelly Hams Pearson, operations director of the 16th Circuit Court for setting up this meeting and being the bridge between the teens and the conference. We look forward to seeing everyone from our July 25 meeting at the Sept. 18-20 Power of Words conference, which features a keynote poet, Jimmy Santiago Baca, who started out all-too-familiar with the court system where he grew up before, in the middle of committing a crime, he realized his true mission was to become a poet. Jimmy also shares his story of going from the barrios of the Southwest to become one of America’s best loved poets here in the new documentary about him.

Everything You Wanted to Know About TLA Certification

certificationby Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

We’ve just announced the new certification in TLA (http://tlanetwork.org/certification), and already there’s ample interest and some great questions. To help answer questions, I’m interviewing myself, trying to address all I’ve been asked and all I can imagine. Please feel free to ask additional questions in the comments.

Me: Caryn, so good of you to meet with me.

Caryn: Anytime. You know I’m always close by.

Me: That’s so reassuring. So let me kick off this interview by asking why now when it comes to the TLA Certification.

Caryn: For many years, we’ve been talking about a TLA certification. For over six years, we worked at Goddard College to develop this option in MA in TLA concentration for people with vast experience in the field. Because of new Department of Education regulations regarding new certification restrictions when it comes to educational funding, we realized the college certification program wasn’t feasible at this time. In further conversations, some of us at the college and in the TLA Network realized that the not-for-profit TLA Network was a much better home for the certification. We developed this certification to give people a rounded introduction to all things TLA. “Why now?” has to do with several factors: the launch of the certification coincided with the Power of Words 2014 conference because that was a good way to talk about face-to-face with those who were interested. We also just signed a partnership agreement between the college and the TLA Network, and that agreement grants people who complete the certification a scholarship of $1,000 for any Goddard program (spread over two semesters).

Me: Who is this certification for?

Caryn: I’ve been in touch with people who want to study more about TLA, put it into practice in their lives, but for whom getting a graduate degree doesn’t fit right now. I’ve worked with several students at Goddard who already had doctorates, and ended up coming for a semester to immerse themselves in TLA. There are also people who want to do the Goddard program, but the timing isn’t right. Finally, there are some who want to infuse their professions and livelihoods with TLA — from pastoral counselors to teachers to psychologists to activists to artists. This certification speaks to various ways to develop TLA, including active participation in TLA activities in your community and over distances, investigation and study on how TLA is practiced and could be practiced, and ways to enhance your individual practice of TLA, whether that’s storytelling or writing or collaborative community projects. This certification helps people incorporate TLA as an art, study, practice, form of advocacy and celebration in their lives.

Me: You mentioned the Goddard program, and so I wonder how the certification compares to the Goddard program?

Caryn: The certification provides participants with a thorough orientation to TLA, some avenues for developing a TLA practice and connecting with others involved in TLA, and encouragement to be part of the TLA community, help grow that community, and further define and develop TLA in the world. The Goddard program is a much more intensive immersion into TLA because its core is master’s level degree criteria focused on theoretical groundwork in TLA at large and intensively in a specific focus; a deep development in the individual art of TLA, such as writing a memoir or putting together a collaborative performance; and an in-depth community practicum, such as facilitating a series of storytelling workshops, teaching yourself filmmaking for change, or doing some other project that helps people interface with their communities. We’ve designed the certification to be both freestanding as an educational journey, and/or complementary with the Goddard MA-TLA as a first step or a way to develop a plan for right livelihood after graduation.

Me: How is this certification different or the same as other certifications?

Some certification in related fields are much more intensive and focus on a specific approach, such as the certification in poetry therapy offered by the National Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy, which I did and found very helpful. That certification takes people at least two years, and is more involved in terms of the hours and costs. Some certifications are shorter when it comes to the length of time, such as the Amherst Writers and Artists week-long intensives. Yet both the certifications I just named advocate and train people for a specific approach in working with certain populations, a model for how to do workshops. The TLA certification is far less expensive than many programs out there, and it’s also open-ended as to people’s approach (although people who complete our certification may go onto other learning opportunities and vice-versa). That’s because we’re TLA: we bring together people involved in storytelling for social change, writing for healing and growth, spiritual adventuring through theater, and much more so that we can make and keep community across using words aloud or on the page for change. In the “Changing the World With Words: TLA Foundations” course, we offer people exposure to multiple approaches, encouraging people to learn about what fits their calling, community, and focus, and then to educate themselves on specific models for workshops, consulting, coaching and more. The certification incorporates involvement in the TLA community through attending conference and/or participating in classes, and participating in various projects, such as One City One Prompt, or Chrysalis: The Journal for TLA. So overall, this certification is based on coursework and reflection, and but also on action learning through doing TLA.

Me: Is this the only certification in TLA that will be offered?

Caryn: This is a first step, and as a community focused on growing our hearts and minds individually and collectively, we’ll be tweaking and enhancing the certification components as we go. I can imagine a more advanced certification option in the future, either through Goddard or the TLA Network.

Me: How much would this certification cost the average person?

Caryn: We’ve worked to make the certification affordable for people from many backgrounds. The application fee is only $40, membership in the TLA Network is $35/year, online classes are approximately $35/week, and the conference ranges from $160 for super early bird registration to over $200 for regular registration, plus room and board, and for some, travel. The certification overall would cost $500-$1,000 (depending on conference attendance, travel, classes taken, etc.). People can spread out what they do and when they do it over two years. While this might seem like a big number, it’s significantly less than some other similar certifications (although those certifications can be extremely valuable and do have different focuses).

Me: Who makes decisions about who gets in and who completes the certification successfully?

Caryn: We have a small committee reviewing applications for certification right now, and this committee will be reviewing completed certification evaluations and reports by participants at the end of their certification road trip. I believe it’s important that decisions are not based on any one person’s read, but from the collective wisdom of people with experience in the TLA world. As time goes on, we will surely reach out to people who completed the certification to serve on this committee.

Me: How would people get started?

Caryn: The first step is to click on and fill out the application (http://TLAnetwork.org/certification) and pay the $40 application fee. Within several weeks, we’ll be back in touch. Once you’re accepted, you can sign up for classes, join the network if you’re not yet a member, and take other steps. It’s advisable to start with the “Changing the World with Words: TLA Foundations” class to help you map out your focus. Within a few months of starting, we will be in touch to ask you to fill out your certification plan (what options you’ll be pursuing), and we’ll be available to meet briefly on the phone to help you talk through those options.

More information at http://TLANetwork.org/certification and the upcoming online class, Changing the World With Words: TLA Foundations.