Seek the Light: Farewell from the Editor

In my faith tradition, tonight is the fourth night of Chanukkah. Each night, I have lit the menorah, blessed the light, and sang hymns for the miracle that the light burned for eight days in the Temple, leading to the Jewish people reclaiming their land and faith as their own. It’s also the fourth day after Christmas, when the Star of the East would still be shining; and the second day of Kwanzaa, celebrating Kujichagulia, or Self-Determination. Yule was a few days ago, so our days are again growing longer, and the sun is returning.

In each of these traditions, I see a common theme: each of us strives to live according to our values, that they may give light to our path. We may not know the path fully, nor what miracles lie in wait — but still we go on. As poet Antonio Machado wrote, “We make the path by walking.” Even when the miracles seem non-existent, or our values are defined more by their absence in society than their presence, we can still seek them and work for them.

As artists, that is our sacred call.

We can write, sing, and speak our way into envisioning a better world. We can work to bring the light into the world through the light of inspiration and the fires of our work.

We can also water the earth with our tears as darkness descends, and fall silent. The choice is ours.

This year, I have had the opportunity to serve as the editor for this blog. Through this, I have become more connected to TLA practice, the community, and my own work as a storyteller, teacher, songwriter, and musician. I have delighted in shining a light on some truly amazing practitioners and their work.

I have also had to navigate my own darknesses, including a long creative dry spell for the first half of the year, and the challenges of a divorce. Like so many others, I have felt overwhelmed by all of the “busyness,” burdened by the demands of working life — especially those days when it does not nourish the soul — and heartbroken as the world has fallen apart and headlines were the stuff of nightmares.

But the late (and too soon gone) Leonard Cohen said, “We are all a little broken. That’s how the Light gets in.”

I may not have done enough for this blog. I leave that for our readers and authors to decide. As for me, I know that I will always feel that the sacred work of transforming the world is left undone. I offer what I can — my words — and I keep going.

As this year draws to a close, I will be transitioning away from being the blog editor, and into other roles with the network. Here is the official call for a new editor. If you are reading this and are interested, please contact me (via email or the contact page). I will be working with our new editor to make sure everything runs smoothly — including posting submissions sent in the last few weeks. In this festive season of light, the phrase “pass the torch” seems even more apt.

The light of our art, our work, our values, and the miracles we hold dear must not go out. If these are indeed dark times, then our light will seem all the brighter. In the coming year, I know I will be more actively working on my artistic endeavors. If I can, I will share some of that here, as a fellow practitioner. Each of us must do our work. When we cannot, I urge us all to support the work of others.

I will continue to support all of you as best I can, even from afar. I am blessed to have shared this space with you. Keep seeking the light.

~Caleb Winebrenner
2016 Blog Curator-Editor

Callid Keefe-Perry Reflects on Service, Change, and New Vision

maxresdefaultFrom 2009 – 2013, Callid Keefe-Perry served as coordinator of the TLA Network, transitioning in 2013 to chair the TLA Network Council, our leadership group. In the last year, Callid has worked closely with the council on strategic planning and on training our new chair, Emilee Baum. Here he shares his thoughts about his journal through TLA Network land, and in a beautiful way to transition again, he may be leaving the council, but he’ll also be one of our keynoters at the 2015 Power of Words conference.

On Nov. 1, 2009 my wife Kristina and I began as Coordinators-in-Training under Scott Youmans. Having first been workshop facilitators and panelists in the 2007 Power of Words Conference we were excited to join in forwarding the work of an organization full of folks that seemed to be a welcoming community. We eagerly began to learn of the history of the organization and help where we could. On 2/17/10 we first served as the coordinator of the network on a Council Call. It would be the beginning of years of connection to a powerful and inspiring web of artists, seekers, and agents for change and healing.

In the years that followed things were not always easy. In 2010 I began with a healthy balance in the bank. By 10/23/13, our lowest financial point, we were deep in the red. However, even at that most trying of moments we still held out for some hope and tried to imagine a way forward. Today that same bank account is very healthy again, we have no outstanding debt, and for the first time ever in the history of the organization we have agreed to become the employer of an executive director. But finances are hardly the only ways that things have grown.

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Callid passing on the TLA Network coordinator to Deb Hensley in 2013 at Pendle Hill near Philadelphia

When I came on we didn’t have the ability to update our own website, needing to go through a contractor for every change. Now we not only have an easily updateable site but an integrated membership system with more features possible than we had even considered before. Between then and now we added not only TLA certification, but also Chrysalis, and online classes, neither of which existed when I started. As of tonight we have over 160 active members, a number up from the 87 when I began and far from the 36 we had at our lowest point. Yes, things certainly have changed, and while I’ve been proud to see it happen I can hardly claim personal responsibility.

Outside of the odd late night Power of Words event I can rarely point to moments that something happened specifically because I came to some rescue. I did what I could when I could, but truly, if it were not for the unflagging support and energy of others next to nothing could have been accomplished. Since I began more than 30 people have served as members of the Leadership Council, and many times that more have helped out with things at the Power of Words and in One City One Prompt. I’ve been able to be part of more than 100 Council Conference Calls and graced by the readings of 200 opening and closing Council poems. I’ve been able to develop relationships that I cherish and hope to maintain for years to come.

Kristina Keefe-Perry, and past council member Suzanne Adams holding Kristina and Callid's then-baby (and first TLA baby!) Nahar.

Kristina Keefe-Perry, and past council member Suzanne Adams holding Kristina and Callid’s then-baby (and first TLA baby!) Nahar — all happening at the Power of Words conference at Goddard College in Vermont

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Emilee Baum

Ever since the Transformative Language Arts Network grew from Caryn Mirriam-Golderg’s inspired vision, its success has always been a result of those willing to give their time and energy to a project broad in scope and broader in heart. As I found my time increasingly limited I knew I could not see things through to their needs. Luckily, Emilee Baum has found her way to us and so it is with incredible gratitude and hope that I leave you all. In the past 6 years there were months that went by with only 3 or 4 people on Council calls. Now our numbers are greater and you all are about to have a chair with a vision and energy that will be put to great use in the next stage of maturation and focus. I’m grateful to leave this way and with the Network in such great health. Thanks to each of you for your contributions to that, and I look forward to seeing you in August.