& They Call Us Crazy: Outsider Writing to Cross the Borders of Human Imagination-An Interview with Caits Meissner

Caits Meissner will be teaching the upcoming class, “& They Call Us Crazy: Outsider Writing to Cross the Borders of Human Imagination” 

In this creativity-generating workshop we’ll follow in the footsteps of genius eccentrics, outsiders and outlaws who’ve stepped beyond their perceived limitations, risking ridicule (and worse) to access their unique creative offerings — ultimately proving that what is outside the norm — and the academy — is often the most deliciously innovative and juicy.

caits2Here is a short interview with Caits about the class!

TLA Blog(TLA): Why might this class be important at this time in the world?

Caits Meissner(CM): Imagination is our most valuable asset in confronting systems of oppression, environmental crisis, and forwarding the evolution of our human community. In addition to systemic illness on a large scale, much of our inability to expand creative energy is due to the very small and time-consuming tasks of living. We are bogged down by the minutia of survival. Taking space to unlock the imagination can feel luxurious, but I believe it is also critical. How can we ever imagine a different way forward if we cannot unhook from what is long enough to allow the “crazy” thoughts to flourish, the innovative thoughts that stretch us beyond the confounding circumstances of being a person in 2018, beyond the conventions that keep us restricted and bound? Thinking “crazy” has been the bedrock of change in our society. Another word for it— usually when it has worked and we’re speaking in hindsight— is vision.

Will this course open channels in a participant’s brain that touches on the major issues of our time, providing viable solutions? Probably not (but who knows!) But I do think this practice of playful curiosity can unlock possibility within ourselves, and that is a worthy step. As creative people, we may be feeling both a deep desire and tremendous pressure to address the inequalities, inequities and human rights violations our era has surfaced in bold form. But we also know that the most affecting work often begins organically, when we stumble over a creative trip wire that switches on a new process of ideation. The mythology that creativity relies on lived freedom is incorrect— of time, of space, or mindset. Plenty of artwork has proven this theory null, created in the most repressive environments. Where there are humans, there is creative impulse, and I believe it may be more descriptively accurate to say the act of creation is a striving towards freedom. In a funny way, guided constraints can increase that feeling of freedom by providing a safe container in which to experiment.

I think of this course as a container where we might stumble upon what we’ve been trying to, or hoping to address through our work. It is also a space where the act of failing spectacularly is encouraged, without judging our work or expecting every engagement to produce project-worthy material. My friend Lynne said to me once — imagine how many seeds a tree releases. Thousands! Only a few become new trees. That’s the creative process as nature teaches us. In our ambition-driven society, it is easy to forget that, and to despair in the fear of not making work that outlives the moment of spontaneous expression. But aren’t we nature, too? Why should our creative birthing be any different from other forms of life in this vast kingdom we live in?

And honestly, who couldn’t use a rigorous creative engagement that takes us away from the droning news, the overwhelm of being confronted with our current human form? Who couldn’t use an infusion of a little joy and play and space and discovery?

​ Who couldn’t use a little self support in the form of grand creativity?​


TLA: How did you discover, learn about and experience the topic that you’ll be teaching?

CM: I grew up under the influence of parents who both worked with youth and adults with emotional, developmental and intellectual differences and disabilities— parents who view all people through the lens of capacity, contribution and supreme dignity. Through their work, I forged my own connections with artists with differing abilities, and​discovered creative processes that didn’t rely on a school degree to nudge something beautiful and affecting into existence. Often the artists were not concerned with what I thought of the work they created, nor did they obsess over the art career that might blossom “one lucky day​”​ if they just kept at it. That felt like a form of freedom. Raw spontaneity produced fresh, alive pieces that were unlike any other artist’s hand. It was incredibly informative to witness at a time when my hunger for recognition and career advancement was beginning to growl.​

Similarly, I’ve found many affecting and inspiring writers and writing birthed in prisons and needle exchanges. In these settings I found that expression often grew from a need to shake up the narrative created around worth, to write value back into selfhood, and to remind the world that in our quickness to discard an entire person, we lose out on their potential contributions— and certainly siphon off a part of our own humanity. The work often feels urgent, probing, and doesn’t wait for a stamp of approval from the gate keepers. In fact, it lights a match and burns down the gates. That’s the kind of artist I aspire to be.

Of course, children exhibit this freedom of expression with ease and joy before its pummeled out by adulthood’s demands and judgements. I am interested in the creative impulse that cannot be suppressed or snuffed out, the spark that is possible in all and any of us. That striving towards freedom. I became interested in artists who were not trained traditionally, but touched a deep chord in viewers. And of course, many of the artists we’ll be engaging with were trained, but managed to stretch beyond convention to drum up astonishing and gloriously strange creativity. This mix of study culls from my own collected curiosities about the creative process, and the artists who have inspired me. My background includes an undergrad degree in Communication Design from Pratt Institute and an MFA from City College of New York. Though I come from a trained process, my most profound learning moments have arrived in the community settings I’ve collaborated within. The prompts in this course draw on over 15 years of teaching and facilitating multimedia art and creative writing workshops in a wide variety of community and professional settings.

TLA: Who would benefit most from taking this class?

CM: Honestly, anyone looking to get messy and find something new! No one is under nor overqualified in this space. The idea is to fill up the notebook with the many seeds of creation, and to beckon the unexpected through the challenge of a strange new prompt, or by saying yes to an unfamiliar form. As I’m wrapping up two major projects, I will be engaging the course exercises myself, excited to see what arrives from giving it all a good shot. Truth be told, I find myself resistant to my own prompts! I understand that pushing past that resistance will be key in squeezing the most juice from the experience. Just writing this, I’m getting jittery with nerves about the potential discoveries revealed.

TLA: What can students in this class expect?

CM: To experiment and play. This is not a workshop, nor a space to bring work for critique. It is a wide open, generative space centered on the act of new creation. Every session will offer 5 artists to study with links to engage their work, and an article to read in connection. I recommend daily journaling on the prompts I offer that bounce off each artist’s works, but this will be a private process left to the participant to engage (or not.) A packet of poems for deeper reading launches from the thematic container we are loosely creating within. Then, 4-5 creative prompts are listed each week— writing, as well as other creative art-making. Depending on how the participant is moved to action, it might serve to give each a try as quick exercises, or to hone in on 1-2 to work on more intensively. The results of these experiments will be posted weekly. Participants will be expected to engage with the work of peers, but with a strict avoidance of critique. We’ll work from a framework of noticing, wondering and encouraging forward.

TLA: Why is it important to take risks in ones life?

CM: It is the only way we evolve, grow, move forward, shake out of complacency, create anything worth a damn. Though I will say this course is low stakes in the risk department. You have nothing to lose by participating, and everything to gain.

TLA: Where do you find the most inspiration?

CM: From other entities that create— other artists, children, the intricacies of the natural world. The quickest route to inspiration is to read a book that moves me. Sitting in silence brings forth conversations with friends that surface the need to translate what’s spoken to paper. Being relentlessly curious is the state I hope to become more present to. It’s the most fantastic and forgiving way to commune with the great mystery of life.

Register For Caits’s Class Here!

About the Facilitator: Caits Meissner is the author of the illustrated hybrid poetry book Let It Die Hungry (The Operating System, 2016), and The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You (Well&Often, 2012), co-written with poet Tishon Woolcock. The recipient of multiple artist residencies and fellowships, including the BOAAT Writers Retreat and The Pan-African Literary Forum, Caits is widely published in literary journals including The Literary Review, Narrative, Adroit, Drunken Boat and The Offing. She has taught, consulted and co-created extensively for over 15 years across a wide spectrum of communities, with a special focus on imprisoned people, women and youth. Caits holds a BFA in Communication Design from Pratt Institute, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York. She currently serves as the Prison and Justice Writing Program Manager at PEN America.

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Sparks! Free Webinar June 10th

Empowering Human-Trafficking Survivors: Facilitating Free2Write Poetry Workshops with Jennifer Jean

Sunday, June 10,2018

7 P.M. CENTRAL, 8 P.M.  EASTERN

Moderated by Kelly DuMar

We’re thrilled to welcome special guest, Jennifer Jean, to be our next SPARKS! feature on June 10. Jennifer is a poet, educator and activist who has been teaching poetry workshops to human trafficking and trauma survivors in order to empower them to tell their own stories in their own way. Kelly DuMar will interview Jennifer about her transformative language arts work with survivors, as well as ask Jennifer to read some of her own poems. This is an opportunity for TLA practitioners to learn and share best practices for working with survivors in writing groups and be introduced to Jennifer’s model for facilitating free2write workshops for survivors. Please bring a poem, story, or song to share in our open mic following the interview.

Sparks is a free bi-monthly webinar moderated by Kelly DuMar, interviewing notable Transformative Language Artists on their work, followed by a poetry, story & song open mic.

About Special Guest Jennifer Jean

Jennifer Jean is a poet, educator, activist, and consummate “literary citizen.” Her debut poetry collection is The Fool (Big Table); her poetry chapbooks include: The Archivist, and In the War. Jennifer’s newest manuscript, titled Object, was a finalist for the 2016 Green Mountains Review Book Prize. Other honors include: a 2018 Disquiet FLAD Fellowship; a 2017 Her Story Is residency, where she worked with Iraqi women artists in Dubai; a 2016 Good Bones Prize; and, a 2013 Ambassador for Peace Award for her activism in the arts. As well, her poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in: Poetry Magazine, Waxwing Journal, Rattle Magazine, Crab Creek Review, Denver Quarterly, Mud City Journal, Solstice, Pangyrus, and more. She is Poetry Editor of The Mom Egg Review, Managing Editor of Talking Writing Magazine, and Co-director of Morning Garden Artists Retreats. Jennifer teaches Free2Write poetry workshops to trauma survivors, and she teaches writing at Boston-area universities

Poetry Open Mic

And there’s more to share. Bring an original poem! This unique discussion and networking opportunity will be followed by a 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. It’s a remarkably fun and moving experience.

Format of the Gathering

  • Kelly will interview Jennifer Jean for 30 minutes about her work with sex trafficking survivors and her poetry.
  • 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 minutes to the open mic
  • You don’t need to be a member of TLAN to participate!

Joining the Call on Zoom

Kelly will arrive on the video conference at 6:45 P.M. CENTRAL and 7:45 P.M. EASTERN so you can connect early & work out any glitches! You will receive links and numbers in your email after RSVPing.

About Kelly DuMar

Kelly DuMar is a poet, playwright and workshop facilitator from the Boston area. She’s author of two poetry chapbooks, All These Cures, (Lit House Press), and Tree of the Apple, (Two of Cups Press). Her poems, prose and photos are published in many literary journals including “Bellevue Review,” “Tupelo Quarterly,” “Poydras,” “Tiferet,” and more. Her award winning plays are produced around the US and are published by dramatic publishers. Kelly founded and produces the Our Voices Festival of Women Playwrights at Wellesley College, now in its 12th year, and leads a variety of workshops for writers across the US, including The Mass. Poetry Festival, The International Women’s Writing Guild, The Power of Words Conference, Mass. Poetry Festival, the New England Theatre Conference, Playback Theatre North America Conference, and Winter Wheat.  She’s on the board & faculty of The International Women’s Writing Guild and produces the IWWG Summer Conference Play Lab and the Annual Boston Regional Writing From Your Life Retreat. Closer to home, she facilitates a weekly writing workshop for women, the Farm Pond Writer’s Collective, now in its third year. Kelly is a certified psychodramatist and a Fellow in the American Society for Group Psychotherapy & Psychodrama. You can follow Kelly’s daily nature blog, “#NewThisDay Writing From My Photo Stream,” and join her mailing list at kellydumar.com

Right Livelihood: In Search of Runes-Part 5

by Carol Thompson

Editor’s note: This is the final post of an ongoing, 5 part blog chronicling the author’s journey with TLA.

What if nobody shows up?

My quest for finding Right Livelihood is currently split into two directions – one part of me wants to become a Rune Master and Teacher, and another part is a propagator and designer of miniature potted succulent gardens. Tomorrow night I’m having a “Trunk Show” highlighting my plants, and I’m also selling a wide array of my artistic wares – painted rocks and wooden bowls, photo greeting cards and essential oil infusion stones. I’m hoping to recoup some of the investment I have made in soil, plants, pots and fertilizer and the many, many hours that have been consumed by my labor of love of gardening.

Between my living room and the back deck, I’ve counted 88 different potted combinations of wee desert plants, some ready to flower, some covered with sharp needles that I have trimmed with scissors. Some are short and fat and others look like trees from an ancient African forest. I’ve sent out notification on Facebook and created an event on my own FB page, the “Weekend Workshop Club”. Several hundred people have seen the invitation, the photos, the note that if they buy a wee garden, they will also receive a vial of concentrated liquid fertilizer and instructions on how to keep their new babies happy. No confirmed “I’m coming/not coming” responses yet, a couple of maybes and several verbal probablys, but I’m not worried.

I’ve gone to great efforts to make this a delightful evening. I’m providing “light refreshments”, “nibbles”, a box of red and a box of white, iced tea, and homemade ginger cookies. I’m ready, prepared and bubbling with enthusiasm. The yellow brick road leading me towards Right Livelihood will be open to the public tomorrow night.

My daughter stops by to see how I’m doing, and after checking out the scene, she asks, “but what happens if nobody comes?” The question hits me like a brick. I had never even remotely imagined that this was a possibility. What if the future held a complete surprise? What if nobody shows up and I don’t sell a single plant? What if, on Saturday morning, I still have 88 pots of succulents?

I felt the full brunt of the force as it knocked my equilibrium off of center. The Power of Words was the bull in the china closet and I found myself stammering and trying to convince my daughter (and myself) that I love what I’m doing, people are busy and don’t always RSVP, and all of that time and money was an investment in my self – my creativity, my artistic spirit, my sense of beauty and design. And even though I was now a bit of a cowering, defensive wreck, I knew, deep down inside, that these beautiful, healthy, colorful, multi-faceted plants were an extension of who I am. It didn’t really matter if nobody came. I would survive and so would my dreams.

Three people came, two plants and a beautifully painted rock went to new homes, and the next day five other folks called to say they were planning to come but couldn’t make it. So, I considered the night a success and chalked the low attendance up to “life happens whether you show up or not”. I fulfilled my goal of curating the show and felt great because I did something that expanded the “me” that loves dirt and plants and spending time outside in the fresh air. I’ll have plenty of chances in the future to carry on and fill up that cookie jar with cash and checks. This was just another chapter in the story of my life.

So, back to the Right Livelihood and my experiences of the past two years as I have made my way through the Transformative Language Arts Certificate. I’ve met and chatted with many wonderful people, added tools to my toolbox, filled multiple pages in my journal, written poetry, explored my options and looked at the possibilities that will unravel from the giant ball of yarn that is still rolling ahead of me. There is motion and potential and I can see that I’m making progress. I’m getting closer to my goal of becoming.

I wanted to leave this blog with some words of wisdom, some evidence to the lights that have been fired up because of the many classes I participated in during the past two years. I dug out all of my folders and notebooks and print-outs and there was one workshop facilitator, Doug Lipman, who seemed to stand out above the rest. I ended up enjoying two of his classes during the time I was working on my certificate. When I first met Doug at the Power of Words Conference in Saco, Maine on August 13, 2016 he was teaching a workshop called “The Values of the Future, Through Story Telling”. It was during this time that I realized that my time spent working with runes not only contained the roots of my hope that I could transform my “hobby” into a Right Livelihood, but in actuality, working with runes was a form of storytelling. This realization changed my approach to how I described my “work”. It wasn’t all about clarity, focus, memories and self-awareness, it was about finding the unique fabric that dressed one’s life, gathering up the squares and sewing them together so they could become the crazy quilt representing the multi-facets of who we are. It was all about the story.

Doug’s workshop explained how to embed values into the process of storytelling. There were eight values that fell into two groups: Group A was the Primacy of Connection, and Group B was Respect for Our Amazing Minds. I just loved boiling down all of my Runic hopes and dreams and was able to see that these two factors were like my own security blanket. I was the one who needed connection and affirmation – this was exactly what I was looking for. I felt warmed to the core.

So I venture forth, one step at a time, one plant at a time, one rune stone at a time. I am confident with knowing that no matter what does or doesn’t happen, what evolves or simply sits still, all I have to do is show up.

Carol ThompsonCarol Thompson moved from the Mad River Valley in Vermont to Benicia, California on Christmas Day, 2014, in order to be close to the marina where her first grandchild and his family live on a 41′ sailboat.  A life-long learner, Carol has a BS in General Studies and holds certificates in Counseling & Human Relations, Non-Profit Management and will soon be certified in Introductory Transformative Language Arts.    Two of her main interests are the study of Runes  and the creation of beautiful miniature succulent gardens.   She has taught Introduction to Runes classes in Vermont, California and New Zealand.  A DNA test confirmed her Scandinavian ancestry.

Upcoming Class: Values of the Future Through Transformative Language Arts with Doug Lipman

Doug Lipman will be facilitating the upcoming online class, Values of the Future Through Transformative Language Arts beginning May 16th!

Doug is an incredible storyteller and facilitator and we are so excited to have him teach this class! Watch one of his terrific performances here:

About the class:

Our current economic, political, and social systems are serving fewer and fewer people, not to mention destroying the environment.

I don’t know what a future society will look like, but if it is to meet our human needs better than our current society does, I believe it needs to be formed with certain values in mind.

Fortunately, these values can be taught, not just through stories, songs, dances, and poems about the values, but also through the very processes of telling or creating stories, singing or creating songs, and so on. In other words, our artistic processes themselves can give people experiences that open them to values that are necessary for an improved society.

In this 6-week course, I’ll briefly lay out a theory of how values can be influenced, as well as the eight values I’ve chosen as “values of a future society.” I’ll introduce the values one at a time and give examples of processes from storytelling that support each value. Then I’ll help you identify and/or create processes that can give others experiences of each value, from your particular type of transformational language work.

Key to this course is inspiring each other to notice the transformative power of the creative processes. Together, we’ll engage in building an enlarging web of activities that can help people align themselves with currents that, I believe, will help move us toward a more just, supportive, and enlightened society.

Who should take this class:

Storytellers, fiction writers, narrative poets, songwriters, improvisational singers, dramatists, etc. – all who use language to help people imagine or convey their experience – especially those interested in teaching their art or discipline with an eye toward promoting generative values.

The course will be most helpful to those with enough experience in their work to have already developed some processes for doing and/or teaching their art/discipline. I define transformative language arts broadly. If you think your work might belong here, it likely does!

Register for this class!

About Doug Lipman:

In 1970, Doug Lipman was a struggling teacher of troubled adolescents. He had given up connecting with them when one day, by accident, he found himelf telling them a story. They responded! Ever since, he has pursued the transformative power of storytelling.

Over the decades, Doug has coached hundreds of people on their storytelling, writing, and recordings. He is the author of three books on storytelling (Improving Your Storytelling, The Storytelling Coach, and Storytelling Games), scores of published articles, and over 150 issues of his own email newsletters, including “eTips from the Storytelling Coach (http://StorytellingNewsletters.com).

A professional storyteller since 1976, Doug has performed and led workshops on three continents and led many online courses and webinars. His ongoing search for effective ways to teach the transformative power of storytelling has led to projects such as a new paradigm for coaching storytellers, an exploration of the seldom-noticed Hidden Storytelling Skills, and the pursuit of ways that storytelling and related arts can allow our true humanity to blossom.

Right Livelihood: In Search of Runes-Part 4

by Carol Thompson

Editor’s note: This is part 4 of an ongoing, 5 part blog chronicling the author’s journey with TLA.

Why me?

My family of origin was a quiet one. An average dinner meal looked like this: My father sat at one end of the table with my mother at the other end. My sister, Susan (one year older than me) and I sat on one side and brother Jon (5 years younger) was across from us. The meal was usually tasteless and dull, meatloaf, instant white rice and mushy vegetables from a can (remember the mix of lima beans, corn, green beans and little pieces of red pimento that nobody ever ate?). There was no lively chatter, no “how was your day?” recap, and if anyone did speak during the meal (…finish your milk, stop kicking your sister, what’s for dessert?…), my father would get mad (blow up) and some sort of chaos ensued.

It took many years of investigating the lives of my family, my parents and my grandparents before I became fully aware of why silence was preferable to bringing up any subject that could even be remotely construed as painful. Between some of the most horrific events that could befall a human being (the death of my father’s mother in childbirth, a suicide, the family secret of incest, untreated PTSD from fighting the Japs in the South Pacific, mental illness treated with electro-shock therapy, Parkinson’s Disease and kidney failure, it seemed like there just wasn’t any uplifting conversation that could bring joy to the dinner table. So, we just ate, drank and politely asked whether we could be excused.

I eventually learned to talk on my own and through the aid of teachers, friends, associates at work and an occasional therapist. I was an avid reader and writer of journals. By the time I was “grown up”, I found education held the key to finding out about words and how best to use them. One of the most valuable lessons that I learned from my parents was “how not to be”. Thankfully, I was blessed with a great sense of humor, a limitless imagination and the courage to try just about anything.

During the summer of 2016, I was living in California, part way through my Transformative Language Arts certificate program. In order to complete my studies, I needed to attend one conference and saw that the yearly Power of Words event was being held at Ferry Beach Park in Saco, Maine. My parents lived in Saco for 20 years (moving there after I left home in 1969), and they were both buried in the big cemetery at the center of town. I hadn’t visited their graves in a long time, so this seemed to be one good incentive to make a cross-country trip and attend the conference!

By this time I had already become invested in studying runes and was hoping to find a way to transform my “hobby” into a “profession”, so the workshops I attended had a lot to do with paving the driveway toward my future goal of finding “Right Livelihood”. I learned about “Laughter, Breath and Joy: Communal Communication”, “Your Livelihood is a Road Trip, Your Life Is the Terrain”, and, “The Values of the Future Through Storytelling”, facilitated by Doug Lipman. It was during Doug’s workshop that I found a great metaphoric vision for one of the key parts of my runic education – the Rubber Duckie Race – and how it could be used as a tool for storytelling.

The Rubber Duckie Race is used as a fundraising event where people pay money and are given temporary custody of a cute little yellow rubber duck. The race is held in a flowing river where all of the ducks are held captive behind a floating barrier. There are hundreds of identical ducks, with their unique number painted on their bottoms, crowded together, bumping each other gently, some facing forward and some backwards, waiting for the starting gun to fire. The future is filled with dangers: rapids, rocks, shallows, widow-maker tree limbs, sandbars, traffic jams, and swirling eddies, and when the barrier goes up, it’s the luck of the draw and the survival of the fastest as a stampede of floating little yellow bodies surges forward from the starting gate.

The spectators on the shoreline can participate in the race in several ways: they can hoot and holler, they can jump in the water and create waves to help break up a log-jam, and they can even blow on a duck in the hope of changing its speed or direction. But, and the rules are firm on this matter, they can never pick up or ever touch a duck.

And it was those rules that helped me with looking at my Rune Mastery in a different way. Doug said that physically touching, or externally directing someone’s values (their space) was against the rules. I was glad to see a definitive rule, and saw how I needed to avoid a direct, hands-on approach. I could see how making waves could eventually influence one’s direction, perhaps imperceptibly at first. By simply being a participant, by listening to someone else’s story, I am “blowing on” their values and experiences, subtly reinforcing certain values and increasing the likelihood that those values will move in a particular direction. Over time I could change the course of a whole fleet of ducks.

After the conference was over and my mind had absorbed a richness of knowledge, after I stopped by and paid a visit to my parents, and once I had a chance to pull together all of the new information that would carry me on to my next incarnation, I was glad that the runes had chosen me, and felt my calling stronger than ever.

Carol ThompsonCarol Thompson moved from the Mad River Valley in Vermont to Benicia, California on Christmas Day, 2014, in order to be close to the marina where her first grandchild and his family live on a 41′ sailboat.  A life-long learner, Carol has a BS in General Studies and holds certificates in Counseling & Human Relations, Non-Profit Management and will soon be certified in Introductory Transformative Language Arts.    Two of her main interests are the study of Runes  and the creation of beautiful miniature succulent gardens.   She has taught Introduction to Runes classes in Vermont, California and New Zealand.  A DNA test confirmed her Scandinavian ancestry.

Transformative Storytelling For Social Change

Transformative Storytelling For Social Change is an organization that creates digital stories to help create social transformation. Their mission and process is fascinating and I highly recommend checking them out!

“Individual stories have certain strengths—they connect the audience through personal experience.  A limitation of individual stories is that they do not always explain the particular context of the story, or situate the stories in relation to wider political issues.  Collective storytelling often does not have the same emotional resonance found in individual stories, but it is a very good format for situating questions and problems in relation to a context.  Collective storytelling can include elements of individual stories, but can also directly address overarching themes and questions.

Digital stories can be used as a springboard for a participatory video process, and as a way of moving from very personal, individual work, towards a group storytelling project. Central to this shift is a process of reflection and analysis of digital stories by the storytellers themselves.”

Watch Throwing a Rock at the Moon a documentary of this integrated visual storytelling process using visual power analysis:


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/81848477″>IDS THROWING A ROCK AT THE MOON</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/mdpinicijative”>MDP Inicijative Doboj</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Right Livelihood – In Search of Runes: Part 2

by Carol Thompson

Editor’s note: This is part 2 of an ongoing, 5 part blog chronicling the author’s journey with TLA.

What shall I be when I grow up?

I am 66 years old and still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. One of the main reasons I decided to jump into the Transformative Language Arts program was because the Power of Words has always held great importance to me. I have stacks and stacks of journals safely stored in a couple of boxes in my sister-in-law’s attic in Vermont. When I decided to sell most of my worldly belongings and move to California several years ago, my journals were in the small “must keep” pile. I am hoping to re-visit them some day and write a memoir about the forty-plus years that I lived in the Mad River Valley, a small community of 2500 rugged souls, revisiting the homes I built, renovated, owned or rented, my jobs and the people who became my friends and work-mates, the close relationships I experienced with people (many of them long gone), and the wonderful (and frequently challenging) times spent raising my two daughters, primarily as a single parent.

I believe that if there is ever a “who has had the most jobs” contest, I would be high on the list. I’ve worked for architects, cross country ski centers, caterers, solar power fabricators, Habitat for Humanity and the National Wildlife Federation. I’ve been a house painter, office manager of a small construction company (24 years!), a census taker, bread baker, sign maker, greenhouse laborer and a short-order cook at a ski area. I was the head employee for a kids’ kayak camp, the executive director of a non-profit recreational trails association and the Naturalist Program’s Winter Snowshoe Outings director. I started three different businesses: Valley Community Camp (summer camp), Renewal School (classes in personal growth) and Out Back Tracks (snowshoe/animal tracking outings). I am currently in the process of starting one more new enterprise, called Sticks and Stones. This is the one that will be taking my TLA knowledge and practice and transforming it into my next, newest profession as I become Rune Master, a Teacher of Runes. My study of Runes is a perfect tool for discovering Right Livelihood, and will prove to be a creative means of making a living as well as creating a life and assisting others in their similar quests.

For those of you who do not know about runes, I invite you to google the word and you will come up with a wealth of information. The study of runes has been a continuing project of mine for over twenty years, and their key component is the Power of Words. As I worked my way through the different workshops in the past two years, the final class was actually the first one that most people start with – the Foundations Course – focusing on TLA: in Service, as a Catalyst, as a Right Livelihood, and as a way to put teachings into Action. I found myself appreciating the focus of this class more as a summary and collecting vessel than as a beginning. Each topic of this class provided me with great relevancy as I revisited notes from my other three classes and the one conference as the meat of my education and the Foundations class seemed to be the frosting that provided the skills to put my Plans and Visions into action.

All of my Foundations classes included lively discussions, written and via group chats. I found that one of the most important pieces of these discussions was the establishment of “Ground Rules”. Since my new profession does not include a guide book, I appreciated the rules and will keep them in mind when working with new clients and new groups. When I meet someone for the first time, I will be able to witness them and listen carefully with my full attention. I can assure them that whatever happens during our interaction, they can trust that I will maintain confidentiality and allow them the freedom to experiment with options and interpretations when possible. I have integrated these important words of wisdom into my introduction: “I am not a therapist and sometimes the nature of personal work can open wounds. Please let me know if you would like to contact a professional to turn to if needed.”

One of my personal introductory papers states: “At a time when the written language was used by only a few, runes represented a way to share information verbally and visually. Used as a tool for clarification and illumination, one’s personal story will be brought to light while navigating the path of the runes.” Everyone is different and no two stories are ever the same.

The study and practice of runes combines two main components: Story Telling and Listening. Human relationships depend on the connections that create society and knowing how to interpret the symbols on runic stones is one tool that provides a key that can open the door to self-discovery.

Carol ThompsonCarol Thompson moved from the Mad River Valley in Vermont to Benicia, California on Christmas Day, 2014, in order to be close to the marina where her first grandchild and his family live on a 41′ sailboat.    A life-long learner, Carol has a BS in General Studies and holds certificates in Counseling & Human Relations, Non-Profit Management and will soon be certified in Introductory Transformative Language Arts.    Two of her main interests are the study of Runes  and the creation of beautiful miniature succulent gardens.   She has taught Introduction to Runes classes in Vermont, California and New Zealand.  A DNA test confirmed her Scandinavian ancestry.

Stories with Spirit: Regi Carpenter

Regi Carpenter will be teaching the upcoming online class, Stories with Spirit: Creativity as a Spiritual Practice beginning April 4th.

About the Class:

“At the heart of one’s creativity lies a desire to explore and express the exquisite power of the present experience, feeling, sensation and belief. This class will focus on strengthening and recognizing the intuitive sense of the creative process without judgment or restriction. We’ll play with writing meditations, reflections, and written and spoken word pieces that gently guide us to who we are now, in this moment.

Through writing meditations, personal reflections, readings, videos and on-line shared discussions, we will explore how our creativity brings us into the present by bearing witness to the sacred within one another, the world and ourselves.

We’ll focus on the use of images, metaphors, ritual, voice, and a variety of writing structures to create vivid pieces in and outside of class. Beginning and experienced writers in any genre are welcome!”  

Regi is a phenomenal storyteller whose captivating presence can be felt in this powerful TEDx presentation:

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to connect to the soul of your creativity with an incredible facilitator guiding the way!

Register here

About Regi:

For over twenty years Regi Carpenter has been bringing songs and stories to audiences of all ages throughout the world in school, theaters, libraries, at festivals, conferences and in people’s back yards. An award winning performer, Regi has toured her solo shows and workshops in theaters, festivals and schools, nationally and internationally.

Regi is the youngest daughter in a family that pulsates with contradictions: religious and raucous, tender but terrible, unfortunate yet irrepressible. These tales celebrate the glorious and gut – wrenching lives of four generations of Carpenter s raised on the Saint Lawrence River in Clayton, New York. Tales of underwater tea parties, drowning lessons and drives to the dump give voice to multi-generations of family life in a small river town with an undercurrent.

 

TLA Class Teacher Profile: Jacinta V. White

Jacinta will be teaching the upcoming online class, Becoming Undone: Unpacking Life’s Weight with Writing and Poetry  starting April 4th, 2018.

Jacinta V. White is a published poet and a 2017 recipient of the Duke Energy Regional Artist grant. She has been facilitating group and individual poetry writing sessions — using poetry as healing — for more than 15 years, through her company, The Word Project. Just three years ago, Jacinta launched Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing — an international online journal publishing poetry, creative nonfiction and photography. Knowing from personal experience the healing balm poetry provides, Jacinta is committed to assisting others and expanding the conversation on art and healing.

See Jacinta’s experience with the TLA network’s One City One Prompt series

Read more about Jacinta

About Jacinta’s Upcoming Class: 

Becoming Undone: Unpacking Life’s Weight with Writing and Poetry 

“This class has been designed for and offered to those who feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges or those who feel too stuck to make a plan for something more.

Each week, participants will be given a poem and prompts that will gently guide them in journaling and poetry writing exercises (and optional “supporting exercises” for those who want to go deeper into the work).

By using creativity of writing, participants will begin to identify what weight needs to be unpacked and how, and begin to re-pack what is most important and meaningful to them.

This series is designed for those who are wanting to work through what “weight” might be holding them from living a fuller life. Those who feel stressed out and in need of clarity. Those who are burden and are looking for a place (internally) to process life (external) demands and to “find” themselves. And, ideally, those who are willing to go a beyond the surface and dig deeper into the balance and changes their life needs in order to live a life they were created to live.”

Register for Jacinta’s class here

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