What Some of Our Teachers are Reading Now…

Following up on last month’s post about what our staff and board members have been reading, we asked some of the writers, editors, poets, and facilitators who teach for the TLA Network what they are currently reading, and why. We thought you might enjoy getting more of a glimpse into our teachers’ worlds – see their selections, listed below.

We would love to hear what YOU have been reading – share your latest favorite reads with us, and we might just feature you and your favorite book(s) in an upcoming newsletter, or as part of a Network book club! We would love to hear from you!

Jennifer Browdy, PhD – professor, editor, community organizer & group facilitator.

LSD and the Mind of the Universe: Diamonds from Heaven, Chris Bache.
The author is a distinguished professor emeritus of world religions, who spent 20 years researching the nature of reality and metaphysics by taking himself on more than 70 high-dose, carefully set and monitored LSD explorations, with fascinating results.

The Quantum Revelation: A Radical Synthesis of Science & Spirituality, by Paul Levy.
Levy has done an outstanding job of bringing the insights of quantum theory, Jungian depth psychology and mystical spiritual traditions like the Kabbalah to bear on foundational questions of reality and human consciousness.

The Radiant Heart of the Cosmos: Compassion Teachings for Our Time, by Penny Gill.
Gill, a retired professor of political science and longtime dean of the college at Mt. Holyoke College, unexpectedly began to channel the voices of two Tibetan deities, Manjushri and Kwan Yin, who taught her about the “tsunami of Spirit” that is accelerating the pace of change on Earth at this time, and how we can learn to keep our psychic balance and ride with it, rather than getting swept up in fear and resistance. This book, written in three voices, tells Gill’s personal journey as well as relating the conversations she’s had with Manjushri and Kwan Yin. 

Lisa Chu, M.D. – multidisciplinary artist, illuminator, and community catalyst.

The Apology by V (formerly Eve Ensler).
The concept and content of this volume — an imagined apology written to the author in the voice of her long-dead father — are a healing salve to those among us who are still searching for the roots of the harmful, invasive, or violent behaviors of the ones who proclaimed to love us. V’s cleansing work speaks to the heart of anyone who has spent time inquiring into, deconstructing, and reconstructing internal narratives in an attempt to liberate from the invisible yet unmistakable tendrils of these violent inheritances.  I take this book in small sips, returning to pick it up again after walking with it in my belly for awhile.

Sara Berman’s Closet by Maira Kalman.
This is a short illustrated volume that I didn’t expect to have such an impact on me. At first I flipped quickly through it, but as I neared the end I realized there was a twist, an unexpected turn inside me that planted a seed for reimagining a definition of a well-lived life. Everything by Maira Kalman astonishes and delights me, but this was an added surprise and life lesson inspired by the story of her mother’s closet.

Remarkable Diaries: The World’s Greatest Diaries, Journals, Notebooks, & Letters by Kate Williams.
This one sits on my art desk and reminds me of the long lineage of thinkers – artists, explorers, writers, inventors – whose notebook practices have been reproduced as images with historical context here. I feel like I am in the company of my people whenever I leaf through these pages. I feel grateful for the existence of these notebooks, their preservation, and the fact of the existence of the minds and hands which made them. To me these are as much a product of their lives as any final works published. They are each a piece of multidimensional evidence of the uniqueness of creative process and the shared medium of the notebook across centuries of human existence.

Kimberly Lee – Writer, Editor, Workshop Facilitator.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin.
This book’s  compelling premise was hard to resist: Four young siblings visit a woman who can supposedly predict the exact date of a person’s death, and as the characters move into and through adulthood, we learn how this knowledge affects their choices and behavior in all aspects of their lives. 

Goddesses of Self-Care: 30 Divine Feminine Archetypes To Guide You, by Stephanie Anderson Ladd.
This nourishing workbook offers a wealth of information on a wide variety of feminine archetypes from cultures around the world, inviting readers to harness the wisdom and ways of these entities to craft a self-care strategy through reflection, journaling, art making, and other activities. 

Infinitum by Tim Fielder.
A gorgeous graphic novel that begins in ancient Africa, then moves through history to the present and beyond, spanning the globe as the main character, Aja Oba, seeks to destroy the curse that binds him while finding love and purpose. 

Robbyn Layne McGill – writer, editor & producer.

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, by Douglas Carlton Abrams, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
I’m actually listening to the audio version of this book while I do my daily chores – a simple practice for elevating the mundane into a joyful experience. Two friends, who also happen to be two of the world’s most influential spiritual leaders, come together for a weeklong event to share their thoughts on living with joy, even in the face of adversity. In the audio version, two actors read the parts of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond, as the writer weaves his insights around them. It’s a thought-provoking, inspiring, entertaining, and uplifting read (or listen). 

Falling in Honey, by Jennifer Barclay.
Inspiring for aspiring memoir writers, and anyone who loves the Greek islands. This book gets some mixed reviews as far as the quality of writing goes, but I am still putting it here for two reasons. One, I’m a huge fan of memoirs about travel and love, and this one is an entertaining story about the British author’s experience of discovering and moving to a tiny Greek island in the Dodecanese (one that I just visited, and also fell in love with), with a twist. 

And two, you can learn a lot from the way other memoirists craft their stories – good, bad, and in-between. This was only Barclay’s second book, and she continues to write, improve, and follow her creative heart, so I find that very inspiring.

Storycraft, by Jack Hart.
This book brings readers into the process of developing nonfiction narratives by revealing the stories behind the stories. Hart shares tips, anecdotes, and recommendations he forged during his decades-long career in journalism, with examples that draw from magazine essays, book-length nonfiction narratives, documentaries, and radio programs. A great resource but also a fascinating, fun read. It also greatly improved my ability to write blogs, newsletters, and articles for my clients.

Angie Ebba – Writer, Activist, and Performance Artist.

Odes to Lithium by Shira Erlich.
This collection of poetry looks at the author’s mental health and her relationship to the medications she takes. I love the raw honesty and vulnerability in many of the poems in this book, and the way that we see the struggles and triumphs that can come with learning how to navigate mental illness.

The Boy With a Bird in His Chest by Emme Lund.
I loved how this novel tackled the question of what it means to be different, the cost of hiding ourselves, and the courage it takes to show who we are, even when people don’t like it. This book has great representation with a variety of LGBTQIA main characters. Despite the book being full of surreal elements, I found myself completely believing them, and looking for the birds that may be living in the chests of others.

Marianela Medrano – Psychotherapist, Writer, and Poet.

What the Dead Want Me To Know, by E. Janet Aalfs 
These poems have a life of their own and speak of justice and inclusivity while whistle-blowing the rich old boys who “behind our backs launder money/fumbling hands in drawers the same old way….”  In this collection, lyricism meets reality, crudeness, and injustice with the mastery of great poetry. Aalfs knows that “not looking away” is the “given prize.” 

She understands the relationship between body and mind as a continuum. Her white body crosses a black one, breathing in the same lines, knowing that “budding bruises” come up from the breathing ground… healing. She prays and revises her prayer, asking for calm, giving it to us on each line that breathes now and forever.

Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer, by Jamie Figueroa. 
Jamie Figueroa gets us into the world of two siblings rooting meaning and a sense of self in this brilliant and well-plotted novel. They meet at the intersection of humor, sorrow, and loss that crosses generations. One can say it is a novel that puts generational trauma into perspective.

Riham Adly – Writer and Editor 

Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us, by Lynn Mundell.
The collection explores those tender moments in the lives of women and young girls who could not embrace or explore their sexuality. They need to fit but they could not belong. Coming from a culture where women are treated as lesser beings,  I felt intrigued when I realized women struggled everywhere. 

One-Sentence Journal: Short Poems and Essays from the World at Large by Chris La Tray.
This is one of those books that I return to over and over as a writer. It is both touchstone and inspiration, reminding me of the power and pleasure of staying curious and writing down what I notice. 

The Darling Dahlias and the Red Hot Poker by Susan Wittig Albert.
A delicious summer read where the characters feel so real I could pop next door for some lemonade and a chat, the setting and history is well researched and accessible and the mystery stays a mystery until the end. I’ve never been disappointed by anything, fiction or nonfiction, that this author writes and she is prolific!

Tracie Nichols – Facilitator, Copyeditor, and Poet. 

One-Sentence Journal: Short Poems and Essays from the World at Large by Chris La Tray.
This is one of those books that I return to over and over as a writer. It is both touchstone and inspiration, reminding me of the power and pleasure of staying curious and writing down what I notice. 

The Darling Dahlias and the Red Hot Poker by Susan Wittig Albert.
A delicious summer read where the characters feel so real I could pop next door for some lemonade and a chat, the setting and history is well researched and accessible and the mystery stays a mystery until the end. I’ve never been disappointed by anything, fiction or nonfiction, that this author writes and she is prolific!

How Listening with my Body (and Writing about it) Keeps me Resilient, by Tracie Nichols

As a child, I was convinced the big old white pine tree next to our home and the puffy clouds in the sky were telling each other the most amazing stories. I thought that if I could just figure out the right way to listen, I’d be able to hear them.

Almost every day I climbed that pine tree. I was so determined and so achingly curious. I can remember feeling as if I was trying to open my senses like a sunflower—all bright petals following sunlight—so I could catch cloud stories and tree tales. Arms wrapped around the sticky trunk, right ear pressed to smooth bark, left ear tilted to the sky, nose filled with resin and wet air, I became a tiny girl antennae on a wind-swayed tree.

This was my first experience of listening with my body.

Did I finally hear the tree and cloud stories? I did! Even better, I co-created countless tree and cloud and girl stories, helping me realize that I was somehow part of the green world surrounding me. This was in the years before other people’s disbelief eroded my trust in the stories my body heard through my senses.

The author as a teenager – photo courtesy of Tracie Nichols

Now, years later, after navigating the saw-toothed gift of recovering from sexual trauma, I’m again listening with my body. I regularly sense the conversations happening in the ecosystem where I live: trees and clouds, late summer grasses and streams, murders of crows and chimes of wrens, the boom of bullfrogs and creak of katydids deep in the night. And, if I’m willing to let my body transmute sound, rhythm, and gesture into words on a page, the act of writing what I notice restores me, refilling resilience depleted by the intensity of the times through which we are living.

Sometimes I simply notice deeply. Sometimes, if life is happening with unusual vigor or I’m feeling my resilience slipping, I may choose to notice with a specific kind of nourishment in mind.

For example, when the pandemic was grinding into its ninth month, I started a practice of noticing and writing about what I called “defiant joy.” I needed to remember that joy was still sparking in the world despite the pall of constant fear and worry.

Sycamores in Winter – photo by Tracie Nichols

Defiant Joy #1
today
there is joy
in noticing
that the curled yellow
sycamore leaves still
rustle with the same dry

welcoming-winter song
they’ve murmured every
autumn for the
past twenty-five
seasons.
that
while all
things change
(some in a breath)
some follow the
slow arc of time
set by mountains
and spinning
planets.
life’s balance
flows tidally.
our lives
are invitations
to noticing
truth.
pain.
beauty.
wonder.

The key to making listening with your body a nourishing practice is understanding how deeply you notice now, and how effectively it supports you in staying resilient. Then you can consider if you would like to change established patterns or cultivate expanded noticing to deepen your well of resilience and engagement.

Autumn Creek – photo by Tracie Nichols

In my upcoming six-week course through the Transformative Language Arts Network, Listening with Our Bodies: Writing Toward Resilience, we will be exploring our own noticing patterns—the ways we notice and what we notice—through multi-sensory exercises and writing invitations. This class will benefit word artists of all kinds: facilitators, coaches, counselors, activists, educators, and explorers. It will serve anyone looking to connect more deeply with the source of their creativity and/or the source of their resilience. It will nourish people working to make change in their communities, who have been stretched thin by life, or who are at a crossroads in their personal growth explorations. I’d love to write with you!

Tracie Nichols, M.A. writes poetry and facilitates writing groups from her small desk under the wide reach of two very old and very loved Sycamore trees in southeastern Pennsylvania. She’s a Transformative Language Artist in process, and is fascinated by the potential of language to heal and transform people and communities. Putting her master’s degree in Transformative Learning and Change to good use over the past two decades, Tracie has designed and facilitated many virtual and in-person lifelong learning experiences on a truly wide range of topics for small groups. She’s just beginning her foray into submitting poetry for publication and has already accumulated a healthy pile of rejections to her few joyfully celebrated acceptances. Learn more at tracienichols.com.

How Pictures Heal – Expressive Writing from Personal Photos, with Kelly DuMar

WOMAN WHO WEARS HER MOON HEART FULL ©Kelly DuMar

. . . A long time we were separate,
O Earth,
but now you have returned to me.

~ Elaine Equi

We all take, save, and inherit photographs of the people, places, and things that bring meaning, mystery, hope, and connection into our lives. In my upcoming 6-week writing webinar for the Transformative Language Arts Network, we will write from personal photos as a means of restoring meaning, purpose, hope, and resilience during and after loss. Particularly, throughout this time of the pandemic, unexpected losses, without meaningful closure, have mounted for many people. TLA practitioners and writers at all levels of experience will imaginatively encounter personal photos sparked by questions that generate remarkable and uplifting writing experiences.

If you’ve ever kept a diary or journal, it’s likely you know what expressive writing is–– and how this spontaneous writing about your feelings serves your emotional well-being in a variety of ways. Expressive writing is a way to get in touch with the “ideal listener” or the “silver lining voice” within all of us. The imagined listener who lets us express our feelings, hurts, dilemmas and joys, without judgment––or editing. And, because we write what we need to express without controls of grammar, form or outcome, we transform feelings, gain insights, and reduce our stress and anxiety. When we practice expressive writing in a supportive workshop, we also gain powerful feelings of connection with others, and the recognition that we are not alone. In fact, our stories and experiences can help others heal and grow.

Photographs fill boxes in our attics and cover our walls. We store them on our computers and cell phones and share them instantly on social media. We’re taking and sharing more pictures than ever before. Why? Because our photos show what we care about and hope to preserve, what moves and delights us. Our photos capture the people, places and memories that bring beauty and meaning into our lives. Writing from personal photos brings insight, healing, and zest into your life––whether you consider yourself a “writer” or not.

One young man wrote from a photo of himself and his brother as a child posing in the arms of their mother. As soon as he began writing, he wondered who had taken the photo. Ah. He realized it was the last photo his father had taken before leaving the family. His expressive writing led to this awakening: I was able to not only write something I’m proud of, but to process and communicate emotional difficulties I hadn’t been able to find words for in years.

Photo-inspired expressive writing revives our spirit. Long-dormant parts of our lives, places we’ve traveled to, people we’ve loved and lost come alive on the page. As the psychologist James Hillman brilliantly said, the gift of an image is that it provides a place to watch your soul. Expressive writing leads to re-discovering a zest for living. Deep conversations are sparked by showing, writing and sharing who, and what, we love. And, because listeners are truly interested, we feel a renewed enthusiasm, energy and sense of connection. As the author Martin Prechtel writes:

Grief expressed out loud for someone we have lost, or a country or home we have lost, is in itself the greatest praise we could ever give them. Grief is praise, because it is the natural way love honors what it misses.

AUNT MARION , from the private collection of Kelly DuMar

My own photo-inspired creative writing was sparked by this picture. I was a twenty-two-year-old college student when the aunt I’d looked up to and adored since childhood needed me by her side. Caring for Marion as she died took me out of my comfort zone––and changed my life. So, when I saw my young, adventuresome aunt in my mother’s scrapbook, I asked her if I could keep it. This photo of Marion, captured in this archetypal pose of the archer, like the goddess Diana, stretching her bow, aiming her arrow, captivated me. My expressive writing helped me unpack all the truth, beauty and healing it held.

What I love most about photo-inspired writing is that it engages us with the profound beauty of our ordinary lives. We discover what I call The Secret Reveal––a revelation––something we have been unable to express that leads us to a new way of knowing ourselves or others and changes our response to the community and the world.

About the Webinar Format
This 6-week class is hosted on the online teaching platform, Wet Ink, and on Zoom. The Wet Ink platform allows you to log in on you own time to post your writing from the prompts and get to know others through their writing by adding your comments. The day before class begins, you’ll receive an invitation to join Wet Ink. There are no browser requirements, and Wet Ink is mobile-friendly. Additionally, you will have three LIVE webinars on Zoom to discuss your writing and interact in real time with other participants (scheduled during the first week according to best availability of participants).

Who Should Take This Class
This course will serve writers and TLA practitioners at all levels of experience, as well as anyone interested in personal and artistic development. Counseling professionals and para-professionals will find dynamic creative outlets for personal and professional development. Writers and artists with an interest in exploring the healing aspects of personal photos may also be quite interested.

About Kelly DuMar
Kelly is a poet, playwright, workshop facilitator, and certified psychodramatist from the Boston area who has been leading creative writing workshops for decades. She’s author of three poetry chapbooks, and her fourth is upcoming from Lily Press, 2023. A producer of high-quality literary and transformative arts programming, Kelly currently serves on the Board of the Transformative Language Arts Network, and produces the Open Mic Writer Series for the Journal of Expressive Writing. Her past board leaderships include the International Women’s Writing Guild, and Playwright’s Platform, Boston. She blogs her nature photos and creative writing from the Charles River (where she lives) daily, for the past six years, at #NewThisDay.

The Messenger, a guest post by TLAF Certificate student Sharon Bippus

Editor’s note: Sharon is a student in the Transformative Language Arts Foundations Certificate program. This blog post is one of five reflection posts she will be submitting as part of the certificate requirements.

Credit: Sharon Bippus

To be seen is something that I have struggled with since childhood. Growing up in a dysfunctional family, I was the middle child sandwiched between an older sister and a younger brother, my mother’s obvious favorite. I was the second girl when I don’t think my mother even wanted the first one. I felt unloved and neglected. Feeling so shy and awkward, it felt safer to remain hidden and keep my distance.

Fast forward to the present, and I continue to work on this issue. To be sure, I have made progress, and my creativity has played a large role in my healing. My art, whether it is photography or mixed media or collage, is where I can safely express my emotions. It’s where I can relax and play. It’s how I can give back to that little girl inside me that never felt safe or wanted.

Nowadays, I find my creative outlet expanding into writing which is a new way of being seen. While taking Kelly DuMar’s “How Pictures Heal” course with TLAN, I had the opportunity to examine layers of myself, which allowed me to both see myself more clearly and to be seen by others. It was in this course that a photograph of a cardinal taken at a nearby nature sanctuary helped me uncover a revealing message about myself.

Read more: The Messenger, a guest post by TLAF Certificate student Sharon Bippus

For the first assignment in the course, Kelly directed us to select one of our own photographs to use as a writing prompt. I had no idea which of my personal photos to choose, and I spent hours scrolling through the pictures on my phone. A few of them whispered to me, but none of them really jumped out. Then – serendipitously – I was checking one of my social media accounts and saw that a woman, whom I don’t know personally, had tagged me in a photo. She is an artist and a friend of friends, and I follow her on social media. Intrigued, I looked at her comment to me. She had taken one of the photos that I had recently posted on Instagram and used it as a model for her watercolor painting. A thrill of excitement went through me, and my mouth hung open in surprise. Someone who works as an artist had been inspired by my photograph! I was so excited, so flattered, so joyful! 

This was the picture. This was the picture that I needed to explore in Kelly’s class – a bright red cardinal staring straight at me, seeds protruding from his beak making it look like he has buck teeth. He saw me and tried to make me laugh with his fake teeth. Then Sue (the artist!) saw my work, and by doing so, I felt as if she saw me. She saw the beauty that I try to capture and share with the world.

Some people say that birds are messengers, and I believe that is true. This is what my cardinal told me:

People notice me and see my beauty right away.  There’s no hiding it.

I can fly.  I can soar.  I am free.

Nature is my home.  The trees shelter me.  The wind guides me.  The rain cleanses me.

I am nourished here in this sanctuary.  I am bold and determined.  I can look you right in the eye, and I can make you laugh.

Sharon Bippus, PhD, is an ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) instructor who finds inspiration in the intersection of creativity, mystery, and synchronicity. As an undergraduate, she was awarded two scholarships to study in Germany which fueled her desire to learn more about the diverse world we live in. Since that time, she has taught English in Slovakia and China and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Western Russia. She currently teaches ESOL at a community college in the suburbs of Houston, Texas where she works with students from all over the world. In her free time, she enjoys mixed media, collage, and photography and has received training in trauma-informed expressive arts and nature-based therapeutic practices. She is a SoulCollage® facilitator, a Veriditas-trained labyrinth facilitator, and a student in the Haden Institute’s Dream Work Program.

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Spotlight on the Board: Empowerment Coach Jade Eby

Writing coach, community builder and author Jade Eby is a TLAN Board member, and the chair of the 2021 Power of Words Conference Committee. We were excited to sit down with Jade to talk about her work as a creative empowerment advocate, her creative community, and what she hopes to bring to the TLA Network.

You call yourself a creative empowerment advocate, can you tell us a little more about what that means?

Yes! Ever since I was a little girl, creativity has been an instrumental part of my life. I’ve used creativity as part of my trauma recovery journey, and I’ve used creativity to help hundreds of other individuals find their voices and tell their stories.

I strongly believe that when a person can get in touch with their creative side and then lean into it — they are able to fully step into an empowered state of being. I feel like that’s my life’s purpose, actually. To help others realize the inherent power and creativity they already have inside of them. I empower individuals to become empowered.

This is the main reason I created my digital community.

Can you talk about your community a little more? What role does it play? Who is it for?

I like to say that my Creative Empowerment Community is really a sanctuary for creatives. It’s a small but mighty community that encourages, supports, and empowers creatives to create. But what’s really amazing about it is that we get to come together as our authentic and whole selves. Members come from many walks of life, but we share a common passion of being creative.

There are many wonderful online communities out there to learn how to be creative, but I haven’t found many communities that embrace the actual living as a creative. The trials and tribulations that come with that. There’s more to living a creative life than just creating and that’s really where the benefit of this community comes in.

We come together as a family and work through the highs and lows of this creative life we’re living, as a community. It’s really beautiful! And it fits in with my work at TLA network so well.

Mock-up description of Jade Eby’s Creative Empowerment Community .

How does supporting the TLA Network connect to the work you are doing?

What drew me to the TLA Network to begin with was that same sense of community and connection that I felt was missing from my life. When I understood the mission and goal of the TLA Network, I knew I wanted to be a part of the organization on a deeper level because the work is so important. Connecting creativity to our social justice activism and making change is one of the most beautiful ways to use the gifts we’ve been given.

When I was asked to chair the conference for the 2021 Power of Words Conference, I was elated because it puts everything I stand for to work!

How amazing to be able to help spearhead a conference where we lift up diverse voices and stories. How amazing to be able to show other creatives that we can build a safe and supportive community that will honor what everyone has to say. Being part of this conference is another form of empowerment to me, and as you know, I’m all about empowerment!

Jade Eby has dedicated her career to empowering others to find their voice. As a creative empowerment advocate, Jade specializes in expressive writing + journaling, writing fiction, and creative writing as a healing modality. She is certified in trauma recovery coaching, group facilitation, and workshops for journaling. She earned her B.A. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Iowa. You can find more information about her and her programs at www.jadeeby.com

Why Write to this Moment? By Joanna Tebbs Young, MA-TLA

The story we make of this moment becomes the life we lead.
~Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story. 

“I’ve run out of words! We need new words. The strongest words.”

My friend and I were texting back and forth about the latest NPR news alert to light up our phones. It would have been a much better conversation in person, far more satisfying to laugh together instead of trying to find the emoji that most accurately expresses our level of gobsmack, of anger, of despair. 

But that’s where so many of us are right now: stuck at home and stuck for words to express the inexpressible. 

So, I write. 

I write to make sense of it all, to search for a semblance of meaning in the midst of the madness.

And I read. 

I read the words of others to find solace in similar experiences, in our shared humanity, and in the connection established through empathy. To share our words beyond ourselves is to cultivate compassion and create community.

Two years ago at TLAN’s Power of Words conference, Storyteller, Activist, and Founder & CEO of #MeWe International, Mohsin Mohi Ud Din, gave a presentation called “Storytelling as a Tool for Healing and Community-Building.” He told the crowded room why he believes in the power of storytelling: “The stories we tell ourselves shape us and how we interact with the world and others.” Healing cannot happen in isolation, he said. We need each other—we need to hear each other’s stories. 

And thus the raison d’etre of “Writing to this Moment: Taking Uncertainty to the Page,” a journey from notebook to narrative, from the personal to the public. 

Over the four weeks of this class we will record experiences and express feelings with prompts as a “trail-head,” then learn some basic creative nonfiction methods to turn our writing into a crafted personal narrative, which may be shared with others in the class—maybe beyond!

Because we need new words. We need your words. In this moment. Because as Toni Morrison reminded us in 2015:

This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.

Joanna Tebbs Young, MA-TLA is author of the award-winning biography of Vermont historian, Lilian Baker Carlisle, and has both a memoir and personal essay collection in the works. She holds a BA in History, an MA in Transformative Language Arts, and is currently an MFA-Creative Nonfiction student at Goddard College. A writing coach since 2009, Joanna is also a facilitator for Vermont Humanities Council and teaches online for the Transformative Language Arts Network. Historical articles written during her time as columnist and feature writer for the Rutland Reader can be found at Rutland When…  Joanna lives in Rutland, Vermont with her husband and two teenagers.

October Notes

Dear TLA Community:

We are pleased to announce a series of fall offerings geared towards bringing our community together. The series, TLA in Action: Connection, Collaboration & Communityis designed to showcase some of the important work TLA Network members are doing across a variety of fronts, while offering affordable options that are welcoming and inclusive of all. The series will culminate in a special evening of poets, storytellers, and other TLA artists sharing their work in early December. We hope you will join us in celebrating our community’s many strengths and talents!  

Art matters, and art matters especially in this time. Art helps us be part of the world, process what is happening, understand, grieve, and bring people together towards collective action. As ever, we strongly believe that cultivating a powerful voice in this complicated, challenging time, and using that voice for the greater good, deeply matters. 

Find your voice, make meaningful art, and work for the greater good. 

To the Power of Words,  
Hanne Weedon
Managing Director, TLA Network

Facilitators for a Better World: Meet the Teachers

Facilitation: Roots & Blossoms of Facilitation with Joy Roulier Sawyer & Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg sets sail October 28 – December 15 (with a week off for Thanksgiving).

This six-week online class also includes video-conferencing with people well-versed in facilitating workshops, classes, meetings, coaching, and
other sessions for change, community, and transformation. The class will include interactive sessions with guest teachers Seema Reza and Callid Keefe-Perry. More about all four of the teachers below.

Seema Reza is the author of A Constellation of Half-Lives and When the World Breaks Open. She is CEO of Community Building Art Works, a non-profit organization that brings workshops led by professional artists to service members, veterans, and clinicians, and which is featured in the 2018 HBO documentary, We Are Not Done Yet.

Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, The LA Review, and The Feminist Wire, among others. Case studies from her work with military populations have appeared in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Related Diseases in Combat Veterans.

Callid Keefe-Perry is a Co-Executive Director of ARC, a traveling minister in the Quaker tradition, and an advocate for the arts as a way of deepening spiritual practice. He has been a public school teacher, co-founder of a community theater, and Coordinator of the TLA Network. He believes it is OK for people to laugh a lot, that power cedes nothing without demands, and that creativity is a vital quality of adaptive and effective leadership.

During the class, Callid will share a bit about the field of theopoetics, and talk about using different modalities for group facilitation and what is gained by doing so.

The class is being taught by two wonderful TLA teachers, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Joy Roulier Sawyer. Both are featured below.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., and 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, is the founder of the Transformative Language Arts Network and the author of 23 books, including Miriam’s Well, a novel; Everyday Magic, memoir, and Following the Curve, poetry. Her previous work includes Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust, and six poetry collections, including the award-winning Chasing Weather.

Caryn has facilitated community writing workshops widely since 1992 with diverse populations throughout the United States and in Mexico, and has taught to a wide variety of audiences, including people living with serious illness, intergenerational communities, women living in public housing, teens and young adults, and humans-at-large in big-life transitions.

Caryn offers one-on-one coaching on writing and right livelihood. She co-
leads Brave Voice writing and singing retreats with Kelley Hunt and the Your Right Livelihood training with Laura Packer. Follow her on social media: @caryn.mirriamgoldberg, and check out her Patreon campaign to create transformative writing, workshops, and podcasts, and offering patrons weekly inspirations.

Joy Roulier Sawyer is the author of two poetry collections, Tongues of Men and Angels and Lifeguards as well as several nonfiction books. Her poetry, essays, and fiction have been widely published. Joy holds an MA from New York University in Creative Writing and a master’s degree in counseling.

Her extensive training and experience as a licensed professional counselor and in poetry/journal therapy gives her special expertise in facilitating expressive writing workshops. Joy was selected by poetry therapy pioneers to revise and update Arleen McCarty Hynes’ groundbreaking textbook, Biblio/Poetry Therapy: The Interactive Process. For over a decade, she’s taught at Denver’s Lighthouse Writers Workshop, the largest literary center in the West. Along with her other creative writing and poetry classes, Joy helps facilitate Lighthouses’s Denver Public Library, Arvada Library, and Edgewater Library’s Hard Times workshops, designed for those experiencing homelessness or poverty, as well as the Writing to Be Free program, an outreach for women transitioning out of incarceration. She has also taught at the University of Denver and in the TLA MA program at Goddard College. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Don’t miss Facilitation: Roots & Blossoms of Facilitation with Joy Roulier Sawyer & Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, on sale now, and running October 28 – December 15.

How Pictures Heal: Write Three Sentences to Enliven Your Spirit Now, By Kelly DuMar

In the midst of our shifting daily realities, I believe this one experience remains a constant: we all take and treasure photographs of the people, places and things that bring meaning and beauty into our lives. If we have access to a cell phone or a camera, we are snapping images that inspire, comfort, stimulate mystify and delight us. We are snapping images to capture moments of emotional nourishment.

Look at your own photo stream now. Scroll through the last few pictures you took. Now pick one out that’s grabbing your attention. Give it a title.

Here’s one of mine from my daily walk I’ll title: “Found Feather on Bed of
Seaweed.”

Found Feather on Bed of
Seaweed, by Kelly DuMar

During these times when our daily habits and familiar counted on experiences shift us into periods of disruption, unknown outcomes, and deprivations, we need, more than ever, to give ourselves permission to renew our spirit and generate calm and comfort. Our personal photos, whether recent or past, hold secret satisfactions that we can immediately summon through writing and reflection. We can take a few moments, somewhere in our day, to focus on something that captures our curiosity, is deeply comforting, or profoundly mysterious.

So, find your photo, and title it.

Now, I invite you to write a three-sentence story about your photo. Only three sentences––you can find the time for this, can’t you? So, I want you to think about what is meaningful to you about this photo; you sense it, because the photo is calling on your emotions and senses. Let’s tease the meaning out a bit by playfully and imaginatively filling in these sentence prompts:

  1. This photo seizes my attention because. . . 
  2. If I could step inside this photo and move around in it, I would. . . 
  3. As I return from my experience in this photo, I carry with me. .

Okay, as an example, I offer you a first draft of my own:

Found Feather in Bed of Seaweed

  1. This photo seizes my attention because of how the wings of sky meet the underworld plant life of sea.
  2. If I could step inside this photo and move around. . . I string the wet seaweed in my hair and borrow the bird feather and flap my arm/wings and fly freely over the Sound and have my bird’s view––how large and deep and hidden but full of life the ocean is.
  3. As I return from my experience in the photo, I carry with me the ability to believe in the vitality of so much that is around me that I cannot see.

I hope you will find a recent or past personal photo––with or without people––any personal image that is grabbing your attention. You don’t have to know why. I want you to let yours emerge in all the wonderfully unique ways your photo will emerge in your sentences.

Consider sending me your photo and three-sentence story. I hope you will consider writing from many more of your photos with me in my upcoming course for the Transformative Language Arts Network. We will generate new drafts of your writing in any genre you choose, you will develop, revise and craft your writing, and you will learn many skills and approaches for working professionally in facilitating expressive writing from photos.


Kelly DuMar, M.Ed. is a poet, playwright, and engaging workshop leader who generates enlivening writing experiences for new and experienced writers. Her photo-inspired creative writing method elicits profound personal awakenings, deepens connection with others, and fosters beautifully crafted writing in poetry and prose. Author of three poetry collections, girl in tree barkTree of the Apple, and All These Cures, Kelly is also author of Before You Forget— The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your Children. Kelly’s award winning plays have been produced around the US and Canada, and are published by dramatic publishers. Kelly is a certified psychodramatist, former psychotherapist, and Fellow in the American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama. She founded Let’s Talk TLA, a bi-monthly tele-conference and poetry open mic for members of the Transformative Language Arts Association. Currently, Kelly serves on the board & faculty of The International Women’s Writing Guild. Kelly inspires readers of #NewThisDay – her daily photo-inspired blog – with her mindful reflections on a writing life. You can learn more about Kelly at www.kellydumar.com

August notes

Dear TLA Community:

We hope you and your loved ones are doing well during these long, hot, summer days.

As might be true for you, we have been deeply inspired recently by the power of words in these most troubling times. U.S. Congressman and longtime civil rights activist John Lewis wrote an important essay to our nation recently, published widely on the day of the Congressman’s funeral last week. Congressman Lewis’ words are a testament to the power of a deeply compelling call to action embedded in meaningful context – the very essence of the power of words. If you have not yet seen it, you can read the full text of the Congressman’s transformational message here.

We know many of you in the TLA Network are finding ways to use your voices to help raise awareness, offer perspective and understanding, and help guide our communities toward healing and hope. What are the words that have inspired you recently, that remind you to be your biggest, boldest, most courageous self, that keep you focused on your vision and your work in these challenging times?

We continue to be dedicated to growing the transformative language arts – empowering each of us to find and use our biggest voices to effect the change we wish to see in the world. As John Lewis so eloquently wrote, “Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life, I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”

To the Power of Words,  

Hanne Weedon, TLA Network Managing Director