“What Do You Love About Facilitation?” – A Conversation with Joy Roulier Sawyer & Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Listen to Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Joy Roulier Sawyer talk about how they came to love what can happen when we discover and share our truth in workshops, meetings, and other sessions. For Joy, it started with leading workshops for students at Columbine High School in Colorado after the 1999 shooting, and Caryn found her facilitation legs leading large meetings for people of many backgrounds fighting against a highway that would have impacted the environment, history, and even native American burial mounds.

You can see their upcoming class at www.tlanetwork.org/event-3567618 for more details.

The Art of Facilitation: Roots & Blossoms of Facilitation

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg shares some of what compelled her to develop our new TLAN online class, The Art of Facilitation: Roots & Blossoms of Facilitation. The class runs Jan. 15-25, and it’s the first of two classes on powerful facilitation for your community and our ailing world.

Good facilitation can make worlds of difference when it comes to effective (and even joyful) meetings, powerful workshops, and meaningful coaching or consulting sessions. For years I’ve been both teaching facilitation and dreaming up in-depth facilitation training for others. So I’m especially happy to tell you about these facilitation classes.

“The Art of Facilitation: Roots and Blossoms of Facilitation,” an online class I’m teaching with Joy Roulier Sawyer through the Transformative Language Arts Network Jan. 15 – Feb. 25, focuses on whole-self and real-life facilitation as a life-long practice. Designed for writers, storytellers, healers, community leaders, and other change-makers, this class offers practical tools and deep wisdom, including planning, facilitating, and assessing sessions; beginnings endings, pacing and rhythm; and aligning your practice with your core values. This first of two facilitation classes goes deep when it comes to how to be a more effective and soulful facilitator.

The second class, “The Art of Facilitation: Facilitating for Community and Change,” launches this summer, encompasses how to work with diverse people and for meaningful transformation. Because these classes on online, you can do them from anywhere!

Joy and I have over 50 years of combined facilitation experience. She has worked as a a psychotherapist and poetry therapist, and most recently, Joy has led many sessions through 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. I’ve been facilitating community writing workshops tilted toward healing and transformation since 1992, and with my husband Ken Lassman, have led training to help people plan and lead better meetings and more effective group processes. Guest teachers include people with deep experience in facilitation for transformation. More here, and if you want to chat with me about the class, please drop me a line at CarynMirriamGoldberg@gmail.com.

Truth to Power: Poetry for Our Times with Poets Laureate

After serving as the Kansas Poet Laureate for four years, writer and TLA founder Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg decided to draw on all the new friendships she made with other state poets laureate to develop a new self-paced class: “Truth to Power: Poetry for Our Times With Poets Laureate.”

The result is a wondrous self-paced class that allows you to write on your own time at your own pace in concert with a rich diversity of writing prompts (developed by poets laureate around the country just for us!) and powerful stories on how poetry is instrumental to community. The class also includes inspiring essays and videos on the craft and passion of writing powerful poetry about our lives and times, and written discussions on the history and possibilities of poetry that speaks to social transformation.

Each the 12 units in the class highlights both state and national poet laureate past or present, and a historic poet dedicated to changing the world, including a writing prompt and writing craft or writing life discussion from that poet, some of the poets laureate’s poems with writing prompts, a discussion of a poet from the past or present who crafts poetry for social transformation, and exciting links to interviews, essays, and videos. All in all, you’ll get to know the work, writing, and lives of 37 American poets.

Poets!

Walt Whitman, W. S. Merwin, Marilyn L. Taylor, Emily Dickinson, Dick Allen, William Stafford, Sue Brennan Walker, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, William Trowbridge, Robert Penn Warren, Muriel Rukeyser, Mark Strand, Grace Paley, Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, Adrienne Rich, Joyce Brinkman, Juan Felipe, Herrera, Denise Low, Wendell Berry, Rita Dove, David Romtvedt, Sharon Olds, Luci Tapahonso, Kimberly Blaeser, Yusef Komunyakaa, Joy Harjo, Marjory Wentworth, Audre Lorde, Elizabeth Woody, Natasha Trethewey, Li-Young Lee, JoAnn Balingit, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Naomi Shahib Nye, Tracy K. Smith, and Richard Blanco. (Photo: from left, Audre Lorde, Meridel Le Sueur, and Adrienne Rich.)

This is a perfect class for those with any amount of experience writing poetry, from those who are interested in learning more and might be a bit nervous about it, to writers with years of experience who want to generate new work and brush up on elements of craft and be exposed to new contemporary writers, and how writing can be a positive force for change.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, has created this class through study, experience, and in conversations with over a dozen state poets laureate (many of whom shared their best handouts and writing prompts). Caryn is the author of two dozen books, including the recent Miriam’s Well, a novel; Following the Curve, poetry; and Everyday Magic, a collection of beloved blog posts and personal essays. Founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College , Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely, particularly for people living with serious illness and their caregivers. With singer Kelley Hunt, she co-leads Brave Voice writing and singing retreats. www.CarynMirriamGoldberg.com

Not too Late for the Power of Words Conference and Your Right Livelihood Training

Friends and lovers of words! Please join us for two life-changing events: the 16th Annual Power of Words conference Sept. 26-29, and right beforehand, Your Right Livelihood: A Training in Doing the Work, Art, and Service You Love. If you’re in the Scottsdale, Arizona area or game for a road trip, there’s still room, and we’d love to meet you for these soulful events, all happening at the replenishing Franciscan Renewal Center.

The Power of Words Conference

Come to the Power of Words Conference to explore how we can use our words — written, spoken, or sung — to make community, deepen healing, witness one another, wake ourselves up, and foster empowerment and transformation. The conference features workshops, performances, talking circles, celebration and more, featuring writers, storytellers, performers, musicians, community leaders, activists, educators, and health professionals. The conference, founded in 2003, features workshops in four tracks: narrative medicine, social change, right livelihood (and making a living through the arts), ecological literacy, and engaged spirituality.

The 2019 conference keynoters include author and speaker, Gregg Levoy; storyteller and author, Noa Baum; and and poet and playwright, Usha Akella.  Over 20 other presenters will be sharing a variety of performances and workshops including:

  • Lisa Chu’s “Bad Asian Daughter” on transforming shame through embodied storytelling,
  • Loren Niemi’s “Walking Fields and Streets to Find Poems and Stories,”
  • John Genette and Doug Bland’s “Sacred Earth, Common Ground,”
  • Lyn Ford’s “The Path of Needles or the Path of Pins: Other Ways of Seeing ‘Red,'”
  • Valerie David’s “Fight Back Any Adversity in Life: Overcoming a Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer Diagnosis, the Pink Hulk Will Help You Find Your Inner Superhero” and
  • Rachel Gabriel’s “Writing Memoir for Empathy and Inquiry.”

As conference attendee Robin Russell wrote to us:

“The TLA Conference is an adventure of diving into a deep pool of unexpected discoveries. Some are delightful and awe-inspiring, some frightening and strange, but the immersion in diversity and the authenticity of the presenter’s (and participant’s) stories and presence is palpable and real. A necessary reminder of what we are so starved for in the current climate of media and political rhetoric. If change is going to be sustainable and humane, we need more people trained and working with the qualities of these warriors. The conference is a way to either dip a toe in or dive in head first.”

More at www.TLANetwork.org/conference

Your Right Livelihood

Consider Your Right Livelihood — a training with TLA founder and writer Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and storyteller and consultant Laura Packer. Your work in writing, storytelling, theater, and related healing and social change arts can bring you greater fulfillment and enable you to help others find and amplify the voices and visions so needed to address the challenges facing our communities, culture, and planet. Whether you’re just starting out, making a mid-career transition or revisioning your life’s work after retirement, this training guides you toward what constellation of vocation works best for you and your community now and when the path meanders.

This 100-hour training begins with a 2-day intensive September 25-27th at The Casa Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona (where the Power of Words Conference will be held immediately following), and continues through mid-December with online study and community support, weekly video conferences with entrepreneurs and leaders in the field, weekly group check-ins and discussions, individual consultations with Laura and Caryn, and a toolkit of resources for planning, marketing, further training, and next steps.

Franciscan Renewal Center

The spectacular yet secluded 25-acre Franciscan Renewal Center offers a tranquil oasis in the heart of greater Phoenix for quiet reflection, prayer, learning, healing or joyful worship. Nestled in the lush desert valley at the base of majestic Camelback Mountain, The Casa is just a quick 20-minutes from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The campus features a newly remodeled 60-ft swimming pool and spa, gift and book shop, labyrinth, healing garden, desert walkways, buffet-style dining, and private bathrooms in every lodging room. Owned by the Franciscan Friars of the Saint Barbara Province, The Casa has been renewing lives through spiritual growth, healing and transformation, and service to others for over 60 years.

Find more on all of it here.

Finding Your Life’s Work: Not By Lightning, But Conversing With Our Callings

Most of us experience lightning strikes – moments when there’s a flash, and what we’re supposed to be becomes illuminated like the night sky – at some points in our lives, but we can’t depend on where, when, and even if that will happen.

What we can do is treat our discussion with our callings – for our work as well as for other parts of our lives – as a lifelong conversation, sometimes over tea in a lovely castle filled with antiques, and sometimes while driving our car through fog late at night, knowing that we will only be able to see where we’re going by going.

The Your Right Livelihood Training with Laura Packer and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg offers you ways to listen to what questions, longings, resentments or joys keep occur to you about your work, look toward the signs and wonders that guide you, and engage with your big hunches, questions, and leanings at this moment to find your way forward.

The training begins with a soulful retreat Sept. 25-27 (leading up to the Power of Words conference) at the Casa Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, AZ. It continues on with a 10-week online class, weekly video-conferences with guest teachers including Harriet Lerner and Gregg Levoy, one-on-one coaching with Laura and Caryn, and extensive resources and supports for making your dreams come true. Read testimonials from last year’s group here. 

Poet Theodore Roethke wrote, “I learn by going where I have to go,” and likewise, we learn where we’re being led as well as what we have to say to that calling by dialogue throughout our lives.

What’s right for one stage in our life will likely change over time, so by listening and speaking – asking questions, testing out ideas, thinking and feeling our way toward clarity – we will be able to continually use this conversation as a flashlight leading us forward.

Have questions? Book a  free 20-minutes discovery call with Laura or Caryn or learn more about Your Right Livelihood here. 

Photo by Stephen Locke, used with permission.

Right Livelihood Luminaries: Our Guest Teachers

One of the great benefits of Your Right Livelihood: A Training in Doing the Work, Art, and Service You Love is the face-to-face weekly opportunities to talk with luminary writers, teachers, and change-makers about what’s calling to you in your work, art, and life. The training, which launches Sept. 25 and ends in mid-December, led by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Laura Packer, helps people both navigate their callings and their livelihoods (read an interview with Laura and Caryn to learn more).

In addition to the two-day opening retreat — to be held Sept. 25-27 at the Casa Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona (where the Power of Words conerence starts shortly after our retreat ends), the weekly video-conference live meetings with guest teachers helps us get to know each other voice to voice and face to face, and it gives participants the chance to ask our guest teachers questions and discuss many dimensions of making our life’s work come true. The training also includes a 10-week online class, one-on-one coaching with Laura and Caryn, and lots of extra supports and resources.

This year’s crop of guest teachers includes:

  • Dr. Harriet Lerner, one of our nation’s most respected voices in the psychology of women, and the “how-tos” of navigating the swamps and quicksands of difficult relationships. She lectures and consults nationally, and is the author of numerous scholarly articles and 12 books  including The Dance of Anger, which has sold more than three million copies with over  30 foreign translations, and her recent book, Why Won’t You Apologize? Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurt.
  • Gregg Levoy, author of Callings: Finding and Following An Authentic Life and Vital Signs: Discovering and Sustaining Your Passion for Life, writes for, consults with, and speaks to thousands of people regularly on finding and following your life’s work and passions. See a SPARKS session, hosted by the TLA Network, featuring Gregg Levoy talking about callings and right livelihood.
  • Donna Washington a professional author, storyteller and multicultural folklorist who has been sharing stories for over thirty years. She has been featured at numerous festivals, schools & libraries theaters and other venues around the world, and she has released nine CDs and four children’s books.  She offers a range of multicultural folktales, personal narratives and stories of her own creation.
  • Doug Lipman is a renowned storyteller, storytelling mentor and teacher, and innovator. Doug loves to help artists and other self-employed professionals become comfortable (and effective) in marketing their own work. He says, “We tend to view marketing as something pushy and dishonest – which much marketing sadly is. But true marketing consists of discovering who is hungry for what you love to do—and letting them know you’re available to do it.
  • Kim Go is an interfaith minister, former minister of congregational life, public speaker, coach, author, ritual celebrant and expressive facilitator. A focus of her work is the project, Alive and Mortal, an online group to address grief and impermanence. She says, “We work togetherto learn expressiveness around grief and find our voice. This aids us to use the power of the group to move out into the world to speak of our grief and love story that we carry with an expanded language.
  • José Faus is an artist, writer, teacher, and mentor. A native of Bogota, Colombia and long time Kansas City resident, he has participated in mural projects throughout the Kansas City area, Mexico and SantaCruz de la Sierra, Bolivia where he traveled under a State Department grant. He is a founder of the Latino Writers Collective and sits on the boards of the Writers Place, UMKC Friends of the Library, The Latino WritersCollective and the Charlotte Street foundation.
  • Rob Peck, is an author, humorist and recovering perfectionist! True to the title of his new book, It’s a Juggle Out There, Rob’s moving speeches and uplifting seminars focuses on three things simultaneously: Stress management, Streamlining, & Simplifying.
  • Heather Forest is a modern-day bard fusing poetry, prose, original melody, and the sung and spoken word. A pioneer in the American storytelling revival she has shared her repertoire of world tales in theaters, schools, literature conferences, and storytelling festivals throughout the United States and abroad. A multiple award-winning author and recording artist, she has published seven children’s picture books based on folktales, three folktale anthologies, eight audio recordings of storytelling and a popular educational web site StoryArts Online.

Find out more about the training here.  You can also schedule a discovery call with Laura or Caryn to talk about the training and your life by going here. 

What a Deal! Your Right Livelihood and Power of Words Conference

Hanne Weedon, our managing director, recently shared this email, giving Power of Words conference attendees a great deal when attending Your Right Livelihood training too.

As we approach our 16th annual Power of Words conference, we’re excited to share a special offer: if you register (or are already registered) for the conference, you are now eligible for a 10% discount for the pre-conference Your Right Livelihood: A Training in Doing the Work, Art, and Service You Love, led by Laura Packer and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg.

Your Right Livelihood starts with a retreat at the Casa Francisco Retreat Center from Wed. evening Sept. 25 to Fri. afternoon, Sept. 27, ending in time for the conference. The 100-hour training continues through mid-December with online study and community support, weekly video conferences with entrepreneurs and leaders in the field (such as Harriet Lerner, Gregg Levoy, and Heather Forest – see special guest teachers here), weekly group check-ins and discussions, individual consultations with Laura and Caryn, and a toolkit of resources for planning, marketing, further training, and next steps. All participants receive a certificate of completion at the end.

It is no exaggeration to state that this training changed my life. The RLPT course not only taught me how to improve my professional portfolio, but, more importantly, how to live holistically as a creative person. I will continue to use the course materials for years to come, and will count myself very lucky to stay in touch with the outstanding community of people who were in my cohort.

~ Rachel Gabriel, writer and facilitator, Minneapolis, Minnesota

If you’d like to learn more about the training, please set up a free 15-minute discovery call here with Caryn or Laura.

To catch the 10% discount, if you’re already registered for the conference, please contact Hanne at Director@TLANetwork.org so I can get you registered. You can register for the conference and training together or apply to the training on its own. 

Six Ways to Find the Work You Love

Here’s an essay by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg with input from Laura Packer. This essay also speaks to Caryn and Laura’s approach to Your Right Livelihood: A Training to Do the Work, Art and Service You Love, which is a new certification with the TLA Network. Learn more here, and feel free to each out to Caryn and Laura (via Caryn at CarynMirriamGoldberg@gmail.com) to set up a free 15-minute discovery call about the training and your dreams and goals).

We all have our callings: the work we’re alive to do, yet for most of us, the path is not just a wavy line to follow but a tangle that runs through mosquito-filled forests, swampy grasslands, and even along the sea bottom at times before being tossing us back onto the shore.

By conversing with our callings, we can drop a kind of anchor, connecting us to the main story we’re meant to live, and from that story finding our own Right Livelihood. Traditionally Right Livelihood, part of the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path, means work that does no harm, but a more contemporary definition is the work that follows our callings, helps us grow, and serves the world in some way, however small.

Growing up as a mediocre student and expert daydreamer in New Jersey, I had no idea that my love of art and music, then writing, would lead me toward calling myself a Transformative Language Artist, a person who uses writing, storytelling, and performance for personal and community transformation. As a teenage poet, when my dad told me I had two choices for a career – advertising or journalism – I followed the conventional wisdom of the day: I chose journalism. It didn’t stick, but it got me to the Midwest where my passion for the stories I was covering led me to grassroots organizing until I returned to school for graduate work in poetry. Paying my bills by gigging as a teaching assistant, I happened upon a twin calling: teaching.

I now make my living in a kaleidoscope of ways: leading writing workshops for people with serious illness, collaborating with a singer on a poetry music performance about courage, teaching classes on poetry to change our lives, coaching people on writing and right livelihood. While what I do isn’t something I can explain in one word — and it does entail a lot of travel, video-conferencing, and mostly listening carefully to what people are saying and writing – I continually find meaning, connection, and joy on the wild road trip of living my calling.

In putting together the Right Livelihood Professional Training (https://www.tlanetwork.org/Right-Livelihood-Training) with storyteller Laura Packer, based on what we wish we knew when we started out as working artists, Laura and I have discovered some uncommon steps most of us take in just starting out, making a mid-career shift, or launching a third act after retirement:

  1. Converse with Your Calling: Callings, according to writer Gregg Levoy, aren’t so much lightning bolts as they are continual conversations, sometimes with a voice whispering in code and sometimes with a loud booming billboard. You can catch more of what’s coming your way by keeping a callings journal: write for 10-15 minutes on a regular basis with what work calls to you, how you might do it, how others seem to do it, what would be required for you to launch yourself, and whatever else comes to you as questions or answers. You can even write a dialogue between yourself and your calling, imagining meeting your calling for coffee at a local cafe.
  2. Look for Signs and Wonders: Finding ways to cover your bills while doing the work of your heart is sometimes akin to looking for water in a big field with only a dowsing stick. It can take a lot of meandering, but along the way, you can be on the watch for signs and wonders: hints that this new direction is the right one for you. When I was developing the emerging field of Transformative Language Arts (TLA) (http://tlanetwork.org), just when I began to doubt myself about whether any of this made sense, someone would email or call to say how TLA named exactly what what they were doing for years. Listen to what little hints you find: snippets of conversation you might overhear, repeated lessons the universe keeps giving you, or something you keep dreaming about each night. It can be helpful to write down their signs and wonders in your callings journal because the more attention you pay to them, the more they show up.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” goes the old joke. “Practice, practice, practice,” is the answer, and the same is true for changing your job, either from the inside out or by shifting to new work. You can practice by learning all you can about what the new work may entail. For example, if you plan to launch a small consulting business, shadow someone else who does similar work, then practice by offering free sessions to people in exchange for their honest feedback on how to improve. Even when you’re doing your beloved work in the right balance for your life – whether as a paid job, volunteer work, or art – you’re always learning from the work itself how to do it better.
  4. Surround Yourself With Support: Laura and I know first-hand how essential it is to have a strong support system as you transition toward your dream work. Laura, who also does storytelling coaching, has a fellow coach she checks in with regularly, and I talk with several friends regularly who are crafting livelihoods from arts or activism. It can be invaluable to meet up with a group of people doing parallel work. If you’re developing writing workshops for your community, get together a group of people who offer art, music, and other kinds of workshops to share strategies and support.
  5. Leap When the Time is Right: “Timing is everything” goes the old adage. For most of us, leaping from a less-than-fulfilling day job without tried-and-true plans, connections, and experience doing the work we love may be far more exciting, exhausting, and fearful than you anticipated, not to mention less successful. Take your time to transition into your work. Study the field and learn the ins and outs from others doing this kind of work, develop a strong business and marketing plan, and surround yourself with people and resources that support your new work. Also, consider taking baby steps into the new work. Laura points out that moonlighting and volunteering are noble ways to test the waters and get some experience under your belt. Many people find themselves gradually transitioning, then taking a timely leap, often surprising themselves in the process. Of course, there are also times the universe forces us to jump when a job or contract ends, and at such moments, we have a little extra push when it comes to taking such a leap.
  6. Take Care of Yourself: Even once you’ve leapt (or are in mid-leap), it’s a good idea to keep checking in with yourself to make sure you’re going in the right direction. Remember to take time off for your well-being, hanging out with friends or family, and making time for hobbies and other passions. Do whatever is self-care for you, from taking ten deep breaths in the morning before you start answering emails to showing up at a restorative yoga class regularly to slipping out of a stuck moment to see a movie or take a walk instead. Taking good care of yourself is essential to cultivating the perspective you’ll need for living your calling and doing the work you love, and it will inevitably make that adventure all-the-more sustainable.

“Topless in America” and Other Words to Speak to Healing From Cancer

Breast Cancer AwarenessDuring Breast Cancer Awareness month, several pieces have been circulating that speak to the power of words when it comes to deeply engaging with what it means to find a cure and/or healing.

Poet Nikky Finney’s astonishing poem, “Topless in America” tells the story of Paulette Leapheart, who walked topless (after a double mastectomy following her Stage 2 breast cancer diagnosis) with her daughter from Biloxi, Mississippi to Washington, D.C. summit. Listen to Finney read her potent poem and you can also see the poem transcribed here.

“Don’t Think Pink” published in Psychology Today by writer Harriet Lerner (author of The Dance of Anger) succinctly raises questions about how breast cancer prevention is portrayed in teddy bears and pink ribbons here. The TLA Network’s own Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg’s “Take Down the Bras and Really Work for a Cancer Cure” published in The Huffington Post looks at how the reality of saving lives gets muted into the illusion of saving breasts here.

In poetry and prose, out loud and on the page, these pieces — as well as many others (please share them in comments below) — aim us toward finding greater depth and healing.

Coming Home to Body, Earth, and Time: Writing From Where We Live with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

vistaI’m delighted to be offering an online class about writing from where we live, from our bodies to the cosmos, as part of the Transformative Language Arts Network. Since I usually interview teachers about their upcoming classes, here I am interviewing myself about the details and impetus behind “Coming Home to Body, Earth and Time: Writing from Where We Live,” which runs from June 29 – Aug. 9, all online, so you can engage with the class from anywhere at anytime. Register by June 10 to take advantage of the Summer Buzz sale, and save 10% on the class (and all other upcoming class this summer and early fall).

Caryn-the-Interviewer: So Caryn, and by the way, I love the way you spell your name, what led you to develop this class?

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg: Thanks, Caryn, and yes, I like the spelling too. My mom found it in a novel she was reading when pregnant with me. As for the class, I’ve been grappling with what it means to live in a body and in a place forever, it seems, and some years back, it became very apparent to me how our bodies are our most local address. Where I live sparks a great deal of my writing and my understanding of how seasonal tilts around us speak to seasonal tilts within us. So I wanted to offer others gateways into exploring what inspiration, ideas, breakthroughs and meanings we can find by sinking our roots further into where we live, starting with the body, and rippling out to explore the home, watershed, ecoregion, earth and cosmos.

CtI: Interesting, and you know, my mom found the spelling of my name in a novel too when she was pregnant. So what can people expect in this class?August2505 026

CMG: Each week will include ample writing prompts and discussion about ways to engage with embodied writing that truly homes in on where we live and who we are, so it’s very much an exploration of how we name and claim ourselves, and what stories we tell ourselves and are told by our culture about, based on where we are, who we’re supposed to be.  A lot of the writing prompts are aimed toward greater liberation and awareness, which obviously go hand-in-hand. For example, in week three, we’ll look at watershed moments in our lives — moments that changed everything for us or at least one big thing — and from those moments, what greater possibilities opened out as well as what stories ended or very much changed. By honoring how our narratives have shaped our lives, including what stories we needed to hold tight to as scaffolding to get to the next place, we can cultivate greater freedom to change what no longer serves us.

Each week will also include a visiting writer via his/her writings, interviews, and a little essay I share about the writer, and these writers span genres, such as essayist David Abram, novelist Barbara Kingslover, singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter, and poet William Stafford. We’ll also have a short discussion on the craft of writing powerfully since we can best understand and evoke the places we are when our images are vivid, our rhythms strong, and our stories evocative.

CtI: You’re someone who writes in many genres. Would you say “writing from where you live” is evident in all your own writing?

13217411_10103624025251309_7965765541683291477_oCMG: Good question, Caryn, and of course, as with most things, the answer is “it depends.” I’m very focused on the physical place of where I live and travel because I find such sustenance from where I am at this very moment, particularly the living earth. Right now, I’m writing answers to your questions from my front porch, and I live in the country with an up-close view of Osage Orange and ceder trees filled with songbirds broadcasting their love and fight songs. Most of my poetry, if not all, finds grounding in images of place, but then again, just about all poetry uses images, and images always evoke the senses: what we can see, touch, taste, hear and smell. Plus, I see the poem as a house of its own that readers enter, find a good sofa to lie down on, and then spend a little time in, listening to the voices of this place. My two memoirs, The Sky Begins at Your Feet: A Memoir of Cancer, Community and Coming Home to the Body, and Poem on the Range: A Poet Laureate’s Love Song to Kansas are both very place-focused, and Sky is also speaking from the place of the body in a time of great change. My novel, The Divorce Girl, and novel to be published next year, Miriam’s Well, are stories in which the protagonist is shaped and infused by her place — where she lives and travels, and how her internal landscape shifts as well.

Yet what draws me to this class isn’t just what I write but more so, what I live. As a longtime bioregionalist — someone who keep learning how to live from where I live — I see the body, the landscape, and the night sky as well as the shifting eco-community of what David Abram calls the “more-than-human” species among us as continually showing me the way through the crazy losses and wild joys of this beautiful life.

CtI: Thanks, Caryn, and it’s interesting that you’re writing from a porch with a view of those trees and birds because I’m on a porch with the same view. Maybe we should meet up sometime for tea.