Monday, August 15, 2016

Writing Our Lives in Verse, Women Explore Poetry

The Women’s Writing Circle “Writing Your Life in Verse” poetry workshop on Saturday led by Merril D. Smith brought us closer in touch with the wealth of words within each of us as we explored the special landscape that is poetry.

Merril offered a gentle, nurturing and intelligent touch to her teaching and we loved hearing her read from her own work, including one beautiful poem titled “Legacies” about her mother and the mother-daughter relationship.

At the conclusion of the workshop, I had asked each woman to write on a piece of paper what they brought to the gathering and what they felt they were taking away. These "soul cards" are always a joy to me when, later, I can sit quietly at my kitchen table, read them and ponder a special day.

The comments received from the twelve women – who had come from many different backgrounds, educational levels and writing experiences – contained striking similarities; writing requires discipline, but it is truly amazing what you can produce in ten minutes with the proper writing prompts, whether words or images. Thank you, Merril.

Many also wrote that reading aloud their work in a sharing and supportive circle of writers was a special experience and tremendous boost to their confidence! 


Sharing a technique I learned when I attended Eunice Scarfe’s class at the International Women’s Writing Guild, I asked each woman to draw a line beneath her free write and add the words, “Job well done,” followed by her name.

The hesitation with which some do this after reading aloud is always insightful. I believe we forget that writing is hard work and we must give ourselves credit for opening our hearts and minds and sharing in public.

From magnetic poetry
It always surprises and delights me to see how participants bring a willing spirit to the craft and the magic that is a writing workshop. Perhaps, we are all starved for that connection with like-minded spirits – what some call “our tribe;” offering sustenance, kindness and caring through the creative arts.

This is the eighth Women's Writing Circle workshop featuring outside instructors who are experts in their fields. The first began with my mentor, Mary Pierce Brosmer, founder of Women Writing for (a) Change; followed by  Cynthia McGroarty (fiction and creative writing), Cathleen O’Connor (creative writing and inspiration), Jerry Waxler (memoir), Linda Joy Myers (memoir), Kathy Pooler (journaling), Sonia Marsh (memoir and independent publishing) and Merril D. Smith (poetry). I thank each of them for the unique talent and inspiration they brought.

In these workshops, there is always a great appreciation for learning more about the craft of writing, coupled with a growing realization that any formal education - or what one woman called her “lack of training” – is not a hindrance.

I remember when I heard Francine Prose at Bryn Mawr College and I wrote a post about it. She spoke how an MFA program can often drain the writer of her creative spirit. There is a beauty and innocence in the untrained pen. 

Susan Weidener and Merril Smith


Collectively, we learn from each other, nourish each other. What a writer needs is a desire to explore, take a risk and a leap of faith and trust that through the blank page she becomes an alchemist in her own right. That's what I take away from these workshops.


As one woman wrote on her soul card: “What I take away is a confirmation that the world still has souls, that some shine bright with enthusiasm, joy, appreciation for life, and support for each other.”

This is the magic of our Women's Writing Circle. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Do you have thoughts or comments to share about an experience of writing and learning in a group or writing workshop?
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