Monday, July 17, 2017

A Writing Workshop, New Writing and Women's Voices

July 11 ~ Today is my birthday. I celebrate with women writers at the IWWG Conference at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. In the morning I attend a workshop intriguingly entitled “What Kinds of Fools (or Shamans) Are We?”

Led by Lisa Freedman, who teaches creative nonfiction at the New School in New York, the workshop involves meditation, a book by a woman named Vicki Noble, feminist and shamanic healer, and free writes.

Breathe in, breathe out, Lisa instructs in the shade of an ancient oak as heavy July breezes stir. The four of us seated at a small metal table are exploring the I Ching and Tibetan Shamanism―the shaman and the fool’s journey, the yin and the yang, the broken and unbroken lines.

Humble, innocent and a bit foolish are balanced with seizing power (the experienced shaman/goddess within) to explore the task ahead: a fresh approach and new writing. As I begin this workshop, I know I’m in the groove; a compelling way to start a new year under summer skies. A vision quest.

A memoir I’ve tentatively titled A Woman Alone strikes a chord with women at the conference when I share my idea later that day over lunch. I seek a little input. What would they like to hear in a memoir like that? How about what it’s like to sleep alone joked one woman who has lived with a snoring husband for four decades.

A line from a Jane Hirschfield poem comes to mind. “We work with what we are given.”

I think of myself and I write: She lives the life no one wants to live, but which she finds many women envious―or so they tell her. Oh, not the death of a beloved husband, but this precious time to think, to write, to search for serenity without distraction and demands.
With Lisa Freedman
I think of my best friend, Paula, a woman alone, and I write about her in another workshop, "Diving Into the Wreck: Writing About Pain, Loss and Other Difficult Subjects" led by memoir author Janice Gary. (I will write about this in another blog post.)


“Listen to the sounds … the birds, the din of a not-too-distant lawnmower” … Lisa says during the opening five-minute meditation next morning. I bow to heart center and open my eyes; ponder the silver bracelet one woman wears with the word “fearless” engraved.

I’ve been drawn to this circle since his death … this community of women's voices … this voyage of discovery. (It's why I joined IWWG again this year.)

From the Motherpeace Tarot, I draw a meditating yogini … a sword represents the realm of ideas, points toward a goal. In beams of clairvoyance, the light radiates … or, at least, that’s the interpretation.

She lives alone by choice. She travels both the fool’s journey―turning handsprings―and the shaman’s, whose life experience has served her well.

She writes these words, starting with a prompt: “I want…”

I want a morning of radiant purple and pink hydrangeas and petunias that remind me of my mother. I want to feel Lily’s blond velvet muzzle, take in her smell of vanilla and wood. I want my son’s smile, the sound of his voice … his father who walks within him in spirit, intellect and grace.

And this from paper cutouts with random words and phrases Lisa has placed in a small gold bag. I reach into the bag. I ponder one phrase on the cutout I’ve drawn …” empty spaces.”

I dream of him and he climbs into the empty spaces … 

The workshop ends, the conference concludes three days after my birthday. Another year, more  ideas, a way to come back to our Women's Writing Circle with new offerings, free writes, reflections of the collective journey that is storytelling and writing. The days ahead beckon, exploration the task, wherever it might lead. Breathe in, breathe out.

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