Support our ‘Beloved Community’

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1794571_405495376278257_7756953264744044148_nDo join us! It’s our twice-annual Public ReadAround, in which the women writers from this past semester choose one piece to read out loud to the larger community.  Friends, family, and all other interested folks are cordially invited to join us as we hear the women raise their voices and tell their stories, in the brand new community room at Unity Plaza!  The ReadAround will run from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, May 16.  Register here (on Meetup) or here (on EventBrite).

A Silent Auction will support our Scholarship Fund to sponsor a seat in our regular circles or our outreach programs.  Currently we are offering writing circles to female inmates at the Community Transition Center, among other programs.  Here’s a small sample of what they are writing about:

When Have You Loved Wide Open?

When I had my two sons, A. and D., is when I learned to truly love wide open. Holding them in my arms after they were born has been the two proudest moments in my life. I grabbed onto them and never wanted to let go. They are the most precious things in my life. No matter where life may take them, I will always be proud of them and love them. Children are a blessing from God. I love them unconditionally and nothing could change that. If we only get to love wide open once in our life, we should feel blessed to have had that chance. It takes a lot for me to trust and to love someone, but with my boys it came naturally. It’s a love like I’ve never known before. A love that comes so easily. A love that is so pure and true. I couldn’t ask for a better gift than a child’s love: The way they look up at you and smile, or their little hands being held up in the air for you to pick them up and hold them, or a simple “Mommy, I love you.” I remember rocking my boys to sleep until they were 4 years old. I never wanted to put them to bed. I wanted to hold them all night. They may be 19 and 21 now, but they are still my babies. And I’ll never let go. They are my reasons for living and what keeps me going. I thank God for them every day. They are my two most precious gifts in life.

—T.F.,  based on a prompt from Marge Piercy’s poem, “To Have Without Holding”

We’ll hear more stories like these, plus we’ll be able to peek at the Collage Books assembled by participants in our Art + Soul Series. All semester, we’ve been writing to the theme of “Cultivating our Inner Garden,” and the resulting words and artwork have been both beautiful and inspiring.

Do join us to support these writers and perhaps to consider how you might want to become part of what Martin Luther King, Jr., referred to as our “beloved community.”

To Have Without Holding

Learning to love differently is hard,
love with the hands wide open, love
with the doors banging on their hinges,
the cupboard unlocked, the wind
roaring and whimpering in the rooms
rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds
that thwack like rubber bands
in an open palm.

It hurts to love wide open
stretching the muscles that feel
as if they are made of wet plaster,
then of blunt knives, then
of sharp knives.

It hurts to thwart the reflexes
of grab, of clutch ; to love and let
go again and again. It pesters to remember
the lover who is not in the bed,
to hold back what is owed to the work
that gutters like a candle in a cave
without air, to love consciously,
conscientiously, concretely, constructively.

I can’t do it, you say it’s killing
me, but you thrive, you glow
on the street like a neon raspberry,
You float and sail, a helium balloon
bright bachelor’s button blue and bobbing
on the cold and hot winds of our breath,
as we make and unmake in passionate
diastole and systole the rhythm
of our unbound bonding, to have
and not to hold, to love
with minimized malice, hunger
and anger moment by moment balanced.

— Marge Piercy

With Spring Classes Underway, New Flowers are Blooming

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IMG_3620I’m so excited about my Carolina jasmine!  It’s quite beautiful, flowering and spreading all over my backyard pergola.

I’ve waited a long time for this.

The garden adage for growing vines is, first year sleep, second year creep, third year leap.  Or, for all plants: first year SLOW, second year GROW, and third year SHOW. Which is exactly what’s happening out there!

The first year of my new backyard garden, the vines barely rose up the side of one post.  The next year, they reached further, but they didn’t cover overhead.  The third year, they finally started to cover the pergola.

Today, the vines hold a very generous sprinkling of yellow flowers, which I just love.  It’s a reminder to me of spirit, of sunshine, and of warmth.  What’s extra nice is that the Carolina jasmine is native to this area, so I know it’s in its rightful place.

Which is how I’m starting to feel about Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville.

I think I’ve been through the “slow” stage, as I gathered my certifications and gained clarity about what I really wanted to do with my life. Last year, which was the first year we were open for business, I tried to focus on one thing at a time, do that well, and not get too far ahead of myself!  (“Sloooow down,” my mentor Diane likes to say. “Sloooooow down!”)

600_433138024Now that we’re in the second year, I can take some of the lessons learned and add them, like fertilizer, to the roots of my business, working toward “deep and concentrated” rather than “wide and shallow.”  It’s not easy, actually.  In my eagerness, my passion, my enthusiasm, I want to go here, there, and everywhere, holding circles and “spreading the joy.” I have vision, and I have fire, as another mentor, Beth, likes to say.

But I am also guided by what we at WWf(a)C like to call the Conscious Feminine, a leadership style that takes a long view, and cautions against unlimited growth and reckless speed.

Enough is enough.
When I go slow, I go fast.
Easy does it.

These are all adages that keep my entrepreneurial garden healthy. I have other garden wisdom to guide me, such as, “Plant it and it shall grow.”

So let me sprinkle a few more seeds, soon to blossom into full-blown events (UNF Hike, or Open Mic Night) that will create new gardens of words, of wonder, of consciousness, right here in Jacksonville.  These gardens will give life to the stories, and talent, that are native to our region.

open mic flyer 3 VI’m not trying to plant too much.

Just enough.

Because this much I know is true: Women’s stories are valuable. Women’s wisdom is needed. Conscious women’s leadership is part of a cure for what ails this world.

That’s what we’re cultivating.

Here.
In the garden called, “Women Writing for (a) Change.”

Help Us Plant A Garden: Writing Circles Planned For Military Women

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IMG_0936Today we are launching a campaign to help us “plant a writing garden” for military women in Jacksonville, for veterans, military spouses and partners, and caregivers.  We’ve launched a GoFundMe Campaign to gather the seed money we need to conduct research on the specific needs of this community.  Please consider helping by going to our funding site, GoFundMe/MilitaryWomen, where you can find more information about our program.

But don’t take my word for it.  Please, listen to this excellent podcast from the storytelling group called The MOTH, in which 97-year-old woman Dawn Seymour tells her story, about how she, too, a veteran of World War II, planted a garden that has finally blossomed. Dawn’s Story.

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The Early Bird Gets the Worm: Register Now for Spring Classes!

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IMG_3135I was intrigued when I saw a robin on my front lawn this morning.  I’d seen a flock of them on New Year’s Day, gliding skillfully across a crisp blue sky.  But when one showed up practically at my front door today, I thought it might have a special message for me.  So I looked up the symbolism for robins in my animal totem book.

Yep.  Important message!  Here’s what it said: “This wonderful bird is a traditional herald of spring.”  Perfect! That aligns with the theme for our Spring Series: “Cultivating Your Inner Garden.”

It looks like a robin will be our guide!

The book went on to say, “When a robin comes into your life, you can expect new growth to occur in every area of your life.  Its cheery song reflects a need to sing your own song … if you wish to experience that growth.” Wow! Sounds like developing your writer’s voice to me.

Finally, it said that the powder-blue color of the robin’s egg is associated with the throat, and the power of using your voice creatively. It reflects “the innate ability of those with this totem to create new growth in their life.” In other words, each of us has IMG_3122the power to transform ourselves, and the robin will show you the way. (Just like the robin that guided Mary’s transformation in The Secret Garden!)

So, all you Women Writers out there, I do hope that I will see you  in the circle this spring as we continue on our personal writing journeys.  I cordially invite you to come and enjoy our curriculum, which will include creative writing craft and plenty of inspiration and structure to strengthen your writing practice in 2015. (BTW, guys are invited to attend our Hike + Write event at UNF on March 7!)

The Early Bird Gets the Worm

The robin also reminds me that the early bird gets the worm, right?  Some folks have already signed up for our Spring Series, which starts on January 21. That’s great!  Please sign up today to save a spot for yourself! 

Enjoy art and writing? You can also register for our Art + Soul Series, on alternate Saturdays from 10-12 for six weeks, starting January 31. This wonderful course will also focus on cultivating our inner garden, and promises to be a rich and fruitful series. What the heck, sign up for both! :-)

Not sure yet, and want to know more?  Come to our Spring Sampler on January 14! You’ll get to see why a Women Writing for (a) Change writing circle is a magical place to both develop and challenge your writing practice.

draft_lens17279251module145724101photo_1294526004shape-collage-onlineTo register, please just click HERE for the Spring Series and HERE for the Art + Soul Series.  Or, sign up for the Sampler right HERE.  I’m sticking with 12 spots in each class, so please register as soon as you can to hold your spot. And do encourage your friends and fellow writers to attend as well! 

A Wonder-filled First Year!

What an exciting first year for Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville!  I cannot tell you how grateful I am to everyone who has a part of it. Working in this community this past year has changed my life in remarkable ways.  I especially appreciate our writers and their stories, courage, and transformation.  I am also grateful for the support of the Jacksonville community, and the larger national circle of Women Writing for (a) Change, from my mentors to my fellow facilitators. They have each given generously to help me launch Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville, in 2014.  For a photo retrospective, check out the photo collection on our FB page. (And “Like” us if you haven’t already!)

UNF Write + HikeSuccessful Fall Public ReadAround 

Our Public ReadAround in December on the beautiful grounds of the UU Church of Jacksonville was very successful, with women writers well-represented in words and collage art and even song.  We also supported Rethreaded with brisk sales of their products, and raised $390 toward our outreach efforts this coming year.  Thank you to everyone who helped, from our donors to our attendees and supporters to, of course, our women writers.

Big Plans for 2014

I’m looking forward to what 2015 has in store for us! Just a few of the activities in the works are:

  • A January presentation to the American Legion to help raise funds for our Pilot Project for Women Veterans (email me if you’d like to donate or get involved);
  • Communications and volunteer support for the Generation Works program on February 7 with Donna Orender (email me if you’d like to help)
  • Our first “Write Around the Corner” event at UNF for a “Write + Hike” (register HERE now if you’d like to attend! Spots are filling fast!)  This is a joint venture with the Sierra Club; men are welcome.
  • A joint venture with the Downtown Library during Artwalk in March to showcase women writers (email me if you’d like to participate);
  • More outreach programs with the DBW Policy Center for Girls, incarcerated women at the Community Transition Center, and Bosom Buddies at the Women’s Center;
  • A possible joint venture with the UNF Women’s Center and the UNF Writing Center to bring our writing practices to UNF.
  • Much, much more!  (OK, not too much more, just the unplanned stuff that I’m staying open to.)

I hope to see you in one of our writing circles in 2015, and I look forward to growth and transformation as our robin guide shows us the way!

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Celebrate the Season and Support Our Writers!

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IMG_0544Come support Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville, as we present our newest Women Writers at our Public ReadAround on Dec. 13, 2014.

Don’t miss this opportunity to support us as we share the highlights of our “Heroine’s Journey” this past fall (the theme for our semester).

Here are the details:

What: Public ReadAround
When: Dec. 13, 2014
Time: 2-4 p.m.
Where: UU Church of Jacksonville, 7405 Arlington Expressway, Jacksonville, FL 32211
Support: This is a fund-raiser for our Outreach Programs as well as Rethreaded.  We’ll have a silent action and holiday gifts from Rethreaded.
Register: RSVP on Meetup

Why now? Once a semester, we open our circle to a wider audience, so our words can be shared, heard and honored. But spots are limited, so don’t delay if you want to attend!  You can register here.  (Sorry, guys, women only.)

Can’t attend but would like to support us? You can support our Outreach Programs with incarcerated women and women veterans — among others — through our Spring 2015 GoFundMe Campaign.  Your contribution will support facilitation of these circles as well as our other outreach efforts. Support us here.

Here’s a flyer if you’d like to distribute it to others: ReadAround Flyer Fall 2014.  And watch for updates on our FaceBook page!  Please like us to stay informed of our efforts.

Circling Up at Women Writing for (a) Change: New Classes, Fall Fun

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Hello, Women Writers and Friends!
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Happy Labor Day!  With school back in session and fall right around the corner, we’re planning exciting things here at Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville!
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New Classes this Fall

draft_lens17279251module145724101photo_1294526004shape-collage-onlineFirst of all, I’m SO excited that, due to the great response we’ve had to our Spring and Fall Series, I’m adding two new classes this fall:  “Writing with Art + Soul,” and “Maintain Your Writer’s Shape.” These classes are based on classes currently running at the Cincinnati School, so I know they will be wildly successful.

Here’s the scoop.  “Writing with Art + Soul,” is a 6-class series combining collage plus writing (inspired by the SoulCollage® process). Or, just want to “drop in” sometime?  You can sign up for the fast-paced, one-hour  drop-in “Maintain Your Writer’s Shape” classes. You’ll get your writing whipped into shape in no time! Classes are on alternate Fridays over lunch. Check out our Meetup site for all the details and to register.

In the meantime, we just had our Fall Sampler last week, with a full class of 13 wonderful women writers.  See the photos here:  FB.  We had a great session.  And, we’ll be cranking up with our Fall Series: The Heroines Journey, starting September 10.  (We’re full now, but, you can sign up for the waiting list.)

Circle Up to Celebrate Women!

10612784_544092995719915_7456304977966831478_nWe’ve been out and about, celebrating women’s voices.  In fact, seven of us Women Writers attended The Circle at the Alhambra on Monday, August 25.  This special presentation, brought to Jacksonville as a benefit for Generation W, focuses on how a group of women circled up to support each other.  That’s right up our alley!  It was great.  See the photos on FB here.
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We were also well-represented at the Women’s Center of Jacksonville’s 19th Annual Celebration Gala on August 22, with five Women Writers attending to support the important work of the Center: Improving the lives of women here in Jacksonville.  Check new photos on FB. Michelle Deluca, Meg Rohal, Jody Kamens, Cheryl Anthony and myself were there.
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Outreach Efforts: The Circle is Spreading! 

Women Renewed
We’re excited to be back at the Women’s Center this fall to facilitate more writing circles through the Women Renewed program, serving formerly incarcerated women who are trying to find employment on the outside.  A shout-out goes to Phenessa Harris, Gillian Ticehurst, Carrie Fuentes and Kenyatta for supporting these circles at the Women’s Center.  They are doing good work!
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Policy Center for Girls
We’re also pleased we’ll be conducting a circle for the Girls Council of the Dolores Barr Weaver Policy Center for Girls in September.  The Girls Council members, selected from photo-4various agencies around the city, will participate in a writing circle as well as learn how Conscious Feminine Leadership principles can apply to their work together.  The Girl’s Council is a leadership group empowering girls here in Jacksonville.
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Incarcerated Women
Last week I also met with Nancy Laughter at the Community Transition Center (for the downtown jail) to see how our writing circles and other women’s support groups I’m connected to may be able to enhance programs they are currently offering inside.  I am hopeful I can bring new resources to that community.
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Business Communicators
On the business side, I met recently with Cynthia Weiss in the Public Relations office at The Mayo Clinic, and we discussed workshop opportunities for the local chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators, including a class called “Writing as a Tool of Conscious Leadership” (working title).  I love it!  I plan to start working on that curriculum ASAP!
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Women’s Services Coalition
On August 26, I attended “Trapped in the Triangle” at the WJCT Community Room. This event was sponsored by the Women’s Services Coalition of Northeast Florida, (promo story starts at 27:30) and focuses on how addiction, mental health and abuse manifests in our community of women.  I’m fired up after hearing these presentations!  BTW, one of the panelists was Cheryl Anthony, a member of our writing community.
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Join the Circle!

WeCanDoItPoster1OK.  I must stop now.
Hope I see you at the Fall Series or one of the new classes this fall.
You can register here now:  “Writing with Art + Soul,” and “Maintain Your Writer’s Shape”
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As I said to my daughter the other night — right before she started her new classes as a sophomore at FSU: “It’s a new page, new chapter.”
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I’m looking forward to experiencing it with you, here in the growing community of Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville.

This Summer: Ukuleles, Beyond Bars, and (new!) Our Writing

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Gather the women; save the world. — Jean Shinoda Bolen

It’s been a busy spring and summer for Women Writing for (a) Change here in Jacksonville.  We finished up our Spring Series in early May, held our first Public ReadAround mid-May, and began our Summer Series at the Women’s Center in early June.

Public ReadAround at Coast Occasions in Jax Beach

Public ReadAround at Coastal Occasions in Jax Beach

In the mix of all that, I presented a workshop at the National Association of Poetry Therapy in Scottsdale called Song of the Soul, which I repeated in Austin on June 5 and will conduct again in New York City in August. (My ukulele plays a key role.)

Plus, we also held our first ever Feed Your Creative Soul Art and Writing Retreat at the Evervess Studio in May, mixing art and writing, a little dance, and even some delicious organic food from Down to Earth Farm here in Jax.  Maybe you heard our promo spot on NPR’s Morning Edition?  If not, listen to it on our media page here.

Feed Your Creative Soul Retreat

Feed Your Creative Soul Retreat

Speaking of publicity, it was fun to get another article published on us, this time in Jacksonville Magazine (here’s the link). Also had fun presenting on compassion for PechaKucha Night in St. Augustine on May 14.

I’ve got one more session planned for the Summer Series at the Women’s Center, in which I’m writing with the formerly incarcerated women of the Women Renewed program. They are getting training and finding employment to transition to self-sufficiency “beyond bars,” in the outside world. (Thanks so much to all of you who have funded our effort with the GoFundMe campaign!

This is a magical, miraculous experience, let me tell you.  I am so amazed by the tenderness, the thoughtfulness, the poetry of these women.  Whatever assumptions I may have had going into this (and I tried not to have any) have been shattered.  They so totally and completely GET it.  And their writing ROCKS.

In fact, we’re going to have a “private” ReadAround at the Women’s Center next week, after we finish our last session Monday. So watch for some posts on that, I hope.

Collage from the Women Renewed Series at the Women's Center.

Collage from the Women Renewed Series at the Women’s Center.

I was especially thrilled because my daughter, Camille, has been able to assist me at several of these circles, which has been good for her and for me.  She can see what I’m doing and get exposure to a world that she has not seen up close before.  This is good for everyone.

Not to mention, I finished two videos on The Conscious Feminine and posted to the media page on our site.  Check them out here; I’d love your feedback.  I also decided recently to become the Regional Coordinator for Gather The Women, an international group of women who are holding sacred circles to promote peace and prosperity for all, based on the book The Millionth Circle by Jean Shinoda Bolen.  I’ll be holding a regional event in March 2015 in honor of  National Women’s History Month.  More to come on all of that.

I am looking forward to our Fall Series starting September 10, 2014, for which we actually only have a couple spots left.  Register by August 1 for the Early Bird Rate of $300.  You can register here.  You can also sign up for the Fall Sampler on Wednesday, August 27, which should be a lot of fun.  Register for that here.

Manatee musings (image credit Wikipedia)

Manatee musings (image credit Wikipedia)

But the MOST TIMELY reason I’m writing is because I wanted to encourage you to check out a NEW page of our website, which is called Our Writing, in which we feature some of the women writers who have participated in our circles.  Check out “You Found Me” (tender and lovely) and Naturally Curly Hair” (hilarious).  I guarantee you will enjoy them.

I hope all of you are enjoying a slightly slower pace this summer.  After a spate of travel, I myself spent the last couple days in my garden, catching up on mulching and weeding and filling up all of my bird feeders.  The bluebirds have built a nest in my new bluebird box, and the eggs have hatched! I’m thrilled to rest and enjoy the haze of summer as I sit on my garden bench and dream of new ideas and more circles of Women Writing for (a) Change.

Peace to all of you.
Jennifer

p.s. check out more info and stories on our new Facebook Page!  And please “like” us if you want regular updates.