Category Archives: music

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.

What’s MY Passion?

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Part Two of Three

So, if my friend Evan, at 10 years old, already knows his passion, it begs the question: What’s MY passion?
Let’s see.

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The bluebird appears on the old nest box.

Yes, I also love gardening.
And bird-watching.
And ballroom dancing
And singing on my ukulele.
And of course, I love writing, especially women writing, especially Women Writing for (a) Change.

But, if I had to say it in one word, my current passion is, “change.” That’s pretty funny, since it’s also the thing I fear the most!

Example: About 10 years ago, my family and I were rafting on the Nantahala in North Carolina. (Of course, the river is a great metaphor for change.)  In the photo snapped at the end, the look on my face as we are about to descend into white water is pretty much pure terror.  BUT I made it through.  And since then, I’ve learned to love the tumult, knowing there is smooth water just around the bend.

I do love to see how things evolve, and grow, and shift, and transform.

In fact, I now believe passionately that change is necessary, and that it begins, first and foremost, with ME. If I want to change the world, all I have to do is make one small, tiny shift, and that changes everything. Here’s what I do know about chemistry, dear Evan: If you change one variable, the entire composition changes and creates something new.

It’s alchemy.
It’s magic.
It’s a miracle.

Like the way my garden is currently transitioning, from winter brown to bright green.
Like the way my son is transitioning, from “car pool kid” to “new driver.”
Like the way my daughter is transitioning, from high school student to college student.

I’m not sure how it’s all going to turn out, and I am even biting my nails a bit as I look ahead to the tumult. Nonetheless, I am passionately glad to be in the middle of it.

Next entry: Inspired by PechaKucha Night in Jacksonville: What’s THEIR Passion?

Claiming our voices, as individuals, as a nation

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Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love. — Rumi

Claiming Her Voice Again

IMG_4677Last week I was thrilled to rediscover Elizabeth Cotten, a woman who wrote her signature song at age 11, taught herself to play the banjo and guitar left-handed, and then put down her instrument for decades…until she became a part of the Seeger Family, and was inspired by their music. She took up her instrument, and her voice, once again, and began a new career.

I heard her singing Freight Train 20 years ago on a radio station and instantly loved it.  This past weekend, while I was playing in a bluegrass jam in New York City with my sister, someone played it again, and I was inspired.  When I got home, I learned how to play it on my ukulele!

Here’s to women that claim their voice and their talent, even if it takes a lifetime.

Watch here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43-UUeCa6Jw

Journal Prompt: Martin Luther King said, “There comes a time when silence becomes a betrayal.” When have you been silent and betrayed yourself or others?  How did you learn to speak — or sing — or play your instrument — again?

“Now You Sing It!” — Pete Seeger

IMG_4647It turns out that Elizabeth Cotten worked for Pete Seeger’s stepmother and father, and was inspired by their music.  As I read the articles about Pete  in The New York Times last week, one headline really caught my attention: Pete Seeger: A Folk Revivalist Who Used His Voice to Bring Out a Nation’s.”

Although Pete was a fabulous musician and enjoyed performing, it seems that what he liked to do best was to not only capture the songs and stories of the past and bring them alive in the present, but also, and most importantly, to teach those songs to others and encourage them to sing.  It was  singing WITH people, not FOR people, that gave him his greatest thrill.  And, he taught us, as a nation, how to stand up to injustice when he sang the songs that helped raise our consciousness about what was wrong, and right, about our country.

Pete’s Local Connection

IMG_4648While Pete’s stepmother was also a musician, it was his mother that apparently first taught him to love and appreciate music.  Pete’s mother actually attended church here in Jacksonville, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville, and Pete himself performed there.  He gave the church a signed copy of his autobiography, in honor of his mother, and I saw it after the service last week.  It had an inscription, his signature, and a pen drawing of a banjo.

Journal Prompt: What makes you sing? How can you use music to bring out your own voice? And how can you share your voice with others?

Happy writing, and singing.