Category Archives: prose

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.

What’s your word for 2014?

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I picked “embrace.”  It came to me, in a conversation with my journal.  I’d had a dream about grains, and, when I looked up the symbolism, it was all about prosperity and happiness.  So, my journal suggested I “embrace” this idea.  Then I looked at the cover of my journal, where it said, “Embrace The Day.”

Hmmm. Is that clear direction from the Universe, or what?

Emerging "embrace" collage for 2014.

Emerging “embrace” collage for 2014.

I like the idea of “embrace.”  It’s not…grab. Seize. Snatch. Just…gently hug.  To hug the day. Am I willing to do that? Can I embrace my life, and everything around me, without clutching it? (This was a necessary skill I used last night when I agreed to my teen-agers not being home with me for New Year’s, but “out” with their friends. Breathe, Jennifer, breathe.)

Somebody asked me today if I make “resolutions.”  The answer is, not anymore.  It seems too direct.  Too demanding.  Too much of a setup for failure! Instead, I’d rather do a diagram, or write  in my journal, or make a collage about what I hope will manifest in the new year.

Which, in fact, I did today.  All three of those things!  And I like what’s emerging.

When I asked some of my friends what their word for the year was going to be, they came back with “Risk.” “Faith.” “Trust.”  Then one of them sent me a text about what she had done to usher in the new year (and I quote):

“You girls will laugh but I’m insisting on a successful and blissful…. That being said, my friend Christy and I looked up all these crazy New Year’s rituals from around the world….The cliff note version of our night included eating beans for dinner (mex food). Taking our dogs to the park while wearing lots of different colored underwear where we then burned all the things we want to let go of and sent them away with love in red paper lanterns, came home and threw orange peels and money in our entry ways, opened up all our windows to let out old and in new, walked in our doorways with our right foot first, then watched some tv while eating 12 grapes -making a wish for each one!! Today we will eat all round food and black eyed peas, avoid cleaning, poultry, using sharp objects. We will take a walk, bury our wishes for 2014 and open up our brand new clean calendars for the year! If this doesn’t cover All the bases then I don’t know what will!!”
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New Year’s Eve dinner soufflé

I did laugh.  And, I opened my windows, stepped with my right foot into the door, and plan to eat all round things for dinner tonight!

Journal prompts:

  • What is your word or phrase for the coming year?
  • What is the biggest risk you took back in 2013, and, what did you learn from taking that risk?
  • Who are you most committed to being in 2014?

Feel free to post your responses in the comments below. I have more prompts for the new year and to wrap up the old, if you are interested. Contact me.

Ready to invest in yourself this year?  Register for the first ever Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville, Core Class, beginning January 15.  I have four spots left as of today. 

Each day of this year is a blank page.  Consider writing your story in a circle of supporting women. I’d love to welcome you into the circle with a warm embrace.

Do you hear what I hear?

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“A circle of women is a nurturing and sustaining resource that can become a spiritual and psychological wellspring tapped into whenever the circle meets.”
— Jean Shinoda Bolen, Urgent Message from Mother

IMG_2786Just a few short weeks ago, I was honored and amazed to sit in the circle of 21 women who attended our first two sampler sessions. As I told them, it was simply wonderful to hear their voices and listen to their writings.  This is the beautiful sound of Women Writing for (a) Change — the sounds of women, being heard.

Do you hear what I hear?

Some of you are out there still discerning if this is the right next step for you. As you consider it, may I share with you a journal entry I wrote after I graduated from my leadership course this fall?  It speaks to the beauty of the voices I hear in the circle, and the importance of claiming our voices:

Journal Entry, November 1, 2013:
Why is it such a dark, terrible thing when women’s voices are silenced?
It came to me today: Because when we speak our words out loud, and especially when others repeat those words back to us, it signals that those words — that women — have value.  They are important.  They are worthwhile.
When we repeat each others’ words during the WWf(a)C read-back ritual, it sends a deep, deep message:
I hear you.
I value you.
I honor you.
The first time I heard my words read back to me in the circle, I felt as proud as I did when I received praise from my parents as a young child, or when I graduated from high school, or (embarrassingly), when I made the homecoming court:
I am recognized!
I am valuable!
I am worthy!
Of course, at that time I was fed by outside affirmation, needing it like bread with butter, my teeth making clean marks in the smooth surface of it, sharply outlined. These days, I am defined by my own self-love, and self-worth, and outside affirmation is just icing on the cake.
But it tastes delicious.

IMG_2991So, Dear Women Writers out there:  Before you get too caught up in the holiday madness, please let me remind you of this opportunity to be heard, starting January 15, 2014, for 15 weeks of delicious writing, listening, and feeding our souls.

If you register by December 31 with a deposit of $75, you can get the early bird rate of $350. Then please pay $150 by January 10, and $125 by January 14. Or, you can pay all at once. It’s up to you. Here’s the link to register at Meetup: http://www.meetup.com/Women-Writing-for-a-Change-Jacksonville/events/140889832/

As a small but powerful thank you gift, I’ll send you a list of outstanding journal prompts to close out this year and ring in the new one, as suggested by my journaling mentor, Kay Adams, at the Center for Journal Therapy.

If you feel this is the right time for you to be called to the circle, and to be heard and honored by yourself and others, do join me for the January 15, 2014, inaugural Core Class of Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville.

I hear the call. And I hope you hear what I hear.

Happy Holidays,
Jennifer
P.S. Perhaps you may have someone else that you’d like to invite to the circle?  If so, please do!

Manifesting Your Future, One Word at a Time

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“Just give me a cool drink of water before I die.”
— Maya Angelou

IMG_9408Just before the start of 2013, I took a hike with a friend in a Florida park. As we crunched through the underbrush, I told her about my journaling mentor’s suggestion: pick a word to manifest the coming year, journal about it, and see what happens.

As we walked through the woods, I enjoyed the bright red berries of the native Yaupon, the fanning pattern of the dusty green palmetto, and the graceful, sweeping branches of the live oak, still damp from a recent rain. I recognized the resurrection fern on the wet bark, and my word came to mind:

Resurrection.

Yes. After being in a semi-dormant state for some time, it was time to resurrect my business life. But this time, I wanted to do it with more integrity. I wanted to create a work container that could hold myself, my values, and my family life — without the sides caving in.

IMG_9406Today, I ask all of you to consider: What would you like to manifest for yourself this coming year? What resolution would you like to see come to fruition? What would you do if you gave yourself the gift of time, and space, and community, to speak your truth?

For truly, intention has power.

When the word “Resurrection” surfaced for me, I had just returned from a trip to Cincinnati, where I had visited the Women Writing for (a) Change school. Walking in the woods that day, it became clear that my resurrection would somehow be aligned with Women Writing for (a) Change.

So, just last weekend, I graduated from the leadership course at WWf(a)C in Cincinnati, paving the way for me to officially open the Jacksonville site. Last month, I also finished our first Jacksonville “sampler” class, giving 11 wonderful women a taste of the WWf(a)C practices. On top of that, we raised $1,000 for another group of women who are resurrecting their lives: Rethreaded.

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The first Women Writing for a Change, Jacksonville, class begins January 15, 2014. A new sampler is planned for November 20, 2013.

I am inviting you, today, to consider giving yourself permission to walk this path with me: to resurrect the parts of you that have lain dormant, waiting for a splash of water to restore you.

“Just give me a cool drink of water before I die,” said Maya Angelou.

Just give me a piece of paper, and a pen, before I die. And then let me be born again.

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

REGISTER: for the Nov. 20 sampler.
http://www.meetup.com/Women-Writing-for-a-Change-Jacksonville/events/147846652/

REGISTER: for the January 15 series.
http://www.meetup.com/Women-Writing-for-a-Change-Jacksonville/

SPONSOR: a seat or learn more:
Contact us.

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Find yourself in the circle

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What if this was the year you found your true voice?

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Join me for a very special workshop series starting January 2014 designed to help you cultivate and nurture your own authentic voice in a supportive writing community.

Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville, is now offering a 15-week course created to provide time, space and a community to support the lives of women who are:

  • Just beginning to find their voices
  • Writing but seeking new sources of inspiration and discipline
  • In transition
  • Working in the arts who want to write to open up new avenues of expression
  • Involved in the helping professions and want to write as a way of keeping themselves intact
  • Poets, novelists, journal-keepers, memoir writers, and others

Classes allow for personal writing time, small-group sharing, instruction in useful and positive feedback, and opportunities to read aloud for an audience. You’ll also learn to identify the internal and external systems that silence you, and help one another to change those systems.

Class meets Wednesdays from 7-9 p.m. in the Clubhouse of Jacksonville Golf and Country Club. Each class will be facilitated by writer-faciliatator Jennifer Wolfe, with occasional guest presenters.  An additional Core Class will be offered Fall of 2014, with other workshops throughout the year. Tuition is $375.

Sampler session offered in November

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Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

If you’d like to “test drive” the model, please attend our “sampler session” on November 20, 2013.  In this session, we will demonstrate the Women Writing for (a) Change practices and try out our “text” for the upcoming January class: Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. We’ll use prompts from this wise and witty book for our writing practice, and use journaling, expressive writing, and other creative methods to give you a taste of what the WWf(a)C process offers its participants.

Our first sampler session was held on Wednesday, October 16, and was a powerful experience for 11 Jacksonville women. Here are some comments from participants of our first “sampler” class:

  • Surprisingly fun! I really enjoyed my time and all the people.
  • Time to concentrate on something for myself.
  • The safe place to share.
  • Enjoyed the safe structure and welcoming atmosphere. Enjoyed being encouraged in this space.
  • The gift of the circle is the beauty in honesty. Words from the heart are always right.

Make this a year of profound change!

Experience the gifts of writing in a circle. Register by leaving a comment below or, follow the link to the Meetup site:  http://www.meetup.com/Women-Writing-for-a-Change-Jacksonville/.  Small fee of $25 for refreshments and materials for the Sampler; this can be applied to the tuition for the Core Class if you register by December 1, 2013.

Why Here, Why Now: Women Writing for (a) Change

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Aphrodite

Tonight at dinner, when I mentioned the Divine Mother during a prayer, my son said, wryly, “So, it’s all about female gods for you now, is it?”

We then proceeded to have a very interesting conversation about Greek mythology — which he loves — and the origins of the female goddesses, then the shift to patriarchal models. He thought that perhaps this evolution was due to men’s superior physical strength.

I explained that the first figures worshipped and represented in cave drawings were women, because of their mysterious capacity to create new life. We then traced the evolution of that worship (for various reasons) from woman as Goddess to woman as property, given the right to vote in the United States just a short time ago.

“Did you know,” he said, rather seriously, “that in some countries today it’s forbidden for women to even speak in the presence of men?”

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The Black Madonna, in a small church in the South of France.

As Dave Barry says, I am not making this up.

A few years back, I started a blog called “One Brave Voice.” I wanted to express my feelings about politics at that time. The blog was short-lived; it quickly devolved into an argument with one particular person.

Maybe, my sister said to me afterward (a bit thoughtfully), maybe the blog was just your own still, small voice, trying to get your attention.

Hmmm.

After my marriage dissolved, I found my voice in the pages of my journal. I wrote, constantly, and the clean white pages were a container for my grief as well as my growth. Over time, the pages changed from dark lines of dense black ink to colorful, looping letters inside journals covered with birds, flowers, and butterflies. Each page was an opening into my own soul, my interior acre, my spiritual garden.

My journal listened to my inner voice, cultivated it, and nurtured it.

Last spring, I went on a field trip with my daughter. She’s an intelligent, lovely person and a budding biologist. As we ate lunch, I overheard the woman next to me, a biology teacher, talking about how, on another school field trip, she had directed two young girls to read some scripture out loud. She went on to say that her son had gotten up and walked away, and, when she had asked him where he was going, he reminded her that their church teaches that women cannot be spiritual leaders.

“What? I asked, incredulously.

“Oh, yes,” she said, blithely. “It’s true. It says that in the Bible. In Timothy.”

I could not believe my ears. Here was this woman, a teacher herself, actually defending this position, in today’s day and age. The message for me was, my daughter was not the equal of her son. That her voice was not as valuable as his.

I was outraged.

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Chartres Cathedral: Center of the Divine Feminine

This summer, I studied Conscious Feminine leadership at the Women Writing for (a) Change school, founded in Cincinnati 20 years ago. After three weeks, I knew that opening an affiliate site in Jacksonville was my next step.

I don’t want to argue about politics.

I don’t want to argue about religion.

What I do want to do is create a space in Jacksonville for any woman, young or old, to feel welcome, honored and listened to, through the medium of writing and creative self-expression. It will be women writing for (a) change. And someone will be listening.

I live my life by several quotes these days. One is:

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?
And if I am only for myself, then what am I?
And if not now, when?” (Hillel)

The other is,

“I will do what I can,
where I am,
with what I have.”
(Theodore Roosevelt)

Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville, is simply the place where I am called. It’s where my “deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” as Frederick Buechner said.

Please join me in the WWf(a)C mission: To nurture and celebrate the individual voice by facilitating supportive writing circles and by encouraging people to craft more conscious lives through the art of writing and the practices of community.

You can support this community in several ways: 1) SIGN UP for a class; 2) SPONSOR A SEAT if you can’t attend but would like to sponsor another woman  to attend in your place; or 3) FORWARD this page to someone you know who would value this experience.

Thank you for  your support. Even if all you do is simply hold the space for this dream to come to fruition, I would be most grateful.

Here.

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

Welcome to Women Writing for (a) Change

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“When a woman listens to herself, she changes.” — Nelle Morton

Women Writing for (a) Change Coming to Jacksonville

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Welcome to Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville, a new community for Jacksonville writers. We are here for one purpose:

To nurture and celebrate the individual voice by facilitating supportive writing circles and by encouraging people to craft more conscious lives through the art of writing and the practices of community.

We are launching a special “sampler series” this fall to introduce Jacksonville to the Women Writing for (a) Change community and its writing practices. You are cordially invited to attend our introductory workshop series. Details below.

In The Garden: Planting Seeds of Creativity

IMG_1188WHO: Are you a Jacksonville woman who would like to jump-start your creativity, learn new techniques to process your life’s events and cultivate your individual voice in a supportive community?

WHAT:  If so, Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville will introduce you to an amazing process used by thousands of women across the country to develop their authentic voices.  You don’t have to be a writer to benefit…this class is open to all women who want to use writing as a tool of creative expression, community-building, and personal transformation. We’ll use journaling, poetry, fiction and prose to explore a variety of writing themes and techniques.

WHEN: October 9, 16, 23, evenings, 7-9 p.m.

WHERE: Jacksonville Golf and Country Club Clubhouse, 3985 Hunt Club Road, Jacksonville, FL 32224.‎

PAY IT FORWARD: $75. All proceeds donated to Re-Threaded, founded on the belief that “creativity can help facilitate healing and allow us to discover for ourselves who we were created to be.”

HOLD THE SPACE: If you can’t attend, but would like to support this community, please consider sponsoring an additional staff member of Re-Threaded to attend this event. Just contact womenwritingjax@gmail.com directly.

CLASS SIZE: Limited to 15 spaces only

FACILITATOR: Writer-Facilitator Jennifer Wolfe

wwfc-logo-box-final2REGISTER: Email WomenWritingJax@gmail.com, or, follow the link to our Meetup page and sign up for the Sampler Series.  Registration for our January classes begins November 1. http://www.meetup.com/Women-Writing-for-a-Change-Jacksonville/.  We look forward to seeing you!

More information available under Events.
Jennifer’s blog here.
Official opening of Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville: December 1, 2014

SPECIAL OFFER: If you can’t attend, but would love to have some writing prompts to get you started, please email WomenWritingJax@gmail.com or fill out the form under Contact,