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There’s an idea I’ve been floating around in my head for a few years, but I’ve never really known how to take the next step. I think it started as an undergraduate writing student, spending hours in workshops each day, sharing my work and the work of others. The workshops which engaged me the most were those in which writing was shared in advance, and each person came with real opinions about the piece: the writing style, the structure, the things that work and things that could work better. The attitude shared between the participants was one of complete trust and caring; each time we entered that room, we knew we were in the safest place imaginable. There were other workshops. These did not go so well, as they were missing that fundamental element of trust. Often, these workshops were long. And agonizing. The work was read out loud in the beginning, and then you were expected to discuss it immediately. No time to process. No time to digest. No time to collect constructive thoughts about the work and your experience of it. If you were triggered by something in a piece, there was no safety, no opportunity to reach out to your tribe and find support. As someone who often wrote provocative (and potentially triggering) work, I often felt terrible participating in these workshops: I knew that I had the potential to trigger someone else. How could I knowingly put others in that position? I stopped bringing my best work to these workshops. Often, it was noticeable. The criticism abounded. It made me not want to workshop again.

Thanks to my undergraduate mentor, my workshopping life was saved. In fact, because of her I knew I wanted to lead workshops. I knew that there was something really sacred in sharing this work (our writing) in small settings, in a trusting place, without fear of retaliation or harsh criticism. Bringing our words in their raw form, unpolished, was a huge risk — knowing that we were bringing them in safety, in trust, and in loving-kindness made it possible. And, it created work which went beyond what any of us believed capable.

After I graduated, I moved 1300 miles from my school, from my friends and family, from my writing community. Somewhere, between the struggles of being on my and the chaos of my life, I lost the words. I lost my determination to write every day. I lost my community of readers, of critique circles, of workshops. I had no one to read my words, so I had no reason to write them. I became empty: a little bit hollow, and a lot more boring.

I’ve moved those 1300 miles again (plus some), and have been rooted in this Wisconsin city for nearly four years. When I take the time to center myself, to really examine my passions and ponder what I bring to this life’s table, I come back to this:

I want to create these workshops again.

I remember, time after time, being thanked by the other participants in my workshop for my insight, thoughtfulness, and constructive ideas. I could see in the pieces their deepest potential, beyond all pretense of “good writing” and “writing what sells;” it was like the words that touched the core of the piece glowed. The ones that didn’t support this core, I suggested they fall away. I wasn’t always right, but it wasn’t about that — this was about connecting to the essence of a piece of writing.

When I am in a workshop, I am connected. I am in tune with the author, with the other readers, with my own self, with the words. I am alive. I breathe deeply and feel the piece. I listen as those birds sing, as the cars race past, as the airport voices crackle. I am there, in this way that is almost impossible to describe. When I am in a workshop, I am not in a workshop, I am in each piece.

I want to experience this again. I want to facilitate this experience for others.

My passion is writing. My passion is telling stories. My passion is helping others learn to tell their stories. My passion is hearing the stories that may not be heard.

So, this is where I am. I am creating. I am sitting on the nest of my own next great idea. I am guided by the wisdom of my heart. I am stretching my wings. I am trusting the Universe with my tender new baby. I am in the process of birthing something new, something beyond all I believed possible.

I am walking into one of my craziest, wildest, most Mondo Beyondo, incredible dreams. And, I am scared out of my gourd. But I am not afraid.

Random Act of Hope, BlackBerry Curve

Stay tuned to hear more about this wild journey as I begin something incredible!

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