a letter from outside

thanks to christineannwebb.com

She’s been out maybe three months. In that time, she has continued to mail me her poems; asking for input, suggestions, my honest appraisal of their publishability. She is patient when I cannot respond by return mail. She remains grateful for the ongoing connection we have maintained thus far, in this fashion. Each time I hear from her I am humbled by her efforts, her willingness to stretch, her desire to change.

Yesterday, I received the following note from her even, round-lettered hand in blue ballpoint pen:

“Dear Sarah,

Thank you for your honesty and very helpful suggestions. It’s greatly appreciated! I am in the process of re-writing “Fascination” and will eventually re-submit it to you.

Also, thank you so much for the anthology. It’s wonderful. There’s some amazing work in there . . .  and so much of it for only three months.

I miss the circle so very deeply – it was my salvation while at CRCF. It is, for a lot of women, a reason to get up in the morning. What you do is more than teach. You show us how to be creative and expressive. You give us encouragement and tips. You make us feel VALUED. I wish I could still be there on Thursday nights. Your class was amazing. Thank you, Sarah!

I’ll be in touch. Please, give all the ladies my very best.


transitions remind us of gratitude

Tonight, we talked about the many transitions represented in our culture by the month of June: graduation/commencements; weddings; the solstice; end of school year; and so many more. For writinginsideVT, another transition is the end of our second grant from Vermont Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts. We celebrated this past three months of amazing writing with the compilation and distribution of a 90-page anthology of writings from the women inside CRCF who write with us weekly.

In keeping with a spirit of gratitude for the many transitions we have overseen – women coming to voice, discovering what is most important to them, making healthier choices for their lives (to name a few) – as well as the abundant support we have garnered over the years for this work, we thought to share some gratitudes directly from the hands of participants themselves. Each week we end our writing circle with comments about the session – generally in the form of gifts/challenges; what worked/didn’t; and so on. Clearly we have far too many to share here. However, a few selected comments from the past three months will help you feel and understand the gratitude that keeps us coming back week after week:

Gifts – hearing everybody’s summer joy; made me happy and joyful. Challenges – inspiration for summer, since I’m in jail every summer.

Gifts – working with someone new, gaining their perspective. Challenges – to remain open to something I was unsure of.

What made me happy? just coming to group and being in a great environment. What made me sad? my writing made my emotions go crazy . . .

I was inspired by memories of my childhood hideaway; I was challenged in listening to compliments gracefully; I have always felt uncomfortable, but I’m learning.

Inspired me—seeing how strong we all have become; challenged me—saying goodbye to a friend.

The gifts were the women sharing their writings, their emotions. Challenges were reading what I wrote back to the group. Listening to my words being read gave my emotion substance.

I’m new to this group and it was good to hear the women express themselves in different ways other than hurtful, hateful ways.

Thanks for coming every chance you can.

I liked the way this group went, there was a lot of strong sentences, very powerful words which I related with on a personal level. Didn’t like being out of my comfort zone, pertaining to the way some of the poems made me feel. Hard reading out loud!!!

My respect for the women in this circle is what grew; Self-doubt shrank away somewhat.

I loved the poetry and the centeredness of the room atmosphere.

Grew: strength, hope, connection. Shrank: insecurity

I remembered what it was like to be 15 again. I forgot, temporarily . . . as I always do in group, that I was in jail.

What grew in me was my self-worth; what faded were negative thoughts regarding my past, thinking the damage that is done is unrepairable.

Grew: astonishment, admiration, humility—appreciation for the courage here, the love.  Faded: fear, feelings of inadequacy.