Hello fellow writers, kindred spirits, and creative folks,
This month marks one year since the first circle of writers came together for a workshop at Voice & Vessel. It won’t be a surprise that I was very nervous-excited for that first workshop… but left humbled by how readily a circle of eight strangers came together, opened up to their voices, and celebrated each other's writing.
Just as my training with the Amherst Writers & Artists Method promised, this isn’t about me or my expectations. This has always been about the gift of people gathering to take creative risks in a supportive, wholehearted space. I hold the space with the method, but you bring the gifts.
In this first year, your gifts have shown up again and again: Writers who are telling stories that would have gone silent otherwise. Writers coming back to the page after decades away, or for the first time. Writers who have chased an idea and written and edited and are now ready to publish something. Writers who are weaving gorgeous poetry when they thought they weren’t poets. Writing that makes us say, “Oh wow, will you read that again?” Writers who are actually calling themselves writers—no small feat for some of us!
To all of you who have held that space with me: thank you. Thank you for the gifts you're tending in your own writing and the gift of listening you share with fellow writers. Thank you for taking the chance to write with me. About 100 writers took the leap with me in Voice & Vessel’s first year, through workshops and one-on-one coaching. Even more than that a part of the circle through studio letters. I’m honored to share the journey with each of you.
Highlights from a Year of Writing Workshops
Across writing workshops in Grand Rapids, writing circles, and the Winter Fires online workshop, writers came together for 64 different workshop sessions. We wrote with about 250 different writing prompts—if you have a personal favorite, I’d love to know!
This year included the launch of Seven Invitations, the free at-home writing journey. In late 2016, Voice & Vessel’s first online writing workshop, Winter Fires, also launched. The responses to both were so enthusiastic and generous—honestly, I did many happy dances while reading your notes. Folks embraced the two journeys wholeheartedly, and many writers shared that they were going deeper into material they hadn't faced before.
I’m proud of the collective gift we made to Standing Rock through Winter Fires. As usual, your generosity left me humbled. I received notes asking if people could add to the gift regardless of whether it was too late to be a part of the workshop. (One of many times I teared up at how kind this circle of writers is.) In the end, we sent $350 to Standing Rock. Thank you.
There are a few more folks to thank, as they helped make Voice & Vessel's first year possible:
- Amherst Writers & Artists, especially Pat Schneider who started it all, the wise and kind AWA leaders who trained me: Maureen Buchanan Jones, Sue Reynolds, and Aaron Zimmerman; and Kate Frank, part of the small-but-mighty team that makes AWA hum.
- BreeAnn Veenstra of Wildship Studio, a gifted artist who didn't just create Voice & Vessel's logo but helped me get clear on the spirit of this new adventure. Also a fellow Frida Kahlo admirer, which made things flow nicely when I shared the photo (to the right) as part of the inspiration for the logo.
- Chris Atwater, my trusted commercial realtor who helped me find Voice & Vessel's first home in Grand Rapids and was supportive when I settled into the new space last fall.
There is so much to learn about Voice & Vessel as a creative space in the world and so many voices yet to be heard. In the second year, I'm excited to keep exploring, reach more writers, and witness more of those beautiful moments where your voices break through. Here's some of what's unfolding in 2017:
New Online Workshop: Rooted in Wonder
I'm launching a new online workshop for spring, Rooted in Wonder. This is a sister workshop to Winter Fires. For a few years, I've worked with the seasons as part of my creative rhythm. I've wanted to share this with fellow writers as a thoughtful practice, and it's taking shape through my online workshops.
Rooted in Wonder starts March 20, the first day of spring. Early bird pricing is good through February, and part of each registration will be donated to Amherst Writers & Artists.
Spring Workshops, including a Yoga Collaboration
I've also opened registration for a weekly workshop starting in March, as well as a writing circle in March. This May, I'm collaborating on Sacred Expression, a yoga and writing experience with Jessica Roodvoets, a yoga guide and fellow creative spirit. This four-week series starts May 3 at Expressions of Grace Yoga in Grand Rapids. Spots will be limited, so please send me a note if you're interested.
New Training on Myth this Summer
My own journey is taking me deeper into the study of myth, storytelling, archetypes, and related spiritual traditions. More and more, this is an area that blends my writing, creative impulses, and spiritual ancestry/background. As part of that learning, I'm going to train with Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés this summer in Colorado. She is teaching folks how to work with her classic book, Women Who Run with the Wolves, and lead groups in their own communities.
Similar to how I felt before my Amherst Writers & Artists training, I don't have ideas or expectations for where this may lead. I didn't really imagine Voice & Vessel when I became certified. I only knew there was something meaningful about the Amherst method, and I needed to learn about in an intentional way. The same is true for me now with Dr. Estés' work and the study and practice of myth. Normally I wouldn't share something like this until I have a better-formed thought about it, but I want to share in case there are kindred spirits in the circle of writers. Or if you're simply curious about myth and looking for resources, let me know. I'm happy to share some of the teachers and books that have helped me.
Story Foraging & Revision Circles
I'm excited to bring back Story Foraging in 2017. This is a one-time workshop to move your writing forward after a generative workshop, so I open it only to writers who have written with me previously. Story Foraging helps answer questions like: What do I do with my writing from prompts? How do I know if I'm writing a poem, an essay, a story, or something else? I hope to offer this workshop at least a couple times in 2017. Dates will be announced soon!
As part of helping writers move deeper into the revision process, I'm also introducing Revision Circles in 2017. Revision Circles will meet once per month, with a commitment of six months, to exchange drafts of writing in progress, offer supportive feedback, and help each other get closer to a finished piece of writing. The first circle is already forming from last year's Story Foraging workshop. If you're interested in Story Foraging and revision support, please send me a note. I'm keeping track of which writers are interested as I plan future dates. (One-on-one writing coaching is also available if you'd like to get this kind of support sooner.)
One more time: Thank you!
Voice & Vessel has become something better than what I could have planned or pushed into being. In that sense, I'm learning about it right along with you. The space as it is today reflects each of your voices in some way. There's creative energy in the studio that's all yours, and it helps new writers feel at ease and supported. In every workshop, I feel a big universe of stories, passions, and paths circulating around us and just under our empty pages. It's a diverse universe, a whole constellation of stories and voices. To me, that's a vital space to hold together, especially right now. Here's to another year of discovering the stories we carry... thanks for being a part of the journey so far.