A Message From the President: September 2013

Early in the Summer I finished a four-week online writing workshop for stroke survivors (with conference calls). For some survivors it was the first time they had communicated, let alone written, about their feelings about what happened, what they experienced, what they expected. For others, while they may have ‘let it all out’ earlier, it was an opportunity to learn to use expressive writing techniques to organize and share personal reflections on their recovery.

I got to know other survivors spread across the states. And will get to know others. There were three day/time option tracks; I chose the one that was best for me. Eventually the three will be linked as the last one finishes.

There was no difference in workshop content for the three tracks other than the schedule. Each week two themes were presented with several suggested topics to write about. As we finished, we posted them on a dedicated page of a website to read and comment. Similar frustrations were the norm, even though we ran the gamut from mild residual disabilities to wheelchair-bound, recent to long-term.

The workshops were made possible by American Heart Association’s off-shoot American Stroke Association’s quarterly magazine, Stroke Connection. Debi McGill, the editor of the magazine, was in charge of the nuts-and-bolts of connecting us. It was facilitated/coached by Carol Keegan, a forty-year survivor, who had the idea of developing an expressive writing group composed of stroke survivors. In her own recovery, she had relied on deep reflective writing practices like journaling and legacy letters to help her make sense of how stroke had changed her life. She had found the simple process of finding words to convey her fears and resentments allayed her need to make sense of the experience. When she sat down to write, the paper answered her nagging questions about “Why,” and “How,” and even, “What if.” The more she wrote, the more inner resources bubbled up.

So she decided that her 40th anniversary celebration would focus on finding ways to share expressive writing techniques with other survivors. She decided to develop a writing workshop that would support them through the process of harvesting their individual experiences of recovering from stroke. By sharing their writing with each other during the workshop, they could find a greater appreciation of their own coping skills and more confidence in their capacity to rebuild their lives.

We were the first to use technology to link wide-spread survivors together (the first classes had been with her local stroke support group).

So…that’s how I started my summer with new hopes for a writing life, getting that needed ‘kick-in-the-ass’ to my in-work-but-stalled “Life without Clots” book that has taken on many shapes and forms over the years. I also started a new blog; http:// alifewithoutclotsblog.com. Hope you had a great start to your summer with lotsa inspirations for a fabulous end.

Larry Watters,

Writers Forum President

Member Monday: Timeless Advice for the Story Writer by Steve Callan

Welcome back to Member Monday.  We kick off our September theme “A Lesson Learned” with a piece of advice from member Steve Callan.  Steve is the author of Badges, Bears, and Eagles.  Steve will be signing copies at the Chico Costco on Friday, September 6th from 10:00am to 4:00pm and again on Friday, September 13th at the  Redding Costco from 10:00am to 4:00pm.  You can also hear Steve’s author program and pick up a signed copy of his book at Sisson Museum in Mt. Shasta on Friday, September 20th at 7:00pm.

Timeless Advice for the Story Writer

by Steve Callan

Last spring, my wife and I enjoyed a week’s stay in a rustic historic cottage near Pacific Grove’s Lover’s Point.  Much to my delight, the cottage had a fabulous library, and amongst its treasures was a tiny paperback entitled Becoming a Writer.  The author was born in 1893 and died in 1948, the year I was born.   Her lessons are as relevant today as they were back in the early 1900s.  I was so taken by one particular paragraph that I copied it, freehand, and keep it nearby whenever I’m writing:

“But at the time of writing, nothing is more confusing than to have the alert, critical, over-scrupulous rational faculty at the forefront of your mind.  The tormenting doubts of one’s own ability, the self-conscious muteness that drops like a pall over the best story ideas, come from consulting the judge in one’s self at the moment when it is the story teller’s turn to be in the ascendant.  It is not easy at first to inhibit the running verdicts on every sentence, almost every word that is written, but once the flow of the story has well set in, the critical faculty will be content to wait its turn.” -Dorothea Brande (1893 to 1948)

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