Sometimes I feel the need to explain why so many of the readings I select for my classes are tinged with sadness. It’s what I’m drawn to as a reader, I say. I like stuff that is dark. As a human being who seeks to confront the truth in myself and the world, I want to understand where our collective pain comes from and resides.
But the truth is, there is always a seed of hope within the work that I love the most, always a transformation happening, a reclaiming, a naming, a move towards articulation and agency. The work I love is rooted in empathy. It asks readers to take in a small part of the pain in the world, just as it asks us to witness the beauty. It asks us to acknowledge that darkness and lightness, sorrow and joy, are inseparable. And only by allowing ourselves to feel the depths of our winters, can we fully feel the corresponding blossoming of our springs.
In Renewal: Writing about Change we will explore our own inner cycles of birth and death through a kaleidoscope of entry points—whether responding to poems, music, meditation, or objects as prompts. We will articulate our own questions; explore what we want to embrace and let go of; practice gratitude and setting intentions; and transcribe our own processes of transformation. We will come together in a safe, welcoming space, and write together as ritual. Whatever stage of life you are in, however novice or experienced a writer you are, it doesn’t matter. Writing is always an opportunity to sit down and notice and name what is. I hope you will join us!
1. Write down a list of ten things that you’ve lost in your life (both tangible objects or larger abstract things).
2. Write down a list of ten things you’ve found.
3. Take one item from each list and expand on it in a longer free-write (5-10 minutes per item).
4. Mindfulness Exercise: Go outside on a short, slow walk around the block and simply notice: through your eyes, ears, and other senses. Pay attention to small details, colors, the elements. Go ahead and touch something—the moss on a tree or the cool metal of a railing. Allow your eyes to scan the ground, perhaps even picking up an object—a leaf or stone or something left by a human—that might have a message for you today. Then go immediately back to a place where you can write and record everything that you noticed, ideally for 10 or more minutes.
1. Excerpt from The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg
2. “The Burden of Bearing Fruit” by Brenda Miller
3. Poems, quotes, and more from Parker Palmer, Sharon Salzburg, Cheryl Strayed, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Naomi Shihab Nye, Joseph Campbell, and more.
Anne Liu Kellor has received support from Hedgebrook, 4Culture, and Jack Straw, and has taught creative nonfiction since 2006. Her essays have appeared in publications such as Waking Up American (Seal Press) and the Los Angeles Review.