Summer Creative Writing Workshops

This summer, I’m leading a Saturday afternoon writing workshop. Details are below!

Creative Writing Workshop
June 10 – July 15, 2017 (6 Saturdays), 1:00-3:00 p.m.
@ The Union Project, 801 North Negley Avenue
$125
Limited to 8 writers

Workshop leader: Sarah Williams-Devereux 

No previous writing experience necessary! All genres welcome!

Nurture your creative practice with this generative writing workshop. Using the Amherst Writers & Artists method, you’ll write in response to prompts chosen to help your unique voice flourish in deep, exciting, courageous ways. At each workshop, you’ll receive meaningful, positive feedback from your fellow writers as they affirm what is strong and powerful in your writing. By the end of the workshop, you’ll have a new collection of writing.

About Sarah: I am a poet and educator. I have led poetry workshops for the Madwomen in the Attic Creative Writing Workshops at Carlow University since 2011. I am certified in Writing Group Leadership from Amherst Writers & Artists, and certified in Transformative Language Arts Foundations from the TLA Network. My interest is in the power of words to transform the world.

For more info/to register: swd.tla@gmail.com or 412-720-3193.

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Poem: “Pando”

We are the ocean tapeweed, the creosote plant, the quaking aspen who lived alone for so long, longed for love so much it copied itself, over and over to infinity. Got so big and so old we forgot our separate fruits were from the same tree. Our fruits and leaves dropped off, died, forgot. But our roots never did. Pulling on each other, even now, in the midst of the great dying. If we dug a little deeper, a little wider. Trembling together, even now, even now.

Note: Pando is the name of a clonal colony of one quaking aspen tree living in Utah. It’s ~80K years old. 

Poem: “The Heart is No Minotaur”

Something a bit short today, a blurb from one of my trying-to-sleep, must-write-this-down-before-I-forget-it writing sessions….

*

Sit with me long enough,
in the middle of the labyrinth,

your body all the way open,
and I will come to you, 

lay my head and horns in your lap,
rest with you on the grass,

nothing to slay or be slain.
Yours, for life.

Circumference

If I love myself,
accept myself,
own myself,
what would you say?

You were angry.
I was that landslide pillar
Stevie Nicks sang about.
Were you afraid of changing?
You didn’t want me to grow up,
always under your green thumb,
rotting away.

Did you love me so much—
want to do right by me so bad—
that it turned into wrong?

I would have loved you all my life
If you had let me live my life
Instead of yours.

I can’t fix you. I don’t know what else to say.
Mother, you always told me
to mind my own business.
How I wish you’d minded yours.
You didn’t need me in order to be whole.
We both could have stood on our own,
with smooth, rounded edges,
the whole circumference of us,
not jagged slivers, alone.

I must feed my own soul now,
fill my hands with corn, berries,
peaches, fresh and alive.

Even now, when you are dead,
you must still save yourself.
I can only give you love.
The rest is
up to you.

So Broad, So Vast

No Story’s ever finished. Even the Big Bang will live
for eternity: expand, collapse, explode again
and again and again. The original Mystery,

that long chain of Cause and Effect—
wells fed by rivers, fed by lakes, fed by glaciers,
fed by snow and rain and the water in our breath.

The more I learn about the Universe,
the closer I feel to every All there is, was,
will ever be—like neighbors in tenement houses

calling to each other from open windows,
pulling laundry off the lines strung between,
music rising from the alleyways

as we walk across streets to front stoops
to dance a little, share lemonade,
closer than we think, closer than we know.

Revamp

I’m sorry for my long absence from this blog (almost a year–yikes!). Family, illness, work have drawn me away from posting here. I’m doing some revamping of the blog, with a goal of posting more of my poems here–old poems, new poems, snippets and raw drafts, etc. So here’s an older piece. Thanks for sticking with me!

Vanessa

Small

sweet

black

plums,

ripe mangoes

& sticky rice.

Tart

lemons

dripping

juice. Red

            sweet-

            meats.

     A shock of

            rasp
            ber
            ries.

Peace.

A very long, very full, and very good first day of training. No matter how many times I experience it, I am always amazed at how the act of writing together can bring people closer to each other (and to themselves). I always feel more alive, more human, after writing, even when it’s difficult. And I feel the same when listening to others’ writing. Heart food.

I leave you with some images of my dorm hallway, and the lovely origami crane installation hanging in the stairwell. Please forgive the one darker photo–it was the only way to capture the glow.


The Best Art Studio Ever.

After a very long train ride across the state, I am now settled in at Pendle Hill. My room is in the same building as their 24/7 art studio, so if I have insomnia, I can walk downstairs and create something.

The studio is truly amazing. The place is huge. From mosaics and fiber work, to painting and ceramics–this studio has it all. Looms. A printing press. Potter’s wheels and kilns. A CD player. Multiple couches. Coffee and tea. And more art supplies than you can shake a stick at. My dream studio if I ever saw one.

The studio is also adorned with many original artworks made by community artists, and inspirational poems. Here are some photos:

I already have some sewing and beading projects in mind. To fit in among all the writing, of course!

To bed, and then to writing in the morning.

Amherst Writers & Artists

This morning, I’m boarding an early train to Philadelphia, where Amherst Writers & Artists is holding one of their Workshop Leadership Trainings. It’s an amazing opportunity to learn new ways of leading writing workshops in ways that are supportive, intimate, and positive. And I’m looking forward to returning to Pendle Hill Retreat Center, a beautiful Quaker community just outside of Philly.

If I can, I’ll post some updates while I’m there (the day will be super-packed!)

A New Website

Welcome to my new website and blog. This will be where I post news of my upcoming readings and workshops, poems-in-progress, and periodic musings on writing (check out the sidebar to follow me). So to christen this blog, here’s a recent poem for you. Thanks for visiting!

Search and Rescue

When you wander in the unlit woods,
when you stray too far
from your own path,
remember the knapsack of history
that lives on your back,
the stories that are yours and yours alone to carry—
your father’s ashy, crooked feet, bowed by poverty,
your first fresh peach after dry apple days,
your uncle’s dried blood on your mother’s
porch, his bottles of piss in the attic,
your new husband in your mouth,
the taste like first summer sweat—
they are flint and tinder to spark fire,
iodine tablets to treat foul water,
as light and warm as silver space blankets.
These joys, these disasters,
these wild hurricanes of love and relief,
they are Swiss Army knives with millions of blades,
hatchets and fishing line, field guides to
the plants of your soul, to distinguish
between the poisonous and the medicinal.
A first aid kit. A flashlight.
A flare gun, to signal
the rescuers who are yourself,
a helicopter on the third day of being lost,
rope dangling in the whipping wind, a voice
crying out—grab it,
you’re safe now, we’ll pull
you up—
and up and up,
past the old trees into
the new, white light.

Note: “the knapsack of history that lives on your back” is a reworking of a phrase from Jen Cross: “I am writing directly out of that history—and history is what lives at my back.” This is from her Writing Ourselves Whole November 7, 2012 blog post, “what’s at our backs?” Thank you, Jen, for your inspiration.