Do you know how creative you are? I grew up thinking I wasn’t creative and wishing I was. It was only when I took risks to get out of my comfort zone that I opened the door to a creative life. And you know what? I’m a much happier person for it. So many people think they aren’t creative, but everyone is. Creative energy gets blocked for a lot of reasons. It can be unblocked pretty easily in a playful environment. That’s what I do for writers.
Do you remember how to be playful? When I became a creative arts counselor I discovered the healing power of using my imagination and remembered the joy of pretending. My workshops for writers always involve unique, playful, surprising ways to evoke storytelling, whether it’s poetry, non-fiction, memoir or drama. I believe workshop experiences should be safe places for self-expression where feedback is non-judgmental and encouraging.
I’ve always trusted the healing power of writing. I began my professional career by making an agonizing choice between becoming a writer or a “helper” – and I chose a graduate program to become a psychotherapist. I’m a born listener who cares deeply about helping people heal old wounds and live more authentic and satisfying lives. I loved being a therapist, but I closed my practice after my second child was born to focus on raising my children. And, then I became a writer by writing. I still love helping people grow and change – through my writing and workshops. People are so amazingly resilient! Writing is a natural way to find out how resilient you are – and sharing what you write inspires other people to feel hopeful and resilient.
What makes your life meaningful? Writing poetry helps me feel grateful to be alive at every moment. I crave the intimacy that sharing poetry fosters in my relationships – how it heals and nourishes and draws me closer to the people I love.
Where do you find inspiration? Photographs are an amazing source of inspiration for all kinds of writing. I love to imagine myself into the world of the photograph to see what secrets it has to reveal. This wonderful 1940’s photo I found of my Aunt Marion, posing Diana-like outside a cabin in New Hampshire, inspired my poem, Monadnock, (published in Emerge Literary Journal). Here are the opening lines:
“This perfect aim you take
points toward some mysterious
unconventional life. . . “
What stories do family pictures tell you? Photos have a lot to to tell us about our family of origin. That’s me in the middle of the portrait my mother hung over our fireplace. Unpacking the emotional world of photos is an amazing tool for creative writers. I often write about my childhood and raising my children in the same town I grew up in. near my parents, brothers, sisters, cousins and lots of extended family. My parents lived in this town for fifty years, raised five children and grew old here. My mother died here and my father lost mastery over his memory here. Family relationships are at the root of most of my writing.
What places nourish your writing? My roots are in a beautiful New England town where I was born and raised. Nature renews my spirit daily, in every season, in the Charles River Woods where I live and explore with my labs, Suzi Q & Charleston. So many of my poems are inspired by what I see and feel there, wondering what it means to be a woman in her fifties, a mother of young adult children, a wife of over twenty-five years, a daughter of aging parents, a sister, a friend, a writer and teacher. Here’s something I learned in the woods from my poem, Fifty Autumns, (published by Apeiron Review):
. . . I kept walking and crossing something like a bridge and what I know now is:
Time wastes you.
It’s time to burst skin, trust without trying, set fires, brew mysterious stews, wake sleeping giants, spark unborn spirits, revive broken ones.There’s time to give your love for free.
One of the places you can read my poetry is in the print and online literary journals where it’s published in literary journals. One I admire is Kindred where my poem, Absence is published. It’s a beautiful hardcover journal that’s a pleasure to read. Other literary magazines where my poems have been published include Corium, Tupelo Quarterly, Ginosko, Blast Furnace, Trickster, Poydras Review and Lingerpost.
I love to share my poetry in person, making connections with audiences in all kinds of venues. One of the ways to find out where I’m reading poems is by subscribing to my newsletter. If you’re interested in having me read at an event, please let me know!
I’ve facilitated writing, personal & artistic growth workshops at these favorite professional organizations that embrace my values, enhance my vision and honor my voice: American Society for Group Psychotherapy, National Association for Poetry Therapy, Playback North America, Mass. Poetry Festival, International Women’s Writing Guild, Boston Book Festival, Transformative Language Arts Network, and New England Theatre Conference.
My professional memberships in the International Women’s Writing Guild, the American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Playback North America help me write creatively, live meaningfully and use my imagination to inspire other writers.
I’m a member of Playback North America because Playback Theatre proves how every person’s story can be spontaneously “staged” with empathy, compassion and artistic brilliance, sparking meaningful connections between strangers and friends. I’m a member of the International Women’s Writing Guild because of the dynamic opportunities they provide for women writers to develop as professionals and human beings.
I spent 800 hours training to become a Certified Psychodramatist, because psychodrama is the most powerful method I’ve encountered to help people use imagination to grow. Psychodrama helps people develop spontaneity and creativity to resolve conflicts, transcend pain, overcome resistance to change and make their dreams come true.
At the Harvard University Graduate School of Education I studied human development across the lifespan as I earned my Master’s Degree in education. My favorite class was with Prof. Carol Gilligan on her groundbreaking work in female relational theory, In a Different Voice.
I learned so much about writing as an English major. I graduated from the University of Mass., Amherst, Magna Cum Laude and I’m a member of Phi Beta Kappa. I loved learning to write critically in literature classes, creatively in fiction workshops, and as a journalist on the board of the daily newspaper, The Collegian.
I believe in new beginnings. Every one of us has known or loved an addict or alcoholic. I’ve always cared about helping addicts and their loved ones find hope and recovery. I was fortunate during my Master’s Degree training to have an internship at a state-of-the art residential treatment center for addiction and co-dependency, Spofford Hall, on a beautiful lake in New Hampshire. After graduating I joined the clinical staff of the adolescent unit, running group therapy sessions for teens and family members. I loved this work but soon itched to channel my expertise into prevention services to teens. So many of my plays and poems are about healing the past and rising from the ashes to begin again. That’s how I met my husband helping young people. Freedom from Chemical Dependency is a non-profit educational resource for students that changes lives, and when FCD hired me, it changed mine. I traveled to independent schools around the US, from Bell Buckle, TN, to Phillips Academy in Boston, to Santa Fe, NM providing a substance abuse curriculum tailored to each school. This is an older picture of the young man I met while working at FCD, my husband, Frank. They paired up so often on projects we became best friends and by the time they sent us to Santa Fe we were in love. We share a passion for helping people recover from addiction. We don’t work together any more, but we’re still best friends.
We all need support systems to grow and overcome our resistance to change. Early in my counseling career, at Brown University Health Education, I helped college students with substance abuse problems. The year before I married and moved to Florida to open my private counseling practice, I loved providing substance abuse assessment, prevention and treatment to college students. What we can’t accomplish alone we can with the help of others, and I believe in the power of support groups.
We need support to grow as writers. A creative life is risky business, and every writer needs a support system to thrive. I wrote my first short play – inspired by an original poem – when I was forty years old without any guidance. I soon found a play writing group in Boston, Playwrights’ Platform. I was afraid to open my mouth for the first few meetings. I hung in, and soon was asked to become heavily involved as a board member. Playwrights’ Platform hurled me into writing, critiquing, directing and producing plays and theatre festivals. As President, I coordinated a variety of play development activities supporting dozens of new playwrights and Boston area actors and directors. Small first step, big impact.
Developing new works in play festivals is humbling, creatively challenging and exhilarating. Finding collaborators who get your vision is more challenging than writing, but when that magic happens, it’s worth it.
Developing my full length play, Weekend at the Dreaming Cloud, was uniquely rewarding. My award-winning play was inspired by a traumatic death of my boyfriend when I was teenager. I used original letters he had written to me to develop his character in the play. As a winner of the Susan McIntyre Play Festival, Weekend at the Dreaming Cloud had a dramatically moving weekend production in Nashua, NH.
Sometimes a play is more like a poem. This production of my short play, Everything Blows Away, by the New Ideas Festival in Toronto, seemed to return me to my poetic voice. As if my writing had come full circle in a decade, after this production I began focusing again on my poetry. Everything Blows Away is published as a dramatic work by Art Age Senior Theatre Resource.
Why I Founded and Produce an Annual Play Festival for Women. It’s hard to get a play produced, period. But, the facts back up our feelings – if you’re a woman playwright it’s even harder. There’s an international cultural bias towards plays written by men. Our Voices, now in its 8th year, began as a grass roots effort, inspired by the International Centre for Women Playwrights and the Fund for Women Artists, to give the stage to women to tell their stories. Hosted by the Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre at Wellesley College, Our Voices has grown from an evening of staged readings of Boston area women playwrights to a day-long workshop for women artists which has supported nearly a hundred women playwrights to develop plays with actors and directors.
Here’s how one playwright praised Our Voices: Thank you so much for the opportunity to participate in Our Voices. I really got some great ideas from the exercises and I am about to do an edit right now while everything is still fresh in my brain. I’ve been in several festivals and have never before had an opportunity to meet the other writers. After meeting everyone in the afternoon workshop, it was exciting to see their staged plays and have the opportunity to understand a little of their process. I really appreciate all the time, energy and planning that goes into this! ~Playwright, 2011
Acting is such a wonderful and natural way for kids to learn how creative they can be. As a kid I was frozen with shyness and full o f inhibitions, but as an adult I discovered I loved to act through my training in psychodrama and playback theatre. I love supporting kids to find and express gifts and talents they don’t realize they have. Some of my plays and monologues for youth are inspired by diaries I wrote for my children, including my award winning one-act comedy, The Adventures of Rocky & Skye, published by Youth Plays.
Like lots of writers, I began by keeping a journal. Diary/journal writing is a self-expressive practice for telling our stories, making meaning, and engaging in an artistic process. Since starting my first diary over thirty years ago when I was thirteen, I’ve learned how writing changes me – engaging my empathy and insight. When I have a personal or creative problem, I pick up my pen to begin solving it. Writing helps me embrace, rather than resist change, and, more than that, it helps me accept – and appreciate – what I cannot change. Joyce Carol Oates describes this process wonderfully:
“I have forced myself to begin writing when I’ve been utterly
exhausted, when I’ve felt my soul s thin as a playing card. . .
and somehow the activity of writing changes everything.”
Keeping diaries for my children has made me a better writer and a better parent. It has allowed me to express myself creatively while raising them. Becoming a storyteller in the diaries helped me see the big picture and discover my inner wisdom when I was confused or stressed as a mom. I published Before You Forget – The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your Children (2001) based on decades of writing diaries for my three children. I’ve taught many workshops in community settings and book stores inspiring hundreds of parents to discover the creative parenting art of diary storytelling for their children. Why I write directly to my children in the diaries, rather than about them. Have you ever longed to ask your parents what you were like as a child? How many details, how many stories, did they remember? Writing directly to my children in the diaries is a natural instinct I followed to save the stories of their lives in an intimate, compassionate, playful, respectful and tender way. They each have their own stack of diaries, all about their lives from birth, written in my handwriting. This is a picture of one of my son Landon’s diaries. He’s 26 now.
February 5, 1994 (Age 6)
. . .While riding in the car you overheard Daddy say the word “sex,” and you started saying that he had said a “bad word.”
I said, “Sex isn’t a bad word. Sex is where babies come from.”
You said,“ That’s not where babies come from.”
“Then, where do they come from?” I asked.
“From artists,” you said.“They draw them then paint them and then they put the picture in your tummy and it turns into a real baby.”
“Oh—where did you learn that?”
“I just knew it.”
This is a picture of one my daughter Perri’s diaries. She’s 22 now. November 6, 1994 (Age 2 ½) A week or so ago, in the early morning, just after taking Landon to school, we were walking up to the house from the car when you saw the bit of moon over the house. You said: “When Daddy gets home he’ll get it for me, and I’ll hold it in my hands and I won’t break it.” This is a picture of one of my daughter Franci’s diaries. She’s 17 now. March 6, 2000 (Age 3) . . . Peering inside the cassette player, I see a pile of pennies. Daddy let you hang out Sat. in my car while he washed it, and now I see that you have used my pile of pennies to break everything in my front dash that you could get to. “Take a bref, Mommy,” you tell me. “Take a deep, deep bref….”
Here’s a publicity photo of me with some of the diaries I’ve kept for my children, taken for an article about Before You Forget for the Christian Science Monitor. I’m sure our first lab, Flash, wished I’d kept one for him too, but I had to draw the line somewhere!
Every writer needs plenty of unconditional approval. I’m grateful to Suzi Q and Charleston for theirs every day.