Story Jam

Last week I participated in a Story Jam, an event where local writers read their works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry around the theme, “You give love a bad name.”


That’s me reading about First Love

Sponsored by the Philadelphia chapter of the Women’s National Book Association (the original WNBA), and organized by local author, Rae Theodore, the Story Jam drew about thirty-five people–ten readers and twenty-five listeners. The owner of a local coffee shop,  Brewed Awakening, was gracious enough to open late for this special event.

As I listened to these brave souls share their work, I was struck once again by the amazing power of a prompt: give ten people–or twenty or fifty–a word, a phrase, some theme to write about, and you will get that many diverse responses. I see this every Tuesday morning at our Just Write writer’s group.


Our ten brave storytellers

Look closely at this picture of all the writers who read their stories that night and you will see we are looking in all different directions–indicative of how we write–with unique views and unique voices.

Some of the varied takes on our theme involved First Love, Free Beer, Psycho Alcoholics, Ice Cream, and a Vengeful Wife.

As a reader, I experienced the power of having an audience, a mirror for your work. This is a lesson I am grateful to have learned at the Women’s Writing Circle. There is magic in oral storytelling, an alchemy that transpires between speaker and listener when written words are given voice. I can’t explain this in scientific terms, but I’m convinced there is research out there somewhere that would corroborate my claim.

wnba story jam flyers 2016What’s in a name? I tried to have a “reading” last year, but I couldn’t muster any interest. There was no theme, no exciting name like “story jam” or nifty flyers to pass around. My vision of a reading was of a sedate group of listeners pretending to be interested in hearing us read our stories. Having a theme brought cohesiveness, fun, and energy to the event, and having the backing of WNBA lent extra weight and officiality. I will put this in my “lessons learned” category.

These lessons could be applied to other arts as well. Imagine putting out a call for artwork surrounding the theme “You give love a bad name.” Or any theme. Perhaps a combination of arts.

Can you envision a room filled with works of art based on a theme, with authors reading, musicians performing, dancers dancing?

Can’t wait for the next Jam.

A Sense of Integrity

Continuing my series on The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, I come to chapter four–Recovering a Sense of Integrity. The definition of integrity is “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” Did I really need to recover my soundness of moral character? I don’t think I ever lost it. But I will admit, I’m not always honest with myself. Integrity is also being true to yourself, “the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.”
So, I will be honest with you, my readers, and tell you that I am having a difficult time stringing two thoughts together this morning. I will be true to myself and not try to conjure up some happy horse manure. I feel as if my brain got derailed and I can’t get back on track.

Brain derailed

Four nights ago I was on my way to my Artist’s Date, a Native American Drum Circle. After winding my way through dark, narrow country roads for nearly two hours, including two wrong turns, I was frustrated, angry, and late. Three minutes from my destination, a deer popped up out of nowhere and hit my car. I slammed on the brakes and she rose up on hind legs, front hooves pawing the air above my hood, then disappeared.
I screamed, crying hysterically, horrified that I might have hurt this beautiful, gentle animal–and in all honesty, enraged at yet another obstacle that would make me even later to my meeting. After a few minutes, I gathered myself, turned the car around to see how badly the doe was hurt. She was gone and left no trace.
When I finally arrived at Drum Circle and told the group what happened, my wise teacher of Native American ways looked at me, slowly nodded and said, “Deer medicine. Hmmm, creativity, gentleness, new adventures.”
Where is she leading me?

Where is she leading me?

Animal “medicine,” in Native American culture, is the essence of an animal and what that being has to teach us. There are countless stories and myths of deer luring hunters deeper into the woods until they are lost and encounter a new adventure. I have been pondering all week on what new adventures in creativity this animal guide might have in store for me.
Stay tuned.