Archive for February 28th, 2011

 I knew about as much as Eunice Scarfe did regarding the International Womens Writers Guild, (IWWG) when I, like her, made a call to the executive director, Hannelore Hahn to get the particulars on their summer writers’ conference. At that time, it was held each August at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. Eunice knew it was for women and it was for writers.

That’s what I knew too when I made the call. I also knew, from the ad in the women’s magazine I was holding in my hand, that a “portfolio” was not a requirement to attend.

So I made the call.

The differences between Scarfe and me were gigantuan, to say the least. At the time of her call in 1995, she was affiliated with the Faculty of Extension at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada where she had been teaching for the Women’s Words program which she, herself, designed. She was enlarging the program and wanted to spread the information on the dates of the conference to her students and collegues.  

Me? I believe I made my call around the same time but my status was quite different. I had just been downsized from a “make-shift” office job not necessarily my calling but I brought one-fourth of the pound of bacon to the home setting, which included two college-age daughters. I was in an “in-between” state, not knowing for sure what the next step was but that I wanted to help steer it in some direction which had more to do with writing as a regular part of my life.

I took a housecleaning break, fished my daughter’s magazine from the mailbox and was intrigued by this tiny, tiny (second tiny is very necessary) ad about a writer’s  conference with a contact number in it and not much other information.

Why? Because like Eunice — bottomline, I am a woman and a writer too.  And I would find out later, in her classes, I was at the exact ripe stage of both woman and writer that Eunice Scarfe focused upon in her workshops   — ready, willing and sometimes able, many times not able to tell my feminine, family and worldly story on paper.

My writing had not yet been given shape, substance and purpose, but I knew inwardly it was an important part of who I was.  I made the telephone call in the middle of the afternoon to the director’s office (which I later found out to be her home). A politely worded message greeted me on the phone to please leave my name and number and she would call back — she promised.

I took the promise lightly, imagining my phone call to disappear into the fiber optic world of New York City. Then, after 7 pm that night, Hannelore Hahn called me back and she talked to me as if she had known me all her life. “I was just wondering,” I picked my way along in the conversation, “if I should come to the Skidmore Conference.”

Her assurance was so solid and convincing, (and she was oh, so right), that when I hung up the phone I knew my next task was to drum up a loan to make a plane flight and week-long conference attendance possible for me. I believe I made a case for it with my husband and daughter and found my way winging to Albany, NY for the adventure of my writing life.

Eunice Scarfe says “The art of writing might be chosen only be a few, but the act of writing as a daily practice is open to all women everywhere.”

That is such an amazing, critical truth to me and it is lived out everyday by millions of women and men who are not afraid to write as a routine reality in their life, whether or not they are published. When Eunice distinguished between the act and the art of writing, I believe she nailed the bulls-eye of the writer’s life.

Most writers, I believe develop their acts of writing into an art – one that peculiarly suits them; both require commitment, purpose, desire, and being willing to satisfy self.

Two summers ago, I met a wondrous woman, Bree,  on our northern Mackinac Island, who was blogging a story about us taking the horse taxi to the ferry; she does this blog as an act of writing, but she has turned it into pure art for the island with daily stories and photographs that light up the lives of the residents and her readers as well.

I went on to attend the summer Skidmore Conference for more than 12 consecutive years, teaching a workshop there as well for a few of those years. “In the Silence is Your Source”, was deeply enriching for me to facilitate and most of the my workshop prompts and settings stimulated and “readied” the participants to experience the act of immediate writing after a time of silence.

The act of writing produced three particular responses in participants that I remember today. One sculpturist came to me after class and said, “I have to leave early. I have a commissioned scupture due at the post office tomorrow, and when I came to this class, only the words to engrave on it were needed. I got them in the silence of this class and I’m leaving now to finish it.”

Another woman caught up to me outside the cafeteria, and called, “You are the Quiet Lady, right?” (Not often described like that!) I acknowledged that I was. “Right,” she said. “I was in your class yesterday and I won’t be back this week.” 

Oh, oh, I thought.

“I’ve never been able to sit by myself in meditation, quiet, or alone -ever,” she confessessed enthusiastically. “No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t, it was too frightening for me. I did it yesterday in your class with the others and it was kinda nice. I will remember that and come back to see you next year. Ohh, I wrote something pretty special too.”

One must make friends with the quiet both in the act of writing and the art of writing.

Another participant told me she had to attend her brother’s wedding next week, and she promised him a poem — it had not come; I said don’t worry, you have a whole week! She composed it on the final day of class when I dismissed them to go outside, find a nurturing spot in the quiet and write.

Eunice Scarfe is just one of many IWWG inspiring, whole, vibrant, realistic, joyful artists who share their act of writing, their art of writing, their knowledge and experiences that allow the dreams of many other actors and artists to take shape by developing the discipline and acting upon the desire to sit down and come to the open page — again and again and again. Page after page after page.

(To be continued) each day of our lives.

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