GUEST BLOG: Our Transformation from a Journalling Circle to Creating a Book (Wendy and Ahava Writes)
We had been meeting for about two years. It just began to be clear to us, at that point, that we were not just journalling together but were embarking upon a larger project. I suppose we each dreamed into this new phase and it just felt right to us. We continued to journal together but, as we decided to type up some of our entries, we realised that this was not only for ourselves but we sensed it could be inspiration to others, as well. And then the momentum shifted and we began to bring together aspects from some of our individual work and formulating ideas together which became our “Four Practices” and then “Seven Principles.”
I had been teaching writing, literature and women’s studies for many years, as well as facilitating writing workshops for women. It was natural for me to draw upon some of the most influential journal writers that have inspired me and the varied practices, principles and prompts that I was using in my various circles of women.
And then, we began to create drafts upon drafts upon drafts (I still have copies of these in my “playroom” office). Sometimes we met monthly, or with more time in between and, towards the end, weekly and even more frequently than that. We still may have been continuing to work on the book if Ahava hadn’t booked ArtSpring for the middle of November and we set the date for our Book Launch at the Gallery on ArtSpring (for which I am forever grateful!).
And, naturally, there was the entire range of skills that we had to develop and decisions we had to make along the way towards having our book edited, designed and printed that required us to move into this realm of publishing that I, personally, had never before experienced. Also, we had to collaborate and make decisions collectively, so this was at times very challenging, but also allowed us to draw upon our various strengths and skills and share the weight of the tasks at hand.
This continues as we are bringing our beloved book into the world so that others can read, share and use as inspiration for creating their own circles of women writing alone and together.
I distinctly remember as we gathered together over the first few months how supported and nourished we felt by the process of writing together and sharing our words aloud. We were all equally astonished at the depth, power, similarities and differences in our writing.
So much so that we three applied, and got accepted to share our experience at a Feminisms conference in Vancouver in May 2007. Lynda couldn’t make it so Wendy and I presented our workshop on Writing Alone Together at the event at Simon Fraser’s downtown campus.
Within the first year or so, we also began typing up our journal entries, acknowledging their value to us and wondering what we might “do” with them.
During that first year we chose to tape our conversations on several occasions. We were feeling inspired and compelled by what we were hearing, energized by the honesty and emotional intimacy, and relishing the connections we were feeling between us, of the similar books we had read, the healing wisdom and complex understandings about ourselves and the world that was enabled through our decades-long commitments to journal writing.
At some point, I became the Manuscript holder, soon after we started to put our entries, theorizing and philosophizing and ingathering of quotes together. This lasted up until the publishing date, although we each took many turns working on the various versions of the book.
Within the first two years I believe we created a book proposal that we gave to a local writer who was doing a workshop on them. He told us that it was the most promising one of the bunch he had read. We also submitted a book proposal to New Society Publishers in August 2011, that was rejected. All this walking down “memories’ lane” shows me that we were poised to write a book from very soon into the process although we kept meeting as a writing group for at least two years.
The transition was smooth to begin with, I think, but it got harder and harder as we went along. The process of writing together, freely and heartfully, was so different from the practical labours and even the intuitive listening that was needed to birthe this book. I was doing a PhD, Lynda was being a mother, and Wendy was coping with the challenges of an ageing body and of losing close friends. We were all three finding and deepening our ways to teach this work as we were writing about it.
I so appreciate this opportunity to remember. It is such a glorious feeling to be on this side of the journey. As I have been writing these final words, a moth first landed on my track pad and then flew onto the back of my hand. I look up its meaning in the book Animals Speak, and find the meaning of its magic written within the description for butterfly—transformation. We published the book under Butterfly Press, which is the same press I self-published my first poetry book under in 1998.
The process of transformation in the butterfly and mother has four stages. Ours had three according to Lynda, however I wonder if we all had already been through another stage, which was each of our individual explorations and transformations through journal writing. All of that we each brought to the second stage of Writing together, the third of writing the book together, and now the fourth of sharing the book in the world. We each had so much to offer already when we first met. The journey continues….