Reading as Offering
May27

Reading as Offering

These readings are my offerings to all of you. Listen to these poems once, twice. Perhaps one will speak to you strongly enough that you will choose to learn it by heart. Then write beautiful words of your own. Because they are the ones I most need. —Michelle Wing   When our AROHO board held its retreat in March, we were asked to bring some type of small gift or offering. As I sat in my writing studio, thinking about what I might bring, I remembered a bookmark I picked up from a San Francisco bookstore inscribed with Jane Hirshfield’s “The Poet.” I had not read it before, and now I know it almost by heart. The image which most stood out in my mind? A woman writing alone in her room, and this line: “Her poems? I will never know them, though they are the ones I most need.”   I decided to reach into my own favorite poetry file to create a set of six bookmarks, a mini-series of “the ones we most need.” As I did this, I thought of how critical it is to look at our poetry foremothers, those who have preceded us, and at women from all cultures and backgrounds. I could not include everyone, but I wanted to try to represent the diversity that has been so important to my growth as a writer. I also attempted to choose poems that shared a unifying message, the common ground we all share as women, writers, advocates for change, heroines in our own lives.   I used artwork from the 2017 Women’s March with Lucille Clifton’s “Won’t You Celebrate With Me” and Alice Walker’s “Every Revolution Needs Fresh Poems” — how could I resist taking advantage of such stunning contemporary images? The candle with Martha Postlethwaite’s “Clearing” is a painting by the mother of a dear friend in New Mexico. Sally Ayala passed away last year, and after her death, my friend and her sister, in clearing out the house, found painting after painting, an uncovering of a lifetime of art. The image with Joy Harjo’s “Untitled” poem bookmark is a Zentangle drawing made by me, and for the quote by Sandra Cisneros, I used a flower from a botanical flower image archive online.   At our board retreat, I read these six poems aloud before presenting everyone with hand-made bookmarks. These readings are my offerings to all of you. Listen to these poems, once, twice. Perhaps one will speak to you strongly enough that you will choose to learn it by heart. Then write beautiful words of your own. Because they are the...

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Blackbird Fellowship
Apr11

Blackbird Fellowship

                      The Blackbird Fellowship was created by Cathleen Richland to support a woman “ready to soar”.   The spirit of this fellowship lives on in the new AROHO: a movement of gifts and a culture of action and reciprocity for women writers and artists who’ve been walking to the edge of something.   Blackbird Fellows    ...

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Wings of Widowhood Fellowship
Feb25

Wings of Widowhood Fellowship

  The Wings of Widowhood was created by Maura MacNeil. Here, Maura shares her profound intention for the fellowship: What inspired you to create the Wings of Widowhood Fellowship? What best defines the spirit of the fellowship?  Can you share one story which illustrates this spirit?  I created the Wings of Widowhood fellowship so that a woman writer who has experienced the profound loss of a life partner will be able to discover wings that will allow her to soar fearlessly into the truth of her art.  When one loses a partner everything is erased, and with this loss of familiarity, who we are as creative artists also shifts in odd and unexpected ways.  When I came to AROHO in 2011, eight weeks after my husband suddenly died, I was raw with grief, but my experience at AROHO provided me courage to transform as a writer; it provided me the strength to say “yes” to the life that was presenting itself to me as both a widow and an artist. This transformation was possible through the community of fierce and powerful women writers who surrounded me at that particular moment in time and who continue to surround me as part of the AROHO community. What are some ways you have benefited from a community of supportive women writers and artists?  My connection with AROHO women has sustained and supported my work through deep connection. This is done through sharing our successes, defeats, and hopes for the future well after the retreats have ended and we’ve returned home. As I noted in an interview with Barbara Yoder in the fall of 2011 after my return from AROHO : “As I write, I am carrying the spirit of the AROHO women who are walking the labyrinth that is the writing life–women who are committed to listening to the heartbeat that guides us to our center so we can tell the truth of our stories.” The community I have found is a community committed to speaking the truth, and that sustains all of us. Can you name some current women writers who inspire you and your work? There are so many women writers I admire! There are specific women writers I return to again and again. Just this past week I began reading Adrienne Rich’s Arts of the Possible for the fourth time! I hold Rich’s poetry and essays close to me, as so much of what she writes about speaks directly to my life as a woman artist. Also, Louise Gluck and Brenda Hillman are poets I admire for the musical quality of their work. Abigail Johnson, Mary Gordon and Ann Patchett inspire my work...

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The Touching Lives Fellowship
Feb25

The Touching Lives Fellowship

The Touching Lives Fellowship was created by Marsha Pincus. This fellowship provided full Retreat funding for a public school teacher who nurtures her students in their writing and needs time and space to work on her own. Here, Marsha shares her profound intention for the fellowship: What inspired you to create the Touching Lives Fellowship? What best defines the spirit of the fellowship?  Can you share one story which illustrates this spirit? When I first attended the summer writing retreat in 2007, I had been teaching high school English in an inner city public school for nearly thirty years.   Teaching public school, particularly teaching English with 165 students daily and hundreds of papers to respond to each week, is all consuming work which leaves very little time for the teacher to focus on herself. Coming to the retreat was a transformative experience and I was especially grateful that AROHO had taken a chance on accepting someone  whose only publishing credits were academic ones.  I had submitted some of my creative non- fiction in progress with my application and was overjoyed when I learned of my acceptance.  My teaching schedule ( 5 classes a day with 165 students), graduate school at night and mothering two teenagers had left little time for me to concentrate on my own writing.  At the retreat, I encountered a supportive community of women who took each other and their writing seriously and for the first time in my life I felt that I could become the writer I had been helping others become for decades.  It was very empowering for me to have experienced women writers read and affirm my work and to stand before this same group of women, reading my writing aloud for the first time ever and hearing them cheer me on. On the final night of the retreat, when women were coming forward to give testimony about what the retreat had meant to them, as I was speaking my truth about how AROHO had enabled me finally to claim my identity as a writer as well as a teacher,  I was moved in that moment to create the Touching Lives Fellowship. I knew that I wanted to do everything in my power to give the gift of AROHO to other public school teachers. What are some ways you have benefited from a community of supportive women writers and artists? I have grown as a writer within the supportive community of women artists and writers I have met through AROHO.  Getting to know them and learning the range of ways diverse women have created writing lives for themselves has inspired me to not only see myself as a writer...

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The Spirited Woman Foundation Fellowship
Feb25

The Spirited Woman Foundation Fellowship

The Spirited Woman Foundation Fellowship was created by Nancy Mills, founder of The Spirited Woman. This fellowship provided waived Retreat registration for one “everywoman visionary who is changing the world one spirited woman step at a time.” Here, Nancy shares her profound intention for the fellowship: What inspired you to create the Spirited Woman Foundation Fellowship? I was inspired to create the Spirited Woman Foundation Fellowship to honor the creative spirit that lives within each one of us. One might call that spirit our passion. Our light. Our internal sense of freedom and liberation. It is that spark that keeps us going. Sometimes that spark feels un-lit. This fellowship is a reminder that no matter what the struggles we have had in life, no matter what the obstacles, no matter “what” it is this spark that keeps us going. We are looking for that special person who has ignited her spark under adversity. What, in  your mind, constitutes a “spirited woman?” A Spirited woman lives her life passionately. She is strong, energetic, compassionate, courageous and “unstoppable” in her creativity. What are some ways you have benefited from a community of supportive women writers and artists? Without a like-minded community of support, whether it be with writers and artists, or in any field – one is lost in a sea of one. It does take a village to shore up one’s spirit, confidence, talent, and belief in oneself. Self reflection is embellished by group reflection – and therefore magnified out into the world. Can you name some current women writers who inspire you and your work? I read constantly, but it is for pure enjoyment of self – such as mysteries. Even though, I am a former travel journalist and have written extensively within the world of women, I don’t consider myself a writer. More of a leader, cheerleader of women kind, the founder of Spirited Woman. What is one resource you wish all women writers had or knew about? I believe one of the primary reasons Spirited Woman funded this fellowship is because we feel the AROHO retreat would be the answer to this question. It is a cherished gift for women to have the opportunity to attend. Is there anything you hope the recipient of the Spirited Woman Foundation Fellowship will discover through their experience at the AROHO 2015 Retreat? I want whoever receives this fellowship to feel validated for her sense of “spirit” that led her to passionately use her creativity to overcome obstacles. A Spirited woman lives her life passionately. She is strong, energetic, compassionate, courageous and “unstoppable” in her creativity. Spirited Woman Foundation Fellows At...

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The Edna Payne Clarke Fellowship
Feb25

The Edna Payne Clarke Fellowship

    The Edna Payne Clarke Fellowship was created by Breena Clarke and Cheryl Clarke and provided full Retreat funding for an African American woman/woman of the African diaspora. Breena shared with AROHO her intention for the fellowship as well as her thoughts on what it means to be part of the legacy of women writers on AROHO’s Legacy Circle scarf (below): I’m thrilled to be in such august company. I’m sure my mother, Edna Payne Clarke, would be so very pleased as well. There we are : The Clarke sisters. It is always a point of pride for me to say that I’m an AROHO sister. My first AROHO retreat was the first one I think. I had a success with my debut novel, River, Cross My Heart, and I was asked to read and talk and conduct a workshop. This was a nervous time for me. I was trying desperately to complete a manuscript that was not coming together so well. The Retreat – the camaraderie — the other women searching and struggling and floundering and succeeding gave me a lift. And a lift is a great thing. I am always proud to recommend the AROHO Foundation and its programs to a sister writer. I especially believe in the magical enrichment of the AROHO Retreat at Ghost Ranch. I was at the AROHO Retreat in 2003 when news reached me that my mother had died. The deep emotions of that moment and the dazzling mesas and the warmth and strength of my colleagues/sisters is printed indelibly in my mind. It is with great pride and profound joy that my sister, Cheryl Clarke and I created The Edna Payne Clarke Fellowship. In memory of our mother, Edna Payne Clarke, we’d like to continue the legacy of supporting the opportunity for an African American/African diaspora woman to attend the AROHO Retreat at Ghost Ranch.  The Retreat – the camaraderie — the other women searching and struggling and floundering and succeeding gave me a lift. And a lift is a great thing. Edna Payne...

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The Courage Fellowship
Feb24

The Courage Fellowship

The Courage Fellowship was created by Michelle Wing. Here, Michelle shares her profound intention for the fellowship: What inspired you to create the Courage Fellowship? I created the Courage Fellowship primarily because of the work I have been doing for the past five years with a program I started called “Changing Hurt to Hope: Writers Speak Out Against Domestic Violence.” The program is affiliated with the YWCA Sonoma County, which provides domestic violence services to women and their families in my community. Each year, we put out a call for submissions, and then in October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we hold a series of readings, where writers present their poetry, short fiction and memoir. It has been incredibly powerful, watching these women and men come forward with their stories. I also know, since I myself am a survivor, that writing was a huge part of my own healing journey. Often survivors are left in compromised financial situations. I wanted to make AROHO accessible to a woman coming from a domestic violence background. For me, the spirit of the fellowship truly is in its title: Courage. It takes tremendous courage to pick up the pieces of one’s life after being battered physically, emotionally and/or psychologically. There is one family that has participated in Hurt to Hope that has exemplified this. In 2012, the mother wrote a piece about her husband almost killing her and her two young girls, battering the van they were in with his pickup truck, and then trying to run them down out on the street. Her young daughter, 12, was in the audience that night. She left the room in tears. But after the event, she came up to me, and said, “Next year, I am going to tell my story.” And she did. At 13, she returned, with a beautifully written piece telling us her remembrances of that fateful day when she was four years old. The older sister also found her voice in 2014, and the mother came up to me this year and said, “Thank you for giving me back my family.” That is the power of writing, telling, and community. What are some ways you have benefited from a community of supportive women writers and artists? AROHO gave me a home base of women writers to return to, again and again. It made me feel part of a broader community. Because of AROHO, I gained confidence in my voice as a writer and poet. I met the woman who would later offer to publish my first collection of poetry. I received the encouragement I needed to return to Sonoma County and start work...

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Beyond the Pink Ribbon Fellowship
Feb24

Beyond the Pink Ribbon Fellowship

The Beyond the Pink Ribbon Fellowship, created by Liz Bedell and Lisa Lutwyche, provided Retreat funding for a breast cancer survivor. Here, Lisa shares her reflections on the inspiration and intention behind this fellowship: What inspired you to create the Beyond the Pink Ribbon Fellowship? I attended my first AROHO in 2009, having survived breast cancer myself, and I found that the quiet time at the retreat allowed me to safely to revisit, and heal from, some of my experiences. I wanted to allow for another woman to have a similar experience. What best defines the spirit of the fellowship? It is as if we are sisters in surviving a terrible ordeal, and we deserve to have it validated, even celebrated. In our everyday lives, we are not rewarded in any way for having endured the terror and mutilation we survived. In fact, we are not particularly invited to speak of it. Can you share one story which illustrates this spirit? In one workshop, at my second AROHO, I wrote a poem that I hadn’t expected to write. It was based on a Georgia O’Keefe painting, but somehow it took me to my lost breast (who can ever explain how inspiration works?) The women in the workshop were warm and supportive to me, and to my small piece of expression. What are some ways you have benefited from a community of supportive women writers and artists? The community of AROHO does not end when the retreat ends. We give each other advice, share opportunities, and encourage each other all year round. The women are joined on social media, at subsequent events, and I have formed friendships that have lasted for years. Can you name some current women writers who inspire you and your work? I am lucky to have met Ellen McLaughlin, Summer Wood, Janet Fitch, Breena Clarke, Barb Johnson, and Marilynne Robinson at AROHO. They certainly have inspired me. What is one resource you wish all women writers had or knew about? Each other! Is there anything you hope the recipient of the Beyond the Pink Ribbon Fellowship will discover through their experience at the AROHO 2015 Retreat? I hope she finds a place of peace, inspiration, safety, and sisterhood, and that those things stay with her for years to come. In our everyday lives, we are not rewarded in any way for having endured the terror and mutilation we survived. In fact, we are not particularly invited to speak of it. Beyond the Pink Ribbon...

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American Dream Fellowship
Feb24

American Dream Fellowship

“Time and space for my writing in an inspiring, dramatic setting surrounded by a group of diverse, accomplished women helped renew my resolve to pursue my greatest long-time dream.” –Marlene Samuels,  Fellowship Founder  What inspired you to create the American Dream Fellowship? In a sense, I’m a personification of the term – The American Dream. I’m an immigrant myself, and my perseverance and hard work helped me attain and live the American Dream, but I couldn’t have done so if the opportunities hadn’t been available . America is unique because the possibility for anyone to improve their lives significantly at various levels has persisted throughout our history. American historian and writer, James T. Adams, defined it best when, in 1931, he wrote: The American Dream is …of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement… a dream in which each man and woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” My inspiration to create the fellowship came during the 2013 retreat, the second time I attended. I had considered applying to the Ghost Ranch retreat for at least six years before I did, but self-doubt and insecurity held me back. My husband encouraged me to apply. He pointed out that by participating, I’d be taking another important step toward fulfilling my own version of the American Dream. I’m extremely fortunate to be financially secure, so my decision to attend the retreats doesn’t pose an economic hardship. This hasn’t always been the case. For a large portion of my life, financial need wasn’t just a concern but a serious threat to the likelihood I would even be able to pursue my dreams. I immigrated to the USA from Montreal, Canada with my parents when I was in high school. Many Americans think of Canada simply as the northern version of the USA but, where I was growing up, that was far from accurate. We lived in the horribly rundown old French quarter – actually a slum that had become the immigrants’ refuge. Culturally, our lives were quite difficult. Even though I was born in Montreal, my parents and brother were immigrants to Canada from post-war Germany. Also, economically, we were very disadvantaged. My parents, Holocaust survivors who had been in the concentration camps, arrived in Canada penniless, not knowing a soul, and unable to speak English. Consequently, my brother and I spoke no English. We attended a British Protestant...

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Agua Viva Fellowship
Feb24

Agua Viva Fellowship

  What inspired you to create the Agua Viva Fellowship? What best defines the spirit of the fellowship? Can you share one story which illustrates this spirit? I came to New Mexico for the 2013 retreat just three months sober. I was happy to be sober, but still learning how to live my new life. I knew two things most certainly: that I am an alcoholic and that I am a writer. I was so happy to be there, and being naturally thirsty, to drink it in. The spirit of this fellowship is bravery. I have been absolutely devastated by addiction and it nearly ended my life. This fellowship is a gift of an inspired life. A welcome into a new life which proves that inspiration, community, and spiritual connection are the enemies of addiction. By the terms of recovery, I can only keep what I have by giving it away. What are some ways you have benefited from a community of supportive women writers and artists? In a community of supportive women writers and artists, I began to see myself as worthy and legitimate, powerful and blessed. I knew that my voice mattered, that my presence mattered, that I was being carried forward. I felt for the first time in my life revered for being me and for telling my truth the way I know to tell it. Can you name some current women writers who inspire you and your work? Above all, my mentor, Bhanu Kapil. When I read her words, she is my family, and when I seek her counsel, she is my mother. Women writers who have inspired me seem to have the same wound in them. I see it and I love them. Of these, a few: Maggie Nelson, Anne Carson, Kate Zambreno, Helene Cixous, Dodie Bellamy, Mary Karr, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Clarice Lispector. What is one resource you wish all women writers had or knew about? A 12-step program to help us move through our pain and land us on our higher path . . . AROHO is like this. Is there anything you hope the recipient of the Agua Viva Fellowship will discover through their experience at the AROHO 2015 Retreat? Her future. This fellowship is a gift of an inspired life. A welcome into a new life which proves that inspiration, community, and spiritual connection are the enemies of addiction. Agua Viva...

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