“Vernal Equinox” by Nita Hernandez, “I Am” by Saranya Francis
Apr19

“Vernal Equinox” by Nita Hernandez, “I Am” by Saranya Francis

  “I Am” excerpt by Saranya Francis I am a seed … The same one you buried in a hurry to kill the voice you didn’t want anyone to heed to or hear … I am a vessel that fills, empties, overflows … then fills again … Radiant, unbridled, human.   “Vernal Equinox” art by Nita...

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“Inheritance” by Sarah Deckro; “Passage” from Crone Wisdom by Valerie Forde-Galvin; “Alice the Queen of Hearts” by Camille Christian
Apr05

“Inheritance” by Sarah Deckro; “Passage” from Crone Wisdom by Valerie Forde-Galvin; “Alice the Queen of Hearts” by Camille Christian

“Inheritance” by Sarah Deckro   I am a dual citizen of the United Kingdom and the United States and have been raised by a family that observes multiple religions and world views. I am a writer, teacher and photographer with a passion for stories. I work as a preschool teacher in Boston, MA. – Sarah Deckro   “Passage” from Crone Wisdom by Valerie Forde-Galvin raising you from infancy I make the journey with you being carried along to share in your discovery of life seen now through clear bright eyes obeying some genetic imperative to move we take our tentative first steps sometimes falling flat and ultimately gaining ground injuring and healing alert to sounds of human interactions complex words and gestures using all the senses plus that capricious sixth to elicit meaning though our understanding often fails mostly finding life a muddle but nonetheless carrying on until I see you standing quite apart from me and on your own on this proud glorious June day in robes or gown and sunlight and know your passage is complete and because I’ve made this passage with you this day for me is bittersweet. As a mother, teacher and psychotherapist over a span of too many years, I am continually amazed at life as it unfolds. I have found that poetry is an excellent way of articulating this experience of being human. And this is why I write. – Valerie Forde-Galvin   “Alice the Queen of Hearts” by Camille Christian … She shouted, “Thanks!” up the well as if she were talking to her fairy godmother. And there was no one and nothing that responded back to her but the sound of her very own echo shouting back.
Alice took her first step inside Wonderland for the third time in her life. Wrestling the giant beast in midair Alice struggled to take down the monstrous creature. Trying hard not to lose her balance she clasped on to its very large wings attempting to steer it away from innocent bystanders but failing to miserably. Right as the Mad Hatter delicately picked up his morning cup of tea to take his very first sip of it, the giant fire breathing dragon swooshed right above his head and snatched up his hat with its very long sharp teeth exposing his big bald spot, and leaving the Mad Hatter’s tea party completely destroyed. Next, the awful creature rummaged right past the White Rabbit’s house into the beautiful flower garden sitting beside it, disturbing poor Red Rose’s choir practice and their morning tune of All in the Golden Afternoon and making her furious. “Whoops! Sorry.” Alice shouted...

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“Moon Goddess” by Briyana Negrette; “Mother” by Carolyn Gall; “I Am From” by Irma Vazquez; “She” excerpt by Rebekah Blake
Apr05

“Moon Goddess” by Briyana Negrette; “Mother” by Carolyn Gall; “I Am From” by Irma Vazquez; “She” excerpt by Rebekah Blake

“Moon Goddess” by Briyana Negrette I am an American artist with Puerto Rican, Peruvian Mexican and Native heritage. My family is Catholic but I believe myself to be a spiritualist. I explore the realms of identity, religion and the subconscious mind. – Briyana Negrette     “Mother” by Carolyn Gall I’m from Eden, Adam and Eve Do not be deceived I’m from Mesopotamia I’m from Academia The deep forests decay From the ocean and cay When the planet was new And creatures were few. I came to partake of the splendor To become part of life as it grew I’ve been here forever Some call me mother, some Earth I’m a part of you, and you and you.   “I Am From” by Irma Vazquez Pachamama’s pulsing belly. Her womb is warm and spacious, like my home’s jacuzzi bathtub. I splash and kick around mirroring the movements of Lovely and Beautiful’s heart shaped leaves that dance with a soft breeze. My first and every powerful breath, has the vitality of a homecoming cheerleading squad, and reminds me….I am Alive. And that I Am From the mystery of this vast, misunderstood, endless universe, I see. I am a mistress of energy. – Irma Vazquez “She” (A retelling of The Giving Tree) excerpt by Rebekah Blake We must first establish that the Giving Tree, like all trees, is a she, and she loved her boy with all of her trunk, branches, and roots…. She felt the sun on her stump. She felt snow land on her stump and then melt. She felt little feet, big feet, bird feet, and beast feet. But none of them were the man. She heard birds singing. Deer eating grass. Moss grew on top of her. A family of termites found a home in her. A squirrel hid its treasures in a hole at the base of her stump. Things were good and the tree started to remember what happiness felt like. Then she heard a song. She called out, “Who is there?” There was laughter and the feeling of a branch brushing her stump. “Grandmother Tree, we are your granddaughters, we sing to you so that you will not be lonely. We have seen you give everything and now we want you to rest and be happy.” And the tree was happy. She listened to her granddaughters’ songs and their daughters’ as well.   I am a Black American mother. I believe in the connections I have to the many women that came before me and that gets me through many long days. – Rebekah Blake    ...

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“Available Light” by Sandy Coomer, “Swan” by Rinat Harel
Mar22

“Available Light” by Sandy Coomer, “Swan” by Rinat Harel

“Available Light”  by Sandy Coomer                                                                                             I’ve come to the lake to take pictures, capture first light lifting off water, an image that is more than the muted colors of a somber morning, a world worn dull with sorrow.   It’s hard to find a reason to smile when all around me the edges of the good I believed in sink beneath a hard reality. I can’t argue that the world isn’t sometimes terrible. If you listen to its language, you stall beneath its weight.   But watch the lake. It wants nothing more than to stroke the shore, curl kind arms around the sun-shifted bank. The things I want are simple too – a fingerprint on the window of understanding, a thread of faith.   It’s not memory’s work to hold me crouched against the brick walls of my suffering, nor is it the will of my past to latch the gate and leave my dreams starving in the shadows of a narrow field.   The sun rises every morning – the sun stands to speak at the lectern, sweating and brimming with light. So what if my heart is broken. That’s part of a heart’s job – to break   a thousand times over the darkness of this world and still peer through the smallest window at dawn, ready to leap across the empty lawn and gather whatever light lies waiting, like manna, to fuel a single day’s breath.   I take what I can – a spectrum of color as photons dance in shimmering waves, the light brilliant and endless.     Originally Published: Oyster River Pages, August 2017 Also, the title poem for Sandy Coomer’s full length poetry collection, Available Light, Iris Press, forthcoming. Sandy Coomer is the founder of The Rockvale Writers’ Colony and gifter of The Rockvale “Power of Creativity” Fellowship. Find out more about Rockvale here. _________________________________________________ “Swan” by Rinat Harel   Like the single swan on a dusk-spread river, I strive forward into the unknown, carrying my heritage in my bones, in my...

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Undoing Entropy
Jan25

Undoing Entropy

“To come together…is to remember all that we forget to tell ourselves when we are working alone.” —Camille Endacott, Q partner and graduate student studying organizational communication It takes effort to gather– undoing entropy always does. To come together, though, is to remember all that we forget to tell ourselves when we are working alone. To gather with others is to remember who we are as creative people and to be strengthened for the work that we were afraid to pursue on our own. I have seen what ending isolation can do. I saw it happen after I drove the 12 hours across the desert from Los Angeles to Ghost Ranch in the summer of 2015. And I see it happening now, as AROHO gathers again to equip women for their creative work. In my time as an intern for AROHO in 2013 and again in 2015, I was deeply intrigued by the relationship between creativity and community. As I watched women work together and encourage one another, I was so curious to know just how such organizing could occur, sometimes across vast physical distances, and what these connections offer that isolation does not. Now, as a graduate student in the field of organizational communication, I am honored to revisit the questions that still fascinate me. As a partner of AROHO, I invite you to participate in our on-going exploration of how creative communities can be formed, reformed, and sustained across time and place. I am deeply grateful to hear your responses as we learn how communication – the voice we seek out, the stories we tell, the words we offer each other – can bring women out of isolation in their creative work. Thank you for all that I have learned from and through you and thank you in advance for your participation in this exploration. Eagerly,...

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Our Invitation, Our Circle
Apr14

Our Invitation, Our Circle

At the start of 2017, we extended an invitation to you to join our new AROHO circle by reading and signing Our Purpose, and to enter into a shared dialogue with creative women by entering The Q.   We are heartened that so many of you from around the world have already joined with us in our purpose, and intrigued and touched by the resonant responses of those of you who entered The Q. We are grateful that you are a part of our circle, and as the circle grows to include more women and create ever-widening waves, we will demonstrate together how the heart of our circle is beating. You are women we know already and women we don’t know yet. You live in New Mexico, New York, California, and Ohio. You live in Australia, India, Thailand, Canada, Montenegro, Ireland and the United Kingdom, South Korea, Singapore, Germany, Israel, and Kenya. Your bold interaction with our invitation to The Q is a gift we can reciprocate by saying “we read every word of your answers and sat with the truth of them.” As we are committed to listening and building our circle, we’ve stepped away from responding to questions that refer to programs we’re no longer engaged in. Thank you for understanding. We are dreaming bigger and creating thoughtful space and deliberation to do so. Your presence here is everything.  This is what we’ve learned from your engagement with The Q. You are looking for a circle, for more time or better use of the time you have. You want to create an artistic, joyful habit. You want “freedom” to share your creative gifts “before,” and “even though” other obstacles get in the way. What you’ve been through in your life fuels your progress as an artist. In sum, you are women walking to the edge of something, and we are with you. By responding to our invitation you’ve shown us that you are part of our responsive movement of women writers and artists. We are joyous to hear your voices and will continue to listen and gather your responses for reflection in digital Waves. We continue to evolve to respond to your truths and gifts further, but until then we invite you to, again:   Sign your name to Our Purpose to receive your invitation to The Q and bi-monthly digital Waves   If our message, our circle, leads you to think of someone, gift it to them now....

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Making Waves: the first AROHO anthology
Aug06
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A New Year, A New AROHO Unfolding
May01

A New Year, A New AROHO Unfolding

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#womenwrite
Aug06

#womenwrite

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AROHO Office on August Hiatus for 2015 Retreat
Aug06

AROHO Office on August Hiatus for 2015 Retreat

AROHO’s small staff will be focused on the 2015 AROHO Retreat over the coming weeks; therefore, the AROHO office will be closed through the end of August.  AROHO staff will be unavailable to answer email inquiries during this time, but will respond as soon as possible starting September 1. Thank you for your patience, and we look forward to being in touch soon! A Room of Her Own...

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On Website Downtime

Hello everyone! You may have noticed our site was temporarily unavailable over the course of the past few days. Don’t worry, we’re not going anywhere – we just had a small hacking event take place, which caused our host to suspend our site while we resolved the issue. The good news is we have identified the rogue files and removed them from our server, so we’re good to go. “Oh man, a hacking event… am I safe?” I can hear you say. Long story short, yes, your data is completely fine. And so is your computer. The hackers simply placed a few files on our server and used those files to serve illegitimate traffic as part of a “black hat SEO” effort (using unethical methods to boost search engine ranking) for another company. Essentially, they were using our website to make it look like traffic was hitting another website. Not cool, I know, but that’s the risk we take as owners of a website. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions, we will be happy to answer them. Safe and happy browsing!   ~ AROHO Web Development...

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AROHO Presents the 5th Gift of Freedom Finalists
Jul19

AROHO Presents the 5th Gift of Freedom Finalists

Bridget Birdsall is a healer, writer, poet, teacher and a visual artist. She has a degree in Marketing Management from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College in Montpelier, Vermont.  She currently teaches classes in Creative Writing, Poetry, World Literature, and Marketing at Edgewood College and Madison Area Technical School. This summer Bridget will be offering “W(rite) to Heal” workshops at Wonewoc Spiritualist Camp in central Wisconsin.  Bridget has written three Young Adult novels: “Ordinary Angels,” an autobiographical, fictionalized, coming-of-age account of a girl dealing with the violent and mysterious death of her brother;  “August Atlas,” the story of a child born with ambiguous genitalia who changes genders at the age of fifteen; and “Bringing Home Divine,” the story of a spunky cowgirl struggling against a backdrop of fear and homophobia to define for herself the true meaning of family. Bridget lives with her son, Quinn, in Madison, Wisconsin. Samples of her art, writing, awards and publications can be viewed at www.bridgetbirdsall.com. Also, check out Bridget’s Reflection on finding courage, making space, and picking up that pen! CM Burroughs is a poet and teacher based in Pittsburgh, PA. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in journals including jubilat, PLUCK!, Bat City Review, Eleven Eleven,and Tuesday; An Art Project. Burroughs is a Stanford Calderwood fellow of The MacDowell Colony, and an alumna of Cave Canem. She has received commissions from the Studio Museum of Harlem and the Warhol Museum to create poetry in response to art installations. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she received her MFA from the University of Pittsburgh, where she currently teaches poetry and creative writing.     Nathalie Handal’s work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, such as, Poetrywales, Ploughshares, Poetry New Zealand, Stand Magazine, Crab Orchard Review, Perihelion, and The Literary Review. She is the author of the poetry collections, The NeverField and The Lives of Rain (short-listed for The Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize/The Pitt Poetry Series); the editor of The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology (an Academy of American Poets Bestseller and winner of the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award); and co-editor of Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond (W.W. Norton, 2008).   Gail Helen Kramer wrote My Husband Betty (2003) and She’s Not the Man I Married (2007) under her nom de plume of Helen Boyd. Recent essays have appeared in the anthologies Queer and Catholic and Nobody Passes, and her essay “Cat of Nine Tale” will appear in the Spring edition of Global City Review. Her blog en|gender can be found at www.myhusbandbetty.comwhere she also moderates a forum for transgender people and their partners. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the City College...

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Fund Your Creative Projects
Jul19

Fund Your Creative Projects

About five years ago I was visiting Portland, Oregon, when my cell phone rang. I was getting ready to attend my son’s college graduation, and almost didn’t answer. I’m glad I did. On the other end of the line was Mary Johnson, calling to tell me I’d been selected to receive the 4th Gift of Freedom, a $50,000 award from A Room of Her Own Foundation. Imagine my surprise! I’d spent a lot of care and effort on the application, but I knew the odds of my winning the prize were slim. Nearly 800 women had submitted their work for consideration. I almost hadn’t applied. But the process of drafting answers to tough questions about my work and my commitment had been challenging, exhausting–and ultimately exhilarating. I had carried my packet to the post office and sent it off on the last day, following through on a promise I’d made to myself. I’m tremendously grateful to the women at A Room of Her Own Foundation for this incredible gift, and proud to share tips and wisdom to improve your odds when applying for grants and fellowships. The most important suggestion? Get started. Learn more about what’s out there, and make a pact with yourself to keep pursuing your dreams. Part I: The Big Picture Zero in on your passion. This is no time for baby steps. Dream big. Contagious passion is the key to creative grantwriting. Look 1, 2, 5 years down the road. What would you like to be doing? Write it down. Hold on to that scrap of paper. Refer back to it any time you’re ready to apply for a grant or make a life decision. If it doesn’t advance your passion, think carefully before you decide to devote your energy to it. Envision, refine, articulate your project. Still thinking on a grand scale, choose TWO things you’d love to do if someone would pay you to do them. Jot a few notes to yourself, but stay clear of writing in detail. Next, describe one of those ideas to a partner. Have a conversation. Flesh these ideas out. Part of this is about the scary thing that happens when your ideas get out of your own head and into the world. When you’re ready, draft a 3-4 sentence statement of intent. You are aiming for a statement that is clear, concise, and conveys excitement. The project you describe should be appropriately ambitious (but achievable), original in some aspect, and attractive. It should make you want to do it. It should make someone else want to pay you to do it. Present yourself. This is always… uh… interesting. When faced with the need to describe ourselves, most...

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“Those Ugly Voices:” An AROHO Feature with Eliot Sloan, Gift of Freedom Finalist
Jul19

“Those Ugly Voices:” An AROHO Feature with Eliot Sloan, Gift of Freedom Finalist

I teach creative writing at a girls’ high school. Needless to say, I was nervous when I got the job: how does one really TEACH creative writing? What if I failed, what if they didn’t produce anything? I was consumed by my own fears. Here I was three years ago, my first day, trying to talk to these amazing girls–these girls who were all going to college in a few months, who had won national science awards and basketball championships, who used the word “bildungsroman” without blinking–about the music of language, about muscular verbs and textured metaphors. What if they didn’t take me seriously?  I was in a sweat after the first five minutes. Then one of the students raised her hand and said, “what if what I write isn’t good?” The room was silent.  And then I realized what I could teach these girls. Fearlessness. Writing, like teaching, is all about letting go of those ugly voices we carry around, those voices that tell us we’re not good enough, we’re posers, we’re stupid. Now, at the start of each term, I make the girls get out of their chairs and “throw” those voices out the door, hurl their arms, yelling, “go away!” Sure, people in the hallway think we’re nuts. Sure, the kids look at me with horror.  But it works, teaching fearlessness. You become a writer by writing.  But first we must forcefully push those voices out the door to leave us alone in our quiet.  Imagine how much time and energy we’d have without having to shush those angry voices all day–those voices that do nothing but frighten and hurt us. That’s what I do as a writing teacher: guard that door so those voices can’t crawl back in, protect my girls so they can feel safe putting pen to paper, which we all know is the most dangerous, beautiful, and intoxicating thing there is.   Eliot Sloan, born and raised in New York City, has degrees in literature and creative writing from Vassar College, The Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, and The University of Arizona.  She was awarded an AWP Award for Nonfiction and The Bread Loaf School of English Poetry Prize.  Eliot was also a finalist in the JP Morgan/Chase Shipley Award on Diversity, for which her essay, “The Green Room,” was published in Creative Nonfiction and taped live for National Public Radio.  Eliot was a 2005 AROHO Gift of Freedom Finalist.  She teaches Creative Writing in Los Angeles and is working on a book about teaching memoir to teenage...

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“Take Up your Bed and Walk:” An AROHO Feature with Bridget Birdsall, Gift of Freedom Finalist
Jul19

“Take Up your Bed and Walk:” An AROHO Feature with Bridget Birdsall, Gift of Freedom Finalist

Dear Gift of Freedom Applicant: After years of plugging away at my writing, attending countless workshops and earning an MFA, I had filled hundreds of pages, with hundreds of words, that never managed to journey any farther than the filing cabinet in my closet. So, when a friend told me about the Gift of Freedom Award, which of course sounded too good to be true, I decided to take a chance and put my words out into the world. This was not an easy decision; nor was it an easy task. Organizing myself has never come naturally. In addition, I struggle with dyslexia, which brick by brick had built an immense wall of fear around my brain. Scrawled on this wall were the words: Never good enough. Like so many women I have known, I had become conditioned to holding myself back, to putting myself down, to obeying those unwritten societal rules that apply disproportionately to women. The proverbial thumb did not have to worry about keeping me in my place-I had learned to do it myself. An ancient Buddhist saying states: “The obstacle is the path.” Throughout the application process I encountered a multitude of obstacles, however, I did not give up. Having come out of the closet years ago as a lesbian, I decided it was now time for my writing to come out of the closet, too! The first thing I wrote was a letter asking for the support of my family and friends. Encouragement poured in-in so many unexpected and wonderful ways I couldn’t fit them all in this letter. Yet, it wasn’t until after I sealed the envelope that I began to understand how the obstacles I had feared had become my greatest teachers. In the application process, as in life, obstacles give us something to lean against- until we can find our way. Finding the time, finding the right words, putting the words in some sensible order, organizing the papers, digging up buried tax returns, resisting the urge to throw a slow-processing computer out the window, and asking for the necessary editorial help, all created a liberating structure which birthed the highest quality work I had produced to date. Sure, it may not have been perfect, and perhaps it would not win, but even I could see-it had a chance. A chance! Statistics prove that women not only win fewer awards, they tend to get fewer chances and that is what this Gift is all about. A chance. So, my gentle women-writer friends, please do not allow yourselves to become discouraged, do not give up before you’ve even begun, seize this opportunity. Whether...

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On Rejection, Mira Bartók
Jul19

On Rejection, Mira Bartók

  Fear of Rejection from: “How I Became the Grant Queen and How You Can Too” by Mira Bartók The fear of being rejected prevents a lot of women from applying for opportunities out there. This phobia reminds me about that old song we sang in the schoolyard when we were kids. I loved it because it was so gross and everyone who knows me knows that trapped inside this 48-year-old woman’s body is a twelve-year-old boy dying to put a frog down someone’s pants. The song goes: Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go away and eat worms all day. Down went the big one, down went the little one, the last one got stuck in my throat, choke, choke. Do you really want to go hide somewhere and eat worms all day, choking down your words so no one else can read them? Rejection?  Who Cares. Artist/writer Mira Bartók is the author of over 30 children’s books on world cultures, and her essays, book reviews and poetry have appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Artful Dodge, The Bellingham Review, Kenyon Review, Tikkun, Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction, and LINK Magazine. She was a finalist for AROHO’s Gift of Freedom Award in 2003. Her creative project—an illustrated memoir titled The Memory Palace, which deciphers a complex relationship with her schizophrenic, homeless mother—became a 2012 Notable Book and winner of the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for...

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Straight Talk about Grants

At AROHO, we want to help you become your best writer, and we believe the Gift of Freedom Application can help uncover some of the obstacles on the path to personal breakthrough and creative “success.” Here are our tips for helping you make the most of the application and for helping improve the chances of your submissions in general. Hygiene (For highly creative women, this is often the area where mistakes are made) The hard truth is that grant applications receive an administrative screening for acceptability and completeness prior to being passed on for creative evaluation. Guiding Principle:  Follow directions.  Don’t second guess application guidelines/instructions.  Trust that each one serves a purpose for the sponsoring organization. A page means a page.  Always conform to instructions for margins/spacing/font size. Guiding Principle:  Don’t do anything on the page to distract from your seriousness as an applicant . Be careful of exaggeration by the overuse of italics, caps, excess punctuation, colors, etc. Use spell check and then have someone else review for accuracy. Guiding Principle:  Don’t seal the envelope or press the send button when you are exhausted. Procrastination is the enemy here.  Set your final deadline several days ahead of the official deadline to allow for one last check of each part of the application before submitting.  The best idea is to have a reader perform this final check with you. Never add handwritten additions to typed responses on the application form. Too Much Information,  or “TMI” (Desperation is not an effective strategy) Read what you’ve written to check for tone.  Ask an honest friend to read it and tell you whether it sounds:  whiney, cranky, pitiable, the result of sleep deprivation, freeform, or just plain angry. Guiding Principle:  When the applicant is frantically grasping at the opportunity that the grant/prize/residency would provide, the application suffers.  Be sure to Let’s Talk About Money (Take time to process your relationship to your financial reality) By charter AROHO only supports women who are making substantial efforts to be financially independent. Guiding Principle:  Make sure you are in integrity with your financial circumstances before asking for financial help. Any sponsoring organization will notice whether an applicant has significant student debt and/or personal debt, no reliable source of income (no matter how small), and minimal work history.  Financial need as expressed by harsh economic reality is made more compelling when there is evidence of a life plan to improve the circumstances. Begin Again (Start with an overall “holistic” review of the entire application and see each piece as part of a whole) Avoid the trap of pulling something out of your “submissions” drawer and then trying to make it...

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“Pull the Lever!” An AROHO Anthem by Lauren Baldwin
Jul19

“Pull the Lever!” An AROHO Anthem by Lauren Baldwin

Lauren Baldwin completed her MFA in Fiction at Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2010 and her JD at the University of New Mexico School of Law in 1992. She is a Judicial Hearing Officer in the Family Court division of the Second Judicial District Court in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Lauren has attended every AROHO retreat since its inception and is the retreat’s hospitality coordinator (the woman with wine and duct tape). She is a legal internet writer for Nolo, a legal publishing company. a maniacal knitter, is working on a novel, and also writes creative non-fiction and poetry. She is also a sponsor of the Tillie Olsen Retreat Fellowship. PULL THE LEVER! I have collected them all every shitty word I have written every shitty word I have said to myself about how I can’t write every shitty word of every shitty review every questionable word every slightly negative word that suggests I might not be quite good enough I have collected every voice that said you can’t the middle school teacher who said write what you know — this is all too old for you the friend who said I can’t critique this poem — it’s just so disturbing the writing teacher who said I was such an extraordinary writer so talented so reminiscent of her younger self and who, three months later, dismissed me with one stroke of the keys I have collected the voices inside myself and the voices inside you that say every day every hour every minute every second you are not good enough you will never be good enough you cannot be good enough you are not as smart as you think you are you are not as smart as her, that brilliant woman who rewrites Greek plays 1 you’ll never be as good as that genius of a girl from Texas whose poem with the words “slick fender” and “come” sings like a siren 2 you are wasting time you are indulging yourself you probably aren’t that good you aren’t writing what your father wanted you are writing what your mother didn’t want you to write you are telling secrets you were supposed to keep you might not be that good you might get bad reviews you’ve never won a prize maybe you’re just an ok writer and that’s all you’ll ever be nothing extraordinary just a middle class woman writing little poems and essays and stories that you publish in journals with a distribution of ten when you count your family members and you don’t have time and you don’t have space and your children need you to make breakfast need you to...

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“Self-Doubt, Sacred Drift, and Submissions,” Melita Schaum
Jul17

“Self-Doubt, Sacred Drift, and Submissions,” Melita Schaum

Melita Schaum won the fall 2010 A Room of Her Own Foundation’s prestigious Orlando Prize in Creative Nonfiction, an honor that—in addition to providing $1000 and publication in The Los Angeles Review–earned her a Pushcart Prize nomination. What is she doing right? A Room of Her Own got the inside scoop, as well as an audio clip from her recent ventures into the world of mixed media and sound arts.   Melita Schaum is an English professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and the author of A Sinner of Memory, a collection of personal essays, as well as several books about the poet Wallace Stevens and women’s issues. She has received numerous nominations and awards including the A Room of Her Own Foundation (AROHO) $1000 Orlando Prize in Creative Nonfiction for her essay, “Constellations.” The essay, which was published in The Los Angeles Review’s Spring 2011 issue as part of the Orlando Prize, earned her a nomination for the coveted Pushcart Prize. What can she tell us about the mysterious process of submission and that most elusive of goals—publication?     Melita, we are obviously fans of your work, and we know we are not the only ones. Do you ever struggle with self-doubt as a writer? Who . . . me? Self-doubt . . .? Of course! As artists, we’re constantly assessing ourselves. It’s part of the job description. Self-doubt is just self-assessment’s toxic sibling. Once you realize that self-doubt is just as illusory as self-confidence, then you’re getting somewhere! I’d like to answer your question with a story, something that recently happened to me. Just over a year ago I lost a longtime friend to ovarian cancer. She’d been an artist, a painter, and she left me her studio full of brushes and beautiful pencils–exquisite things from Kyoto and Berlin. I’ve had them in boxes since last April, but a month ago I opened them and went out and bought myself a sketch pad. I haven’t drawn since college, and even then I wasn’t much good, but I decided to try again. The problem was that blank white first page. I just couldn’t make the first mark. It stared me down, silenced me, dared me to think I was worthy enough to try the art form my friend had been so good at. I knew it wasn’t a competition, but it was almost something harder–a remembrance, a tribute to her. How could I measure up to that? I struggled with the white, forbidding nothingness of that first page for weeks–it was like death itself, the eternal blank stare that wins in the end. One morning at breakfast my husband, who’s...

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Fall 2011 eMessage Winners

AIMEE ANDERSON Printed with permission by Aimee Anderson, copyrighted by Aimee Anderson @ 2011 This, our writing, is not for our to-do-lists. We wake up and write and sleep and write. If we are writers, we do not forget.   STEFFI DREWES Printed with permission by Steffi Drewes, copyrighted by Steffi Drewes @ 2011 Lovelorn honeybee repeat after me: blushing builds no bravery   to strut is not the same as dirty sea legs nor shameful     say mountain like you mean it   Dealt the aces wild, delve and don’t come back without a promise   packing heresy in your haunches say I am what’s missing most   PHYLLIS JEAN GREEN Printed with permission by Phyllis Jean Green, copyrighted by Phyllis Jean Green @ 2011 You are 78 years old. What are you waiting for???   DEBRA SUDY Printed with permission by Debra Sudy, copyrighted by Debra Sudy @ 2011 Darling, did the sun rise today? Then pick up the pen and tell me. Love, your Muse.   LIBBY WIERSMA Printed with permission by Libby Wiersma, copyrighted by Libby Wiersma @ 2011 I am a woman who has the power to change the world. Through my words, I can say the same of you. When you read the words, we both believe in the message and each other. That’s how the seed of change is...

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