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 in memoir with their beautiful language and ability to tell the truth. There are so many incredibly talented writers working tirelessly at their craft, and I count AROHO women in that category. I admire women who know that in order to be a writer one has to write, and that it’s really hard work at times. There are also sacrifices involved in order for us to become the writers we are meant to be. Those are the writers I admire.
What is one resource you wish all women writers had or knew about?
I don’t think there is one specific resource that I wish women writers knew about. What I do think is important to note is that women must know that they do not have to work in isolation–that there are women just like us all who are seeking connection that helps sustain our work. Whether it is being part of a face-to-face writing group or a member of a social media-based group on Facebook, it’s important to have others who can inspire us and help celebrate our writing lives with us. Connection is important for me, as it is for most women writers I know. To have intelligent, honest and non-judgmental women surrounding us as we push ourselves into uncharted creative territories is priceless.
Is there anything you hope the recipient of the Wings of Widowhood Fellowship will discover through her experience at the AROHO 2015 Retreat?
I hope that she will find that the voice of grief and loss is a voice that also gives life in unexpected and magical ways. I know that whoever this woman is, she will discover courage and the necessary creative energy to move her work forward.
“When one loses a partner everything familiar is erased, and with this loss of familiarity, who we are as creative artists also shifts in odd and unexpected ways.”