Writing Out Of The Presence
Writing out of the Presence is a five-day writing workshop sponsored by Friends General Conference at the University of Toledo from July 1 through July 7, 2018. It's a workshop that will encourage you to look back over your spiritual journey and explore its struggles, questions, and experiences. And it will allow that part of you that is always listening to the whispers of God to open more fully, listen more deeply, and guide you into sharing that journey in narrative form.
Essentially, the workshop is an opportunity to sit in the silence, open yourself to that of God, and learn how to listen deeply as you write. You will also sharpen your writing skills, share your work, develop an approach to criticism in the manner of Friends, and learn how the writing process is itself a vehicle of spiritual growth and an act of faith.
Specific topics will include: Deep listening. Discerning what you're led to write. Story theology. Identifying your reader. Preparing to write. First words. Building a story. Sharing a story through publication.
Each workshop will begin in silence. As I am led, I will move into a short lecture on the day’s topic. The lecture will evolve into a group discussion as I draw participants into the topic. Worship, lecture and discussion will take about an hour. When I sense the group is ready, we will move into silence and then, as a part of that silence we will begin to write for the second hour. During the first workshop session, participants will be given an initial writing exercise that opens them to a deep pool of contemplation and a centered, writing experience. (In subsequent sessions, the exercise will be replaced by the participants’ own writing projects.) When I sense the group is ready, I will ask them to “Tell me a story” and, during the third hour, we will share our work out loud and offer one another criticism in the manner of Friends.
Workshop participants should bring a laptop on which to write. They should also bring anything that will help them focus on or add details to what they feel led to write—photos for a memoir, a book for review, research for an op/ed—even that manuscript they've had tucked away in a bottom desk drawer just waiting for the opportunity to work on it.
As the Writer-in-Residence at Earlham School of Religion in 2012, I developed and facilitated a summer intensive course called Writing for God. That course, plus a fall semester course called Writing out of the Presence, won rave reviews from participants, according to the school’s dean, and this workshop brings the essence of those courses to the 2018 Gathering—just as it did when it was offered at the 2015 and 2017 Gatherings. The workshop at the 2015 Gathering was a powerful experience for me and the 24 who attended. One Quaker elder who participated characterized the writing, verbal presentations of the writing, and criticism offered in the manner of Friends as reaching the level of "vocal ministry." Lives were changed, articles have subsequently been accepted for publication, at least two books are underway, and each and every one of us has been drawn more deeply into the Presence. For many of us, the workshop was one of God's greatest blessings. The 2017 workshop was, if that is possible, even more deeply blessed.
An abbreviated version of the workshop was also offered at a Woolman Hill retreat in 2014 and at the 2015 New England Yearly Meeting Sessions.
I began, and am to my core, a writer. My work has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Ladies Home Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, Readers Digest, and Prevention Magazine, where I was the editor-at-large for six years. I am the author or co-author of more than 20 books, including Blessed: Living a Grateful Life, which USA BookNews named the #1 Spiritual/Inspirational Book of the Year. I currently write inspirational articles as the editor-at-large for Live Happy Magazine.