What Women Writers Are Saying About Marilyn

charla-gabertBefore I took Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice, I was struggling to write a memoir. I’d studied writing as an undergraduate and earned an MA in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins, but I had set my creative writing aside for a 20-plus-year career in marketing communications in the high-tech world. Feeling like I had abandoned my writing dreams, I had pretty much given up on myself as a creative writer. Yet I still wanted to reconnect with the writer inside and reclaim my identity as a writer. I felt driven to write a memoir.

Marilyn’s class exceeded my expectations. Her focus on consciousness as well as craft was unique in comparison to other writing classes and workshops I have taken. She addressed women’s writings and the many ways we silence ourselves in telling our truth. She suggested readings, provided writing prompts, and created a safe space for us to dive deep and generate beautiful material from our personal experiences. I can’t believe how much I wrote and how much I learned about writing and about myself.

Having taught writing myself, I know what a tough job it is. I found Marilyn’s skill, insight, and generosity as a writing teacher to be awe-inspiring. She is truly the best writing teacher I have ever had. Her class got me back on track as a writer and helped me reclaim my voice and my identity as a writer. I fell in love with writing again, thanks to Marilyn.

When Excavate Your Truth ended, I started working with Marilyn in her one-on-one mentoring program. Her structured approach, warm encouragement, and insightful reading and comments make her the perfect guide on my memoir journey. She finds the story beneath the story and makes connections that help me gain clarity into my themes and subjects. Her ability to recommend the right reading at the right time to help me move forward is uncanny. It amazes me to say that in only a few months, I have made substantial progress toward a draft of a book-length memoir!

Marilyn also focuses on the process and practice of writing. She has taught me to coach myself on dealing with challenges, obstacles, fears, doubts, travel, illness, and all the hundreds of things that can get in the way of writing. I now have a regular writing practice that I schedule as a priority on my calendar. I have a warm-up ritual for each writing session, and a little celebration ritual when I finish an assignment or reach a milestone. Although I have encountered some painful emotions from the past, Marilyn has guided me through them so I can keep writing.

Off the page I am now more conscious and clear about my feelings and reactions in daily life. I have a new understanding and acceptance of my self, my family, and my past. I am more whole and happy as a result of reconnecting with my identity as a writer. My life has more meaning and purpose now that I have recovered my voice. I feel authentic pride when someone asks me what I do, and I can answer honestly, “I’m a writer.”

Charla Gabert
Writer, Mosaic Artist, Traveler
Alamo, CA

 

chen-wen-huang

When I took Marilyn’s Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice women’s writing course in 2015, I was blown away by it. Our weekly class meetings became my special time of the week, my sacred time. I couldn’t name what it was back then. I just knew I had to show up so that I could fully bath in the experience each class held for me and my writing. Mind you, I did not consider myself to be a writer when the course started. But working with Marilyn transformed that. If I had to name one thing the writing we did in this course brought to my awareness, it would be how to be more personal, in words, in my own creative nonfiction writing. I realize now that this speaks to my relationship to my own life experiences. Once you start working with Marilyn and start experiencing her magic in your own writing you’ll know what I’m talking about.

I went on to take Marilyn’s Craft your Truth/Claim your Voice group mentoring program in 2016, which I absolutely adore and recommend without reservation. Through the dual-track approach of pairing craft and consciousness work, I am developing more curiosity about the evolving nature of my writing and I am holding more space for its many faces. The work we did in this program also helped me determine what I want out of my own writing going forward. For anyone who does consciousness work—whether on the page, in therapy, or in personal development—Marilyn’s course will take you deeper into the work you are doing. Through the writing I have done at Writing Women’s Lives, I have become more present to myself, my experience, my vision, my spiritual practice, and my life, and I hope you get to experience this, too.

Chen-Wen Huang, MEng, MS, FRM, LOACC
Urban Gardener, Holistic Cook, Certified Life Coach, Risk Manager, Trader & Investor
Brooklyn, NY

 

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Dear Marilyn,

Just a quick note to say that the curriculum for Craft Your Truth/Claim Your Voice has had the smoothest rhythm to it; how you carry us along to the next important step seamlessly. I have high praise for the amount of work that you did to make this happen. It has been truly so rewarding and enriching. I own 25 books now on memoir writing from the best women writers out there. All because of you and your encouragement to find the clarity in our lives and the truth of our beingness by showing us the way.

Thank you, dear Teacher. I could not, simply not possible, be more pleased that I chose Craft Your Truth to get my ass in gear and learn how to make what sounds so easy in my mind turn into words on white paper. For the power of ink and the love of a great Teacher, I give thanks.

Cis Dickson
Austin, TX

 

Writing Women’s Lives: Acorns to Oak Trees

delia-sebora_tree

For almost two years now, Marilyn has guided me back through a thicket of narratives that have shaped who I am and envision becoming as a writer. Through her online mentoring workshops, consciousness exercises, reading and writing prompts, she has laid out courses of action for me to follow. In the first two weeks of my first course with Marilyn I was amazed by how much writing I did and by how much more comfortable I was becoming with my own narrative.

Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice and Craft Your Truth/Claim Your Voice cracked open the silencing that held my writing hostage. Marilyn enabled me to “see” the inner kernels of my own truths and to explore their many roots and contours. Working with Marilyn encourages me to liberate my essays and memoir-in-progress, and to follow those deeper truths with more consciousness and confidence. I work harder at my writing now because “our truths” require both excavating and crafting if they are to move beyond mere chronicling into inspired women’s writing.

Writing is more than assembling words coherently on a page. It’s more than a byline or a book signing. Writing is working on an inner self where the acorns lie waiting to mature into sprawling oak trees. Exploring those acorns of truth can be precarious journeys strewn with entanglements and rabbit holes that lead to silencing and dead ends. In such cases, women writers need an enlightened guide to show us the way back to our own inner truths.

Marilyn Bousquin truly is such a guide. Her dedication to guiding women writers to their own “heart truths” is the truth of her own journey. The acorns of my own writing truth now stands as a healthy sapling still in need of nurturing, yet ready still to yield many promising ideas and works to come. Thank you so very much, Marilyn, for sharing your spirit and your gifts.

With writerly gratitude,

Delia Sebora
Mother, Writer, Educator, Speaker
Baltimore, MD

 

jeanne-schlesinger

What does a memoir writing class have to do with being a better photographer? It turns out, everything! At least when it is Marilyn Bousquin’s class “Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice.”

This class turned out to be life changing for me, and for my art. I heard about it last fall, when I was overwhelmed with work, responsibility, and stress. The last thing I needed was to add more responsibility into my life. And yet, I couldn’t stop thinking about this class. And so, I listened to that quiet inner voice that kept telling me this class was going to be a game changer. She said to listen to my heart and not my head. And so I did. And so it was that my tiny inner voice—the “me” that had been buried since childhood—found a safe place to come out and play, to voice her fears, to share her courage, and to take her rightful place in the world.

Marilyn created the nurturing, safe environment where all of us participants became reacquainted with the parts of ourselves that had been long-buried and were starving to be heard and nurtured and accepted. Nothing is the same for me and I believe that everyone in our class felt the power of this life-changing experience. While I probably will not be writing my memoir with words, I will be writing it with my photographs. My photography has evolved in ways I only could have dreamed of before, but since this class, the creative energy that has been unleashed has taken on a life of its own.

Thank you to Marilyn and all the “writing sisterhood” for being part of this transformative process. xoxo –Jeanne

Jeanne Schlesinger
Photographic Artist
Richmond, VA

 

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I first discovered Marilyn through her Writing Our Grandmothers, Discovering Ourselves: Women, Silence, and Voice teleclass. I connected instantly with her message of writing past silence and with her warm presence on the phone. I found the results of that first teleclass remarkable and eagerly signed up for her next class Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice.

During Excavate Your Truth I joined in ceremony each week with other women and together we wrote beneath the surface of silence and excavated our universal truths. Marilyn does a brilliant job of holding space for her students — each week she created sacred space in which it felt safe to spill the truths I’d left unsaid, to tell the stories that I’d held for so many years in the caverns of my heart.

The writing I did in Excavate Your Truth was unlike anything I had ever written — it was brave, vulnerable, and beautiful. It sang with a kind of breathless poetry I had only ever dared to dream I could bring to the page. I credit this change entirely to the safety and courage I felt in Marilyn’s hands. As I began to feel braver my writing grew braver too; Marilyn encouraged my best self to show up on the page.

After Excavate Your Truth I continued to dabble in short-form memoir until my work started to add up to something that felt like a book-length memoir. Overwhelmed at the prospect of such an undertaking, I reached out to Marilyn and became one of her One-on-One Mentoring clients.

My work with Marilyn as a one-on-one coaching client has been nothing short of remarkable. In just a few short weeks our work together has transformed my writing practice (a practice I had struggled for years to find meaningful time for). Since I began working with Marilyn my writing has shifted from feeling like an obligation I struggled to make space for, to a joyful, easy practice that is filling my life with light and abundance.

And that book-length memoir that I had felt so stymied and overwhelmed by? That memoir has been unfolding gracefully onto the page each week with a sense of purpose I find hard to believe. Having Marilyn at my side has been an invaluable part of this process, as it gives my story room to bloom on the page, knowing that Marilyn is there to provide the kind of wise guidance and big-picture thinking that will keep my memoir on track.

Working with Marilyn has been revolutionary. Before working with Marilyn I longed to write but never seemed able to find the time. Now my writing is an abundant and increasingly effortless presence in my life that brings me great joy, even as I am continually learning to grow my courage and to trust more fully in my voice. Best of all, learning to trust in my voice as a writer is allowing me to show up more courageously and authentically in every aspect of my life.

Jessica Ruprecht
Cambridge, Massachusetts

 

lisa-oneil

Before I started working one-on-one with Marilyn in her Transform Your Writing/Transform Your Life Mentoring Program, I took her Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice course.

I’d told my mom she couldn’t kick the bucket without getting her life written down and that I was going to help her. Mom’s story is one of the more extraordinary and beautiful stories of faith and courage I know, and I was scared I wouldn’t do it justice since I had zero writing experience. Then a friend of mine, an editor and writer, forwarded Marilyn’s Excavate your Truth/Free Your Voice class to me. What a gift.

Before working with Marilyn, I had no idea I had a voice, no idea it was strong, and no idea it was worthy of being heard. I just thought I’m in this for Mom’s memoir; it’s not really about me anyway. Ha!

Marilyn’s writing exercises helped me to oh-so-gently uncover a voice I had worked hard to keep hidden out of fear that it was weak and had nothing worthy to say. With guidance and loving support, she helped me and the other women in class tease out, nurture, and gently hold our writing selves.

Marilyn created and established such a safe environment for our weekly teleclasses that we grew together as a class despite our undermining fears. She had us expose these fears for what they were: inner critics that, when listened to, kept us small and quiet. Naming our fears gave us power to grow past them and to write what had been waiting to be heard—our Truths.

Marilyn’s understanding of the way women’s voices have been silenced in our culture deeply resonated with me. I knew that I wanted to continue working with her on Mom’s memoir after Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice, so I signed up for her Transform Your Writing/Transform Your Life one-on-one mentoring program.

This program has been astounding. I am supported weekly with assignments, reflections, and check-ins. There is no hiding, no falling through cracks with Marilyn. She is in my corner cheering me on when I have a breakthrough and holding space for me when I struggle. She provides inspired and clear feedback and reflects back to me the depth and significance of this project when I waver. My mom is as in love with Marilyn as I am.

Because of Marilyn I am a writer now. I have joined a writers group, attend workshops for writers, and have been a guest writer on Marilyn’s blog. She has also supported me in submitting my work to literary journals. It is with great joy and gratitude that I declare: It is my intension to write and COMPLETE a bold and beautiful memoir that honors mothers and daughters everywhere.

Warm hugs to all, take courage, be strong, and step out.

Lisa O’Neil
Seattle, WA

 

lydia-mcgranahan

I’ve jumped out of airplanes, surfed giant ocean waves, backpacked solo, climbed mountains. “Are you scared of anything?” A common question from others. My fearlessness I wore proud like a badge. A bandage over all that I was hiding. If anyone ever knew about my past, my childhood, my secrets—I would die. Fear of exposure could kill me.

I was thirty years old when memories woke and burned inside of me. A lancing. A slow bleed. The infection needed to ooze from my wounds. But how could I let my secrets out?

“One day you’re going to write a book about your life.” I heard this voice as I was driving alone in my car. I laughed. Even though I believed it had to be God who I was laughing at. Never in a million years! Nothing is coming out. Plus, I’m not a writer. How could someone who hardly went to school write a book?

The voice persisted. “You’re going to write a book.” I couldn’t quiet it. I couldn’t hide from it. I couldn’t run from it. Eventually the pressure inside of me was more than I could bear. I picked up a pen and put it to paper. Then I froze. I picked up the pen again. Only to sob uncontrollably. Ten years I tried to write. And tried to quit. I failed at both.

I needed help. But I didn’t know what kind of help I needed. Maybe therapy. Maybe a friend. Maybe another mountain to climb. I googled how to write a memoir. One website led to another and then I found writingwomanslives.com. I scoured the entire website. It felt as though this woman named Marilyn knew me and my struggle. A writing mentor? Is that what I need? But the thought of reaching out to another human for help made my stomach feel like I’d swallowed a handful of obsidian rocks. Yet trying to write alone wasn’t working. And not writing was worse. I finally gave in and decided to do the scariest thing I’d ever done. I made my first contact with Marilyn. What I didn’t know then was I had just turned the corner onto a new trail, stepped foot onto the path that would change my life forever.

Let me tell you about Marilyn now. She, I believe, is the wisest, most encouraging, biggest-hearted woman on the planet. Her compassion for my wounded heart—she’s held my shaking hand across the Web—and her gentle nudges have freed the locked up voice from inside of me. I’ve told Marilyn things I’ve never told anyone. She’s entirely trustworthy. She’s got a universe of love inside of her that is unconditional, unwavering, and unmatched. Marilyn is gifted far beyond most therapists in her knowledge and creativity of leading women towards healing and their true self. In addition to the valuable consciousness work she’s guided me through, I’ve also learned the craft of writing memoir. Marilyn’s feedback on my writing and her suggestions for craft readings and memoir readings continue to help me grow as a writer.

I’m writing my book now. It’s safe. My fear is falling off and my shame dissipating. My backpack, once filled with overwhelming pain, has lightened since working with Marilyn.

I believe that all women—the educated and the uneducated, the confident and the fearful, the happy and the hurting—can benefit from working with Marilyn. She will meet you where you are at and, like a gentle Sherpa, she will lead you on a expedition that I guarantee will change your life.

Lydia McGranahan
Fitness Instructor and Gymnastics Judge
Oregon

 

marta-luzim

Before I started working with Marilyn in her Transform Your Writing/Transform Your Life one-on-one mentoring program my writing was lost and fragmented. I was about to give up. I did not have the confidence or stamina to sustain a real writing practice. I had no direction. Yet I had a strong hunger to write my memoir. I wrote random pieces, but it was like a dog running after her tail. I’d written a novel, but I didn’t know how to get behind the memoir I knew I wanted to write. I was stuck.

Working with Marilyn has enabled me to dive into the depths of my story, my life, and my purpose for writing. I have found structure, understand the arc of my story, and am now writing reflection and detail. Marilyn also helped me find the theme of my story, which has given me the confidence and aliveness to carry on. She has been a strong light in the darkness of the writing tunnel. She chops down the jungle in my mind and clears a path to my own enlightened story. She helps me to push through fear and shame, and she listens so carefully to me on our coaching calls that I feel seen and understood into my very spirit and soul.

Now I am much more connected to my writing and to my writing self. My writing is rich, layered, clear, focused, determined, embodied, courageous, and excited. I have learned so much more about the craft of writing memoir as well as the embodiment of my writing. I tell the truth of my experience and have a voice that speaks through me and for me as it strikes the universal truth in my story.

Marilyn is a midwife for women writers. She holds the energy and gently but powerfully helps you find that same gentle strength and power to tell your story. I keep exploring, learning, and writing. What excites me the most is that I keep learning about the craft of writing memoir and about myself and who I am.

I have worked with other coaches, editors, and teachers, but working one-on-one with Marilyn has been one of the most positive, intense, and meaningful experiences I have had with my writing in a long time. Marilyn combines the feminine soul/spirit with the craft of writing. She is wise beyond her years.

Marta Luzim
Relationship Expert, Creative Coach, Transpersonal Therapist
Artist, Writer, and Playwright
President and Founder of Give Her A Voice

 

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I signed up for Marilyn’s Excavating Your Truth workshop in the summer of 2014 with a secret intention: to check her out as a possible mentor. I had accumulated hundreds of pages of writing over the previous ten years as I struggled to examine and break free from the constraints of my traditional southern upbringing, mothered a transgender child, and – after two unsuccessful marriages – fell in love with a woman at midlife. I knew I had a compelling story to tell, yet I felt stuck, overwhelmed by the prospect of figuring out how to best shape my material into a memoir. In the workshop, I experienced Marilyn’s deep commitment to the female voice, her innate wisdom, her steady warmth and encouragement, and her intuitive ability to see and reflect back the hidden truths that surface when we write without censoring ourselves. I knew I had found my mentor.

Inspired by Marilyn’s skillful guidance, I have returned to my writing with new eyes and energy. Her written comments on my work and insightful questions for discussion during our biweekly coaching calls have allowed me to revise previous work and create new material with a sense of purpose and direction I didn’t have before. Because she has helped me identify what my story is (and isn’t), I now write with more freedom and confidence, trusting the process to lead me to the story’s deeper levels and truths. I am no longer afraid to write my truth and am experiencing the power and transformation that comes with it, not only in my writing, but also in other areas of my life.

I am awed by Marilyn’s commitment to me and my story. She comes to our biweekly phone calls fully prepared with items for discussion that often challenge me to think about my story or its elements in unexpected ways, invariably leading me to greater clarity and renewed inspiration. She also comes with a spirit of generosity, ready to give me and my work her all, intellectually, emotionally, and even spiritually, in the sense of nurturing the writer within me. Through the work that we are doing together, I have grown not only as a writer but also as a woman believing in the value of my words, my story, and thus myself. Working with Marilyn over the past five months has exceeded all expectations and is truly one of the best gifts I have ever given myself.

Susan Grier
St. Mary’s City, MD

 

Jess BrophyAs a female writer in academia, my creative writing voice before taking Marilyn’s Craft Your Truth class was, at times, stilted and masked with glossy magazine writing. Since taking the course, my voice feels more candid and emotionally lucid. The writing prompts in the class helped me track episodes connected to having a port wine stain birthmark, which helped me paint a fuller picture of this painful emotional history. Some of the emotions were shame, embarrassment, and ugliness.Once I processed this timeline, my life began to change. I no longer wanted to live in a place of hiding my birthmark with makeup. I no longer wanted to “over-intellectualize” my experiences. After twenty years of covering my birthmark, I no longer see this as a healthy and loving choice. With this newfound freedom, I am bringing a new spirit to my writing—a spirit of gratefulness for the diverse women who supported me during the class and for an instructor who was creative, compassionate, and energizing. I am so glad I am part of such a caring and smart community of women!

Jessica Brophy, PhD
Teacher and Poet
Lynchburg, Virginia

 

Marvene Spencer

Before joining Marilyn’s online course Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice, I was searching for my voice and its link to my mother, my mother’s mother and to my own daughters’ truthful voices. But finding the time to write was a chore rather than a pleasure, and I often felt alone in my writing.

The online community changed that. A group of women offering supportive responses to each other’s truths in written form was very propelling to my writing. We learned so much about the treasured truths in each other’s lives, which created a respect for our voices.

The writing I did in this class was new to me. It took me to buried treasures within myself where I discovered generations of unspoken truths. Marilyn has a unique way of creating an atmosphere that’s safe for the truths of our lives, ourselves, and our voices. She found treasures in our excavations that we never knew were there. This encouraged the writer in me to keep excavating each week between classes.

One of Marilyn’s specialties that I relate to the most is her voice. Marilyn genuinely coaches each of us women to reach the truths of our lives in our writing without a hint of judgment or impatience or “that wasn’t good enough.” I was amazed at how freeing ten minutes of prompt writing was in unearthing truths.

I’ve learned that the more I excavate my truth, the clearer my voice is in my writing. I’ve learned to show up more often for my writing, to release a deluge of words waiting to be arranged into stories that inspire the world around me. How can I not show up to inspire!

Thanks, Marilyn!

Marvene Spencer
Montclair, New Jersey

 

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Thank you for including me in the Writing Our Grandmothers, Discovering Ourselves: Women, Silence, & Voice workshop. I so enjoyed meeting other writers, listening to the thought-provoking information, and most importantly, sharing our words and the meanings behind them with each other. A few things stuck with me after that night, and perhaps the most important to me is the fact that, we, as women, dismiss our “subjects” as not important.

Since my daughter Adalyn was born, motherhood has been a theme through my writing but I’ve never felt it quite “legit.” You allowed me to not only accept that motherhood is a huge part of my voice, but also to embrace that fact. Thank you for that.

A few other things I jotted down at your workshop that left an impression on me:  “Voice is the fingerprint of who you are,” “Stories have souls,” and “Tears are holy.” Loved these ideas/thoughts! I’ve also looked up Literary Mama, the journal you recommended, and have LOVED reading it. Maybe I will get brave enough to submit something one day. Thanks for getting my writing wheels turning again! I plan to keep gleaning writing joys from you in whatever ways I can!

Carly Eccles Sheaffer
Mother and Writer
Lynchburg, VA

 

 Magin LaSov GreggI read Marilyn’s essay “The Bruise” in River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative and was absolutely mesmerized by the power of her voice and the beautiful clarity of her story. When I read that she coached women writers, I e-mailed her immediately. Before working with Marilyn in her one-on-one Transform Your Writing/Transform Your Life Mentoring Program, I knew what I wanted to accomplish, but I needed help prioritizing my many goals so that I could move forward with clear direction. I also needed help finding my story, which Marilyn saw immediately. Working with Marilyn has been one of the most uplifting and rewarding experiences I have had as a writer. I’ve gained new confidence and am accomplishing more as a writer than I ever did in two years as an MFA student. Marilyn brings deep patience and sincerity to her mentoring work. As a result of working with Marilyn, I’ve developed more confidence as a writer. That confidence has moved into my personal life. I’m learning to see myself as powerful and brave, and this new vision of myself informs the narrative voice of my personal writing. I’ve learned to slow down and take time with crafting a personal essay in order to serve more fully the story I need to tell. I’ve learned I have a story to tell! I’ve learned to develop scene. Although I’ve always had a disciplined writing practice, I am writing with greater attention to craft and scene. I am writing more consistently and with greater clarity. I feel as if I am truly investing in my success as a writer.

Magin LaSov Gregg
MA, MFA
Frederick, MD

 

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Marilyn’s course ExcavateYour Truth/Free Your Voice had a huge personal impact on me. Before taking the class, I enjoyed writing but always kept it to myself. I thought that because I wasn’t a “writer” there was no reason for me to share what I wrote. This class not only inspired me to write more, it also helped me get over that hurdle of sharing my personal writing with others. It was important to learn that anyone who writes is a writer. I enjoyed my classmates’ writing as well. Marilyn did an excellent job of creating an environment for us to grow together as a community of writers as well as individually. We definitely have a safe space for sharing that will last long after the class. My newfound writing freedom has seeped into the rest of my life because I also now have the confidence to say the things I want to say. This class has definitely strengthened my voice in multiple ways. Thank you, Marilyn, for pushing me to write about things that have been restless in me and for providing a comfortable setting for our group to share. You are an amazing and inspirational woman and teacher!

Megan Davies
Artist, Photographer, & Collector of Ugandan Women’s Stories
Lynchburg, VA

 

Lisa HardmanWhen I first met Marilyn, I was a published writer who had lost confidence and direction. I needed accountability and solutions to the writer’s block symptoms I was experiencing, so I enrolled in her one-on-one mentoring program. Marilyn immediately addressed the issues that were keeping me from the page by helping me re-establish a regular writing practice and assigning me personalized mini-prompts that were both doable and effective in sidestepping my inner critic. Marilyn truly listened to me, addressed my fears and gave me permission to write the things I was too afraid to write. She took the time to get to know me and to understand my personal history within the context of the work I was trying to do. Most importantly, she helped me to learn self-trust again as I wrote toward my own truths in a process she called “messcavating.” Always nudging me toward the story that wanted and needed to be told, Marilyn was the firm but gentle guide who empathized when I ran into obstacles, but didn’t let me off the hook. Instead, she encouraged me to make my writing goals attainable within the context of my particular circumstances. By emphasizing the positive aspects of my work and noticing my strengths, Marilyn helped me regain the courage to explore further, dig deeper and push through my writing difficulties. Her focus on women-centered writing and on the value of getting women’s voices out into a world that often silences or marginalizes women’s experiences is unique and significant. Working with Marilyn has not only infused a greater clarity, purpose and confidence into my own writing process, but has instilled within me a greater awareness of the importance of getting my own voice, perspectives, and work out into the world.

Lisa Hardman
Mother, Writer, Feminist Scholar
Highlands Ranch, Colorado

 

Debbie SpanichI heard about Marilyn’s Excavate Your Truth class from a friend who signed up. The focus appealed to my belief that there is something powerful in what women have to say. I have a poetry chapbook and a few small publishing credits, but for several years I’ve been writing poems and reflections in my journal, not sharing much. It never occurred to me that I might possess a strong voice.

Marilyn’s class helped me to realize that it’s okay to let my writing be informed by who I am and how I respond to what I’ve experienced. I saw that any uncertainty I had around my writing wasn’t because of a lack of ideas, but that at some level I thought writing about my own experiences would seem self-centered or wallowing in the past. Marilyn opened my eyes to unspoken but powerful social taboos for how women express themselves. Her class was a safe and empowering place to plow through them. I’m now certain that I’m entitled to tell my stories, because they are my life. This is a big turnaround for me.

I’ve never had a teacher with Marilyn’s intuitive quality. She has the ability to home in on the real heart of the writing, even if the writer doesn’t yet see it herself. This was my experience, and I observed her doing the same with my classmates’ writing, always spot-on. I’ve signed up for the Craft class because I want to go more deeply in this new writing direction. I feel like I’m headed toward the kind of writing I’ve always wanted to do: something that helps me to flourish, and touches others.

Deborah Spanich
Museum Registrar, Poet, Writer
Lynchburg, Virginia

 

Before I took Marilyn’s Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice class, I did not know how important my writing was to me. It healed me to learn that the experiences I write about contain global truths that matter to others. I also had not thought about how holistically healing claiming my voice would be for me, and how it would help me step more into my own authentic self. Most of all, though, I now have a sense that I matter in a way I’d never considered before. I suppose that comes from me meeting my voice for the first time. I don’t think I could have appreciated how much the caring and safe environment that Marilyn and the group created would change my perspective. I plan to take the next class, Craft Your Truth, so that I can continue to heal and find purpose to my experiences. I hope to appreciate these experiences not only from my own perspective but also from the way others in the class receive and process my writing.  Thank you for this opportunity.

Jean

 

Latesha ThornhillAs the leader of the Phenomenals, a women’s writing group, Marilyn prompted and gently guided me to let my writing dig below the surface of my life and lift out those rare, precious pieces that were hidden or buried inside. She encouraged me to shed light on those pieces whether they were already polished gems or misshapen nuggets that needed refining. Marilyn’s strengths as a writing mentor are many, but the one thing that helped me most with my own work was her ability to nudge me into writing my truths in a crisp yet imaginative manner.

Latesha Thornhill
Racial Justice Coordinator, YWCA Central Virginia

 

nan carmack

Before I took Marilyn’s Writing Women’s Lives™ class I had really let my writing take a back seat. I wanted to sit down and write but felt paralyzed to do so. Marilyn’s reputation as a writer, editor, and all around cool chick made her class an easy choice. And, really, I was ready for a group experience to hold me accountable. What a good choice it turned out to be! Marilyn’s class was ¼ craft lessons, ¼ creation, ¼ catharsis, ¼ community, and ¼ intangible. Yes, I know that adds up to more than 1 whole, but the class is more than the sum of its parts. Marilyn’s honesty, straightforwardness, and empathy are breathtaking and gave me permission to write wholeheartedly into a topic, stripping away fear and any need to feel “appropriate.” I got back into the habit of writing and I gave myself permission to write when, how, and why I wanted. I stripped away the “shoulds” that had kept me paralyzed. Getting to know the struggles of my classmates gave me incredible strength, inspiration, and admiration for our gender. It also provided a unique perspective on women’s stories—the telling of them as an act of courage and rebellion.

Nan Carmack
Librarian, Scholar, Mom
Evington, Virginia

 

Shmayah YisrealI had been working on several writing projects the night that I met Marilyn. I had no idea that the woman I stood in line with for hours to see Maya Angelou was an awesome writer and instructor. Her energy was sincere and kind and I felt comfortable sharing my projects with this perfect stranger. She mentioned that she was starting a writing class for women and gave me a card. I took that as a sign to propel me in the direction that I needed to go with current and future projects. In her class, I felt very comfortable to share things that only my journal gets the privilege of “knowing.” I suppose the rules of the class contributed to that comfort. We responded to each other’s “raw” writing by mentioning aspects of the piece that we liked rather than critically picking it apart. For an insecure person, that only can bring you out of your shell. Sharing
 stories in front of the writing group contributed to my feeling more and more comfortable speaking in front of a group. Interestingly enough, I had already been accustomed to using writing as a means to gain a deeper understanding of myself. The purpose of the class that I took was to “excavate” the truths of each woman, whatever those truths were. Marilyn taught in a way that assists you in reaching deeper levels of consciousness and the experience was no less than transformative. In this circle of awesome women, we gained a sense of trust, compassion, love and sisterhood though we came from all different walks of life. The class made such an impact on me that I wanted to give others the opportunity of having a greater understanding of self through writing. In my summer program for children, I instituted a writing class that was modeled after Marilyn’s. It was so beautiful to watch children become empowered through writing and sharing. I am still encouraging my students to use writing as a way to express themselves. To this day, I am very happy that I recognized the signs and followed them. Taking Marilyn’s class has not only improved my writing, but it has helped to create the next generation of awesome writers.

Shmayah Yisreal
Writer, Teacher, Mother

 

Lindsay MichieBefore taking Marilyn’s writing class, I had done a lot of academic writing and some creative writing, but I was reluctant to write too much about myself and my own personal history as a woman. I greatly respect Marilyn as a writer, friend, and phenomenal woman and I knew she would give me the creative direction that I needed. I also knew that she would push me, and I wanted that. A class with Marilyn is one that creates a beautiful safe space for writers to express themselves, bounce ideas off each other, and share experiences in a lovely and often intense way. It’s a class where writers not only find their voice but watch that voice resonate in ways previously not thought possible. Marilyn helped me dive into my own persona, especially as a woman—an area I had previously shied away from—and, with often just one or two perceptive words, she steered me through a number of particularly knotty writing challenges. She offers criticism without judgment and suggestions that don’t force a person into any style but their own. She also has a great sense of humor. As a result of working with Marilyn, I finished a book I was writing and began sending it out to agents. I also included more self-reflection in my writing in a way that I believe added more resonance and substance. Now, I write more and with less self-doubt. I think that’s huge. I also have so much more respect for other women, now that I’ve been with a group of women who shared their lives so courageously and wrote about their thoughts and experiences so honestly.

Lindsay Michie, PhD
Professor of History, Writer, Artist

 

Maryann NoviPrior to taking Marilyn’s classes, I knew I had some writing “juju,” but I had no idea how to tap into it or bring it forth. And it wasn’t really a priority in my life until I met Marilyn. I met her at a dinner party, and she was simply dazzling. So vivacious, and funny, and engaged with life. I knew that whatever else was going on in my life, I HAD to take a class with this woman.

Class with Marilyn is a journey of self-discovery.  She creates an environment of intimacy and safety where true inner healing work can be accomplished through writing.  I felt I could open up and share a piece of my inner world – my soul – and I would be safely and gently held within the group. As we “excavated” these tender pieces of ourselves, Marilyn expertly helped us craft them into shapes of wholeness, stories that could be shared and identified with, stories with a universal appeal.

Since taking Marilyn’s classes, I find myself writing more, and my confidence level about my writing is so much higher. In addition to addressing my “inner critic,” she helped me to gain some understanding of the mechanics of this type of writing and I discovered lasting tools I can use any time I want to take my writing forward.

Most importantly, I experienced a deep inner healing from these classes. Marilyn addresses issues of the silencing of women in our culture in a head-on, no-nonsense fashion. I had never really given the topic much thought, and certainly had no idea of how profoundly my life has been affected by cultural silencing. The new awareness I gained from Marilyn’s work has helped me to be a better mother, wife, and friend. Rather than colluding with the consensus of silencing, in ways I hadn’t even realized before, I can now stand in a state of awareness as an advocate for myself and others in my life. Marilyn helped me to find my voice — a voice I didn’t even know was lost. It doesn’t matter if you ache to be a writer, or hardly give it a thought.  These classes are a blessing to anyone who is willing to show up and participate, and vital to anyone who really wants to write.

Maryann Novi
Communications Assistant CCM
Lynchburg, Virginia

 

Kim BarnesMy writing was non-existent before I took one of Marilyn Bousquin’s Writing Women’s Lives™ courses. Writing about my own life was a distant fantasy that went something like this: “Yeah, that would be kind of cool, but I have no idea how to write and no idea where to begin.” That’s where my writing began and ended. Marilyn’s course Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice turned my desire to write into a real possibility. The fear of writing about my life, and the even greater fear of sharing my writing with others, was quickly washed away by the spirit of the class, the cohesion and mutual respect of the group, and by having the most gentle, genuine, and encouraging instructor. I have a newfound respect for the importance of writing about our lives and am inspired to encourage others to write. I know now that it’s not about having something perfected to write down; it’s more about discovering the beauty in the raw, unperfected words that hit the page.

Kim Barnes
Nursing Student, Mother, Writer, Veteran
Lynchburg, Virginia

 

Sonia Luna McFarlandI was introduced to Marilyn’s style of teaching writing through a one-hour workshop she offered.  After completing a small writing exercise she led us through, a part of me that had been locked for a long, long time opened a tiny crack. I left knowing that I would sign up for one of Marilyn’s full classes. I enrolled in Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice. With the help of Marilyn’s gentle and soft-spoken prompts and the safe, relaxed atmosphere she provided, I found myself writing about personal experiences I had not thought about in a long time. Areas of my life that I thought had been resolved came up again and were sealed!! It was so freeing to walk out of that class knowing I am not a product of my past. It’s really difficult for me to catch in words what the weeks with your class meant to me, Marilyn!! For me, it was the perfect freeing experience I needed. Thank you for doing this for other women!!! Personally, I cannot wait to take your next class, too!!!

Sonia Luna McFarland
Hospital Volunteer Coordinator, Mother, Grandmother

 

Melissa SchuppeI am a self-taught writer with a poetry chapbook and a few other small publication accomplishments under my belt. However, I’d been in a bit of a writing slump. I heard about Marilyn’s class and decided it was just what I needed to get me going again. I felt isolated and wanted to get out and around other women writers, and hopefully gain some new writing skills as well. I was right on all counts. Marilyn’s class is a warm and stimulating environment, structured but comfortable. Marilyn’s knowledge of literature, women’s studies and the craft of writing nonfiction is vast, and makes the class richer. It is a safe space in which real truth can be unearthed and explored. Her style is nurturing and encouraging to all. She gives assignments which allow me to do as little or as much of them as I have time to accomplish, with no pressure. But here’s the rub: I am writing more! I am getting out of my slump and seeing the world with new eyes again, and my writing skills are improving as well. I am ready to sign up for the next class!

Melissa Schuppe
Writer, Poet, Nurse, Mom
Lynchburg, Virginia
Patty Brophy

I set up a writing table in my bedroom today. It is on top of a sewing machine, but it will do. I am so grateful to Marilyn and her classes. She made me realize that I am a writer because I use language to communicate, and I have a story to tell. A story that reveals deep levels of human experience. I am excavating my voice and discovering who I am.  I intend to get back to one of Marilyn’s classes again soon.

Patty Brophy
Teacher, Writer, Mother, Grandmother
Lynchburg, Virginia

 

Lora Devan PowersBefore I took Marilyn’s Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice class I was writing blogs, or what came out as a blog regardless of my intent. Now my writing is about life. It’s the difference between writing “5 Ways to Release Your Inner Spirit” and “Here’s My Life Story and Who I Really Am.” Being a participant in this class is like being at a cathartic healing session and a standup comedy routine all in one. We have fun! Marilyn has all the best qualities of a good teacher. As a writing teacher she has the unique ability to read her students through their writing, then keep that knowledge to herself as she guides them with specific analysis of their words to help them discover their personal strengths and grow at their own pace. Now that’s good teaching! Through Marilyn’s class exercises, or writing prompts, I am repairing my rusty brain and learning how to retrieve memories I believed were lost, then take the resulting thoughts and get them down on paper into words that convey an understandable message. This class is releasing some burden from me—something(s) that were holding me back. I feel lighter and smarter. It’s like I’m getting bigger and deeper. I am growing again. I made a sign for the wall facing the side of the bed I get up on. It reads, “Instructions for Life: Pants before Shoes. Voice before Pen.”

Lora Devan Powers
Scientist, Teacher, Mother, Writer

 

From the moment I met Marilyn, she simply sparked and shone with intelligence and the desire to develop both her writing craft and a writing community.

I have had many moments in reading her work in which I had to sit back, tears in my eyes, to take a breath and look away. She has the ability to hone in on a lyric moment in the midst of a scene and hold it in the palm of her hand until a domestic or out-of-the-way detail shines as a mottled and hard-won epiphany. As a teacher, I know that she brings to her students a fire and a joy in their success that is both contagious and inspiring. She is the perfect combination of writer and teacher, a woman who sees the value in other women’s lives, who will fight and work with you to bring the truths from your experience onto the page.”

Sonya Huber
Memoirist, Essayist, Teacher, Mother
sonyahuber.com

 

Marilyn Bousquin is one of the best readers I know. She is a careful and insightful editor and an incredibly gifted writer. Marilyn understands the joys and challenges of crafting one’s life in writing, and she will be an incredible guide to any woman who is interested in using her life as writing material.”

Kate Hopper
Memoirist, Essayist, Teacher, Mother
katehopper.com
motherhoodandwords.com

 

Ginny Taylor

I have workshopped my essays with Marilyn many times. Her keen eye for finding ‘the nub’ of my essay, or what my essay is REALLY about, amazes me. After all, I wrote the essay; I should know what it’s about, right? But time and time again, I’ve had to sit back after receiving Marilyn’s comments and think, ‘A-ha. Of course, that’s what it’s about.’ Under all my layers of words and misguided sentences, she could distill my essay’s very essence, its ‘raison d’ etre’ which, in turn, helped me move my writing forward in new and fresh ways.

Ginny Taylor, MFA
Award winning essayist
Registrar Hiram College
Warren, Ohio

 

Pamela Sampel

I’ve worked on and off with Marilyn for two years in both on-line classes (Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice and Craft Your Truth/Claim Your Voice) and 1-1 Mentoring.

With Marilyn’s expert guidance and support, both my writing and my writing practices have been elevated to new levels I’ve never experienced. Her classes, instruction methods, and coaching guidance and feedback far surpassed my expectations. With clear guidelines and class structures, writing exercises and assignments, and powerful articles on craft, my writing has increased in volume, complexity, clarity and emotional “punch.” Marilyn’s gentle yet effective exercises, encouragement, and coaching insights have been instrumental in helping me through emotional blocks I never fully understood before and that kept my writing and my confidence from flourishing. Her unique and powerful focus on “consciousness” and its effects on my craft, my writing process, and my output blew me away. Both my confidence and output as a writer have soared under her guidance and instruction. I’ve worked with many writing instructors and coaches over the years and Marilyn is beyond the real deal—plus she’s incredibly authentic, warm, and generous with her time. One can’t ask for more in a teacher/mentor/coach. I can’t recommend working with her highly enough. You will be blessed.

Pamela Sampel
Writer and Retreat Facilitator
Port Townsend, Washington

 

Dear Marilyn,

I am so grateful that I registered for Craft Your Truth/Claim Your Voice, and that I snagged one of the 1:1 mentoring spots. I just sat down and read through your comments on my writing, and I’m completely awestruck by your feedback. I’m so touched by the thought and time you gave my 3 memoir pieces. I’m without words. Admittedly, teary.

The insights you share and the connections you make between all 3 pieces is phenomenal. As I read through your comments, I found myself saying, “Totally! Yes, that is totally connected!” Your comments are helping me to see the threads that weave through the different works. Thank you a million times over for seeing those connections, pointing them out to me, and offering suggestions for how I might “tease them out.”

Working one-on-one with you is helping me discover the truths in my writing and helping me grow so much as a writer. Your writing support and feedback has me beaming with joy and gratitude up here in Kodiak.

I am blessed to have you in my life as a mentor and amazing writing teacher. 🙂

I’m looking so forward to our next coaching call!

Hugs,
Zoya Saltonstall