Registration Currently Closed
Practice Conscious Writing in a Warm & Supportive Sisterhood!
You are a woman with a story to tell. You know this because your impulse to write about your life experiences grows more urgent with time. It’s as if there’s a story within you that wants to be told—a story you need to tell—even if you’re not exactly sure what that story is.
Whether you’re an aspiring writer, an avid diarist, an occasional journal writer, a published author, an academic writer, or someone who’s never written a creative word in her life, something deep within you beckons the page.
That “something” is your voice.
Yet like so many women, you may dismiss this impulse as unimportant or trivial in the face of so many other demands on your time.
Do any of these sound familiar?
“I don’t have a voice.”
“I’m not a real writer.”
“Story? What story? I don’t have a story.”
“Who would want to read my writing anyway?”
“There is never enough time for me to write.”
“One day—after the kids are grown or after I retire or after I get tenure—I’ll write my story.”
“When I’m not writing, I feel irritable and restless.”
“Sometimes it’s like I don’t even know who I am. Writing is the one thing that makes me feel like myself.”
Feel guilty taking time away from your family or partner to write
Have no idea where to begin writing the story you need to write
Find it difficult to get the words from your head to the page
Have trouble admitting how important your writing is to your sense of self
Keep your writing private for fear of sharing your work with others
Feel embarrassed that you want to write about your life experiences
Long for a supportive community of women writers who write about real life but have no idea where to find such a community
Yearn to write your personal experiences but feel like you can’t take the time away from your professional writing
If you’re having any of these doubts, thoughts, or yearnings, you’re not alone. Most women writers, even women who have written for years, struggle to find time to write, to value their story, and to maintain confidence in their writing.
Why is it that despite the undeniable beauty and truth and grit of women’s experiences, women today continue to feel like they don’t have a voice or a story worth telling?
Many of us assume that the reason we struggle to tap into our authentic voice and give artistic expression to our deeper truths—those turning point moments in our life—is because we are not really writers and our stories are not worthy of being written. We conclude that our struggle with writing is a measure of our worth as a writer.
Yet the truth is:
Women writers today continue to suffer the devastating effects of silencing that have rendered women’s stories untold and unheard for centuries.
The fact that we’re still struggling to find our voice and give creative expression to our experiences as women in our unique voice and vision is not a measure of our worth as writers. Nor is it a personal failure. Rather, it’s indicative of a deeply ingrained cultural conditioning that all women are subjected to beginning at adolescence. Literary critic J. Brooks Bouson, author of Embodied Shame: Uncovering Female Shame in Contemporary Female Writings, calls this conditioning “a prolonged immersion in shame.”
Shame is a toxic emotion that erodes our sense of self and disconnects us from our voice. Unlike guilt, which we feel in response to something we’ve done, shame causes us to feel bad about who we are. The more shame we feel about who we are, the less access we have to our authentic voice. Shame becomes an energy block that diminishes our self-worth.
Because of this conditioning, women’s lives and women’s writing cannot be separated from a deep-seated cultural history of silencing that threatens to undermine a woman’s voice and sense of self.
Voice, after all, is who you are on the page.
The good news is that once we become aware of this conditioning and learn how to value our experience as females, we can free our voice and write our stories with confidence, craft, and consciousness.
What Is Conscious Writing?
Conscious writing is a method of writing that Marilyn has developed and refined over a number of years to help women writers recover their authentic voice and sense of self through conscious writing and reading exercises that help you to see beneath the surface of your story to the deeper story truth that wants to be told.
The conscious writing you do in this program raises consciousness in a number of ways.
First, it raises your awareness about your identity as a female so that you can reclaim—or recover—parts of yourself that went into hiding at some point in your life. That’s important for people whose sense of self has been distorted by the insidious condition of silencing that females are subjected to beginning when we are young girls. Conscious writing, then, is a self-discovery—or self-recovery—process.
Second, you become conscious of who you are as a writer—or who you are on the path to becoming as a writer if you’re new to writing—as opposed to who your inner critic insists you are (or aren’t) as a writer. You begin to discern the voice of truth within you—your wise voice—from the voice of doubt, which is never the truth of who you are.
Third, the emphasis in this program on the deeper story truth, which we can also call the emotional truth or universal truth of your experience, is designed to help you become conscious of the deeper story that wants to be told. Every story has a deeper universal truth beneath the surface of the story that you are telling. And it is at this level of truth that your story transcends the personal and strikes a universal chord.
Through the excavation process (described below), you bring these deeper truths to the light of consciousness, or what Marilyn calls “the light of the page.” The page itself becomes a form of consciousness as you begin to see your story on it. It’s a magical process that is like seeing a Polaroid come into focus.
When you do the work of excavating your deeper story truth, you position yourself to write in service of the universal truth, which engages your reader at a heart level and offers an emotional experience of what it means to be human.
This in turn becomes a gift of consciousness for your readers—they come away from your writing changed. They know and understand something at a heart level after reading your work that that hadn’t been aware of before.
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!
Montclair, New Jersey
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
Enter the Excavation Process
The word excavation refers to a process of digging for artifacts to discover or uncover something valuable.
In Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice, excavation refers to an essential part of the writing process. During the excavation phase of the writing process, you write to discover or uncover your voice, which is who you are on the page. Your voice is a priceless “artifact” that holds the emotional truth of your experience.
This emotional truth—the driving force of any story—emerges organically and begins to reveal to the deeper story that wants to be told.
The poet Muriel Rukeyser once said that if one woman told the truth about her life the world would split open.
Indeed, the excavation process splits us open to our own truth. We see ourselves and our material with clear vision. We transcend the limitations of our personal story and begin to see its universal truths.
At this level, you begin to make sense of your experience for yourself and for your reader. You develop an intuitive ear for the deeper story that wants to be told.
Aspects of your material that once seemed “small” or unworthy become valuable metaphors for universal truths. You achieve levels of insight and reflection that bring depth and meaning to your writing.
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!
Artist, Photographer, & Collector of Ugandan Women’s Stories
I 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
Why a Class for Women Writers?
As women, we learn early on to keep quiet about our experiences as females. When we sit down to write, we often censor this material before it hits the page. Not sharing who we are is so engrained that censoring ourselves seems “normal.” This learned silence becomes an obstacle we must overcome in order to write our truth in our authentic voice.
In her essay “Carnal Acts” Nancy Mairs writes about learning “how to set shame aside” in order to find her voice “by speaking…about the whole experience of being a body, specifically a female body, out loud, in a clear, level tone that drowns out the frantic whispers of my mother, my grandmothers, and all the other trainers of wayward childish tongues: ‘Ssssh! Ssssh! Nice girls don’t talk like that. Don’t mention sweat. Don’t mention menstrual blood. Don’t ask what your grandfather does on his business trips. Don’t laugh so loud. You sound like a loon. Keep your voice down. Don’t tell. Don’t tell. Don’t tell.’” Mairs concludes that “speaking out loud is an antidote to shame.”
Indeed, writing together about our experiences as females is an antidote to shame that invites the rich, raw material of our life to the page. As our material surfaces, we begin to hear our own story echoed in each other’s writing. Momentum builds.
Before we know it, memories we have not thought of in years or decades come tumbling from our pens. Images that at first seem trivial or unrelated begin to reveal a deeper story. Once we unleash this material, there’s no stopping us. Through the excavation process we discover who we are as women and what we have to say.
Finally, with a great sigh of relief, we are writing the stories that want to be written.
As 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
As 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.
Racial Justice Coordinator, YWCA Central Virginia
In Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice You Will
Recover your authentic voice and realize it’s been there all along
Experience your writing as an act of consciousness, self-discovery, and personal transformation
Become more present and aware in your writing and in your life as you discover who you are both on the page and off the page
Establish a writing practice that transforms your writing and your life AND strengthens your ability to focus and to concentrate
Discover the magic of your subconscious mind and trust the images it hands you
Transform the raw material of your life experiences into an artistic expression
Deepen your relationship to yourself and to others
Develop deep listening skills that will serve you in every area of your life
Experience what it means to be heard for who you really are
Tap into your creative writing flow and enjoy more ease in other writing pursuits, such as business writing, blogging, or academic writing
Realize that your inner critic is not the truth of who you are as a writer
See yourself as a real writer who has a significant story to tell, even if that story is “ordinary”
Realize the deeper themes and patterns in your life experiences as a female
Make sense of your life experiences for yourself and for your readers
Develop an unwavering confidence in your writing as you share your work with others
Claim your writing as essential to who you are as a female and to living a conscious and reflective life
Learn to nurture your writing as a need that makes you who you are
Value your time at a whole new level that honors your writing
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.
I 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 teaches in a way that assists you in reaching deeper levels of consciousness, and the experience is 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.
Writer, Teacher, Mother
Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice
Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice is a one-of-a-kind conscious writing program designed especially for women who are done with silence and know they have a story to tell, even if they do not yet know what that story is. The cumulative writing exercises that Marilyn leads you through in class invite “the story that wants to be told” to the page. You will learn to write without censoring yourself and to recognize the deeper themes and universal truths resonant in your own writing. Week after week you will deepen your relationship with your writing and with yourself as you come to see the rich themes of your life experiences through new eyes and “meet yourself” on the page. You will become a more confident, conscious, and reflective writer, and you will carry this conscious awareness into every area of your life. You will also learn writing strategies and techniques essential to writing memoir, and you will have many opportunities to practice these techniques in your writing.
Writing Our Grandmothers, Discovering Ourselves: Women, Silence, and Voice
What is literary silencing, and how does it affect women writers today? How did culturally and legally enforced silencing affect our grandmothers and women writers who came before us? What does it mean to have a voice? Through lecture and writing exercises, this interactive workshop makes silencing visible. You will see yourself as a writer descended from your personal grandmothers as well as from your literary grandmothers, and you will begin to recognize silencing as a theme rife with universal truths that suggests subjects worthy of literature.
You will come away from this workshop with words on the page written in your authentic voice that draw on history, memory, imagination, and your own intuitive knowing to awaken your deeper truth. This workshop will serve as an introduction to Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice and will establish a solid foundation for this course
In Week 1 you will
- Explore the question of voice for women writers
- Understand the history of literary silencing and the effect it continues to have on women writers today
- See yourself as a writer descended from both your personal and literary grandmothers within a broader literary and historical context
- Draw on history, memory, imagination, and your intuitive knowing to bring your voice and truth to the page
- Begin to recognize your story—and your grandmother’s story—as worthy of literature
- Reach back through generations to awaken your deeper truth on the page
Writing Adolescence: Our Voices, Ourselves
Studies show that as girls’ bodies develop, their voice and sense of self diminish. Despite our best efforts to stay in tune with our deeper selves, we carry this internalized silencing into adulthood. This takes a toll on our writing and on our lives because we begin to see our stories and our subjects as unworthy of literature. By writing beneath this conditioning, we reconnect with the essence of who we are and re-ignite the power of our voice. Our stories emerge onto the page.
In Week 2 you will
- Recover your unique voice
- Reconnect with your authentic writing self
- Unearth “turning point” moments in your life as a female
- Realize the resonant themes that connect your experiences as a female
- Hear aspects of your truth reflected in other women’s writing
- Experience being heard for who you really are
- Hear your unique voice reflected back to you by what others hear in your writing
Embodied Writing: Our Bodies, Ourselves
Our bodies hold our stories, our secrets, our silences, and our voice. As essayist Nancy Mairs says, “No body, no voice; no voice, no body. That’s what I know in my bones.” As females we internalize a cultural shame around our bodies that diminishes our sense of self and our vision. Yet the truth is that our bodies possess a deep and intuitive knowing that infuses our writing with the truth of who we our. By tapping into the wisdom of our bodies, we free our voice and discover the rich treasures of our life experiences. What is your body’s story? What do you know in your bones?
In Week 3 you will
- Generate your body’s narrative timeline
- Experience writing as an act of embodied presence
- Discover the stories held in your body
- Deepen your relationship with your body and with yourself
- Realize your body’s intelligence as essential to your creative writing process
- Recognize the universal themes contained in your experiences as a female
Writing Our Mothers: Our Mothers, Ourselves
Our relationship with our mother, whether she was absent or present, often contains the core of our emotional truth. Writing into this relationship demands that we write from our heart—seat of vulnerability—which is where our voice resides. Writing our mother—or her absence—draws out the complexities of her character, clarifies our vision of who we are as a female, and enriches our writing with insight, honesty, and universal truth. Indeed, by writing our mothers we deepen our understanding of ourselves.
In Week 4 you will
- Write your mother as a multifaceted character
- Write in your mother’s voice
- See your mother’s story—and by extension your own story—as worthy of literature
- Deepen the honesty and vulnerability of your writing
- Understand who you are in relationship to your mother
- Draw on your imagination to hone and clarify your vision
Writing The Details: Our Rooms, Ourselves
The houses and rooms we dwell in, and the objects they contain, hold our memories, which carry our stories. As Gaston Bachelard writes in The Poetics of Space, “Not only our memories, but the things we have forgotten are ‘housed.’ Our soul is an abode. And by remembering ‘houses’ and ‘rooms,’ we learn to ‘abide’ within ourselves.” By writing the objects that are important to us, we begin to see our story from a perspective outside of ourselves, which helps us gain the emotional distance necessary to make sense of the story we are trying to tell. These objects become the details in our writing that deliver our voice to the page.
In Week 5 you will
- Practice writing as a visual art
- Write from your sense memory to bring your writing to life
- Unearth the deeper story an object of significance holds for you
- Strengthen your innate powers of focus and concentration on the page
- Gain emotional distance from your material and discover your emotional truth
- Learn how the ordinary details in your life can become metaphors for your experience
Why We Write: Our Writing, Ourselves
Writing is how we make sense of our life, contemplate its underlying patterns—which form the thematic foundations of our memoir stories—and discover who we are, what we know, and what we have to say. Writing is not a luxury but a necessity that promotes our artistic vision and fuels a conscious and creative life. Yet writing is often the first thing many of us women put on hold when life gets busy. The truth is that your relationship to your writing is a microcosm of your relationship to yourself. By claiming your writing as an essential part of who you are, you honor and deepen your relationship with yourself and you free the power of your unique voice.
In Week 6 you will
- Identify why you write and what writing means to you
- Create your own personal metaphor for writing
- Claim your identity as a writer and trust your impulse to write
- Understand literary silencing and how it challenges women writers
- Recognize your inner critic as separate from who you are as a writer
- Deepen your relationship to yourself and to your voice
Conscious Reading: Our Themes, Ourselves
Every story—including your real-life memoir story—has a deeper theme that infuses the entire story with meaning and artistic cohesion. This theme emerges organically through the writing process, and carries with it the deeper story truth that wants to be told. In this week’s lesson you will reread the writing you have generated in this program with an eye toward the themes that are emerging. Because it takes solitary time to read and reflect on your work, the content of this lesson will be delivered via recording. In this recording, Marilyn will walk you through a “conscious reading” process that will help you identify the themes that appear just beneath the surface of your work. Once you learn how to identify your themes, you will approach your memoir writing from a whole new level of craft and consciousness.
In Week 7 you will
- Learn how to discern between the surface events of your life and the deeper story meaning these events hold
- Discover the deeper thematic content and underlying patterns and designs of your story
- Discover how the wide range of writings you have generated “speak” to each other at a thematic level and may be part of a larger story
- Understand your own unique writing process as you begin to see how your mind delivers your story to the page
Writing Past Silence: Our Treasures, Ourselves
Every silence or untold story that we carry contains a hidden treasure, and this treasure is the truth of who we are. As Adrienne Rich so eloquently writes in her poem “Diving into the Wreck”: “The words are purposes. / The words are maps. / I came to see the damage that was done / And the treasures that prevail.” Our writing is the purpose and the map that returns us to ourselves and unearths the treasure that is our voice. Writing past our silences transforms our vision. We see with new eyes the truth and beauty of our stories.
In Week 8 you will
- Attain new level of insight and wisdom in your writing
- See your story as a necessary and significant contribution to the world
- Claim your subject as valuable and worthy of literature
- Gain a deeper understanding of your material and the rich story it holds
- Realize how your reaction to your story can be an essential part of your story
- Experience the inner transformation that comes from writing your story
Writing the Men in Our Lives
Our lives and the stories we ultimately tell unfold in relationship to other people, including the men in our lives. These relationships reveal facets of our Self that cut to the universal truths of our experiences as females. How do the men in our lives shape who we become as women and as writers? What stories have we learned not to tell in the presence of men, and what gifts do these stories hold for us and for the larger culture? How have the men in our lives supported (or not supported) our voice, our vision, and our writing? To what degree do we gage our worth as writers on the way men see (or don’t see) our stories? In this class, we’ll explore who we are as women and as writers in relationship to the men in our lives, and we’ll excavate the rich and poignant stories these relationships hold for us.
In Week 9 you will
- Explore who you are as a writer in relationship to the men in your life
- Learn how your narrator as a character is revealed through these relationships
- Uncover facets of yourself and your story as a female within your relationships to the men in your life
- Claim your writing, your story, and your worth as a writer within the broader literary culture
- Explore how women writers in history have been shaped by the men in their lives
- Use your writing as a way to heal, make sense of, and understand these relationships
- Arrive at new insights about the complex nature of these relationships, and claim these relationships as subjects worth writing about
Conscious Writing: Our Reflections, Ourselves
Reflective writing—sometimes called “musing”—distinguishes memoir and personal narrative from other genres because it brings an element of hindsight to the page, which gives our writing depth and meaning. The reflective nature of memoir encourages a writer to be who she is now looking back on who she once was, raising her awareness while deepening her insight. Reflective writing demands that we make sense of our experiences not only for ourselves but also for our readers. Our writing becomes less about what happened and more about why it happened. As Dorothy Allison writes, “I am the only one who can tell the story of my life and say what it means.” This meaning leads to a new level of consciousness in our writing and in our lives.
In Week 10 you will
- Layer your writing with depth and meaning
- Make sense of your life experiences for yourself AND for your readers
- Discover your true self both on the page and off the page
- Unpack the deeper emotional truth that connects your “then self” to your “now self”
- Develop compassion on the page for who you once were
- Fully realize the deeper story that wants to be told
Conscious Writing Retreat
This Conscious Writing Retreat is time built into the schedule for you to take stock of the writing you have generated during the course of this program, catch up on any writing exercises that you have not yet had a chance to complete, and prepare for our upcoming Open Mic Night. Marilyn will be available during the entire retreat to answer questions and to help you think about next steps for your writing so that you wrap up this program with a continuation plan for your writing and consciousness journey. This writing retreat offers an opportunity to honor the transformative writing journey you have just taken, acknowledge the ways in which you and your writing have grown, and hone a vision for your writing moving forward.
Private Open-Mic Night!
Writing is about being seen and heard as your authentic self on the page. Yet fear of visibility keeps many women writers from sharing their work. Putting our writing out into the world puts us face-to-face with our deepest fears of being seen and heard, even though one of our basic needs is to be seen and heard for who we really are.
As Ariel Gore reminds us in her book How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead, every time you push past your fear and read your work aloud at an open mic, someone in the audience will be deeply moved by your words. Someone in the audience needs to hear what you have to say.
This virtual open-mic night will take place at the end of this course, so you will have a wealth of new writing in your portfolio to draw from. Consider it an encore. Step into the spotlight and read your work to an audience of supportive women writers who want to hear what you have to say. This experience will grow your confidence in ways that you cannot anticipate, and you will begin to see yourself as a writer whose work is a significant contribution to the world.
The downloadable mp3 recording of this open-mic night will also serve as a keepsake of your experience with Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice, where you will establish life-long writing relationships with mindful women writers who—like you—seek conscious and creative lives and who understand that one’s artistic vision can be found in real-life experiences.
Registration Currently Closed
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.
Librarian, Scholar, Mom
I 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 next class, Craft Your Truth, 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.
Museum Registrar, Poet, Writer
What You’ll Receive
- 12 Classes with Marilyn
With the exception of the Conscious Reading class, each interactive class is 2 hours long and meets live in our virtual classroom. These are not pre-recorded classes. Marilyn leads each class live so that she can connect with class members and class members can connect with each other. This live connection is essential for creating a warm and dynamic space that invites your truths, in all their complexity, to the page. Note that the Conscious Reading class is delivered as a recording to accommodate the nature of the instruction for the material covered.
Drawing on Marilyn’s unique understanding of voice as crucial to a woman’s identity and sense of self, each workshop in Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice focuses on a topic relevant to women’s experiences and women’s lives. Each class builds on the class before it so that week after week you go deeper into your material, and your writing becomes progressively more enlivened by your unique voice. Marilyn also shares writing strategies and techniques essential to memoir as a genre, and she has deliberately structured this program so that you can put these techniques into practice in your writing.
Week 1 Writing Our Grandmothers, Discovering Ourselves: Women, Silence, & Voice
Wednesday, September 20, 12:00-2:00pm ET
Week 2 Writing Adolescence: Our Voices, Ourselves
Wednesday, September 27, 12:00-2:00pm ET
Week 3 Embodied Writing: Our Bodies, Ourselves
Tuesday, October 3, 12:00-2:00pm ET
Week 4 Writing Our Mothers: Our Mothers, Ourselves
Tuesday, October 10, 12:00-2:00pm ET
Week 5 Writing the Details: Our Rooms, Ourselves
Wednesday, October 18, 12:00-2:00pm ET
Week 6 Why We Write: Our Writing, Ourselves
Wednesday, October 25, 12:00-2:00pm ET
Week 7 Conscious Reading: Our Themes, Ourselves
This lesson will be available by recording on Wednesday, November 1
Week 8 Writing Past Silence: Our Treasures, Ourselves
Wednesday, November 8, 12:00-2:00pm ET
Week 9 Writing the Men in Our Lives
Wednesday, November 15, 12:00-2:00pm ET
Week 10 Conscious Writing: Our Reflections, Ourselves
Wednesday, November 29, 12:00-2:00pm ET
Week 11 Virtual Writing Retreat
Tuesday, December 5, 12:00-2:00pm ET
Week 12 Private Open-Mic Night: Class Reading
Wednesday, December 13, 12:00-2:00pm ET
- Lifetime Access to Our Virtual Classroom
Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice meets in a private, virtual classroom on a platform called Ruzuku. Once you register, you will receive a link to this virtual classroom, where you can introduce yourself and meet your writing sisters. Live, interactive classes will meet by teleconference calls within our classroom so that we can connect “in person” and hear each other’s voice each week. Between classes, we will support and encourage each other in our private Ruzuku forum. All class assignments, readings, recordings, and discussions will be housed in our Ruzuku classroom. Once the course ends, you will have lifetime access to all course materials.
- Audio recordings
Each teleclass will be recorded. This way, you can always “make up” a class that you could not attend live. The audio recordings will be available for you to download and keep in mp3 format. Recordings also enable you to retake the class as often as you want. Why is this important? Because you will never write about the same topic in the same way at different periods of your life. As you grow as a writer, your relationship to your material shifts, and you develop a deeper understanding of the story you want to tell. Having lifetime access to the recordings allows you to revisit the classes and the writing prompts from new levels of consciousness for years to come.
Marilyn has done the writing exercises in this program many, many times, and each time she is surprised by the fresh insights and new memories that arrive on the page.
- Writing Exercises between classes
At the end of each class, Marilyn will provide you with additional timed writing prompts designed to keep you writing in the coming week and to take you deeper into that week’s topic. These prompts will keep your momentum going and build your writing practice between classes. You will continue to clarify and hone your vision as you see with more clarity the themes of your experiences and your subject emerging. Suggested writing assignments will be housed in our Ruzuku classroom so that you can access them at any time.
- Select readings by women memoirists, personal essayists, and poets
To deepen your understanding of selected topics and to broaden your view of writing strategies and techniques, Marilyn has hand-picked readings that will engage your writer’s mind and help you to see yourself as part of a rich literary tradition of women writers. These readings will also help you to locate your own experiences within a broader context of women’s experiences, which will help you to claim your subject as significant.
- Private Community Forum (aka The Writing Sisterhood!)
Although writing is a solitary activity, no writer succeeds alone. Writers need a supportive community to help them fully realize their writing potential and to boost them up during periods of discouragement. As a member of Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice, you will have access to a private forum. As a member of this forum, you will receive encouragement and support from your Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice writing community, and you will have the opportunity to encourage and support others.
Registration Currently Closed
Marilyn’s Personal “Trust Your Voice” Guarantee
Register today and join Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice when it starts. Attend Weeks 1 and 2. Participate in the interactive writing exercises in each of these classes. Receive the recordings and any readings that come with these classes. Participate in the community forum. Get the most that you can out of these classes. If you decide after the first two classes that Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice is not the right class for you, I will refund your investment in full.
How will you know if Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice is right for you?
Trust Your Voice! Trust Your Voice! Trust Your Voice!
Before 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
Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice Will Transform Your Writing and Your Life. Claim Your Truth as a Female in a Supportive Community of Conscious and Creative Women Writers
Marilyn’s proven method for teaching class members how to respond to each other’s work helps writers hear the rich possibilities in their work. This active listening component of the class strengthens bonds, builds writing relationships, and establishes a strong writing community. A confidentiality agreement fosters a safe environment for stories to emerge.
I 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!
Writer, Poet, Nurse, Mom
Before 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
Registration Currently Closed
Prior 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.
Communications Assistant CCM
My 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.
Nursing Student, Mother, Writer, Veteran
Marilyn Bousquin, founder of Writing Women’s Lives™ Academy, is a writer as well as a writing mentor, teacher, and coach for women who write about real life. Known as an integrative writing coach, she specializes in teaching both the craft of writing memoir and the consciousness work that leads to recovering one’s voice and claiming one’s truth both on the page and off the page.
Marilyn’s unique perspective on women’s voice, women’s stories, and silencing as part of women’s literary history informs her classes and mentoring programs. She teaches memoir writing as an act of self-discovery that leads to transformation, and she has a knack for drawing out the deeper story that wants to be told. She helps women to claim their subjects as worthy of literature and to value their stories as necessary contributions to the world.
At Writing Women’s Lives™ Academy, Marilyn’s classes and mentoring programs have helped many women realize that their voice matters and that they have a story worth telling. Her students and mentoring clients have won writing contests, published in literary journals, and are writing books. They have also enjoyed deep personal growth and transformation in their writing and in their lives.
A certified Amherst Writers and Artists group writing coach, Marilyn holds an MFA in creative nonfiction. Her book reviews and memoir essays appear in River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative, Superstition Review, Literary Mama, Under the Gum Tree, and Pithead Chapel. Her essay “Against Memory” was a finalist for AROHO’s Orlando Prize for Creative Nonfiction, and her nonfiction children’s book Virginia Durr: Voice for Freedom was part of the Voices, LLC, reading program. Marilyn’s most recent personal essay, “Feral,” is forthcoming in the anthology The Mentor That Matters: Inspiration from Transformational Teachers, Mentors, and Heroes edited by Suzanne Fox and Andy Fox (Stories of You Books 2016). She is currently working on a memoir about her journey to claim her sense of self through a fierce pursuit of her voice.
In addition to teaching classes and mentoring women online at Writing Women’s Lives™ Academy, Marilyn teaches writing at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia, where she lives with her husband and their two puppies in a Queen Anne Victorian dubbed The Literary Lounge.
Registration Currently Closed
Before I took Marilyn’s class, my writing was cautious and reserved. I wrote about my experiences from afar, without diving in. I could describe the general moments but wasn’t comfortable going to the deeper levels of meaning for fear of sounding hokey.
The distance-style format of “Excavate your Truth” greatly appealed to me. I live in my hometown and wanted to take a writing class, but not necessarily with my local peeps. My hope was to find a class where I could write from the soul without concern about judgment. Even though we were thousands of miles away from each other, at 7 pm on Tuesdays, we were all SO present with one another.
I rather enjoyed sitting on my couch looking out my living room window and listening and writing. It was a sacred two hours of my week. Marilyn gave us thoughtful writing prompts and followed up with feedback on our writing both on the phone, by e-mail, and on our private Facebook Forum. She offered encouragement when any of us hit a wall or writing block.
Since taking “Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice,” I’m able to write more clearly about the small moments and their importance in my life. I learned that there is so much truth and excavation that comes out of those descriptions. Wow! I also learned the importance of writing, of sharing our stories, of speaking our truths. And because of this, I am forever changed as a writer and as a woman.
I’ve realized that my writing, my words, and my experiences form who I am, and that spending time reflecting and writing is very much worthy of my time and my efforts. It is with great appreciation to Marilyn and the other women in class that this journey was made possible, and it continues every day since then. I love picking up the pen and letting the words flow as they may.
mother, writer, physical therapist
I was initially hesitant to sign up for an online writing class because I had never taken one before. But after the first class, I was immediately encouraged and enthusiastic about the intimate group of women in our writing community. No matter our writing level, this class helped us discover and strengthen our writing voices and delve deep into our life experiences to identify memories and stories that “want to be told.” Marilyn’s rich writing prompts helped us approach our writing in renewed and fresh ways.
I now have at least a year’s worth of writing material thanks to “Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice.”
I highly recommend Marilyn’s classes and her program for anyone who wants to recover her commitment to her writing process, is interested in exploring memoir and essay, and who wants to be part of a compassionate, soulful, inspiring group. My heartfelt thanks for this wonderful opportunity!
Executive Director Mid Central AHEC,
College of Medicine, CMU
Mount Pleasant, MI
With trepidation and no small degree of fear, I signed up for “Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice” online. After the first class the well came in, and I wrote for hours like my hair was on fire.
By the last class my world was immeasurably richer. Relationships took on deeper meaning with greater clarity. I enjoyed 10-minute writing prompts with my grandchildren, and they loved “pen-to-paper” as much as me. I asked my five sisters, cousins and friends to write stories about my mother who died five years ago with hopes of completing her unfinished autobiography.
The “writing sisterhood,” as we women called ourselves on FaceBook, followed Marilyn as she blazed the path for our skills and branded each story with truth, freedom, humor and tears.
As kind and giving as Marilyn is, she won’t mince words if she hears you doubting yourself or your work. She’ll yank your writing hand and put the pen back where it belongs in the center of our inquiry with admonitions to not listen to THAT voice. Like a Momma Bear she will protect your writing voice until you gain confidence and listen for the truth rather than to the fear.
Our worlds have been open to women memoirists because of Marilyn’s endless supply of great stories, quotes from authentic writers and frequent posts to FB to encourage us along the way. Marilyn’s support was there with every cup of morning coffee.
At 70 years of age, I now have a writing table in my bedroom in front of a large window with a great view. My writing is now my sacred space instead of my scared space.
The truth of my life is in my writing voice, my Rollerball pens and my lined yellow pad. If I live to be 100, I’ll never be bored. Fascinated, quizzical, enthused, compelled, but never bored.
I have so much to say. But you got that already, didn’t you!
I signed up for “Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice” because I had taken a writing class with Marilyn several years ago and loved the compassion and inspiration that simply oozes from her.
When I started the class, I thought I had no voice. But through the weekly classes, the writing assignments, and the interaction with the other women in the class, I was able to see why I felt like I had no Voice. With Marilyn’s guidance and with the help of the caring and loving writers in this writing community, I learned that I do have a Voice!
Now I no longer listen to the pesky inner critic that can distract me from the truth about who I am. It was a true excavation to learn about myself. My praise goes out to Marilyn and all the women that choose her as their writing coach.
Thank you from my heart to yours.
Kristin Jo Freed
Laughter Yoga Teacher
After taking “Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice,” I realize that I don’t write consistently unless I have a coach and unless I’m part of a writing community. The words just don’t leave my head. They never get to paper.
But Marilyn’s course helped me focus. The “writing sisters,” as we called ourselves, cheered me on.
Once I got my story onto the page, I felt like I had given myself a vigorous handshake, a hearty tap on the back, two thumbs high up, and a big hug with background songs of “I Did It My Way,” “Eye of the Tiger,” and “I Will Survive.”
Now I have Marilyn’s words in my head reminding me, coaxing me, to make writing a priority, to make my writing time a priority.
Toronto, Ontario Canada
Even though I have an MFA in creative nonfiction and have had a handful of literary essays published in the past, life had gotten in the way and I had fallen out of the habit of writing. I had written pieces of a memoir, and I told people I was “working on” my memoir, but the truth was, I had all but stopped writing before I signed up for Marilyn’s online course “Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice.” Marilyn’s focus on helping women free their voice to speak their truth struck a deep chord within me. I knew the class would be a good fit.
Being able to sit at my own desk in my own home and participate in the class from a distance was a big plus, especially since I live in a fairly rural area where nothing like this is available. I was surprised at how easily the group connected with each other, quickly becoming a “writing sisterhood” of women encouraging each other through the sometimes difficult process of digging deep as well as celebrating the victories of claiming our truths. Having our own private Facebook Forum provided a place for us to post our writing and to comment on each other’s work between classes, and to share information and ideas that inspired us.
Marilyn’s passion for supporting and encouraging women writers was invaluable to me. Every class provided wisdom, inspiration, examples, discussion, and prompts all focused on a particular aspect of writing as a female. How could I not believe in myself, in the importance of speaking out as a female, the validity of my unique voice and story, after taking this course? Marilyn has a gift for positively reflecting back what she sees or hears in students’ writing in a way that nurtures, validates, and encourages.
Before taking this course, I knew I needed a kick in the pants to jumpstart my writing again, and I got that. What I didn’t realize I needed was validation, support, and encouragement for my female voice. I also didn’t realize how much I had internalized the habit passed down to me of silencing my voice as a female. The class gave me a much-needed boost in energy and motivation to dig deeper and not be satisfied with only shallow truths. Through the writing exercises, I found the courage to begin exploring two important but difficult themes I had not known how to write about before. I now realize these interwoven themes have shaped me significantly, so I would not be writing my truth without them.
Now that I have taken “Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice,” it is much easier for me to give myself permission to write, and I am much more likely to put my writing first each day rather than pushing it off because I “should” do this or that instead. That feels really good because, as Marilyn says, who we are and what we write are so interconnected that taking time to write is taking time for ourselves.
St. Mary’s City, MD
Before taking “Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice” online, I was unclear of my truth and was silenced in many aspects of my life. I had been working on a memoir and had taken a few online courses, but I still lacked confidence in my writing.
I had never been exposed to a teacher like Marilyn before. She stands out in my experience for her ability to establish and sustain trust within a group, and to maintain an incredibly supportive, respectful, and risk-taking environment with a richly diverse group of women. Her detailed and insightful feedback, along with her guidelines for class members to offer feedback to each other’s work, allowed us all to blossom. Together we shared our writing, laughed, cried, and truly held each other. We continue our connection on the Facebook Forum and still post about how much we miss our weekly Tuesday evening classes!
In “Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice,” I also learned the rich history of the silencing of women. Through the classes and the Facebook Forum, I gained confidence in speaking up. I regularly read my writing aloud to the group even though my voice shook.
I now value the way I express myself, and I say and write what I think. Even if it differs from the predominant theme, I now put it out there and let it go. It is so liberating and heart-warming to have more faith in myself both personally and as a writer.
I highly recommend “Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice.” It is a positively life-altering experience.
Katherine Cox Stevenson, RN, PhD
Mayne Island, B.C. Canada
Before 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.”
Writer, Mosaic Artist, Traveler
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
Writing Women’s Lives: Acorns to Oak Trees
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,
Mother, Writer, Educator, Speaker
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.
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.
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.
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.
Writer and Retreat Facilitator
Port Townsend, Washington