Excavate Your Truth / Free Your Voice
A Guided Writing Program for Women Who Are Done with Silence
You have a story to tell.
Maybe there was a time in your life you swore you’d never tell this story.
Maybe you’re not exactly sure what this story is.
One thing’s for sure: something deep within beckons you to the page. And the older you get, the more urgent your need to write your truth becomes.
But how do you get the words out of your heart and onto the page in your unique voice?
Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice is a guided writing program designed for women who want to write memoir but don’t know where to start or have started but seek clarity about the story they are telling.
The guided-writing exercises in Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice help you discover the glimmering truth at the heart of your story and recover your voice from the agony of silence so that you can finally write the story within you that wants to be told.
Hi, I’m Marilyn
I teach memoir writing as a process of self-discovery and voice-recovery for women who are done with silence.
I believe that a woman’s voice is the seat of her power and sense of self.
Why is this important to the way I teach writing?
Because we women are conditioned to be ashamed of our bodies and our experiences as females. We learn early to keep quiet and hide our stories even from ourselves. This internalized silence keeps us in writing struggle and keeps our stories untold. This is no coincidence. Stories shift the consciousness of a culture.
Your story–your voice–is that powerful.
That’s why I created Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice, a guided writing program that invites women’s truths out of hiding.
When we write together with the common goal of freeing our voices from silence, shame loses its hold as the images unique to each woman’s story emerge onto the page. We begin to recognize pieces of ourselves in each other’s words. We draw on our collective courage to trust our own words and write the story within us that wants to be told.
Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice provides a space for women to take risks, write past silence and be vulnerable on the page.
Our writing circle becomes a sacred space that honors women’s truths for what they are: stories worth telling that shed light on what it means to be human. Stories that, finally told, move hearts and change lives. Stories that bring beauty and healing to this world.
Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice will help you:
Discover the story within you that wants to be told. (Hint: This may or may not be the story you want to tell!)
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.
Since taking Excavate Your Truth, Jessica has completed a draft of her memoir. Some of the scenes began with the writing in this course.
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, and I often felt alone in my writing. The online community changed that.
The writing I did in this class took me to buried treasures within myself where I discovered generations of unspoken truths. This encouraged the writer in me to keep excavating each week between classes. I’ve learned that the more I excavate my truth, the clearer my voice is in my writing. I’ve learned that when I show up for my writing, my words inspire the world around me. How can I not show up to inspire!
Free Your Voice
“‘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.’”
The words that were used to silence the women where you come from may differ from those of Nancy Mairs, but for many of us silencing carries some version of the message Ssssh. Don’t tell. No wonder we struggle to get our words out of our hearts and onto the page when we sit down to write a memoir! It’s as if our need to write our truth butts heads with that old message: Ssssh. Don’t tell.
Here’s the kicker: Internalized silence doesn’t just make it hard to write the hard stuff. It also mutes the exquisite details surrounding the hard stuff. After all, no story exists in a vacuum. But silencing blinds us to our story’s larger truth, which we discover in its details. Once you write past silence to the details, images, and metaphors at the heart of your story, you have on the page in your words tangible evidence of your story’s glimmering truth in your unique voice.
Each workshop in Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice focuses on a topic relevant to women’s experiences and women’s lives.
Cumulative guided writing exercises coax the glimmering images of your story out of hiding and onto the page.
Each workshop builds on the one before it so that week after week you progressively gain insights into the meanings and metaphors at the heart of your story.
Introduction: Writing Our Grandmothers
Writing Our Grandmothers, Discovering Ourselves: Women, Silence, and Voice
What is silencing? How did it affect our grandmothers and the women writers who came before us? Does it continue to affect women writers today? And what does your grandmother’s body have to do with your voice? A mix of guided writing exercises and a presentation explore these questions and make silencing visible. Come away with words on the page that deepen your understanding of who you are as a writer today descended from your personal as well as your literary grandmothers. Participate in writing exercises that reach back through generations to awaken your deeper truth on the page.
This workshop serves as an introduction to Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice.
Writing Adolescence: Our Voices, Ourselves
We begin to see our stories through a lens of shame. Through presentation and a series of guided writing exercises, you will write beneath this shame to reconnect with the many facets of your adolescent self to recover your voice–and pieces of your truth–from silence.
Embodied Writing: Our Bodies, Ourselves
As females we internalize cultural shame around our bodies that diminishes our sense of self and distorts our vision. Yet our bodies possess a deep and intuitive knowing that infuses our writing with the truth of who we are. Through presentation and a series of guided writing exercises, you will write from the wisdom of your body to give voice to the treasure trove of life experiences your body holds.
Writing the Details: Our Rooms, Ourselves
You also see your story through a writer’s eyes as the ordinary details of your life begin to suggest metaphors that reveal your story’s deeper truth.
Why We Write: Our Writing, Ourselves
Our writing practice is a cornerstone for living a conscious and reflective life and being who we are in this world. Yet many of us have a hard time showing up for our writing in a consistent way that mirrors our inner need to write. In this workshop, you’ll explore your relationship to your writing as a microcosm of your relationship to yourself. Through presentation and a series of guided writing exercises you will explore your relationship between your writing and sense of self, claim your identity as a writer, distinguish your inner critic from your authentic voice, and value your writing as worthy of your time and attention.
Writing Past Silence: Our Truths, Ourselves
You claim your truth in writing and in life. You overcome that which once shamed you. Through presentation and a series of guided writing exercises you will explore the emotional truth beneath the surface of your story, see your story as a necessary contribution to the world, realize how your reaction to your story can be an essential part of your story, and experience the deep healing that comes with writing past silence.
Reading Like a Writer: Our Themes, Ourselves
Every story has a surface story and a deeper story theme. This theme emerges organically through the writing process and reveals your story’s glimmering truth. In this week’s workshop you will reread the writing you’ve generated in this program with an eye toward the themes and recurring images you see emerging.
Because it takes solitary time to read and reflect on your work, this module 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 story. Through this process, you will discover how the wide range of writings you’ve generated “speak” to each other at a thematic level and may be part of a larger story. This lesson teaches you how to read your writing through a writer’s eyes.
Reflective Writing: Our Musings, Ourselves
Through presentation and guided writing, you will practice the art of reflective writing by looking back on a pivotal moment in your life and writing about it from five different angles. This workshop will help you to cultivate your reflective voice, imbue your writing with depth and meaning, make sense of your experience, develop compassion and empathy in your writing, and more fully realize the story that wants to be told.
Virtual Writing Retreat
This Writing Retreat provides precious writing time 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 Reading.
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.
Marilyn will be available during the retreat to answer questions and to help you think about next steps for your writing so that you wrap up this program with a clear sense of your Next Write Steps.
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.
Before I signed up for 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, 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.
Encore! Open-Mic Reading
This virtual open-mic reading will take place at the end of this course. Think of it as 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 and help you to see yourself as a writer whose work touches others.
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.
Before Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice, I’d 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. She stands out in my experience for her ability to establish trust within a group and to maintain an incredibly supportive, respectful, and risk-taking environment. Her 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’s words.
In Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice, I also learned the rich history of the silencing of women, and 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. It is so liberating to have more confidence in myself as a writer.
Warm hugs to all, take courage, be strong and step out,
Through the guided writing exercises, I found the courage to begin exploring two important but difficult themes in my memoir 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. Marilyn has a gift for reflecting back what she sees or hears in students’ writing in a way that nurtures, validates, and encourages. How could I not believe the validity of my unique voice and story after taking this course?
Every class provided wisdom, inspiration, examples, discussion, and prompts all focused on a particular aspect of writing as a female. Through the guided 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.
Marilyn has a gift for positively reflecting back what she sees or hears in students’ writing in a way that nurtures, validates, and encourages. 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?
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!
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
Questions you may have…
Who is this class for?
Women with a wide range of writing experience–from beginners to published authors, from women with an MFA to women who left highschool before graduating, from women in academia to women in business–have experienced transformation in their writing and recovered their personal story-tellling voice by taking this course.
Wherever you are on your writing journey, this course is for women who want to write past shame and silence to discover the truth of their experience as a female. Women who have a story to tell and want to tell it in their authentic voice. Women who are willing to be honest and vulnerable on the page. Women who want to experience the healing nature of writing.
A healthy mix of trepidation and excitement at the thought of taking this course is a pretty good indication that this is the right course for you.
Where do we meet?
Class meets by teleconference call within a virtual classroom. All class assignments, readings, recordings, and discussions will be housed in our classroom.
How long is each class?
What if I can’t make every class live?
All classes are recorded. Recordings are housed in our online classroom and available immediately after class. When you miss a workshop, you can do the workshop by recording then share your writing (if you choose) within our private forum. This forum includes the option to read your writing aloud and share it with us by video directly from your webcam, if you wish.
How long do I have access to course materials after the class ends?
You have lifetime access to our virtual classroom. This means that even after the course ends you can access course materials and revisit recordings any time you like for as long as you like.
Do you offer refunds?
If you decide after attending the first two classes that this course is not for you, I’ll gladly refund your tuition. Please note that there will be a 2.9% transaction fee to cover my costs for issuing a refund.
What is the excavation process?
The word excavation refers to a process of unearthing artifacts long buried. These artifacts tell a story. An excavator does not know before she begins excavating what artifacts she will discover.
Similarly, a memoirist does not know what she will discover when she begins the process of writing a memoir. In Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice, you write to discover the images, details, and metaphors at the heart of the story you need to tell. Writing becomes a kind of excavation process that leads you, image by image, memory by memory, to the story that wants to be told.
How are the workshops structured?
During our workshops, I talk briefly about the week’s topic to set up each writing prompt. After we write, I invite participants to share their writing (you are always free to pass) and to reflect back to each other the moments of possibility you hear in each other’s work. Don’t worry, I’ll teach you what to listen for and I’ll provide guidelines on how to respond. You will become astute at hearing the story in development in each other’s work. This skill will transfer to your own writing, and will help you to see your story through a writer’s eyes.
There will also be opportunities to post your pieces–or share them via video–after class in our private online forum. Classes are interactive, warm, and intimate.
What are the benefits of guided writing?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past 30 years of writing and 20 years of facilitating women’s writing groups it’s that hidden truths will “use” the prompts they are given to make their way out of silence and onto the page. Guided writing exercises provide new and surprising ways for you to access your story. As one workshop member recently said, “Who knew a table that I didn’t think I could remember would deliver this unexpected piece of my memoir to the page!”
What is the focus of this course?
The focus of this course is on recovering your voice from silence so that you can finally write the story you need to write. Silence exists–and persists–in fear and isolation. Something profound happens when we write together and share our writing “voice to voice.” The power of our connection becomes an invisible force that cuts through fear and isolation. It’s as if our connection to each other tethers us to our writing circle the way a rope tethers a scuba diver to a boat. When we write together, we go deeper into our writing than we are used to going on our own. The results are transformative as we write, share, and respond to each other’s work.
While the focus of this course is not on craft or polished pieces, the pieces you produce may lead to writing that finds its way into your memoir or out into the world.
Can I expect to write a draft of my memoir in this course?
No. This is a generative writing workshop. You will produce a lot of honest, vulnerable, and reflective writing that frees your voice from silence. Because one of the tenets of memoir writing is to be vulnerable on the page, the writing you generate in this course may well become part of your memoir.
That said, I do share tips and strategies for writing memoir throughout this course, and you will have opportunities to put these strategies into practice in your writing. Indeed, many women have gone on to use writing from this course in their memoir.
I am not “a writer.” Can I still take this course?
You do not need to consider yourself a “writer” to take this course. In fact, some women who did not think of themselves as a writer when they registered for Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice have gone on to write their memoir and/or publish shorter pieces of creative nonfiction. By way of saying that you might discover along the way that you are a writer after all.
That said, all you need to take this course is a desire to free your voice and to discover the deeper truth at the heart of your experience as a female. That and an open heart.
About your teacher
Marilyn Bousquin is a writer as well as a writing mentor and teacher. A certified Amherst Writers and Artists group writing coach, Marilyn holds an MFA in creative nonfiction. She teaches memoir writing as an act of self-discovery and voice-recovery, and she has a knack for drawing out the deeper story that wants to be told. Her understanding of silencing as integral to female conditioning informs her classes and mentoring programs. At Writing Women’s Lives™ Academy, Marilyn’s students and mentoring clients have won writing contests, published in literary journals, and written memoirs, and they have experienced transformation in their writing and in their lives. Marilyn has also taught college writing at University of Lynchburg and Randolph College.
Marilyn’s writing appears in River Teeth, Superstition Review, Under the Gum Tree, Pithead Chapel, The Rumpus, Brevity Nonfiction Blog, and elsewhere. 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. She is currently working on a memoir titled Searching for Salt.
Write Yourself Whole. Write Yourself Home.
Excavate Your Truth is more than a writing class. It is a journey to the page, a return to the truth of who you are. It is an invitation to recover pieces of yourself that went into hiding and in the process to write yourself whole. To write yourself home.
As a female writer in academia, my creative writing voice was, at times, stilted and masked. Since taking Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice, my voice feels more candid and emotionally lucid. The writing prompts helped me track episodes of having a port wine stain birthmark and create a fuller picture of this painful emotional history.
Once I had this timeline to process, my writing and 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. With this newfound freedom, I am also bringing a new spirit to my writing—a spirit of gratefulness for the diverse women who supported me during the class and an instructor who was creative, compassionate, and energizing. I am so glad I am part of such a caring and smart community of women!
Update: Jessica went on to publish poems about her birthmark in her chapbook Firemark, a memoir in poems. Some of these poems began in this course.
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. Taking Marilyn’s class not only improved my writing, but also helped to create the next generation of awesome writers.
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. I have so much to say.
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 became with my own narrative. Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice cracked open the silencing that had held my writing hostage. Marilyn enabled me to “see” the inner kernels of my own truths and to explore their many roots and contours.
Thank you so very much, Marilyn, for sharing your spirit and your gifts.
With writerly gratitude,
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. I am ready to sign up for the next class!
Marilyn’s honesty, straightforwardness, and empathy are breathtaking and gave me permission to write wholeheartedly into a topic. I got back into the habit of writing, and I stripped away the “shoulds” that had kept me paralyzed. Hearing my classmates read their writing helped me realize that telling our stories is an act of courage and rebellion.
My praise goes out to Marilyn and all the women that choose her as their writing coach.
Thank you from my heart to yours.
I highly recommend Marilyn’s classes for anyone who wants to recover her voice, commit to her writing, explore memoir and essay, and be part of a compassionate, soulful, inspiring group. My heartfelt thanks for this wonderful opportunity!
I knew I had some writing “juju,” but I had no idea how to tap into it or bring it forth. So I signed up for Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice.
Class with Marilyn is a journey of self-discovery. I experienced a deep inner healing through the writing I did in this class. Marilyn addresses issues of the silencing of women in our culture in a way that really spoke to me. I had no idea how profoundly my life has been affected by cultural silencing. The new awareness I gained not only helped me become a better writer but also helped me be a better mother, wife, and friend. Rather than colluding with the consensus of silencing, in ways I hadn’t even realized before, I now stand in a state of awareness as an advocate for myself and others in my life.
This class helped me to find my voice — a voice I didn’t even know was lost.
The virtual 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. It was a sacred two hours of my week.
Since taking Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice, I’m able to write more deeply about the small moments in my life. I learned that there is so much truth and excavation that comes with writing the details. Wow! I’ve also realized that my writing shapes who I am and is very much worthy of my time. I greatly appreciate Marilyn and the other women in class who made this journey possible. I am forever changed as a writer and as a woman.
I am excavating my voice and discovering who I am. I intend to get back to one of Marilyn’s classes again soon.
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.
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.
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
Write Yourself Whole. Write Yourself Home.
Excavate Your Truth is more than a writing class. It is a journey to the page, a return to the truth of who you are. It is an invitation to recover pieces of yourself that went into hiding and in the process to write yourself whole. To write yourself home.