What Women Writers Are Saying About Marilyn



Jess Brophy

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
Lynchburg, Virginia
Marvene Spencer

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


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


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


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


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


Thanks, Marilyn!


Marvene Spencer
Montclair, New Jersey
Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 12.10.53 AM

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


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


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


Carly Eccles Sheaffer
Mother and Writer
Lynchburg, VA
 Magin LaSov Gregg

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

Magin LaSov Gregg
Frederick, MD
Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 12.12.05 AM

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


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

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

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

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 Craft class because I want to go more deeply in this new writing direction. I feel like I’m headed toward the kind of writing I’ve always wanted to do: something that helps me to flourish, and touches others.

Deborah Spanich
Museum Registrar, Poet, Writer
Lynchburg, Virginia

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

Jean Franko
Massage Therapist, Writer
Lynchburg, Virginia
 Latesha Thornhill

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.

Latesha Thornhill
Racial Justice Coordinator, YWCA Central Virginia
nan carmack

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

Nan Carmack
Librarian, Scholar, Mom
Evington, Virginia
 Shmayah Yisreal

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 taught in a way that assists you in reaching deeper levels of consciousness and the experience was no less than transformative. In this circle of awesome women, we gained a sense of trust, compassion, love and sisterhood though we came from all different walks of life. The class made such an impact on me that I wanted to give others the opportunity of having a greater understanding of self through writing. In my summer program for children, I instituted a writing class that was modeled after Marilyn’s. It was so beautiful to watch children become empowered through writing and sharing. I am still encouraging my students to use writing as a way to express themselves. To this day, I am very happy that I recognized the signs and followed them. Taking Marilyn’s class has not only improved my writing, but it has helped to create the next generation of awesome writers.

Shmayah Yisreal
Writer, Teacher, Mother
 Lindsay Michie

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
 Maryann Novi

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.

Maryann Novi
Communications Assistant CCM
Lynchburg, Virginia
 Kim Barnes

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.

Kim Barnes
Nursing Student, Mother, Writer, Veteran
Lynchburg, Virginia
 Sonia Luna McFarland

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
 Melissa Schuppe

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!

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

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

Patty Brophy
Teacher, Writer, Mother, Grandmother
Lynchburg, Virginia
 Lora Devan Powers

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

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

Sonya Huber
Memoirist, Essayist, Teacher, Mother


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

Kate Hopper
Memoirist, Essayist, Teacher, Mother
Ginny Taylor

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

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