A Writing Quilt

At RCWMS, we love providing time and space for women to be creative together. One of the ways we’ve done this is by sponsoring weeklong writing retreats at Pelican House at Trinity Center, Emerald Isle, NC. For over a decade, women have been nourished by quiet days of writing and evenings of community sharing. While we are always happy welcoming new writers, some participants return year after year.

We also love new projects that are inspired and cross-fertilized by our time together. An example of this is the recently completed quilt that Marcia Rego got the idea to create after several visits to Pelican House. A woman of many talents, Marcia is originally from Brazil, has a PhD in anthropology, and teaches in the Thompson writing program at Duke. In her spare time, Marcia creates beautiful and meaningful quilts. This is what she wrote about the project before heading to the beach again at the beginning of May:

“I’ve been to the Pelican House retreat four times (and going to my fifth one), and every time I go, I bring a quilt project to work on in the evenings, during “share” time. Last time I was there, it occurred to me that it might be a cool idea to gather pieces of clothing from all the women writers who go to the retreat. I got lots of fabric in the mail, from people I haven’t even met – so that was really cool. It took me a while to get started because I had a busy semester, but I had fun trying to figure out what to do with such different (and often clashing) colors and patterns.”

Well, she certainly figured it out! Despite the wide range of fabrics provided by previous Pelican House writers, Marcia was able to piece them together into a beautiful design. You can observe her process in a delightful time-lapse video that Marcia’s husband, Hermes, created. And consider joining us on a future week of quiet and writing at the beach. You never know what might come of it!

Rebecca Welper has an MFA in playwriting and teaches writing workshops at RCWMS.

Moments Magnified

photo“Evocative, sensual, suspenseful.”

That’s how Carol Henderson described strong writing to 25 women who gathered on the first day of spring for Carol’s annual Resource Center weekend writing intensive. Many of the women were veterans of Carol’s writing workshops and dove in eagerly. Entitled “Moments Magnified,” the two-day workshop encouraged participants to write powerful vignettes about their lives, and leave with drafts of short pieces that would later begin to connect into a larger whole.

To inspire deep and thoughtful writing (with a dash of humor) Carol read earthy poems and threw out juicy prompts. In the light and airy Colony Hills Clubhouse, pens scratched and keyboards clicked, as participants reached into their lives for narrative themes that cut across time and memory.

A deeply personal writing journey for many blossomed into a community experience as well. Quiet writing periods were broken up by opportunities to share freshly generated writing. After finding inspiration and encouragement from each other, the writers would turn back to their own notebooks and computers for yet more writing.

The whole weekend was brought to a sweet and celebratory close with several participants’ readings, which shared beautiful, painful, and brave moments in their lives. The writing indeed turned out to be evocative, sensual, and suspenseful – moments magnified into something greater.

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2015 RCWMS Essay Contest Winners

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2015 RCWMS Essay Contest, “Embodying Faith.” First place goes to Rebecca Lanning of Durham, NC, for her essay, “How to Pet a Porcupine.” Second place goes to Sarah Woodford of New Haven, CT, and third place goes to Lauren Kilbourn of Chapel Hill, NC. An honorable mention goes to Lucille Gaither of Cheverly, MD. Click here to subscribe to our print newsletter, South of the Garden, and read the winning essay in our March issue.

Many thanks to this year’s judges: Marcy Litle, Jocelyn Streid, and Rebecca Welper. The judges report that they were touched by the thoughtful honesty and inspired by the great variety of this year’s submissions. Here is a behind-the-scenes-look from one of the judges, who reflected on what it was like to be on this side of the submissions process.

I thought it would be pretty easy to sit down, read through the submitted essays, and come up with my favorites to compare with the other judges. But as I read through each essay, I was struck by the beauty of the lives being shared with me. It felt like each essay was a gift from these women’s souls, with all the prickly parts, the aches, the longings, and sweetness. I started to wonder what it meant to pick winning essays. It felt like I was being asked to assign more worth not only to the pieces themselves, but to the lives and women behind the words. That didn’t feel right.

I realized this perspective came in part from having been hurt in the past when putting forth my own work. But while reading the essays submitted to the RCWMS contest, I was filled with gratitude to be let in on a small slice of these lives. I felt inspired reading each essay, no matter which ones we ultimately deemed most fitting for this year’s theme. As I found myself hoping that each one of these women would keep writing and sharing their important truths, I was reminded that we never know how we will touch others, but when we share authentically, we do. Thank you to everyone who submitted an essay for this reminder. I’m hoping you and many others keep sharing.