January 29, 2011

Write To Connect at the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. January 2011.

The second series of Write To Connect took place at the iconic LightHouse for the Blind in SF (near Civic Center BART). Over the course of four Saturdays this January, we made shapes with word and breath, performed and outlined creative projects, wrote dispatches from other bodies—all meditations/departures from  ideas of Emergence, Emulation, Energy and most of all, Embodiment. Yellow lentil line break schematics, woven amulets, Lynda Barry interviews, and yogic exercises were all part of the mix.

We were quite a crowd this time. 13 folks came to the first class, including 2 who attended via conference phone. The fact that I was actually able to make the free conference call service work still seems miraculous. (Thanks Kylie.) (Many thanks to Richard and especially Brandon at LH who made sure I had the space and bat phone at the ready.)

Most of the participants were blind or low vision. A couple were wheelchair users. And a few had learning or psych disabilities. When I was envisioning WTC, I was fascinated by art-in-medicine models in which doctors and patients attend the same creative writing classes together. This loosens the sometimes fraught relationship between service provider and person seeking help. It fosters more authentic communication and cooperative efforts instead of a power dynamic. So, I was very happy that this WTC series included participants who have gotten services at the LightHouse and it also included  LH staff and volunteer instructors (like Nancy Yates, who has taught yoga at LH for over 13 years). An East Bay Department of Rehab counselor, who also happens to be blind, even dropped in!

The first series of WTC  (ILRCSF, November 2010) happened to consist of participants who were writing their dissertations, teaching at a university or working on a Bachelor’s. For this series, participants included a Braille transcriptionist, a pyschotherapist/bodyworker, a self-made movie/TV critic and videographer, an opera singer, a writing teacher/memoirist, a salsa dancer, a comedian/sciencey guy, and two members of Fabled Asp—the East Bay’s legendary storytelling collective for disabled lesbians. My friend Kathy’s mom, Marianne, attended. I had heard a lot about her.  Marianne, who is blind, works in the Massachusetts prison system as an anti-violence educator. She was taking a month’s sojourn to F, to visit her daughters and I am lucky that she spent some of her vaycay Saturdays with WTC.  

Ease is part of the WTC point (as a bodywork session or yoga class). That being the case, Marcia decided it was too much to lug her talking laptop to class. So, she mainly used her BookPort—a voice recorder//DAISY player. This mode really complemented her style (she;s great at acting out voices). When she would push play to share her writings in class, we were treated to the feel of a mini-radio drama. Philip started off the series by sharing some of his satirical writings  in the vein of Jon Stewart. He went on to create some really thickly imagined character sketches about frenetic cabbies and bowling ball heads. Patty brought up the topic of the trend toward “normal” in disability culture, asserting that she would rather stay radical and avoid normal (This is something I have been thinking about for a long time…more on that later…perhaps a WTC Specific Topics series…)

E.L. is a recent SF transplant from Portland; she stayed after class a couple times, talking with some of the other folks.  Brian M. made it his 2011 resolution to meet new people. He created a Facebook profile over the course of the last couple weeks and he is interviewing with Pushing Limits at KPFA radio. Belo launched his website; check it out—his memoir is available for pre-purchase and will be out in April. Courtney is working on developing her blog as she builds her counseling and massage practice. Greeta is totally amped about the idea of using her theater training to start a group that explores dramatic arts as emotional catharsis. The class as a whole got into helping her brainstorm around this project. I love that WTC can work on many levels, building community while exploring embodied writing styles.







[Photos from top: Philip, Courtney, Belo and Brian. Everyone is at their laptop, tapping away softly, during one of the write/meditate segments of the class.}


Check the Write To Connect Facebook page for a excerpts form some of the writings and ideas that unfolded during this series at the LightHouse. And check in often for news about upcoming WTC workshops.  My plan is to set up a series in the East Bay soon, with a possible return to the LightHouse this summer.