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Monday, May 27
The Indiana Daily Student


Words written, voices lifted in community writing school

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Bloomington’s chapter of Women Writing for (a) Change, one among a network of writing schools across the country, fosters creative voices among multiple generations of women in the community.

Among their writing programs is “Words of Wonder, Words of Wishing,” a course currently in session for elementary school girls to explore their individual voices through words.

WWFaC strives to acknowledge and empower girls, giving them opportunities to evolve their writing and listening skills as young creatives and community leaders.

“Being heard and listening to each other is something we’re starved for deep down and don’t know that we are,” class facilitator Allison Distler said.

Beth Lodge-Rigal, creative director for the chapter, was a member of the Conscious Feminine Leadership Academy, formerly the Feminist Leadership Academy of Cincinnati, when she decided that opening an affiliate chapter of WWFaC would be perfect for Bloomington.

“I was really looking for a situation that might be good to model,” Lodge-Rigal said.

The model ended up being WWFaC, and after getting license from the CFLA, Lodge-Rigal launched the chapter in 2004. Bloomington’s became one of the first to emerge outside of Cincinnati, including Burlington, Vermont and Grand Junction, Colorado.

Writing programs for girls arose in 2009 when the Bloomington chapter realized it needed to offer these opportunities for a younger generation of women, Lodge-Rigal said.

“There’s all kinds of evidence in the literature on when girls begin to lose their fire,” she said.

That fire can be rekindled through programs like “Words of Wonder, Words of Wishing” that create a safe space for girls’ expression, Lodge-Rigal said.

“It’s a way to celebrate the inner authority of people to name what’s true,” she said.

For Distler, WWFaC provides a non-competitive forum for girls to express their creative freedom. Since girls feel institutionalized to behave in a certain way, claims Distler, girls should feel free to articulate their voices at a young, impressionable age.

The chapter emphasizes practicing intentional active listening, said young women’s coordinator and facilitator Kelly Sage.

While writing assignments in school might make girls worry about criticism and grades, participants in WWFaC receive positive feedback through the classes’ essential participatory discussion.

When the girls share their writing with their peers, it’s an opportunity for everyone to learn how to listen, Distler said.

Lodge-Rigal said it’s an ongoing validation process that provokes evolution of writing style.

“It’s not just what’s on the page, but the ability to read that out loud to people who are really listening to it,” she said.

The WWFaC staff agrees that it’s ultimate objective is to foster girls’ sense of agency over their own voices.

“We really try to hold them up and use them as inspiration,” Sage said.

While some from the organization’s classes do go on to publish their work, Sage said the organization’s goal is not never-ending revisions of writing. She said she believes the initial story girls can tell — without the manipulation of censorship — can voice the pure truth of the writer.

Most of all, allowing girls to articulate their feelings is a gift, Sage said.

“What’s important is us standing up and sharing our voices,” she said.

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