Photograph by Steven Higgs
Women Writing for (a) Change creator and leader Beth Lodge-Rigal says her classes are about more than writing. They're vehicles for" exploration, revelation, and artistic expression." Participants work in a variety of forms, all of their choosing, including fiction, journaling, poetry, creative non-fiction and memoir. She also teaches various workshops and retreats, as well as a WWf(a)C class in the Monroe County Jail.
At first glance, Beth Lodge-Rigal's classes and workshops are a refuge for women writers or women seeking to be writers.
But in actuality, Women Writing for (a) Change is a venue for all women seeking clarity, consciousness and community. The tool just happens to be the written word.
WWf(a)C seeks to inspire women to "craft more conscious lives through the art of writing and the practices of community," according to its brochure.
This combination of writing and ritual (gathering in a circle, passing a candle, the sounding of chimes) creates an anchor for women in the day-to-day hustle and jive, a release from the female tendency to fix/change/control/rescue instead of create/reflect/evolve/be.
"After knowing vaguely about the existence of Beth's class for a year or two, I attended one of her samplers this past January," says Anna Haag. "What an antidote to so much of what swirls around us day to day. The semester flew by, as good things will, and I miss the weekly anchor that the class provided, both for my writing and for my spirit."
Molly Mendota adds: "Well, I've been in Beth's class for three semesters, plus a scattering of samplers here and there. Just by chance, those three semesters spanned the hardest year of my life, and the class was an anchor for me when I felt like I was floating away from everything that was familiar."
One woman wrote in her class evaluation: "Too big for words or wrapping paper or ribbons bright to do it justice. This big white house on Walnut Street, this upstairs room, this circle gathered here to write - too big it is to name it so! It is my anchor and my wings!"
For Lodge-Rigal, it's about presence.
"I believe artists live in a state of wakefulness," says the singer-songwriter, who has independently released five celebrated CDs and toured throughout the country. "I like to cultivate that practice in others."
To do so, Lodge-Rigal, the offspring of two teachers and a reluctant though accepting educator herself, offers two 15-week classes each spring and fall, in addition to various workshops and seasonal retreats.
Unlike more conventional, critique-based writers' workshops, these classes support each woman's journey toward her deepest, most authentic writing, says Lodge-Rigal.
"As its facilitator, my intention is to encourage individual, community and broader world changes, brought about by people working on intentionality in their own lives," she says. "At Women Writing for (a) Change, the written word is the vehicle for exploration, revelation and artistic expression.
"As women commit to their writing practice, no matter where they find themselves on their writing journey, their writing cannot help but become stronger, deeper, more vivid and compelling to listeners and readers."
Writers work in a variety of forms, all of their choosing - journaling, fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, memoir. Each week includes in-class writing time, readings and sharing of writing. Feedback and support are offered in large- and small-group settings.
The classes do not focus on publication and are not therapy - just incredibly healing.
"This opportunity is for any woman who writes," continues Lodge-Rigal, "from women who only dabble with journaling to women who have been published."
Melissa McReynolds can be reached at .