I participated in my first full Twitter chat this evening. It was really fun and I was thrilled to have been able to follow along throughout the entire chat. These things just aren't that easy for me. :) Not at first anyway... Participating in the chat made me remember my time with the Columbus Area Writing Project. If you don't know what that is, it is a group of teachers who gather together for professional development. The whole idea for me was that I wanted to be a teacher who was a writer so that I could be present as a writer in the classroom. I was going to grow as a teacher and unexpectedly grew as a human being.
Up until this experience, I had never been in a group of teachers with different backgrounds. That was very interesting. I was there as a kindergarten teacher and everyone else was (I think) 4th grade or higher. That's the really cool thing about writing. You don't have to be from the same background or experience for it to be relevant to you. If you really understand that writing is a process and you are ready to look at it at that level, it doesn't matter who you look at it with.
My time with the Columbus Area Writing Project began with a retreat at Kenyon College. Kenyon is in a beautiful setting near Mt. Vernon, Ohio. I was paired up with another woman who quickly became my friend. When our group would meet (on the 4th floor), we met in a large room with a huge table in the middle of the room. We all sat around the table and would talk to those around us. Dave, Robin, Kevin and Melissa were leading our group and they quickly engaged us in writing opportunities that allowed us to get to know each other. This was an experience that was different from anything I had ever experienced. The writing we shared elicited different responses from the audience. Some laughed while others cried. This new group was like an onion and the writing was beginning to peel the layers back to expose something we didn't even know we had... a community of writers or the writer within.
For me, it was Gretchen's story of love and loss that really drew our group together and made us a community. We had all been asked to walk about the campus and think about who had been there, what had happened there or the possibilities of both. I can't remember Gretchen's story exactly, but I do know that as she read, everyone sat a little straighter, looking, listening, laughing. It was the moment when all of the writers had arrived.
The thing that I loved the most about it was that it was very personalized. The teachers/facilitators would present an opportunity for thought for our writing but we could take it where ever we wanted to go and in the way in which we chose. We could write a story, a poem... The container for the writing didn't matter. I loved meeting with my group, sharing writing and stretching and being stretched. I would love to be able to explain how it all was done, but I just can't capture it. Kevin, Dave, Melissa and Robin moved in and out of teacher, facilitator, writer, and friend throughout the entire process. I never would have become who I am today without the experience of the Columbus Area Writing Project. I am eternally grateful.