BY SOPHIE BIRD
As a workshop leader for Women Writing for (a) Change Bloomington, a memorable moment for Amy Cornell occurred when an inmate at the Monroe County Correctional Center stood and shared through her writing that she would never again allow herself to be a victim of domestic violence.
“There’s a great power in being listened to if you’ve never been listened to in your life,” says Cornell, who has worked with Women Writing for (a) Change for nine years. The organization offers workshops at the correctional center as part of its outreach program.
Beth Lodge-Rigal opened the Bloomington affiliate of the nonprofit organization in 2004. She says Women Writing for (a) Change is primarily focused on offering an alternative writing approach, one that values support over critique, to women with all levels of experience. Through themed writing circles, workshop leaders promote a listening-focused environment where participants learn to ask for the type of feedback that will be most useful to them as writers.
Most of the writing circles are held at the organization’s offices in the historic Poplar Grove Schoolhouse, 4638 E. Ind. 45, but community outreach is also a priority, says Cornell, who serves as outreach director. Lauren Bryant has worked with Cornell at the correctional center since 2008 and serves as vice chair of the organization’s board. “We’re really focused on using writing as a tool for exploring yourself, opening yourself up, and possibly transforming yourself,” she says.
According to Lodge-Rigal, the correctional center outreach program is part of the change mentioned in the organization’s name, but sometimes the transformation participants experience is more internal. “Some women are here for the writing, and some are here for the change,” she says.
Writing circle themes vary by semester, but past circles have focused on grief writing, overcoming creative blocks, and pregnancy loss. Women Writing for (a) Change also offers circles for young girls and occasionally hosts coed workshops that welcome males. Classes are offered in half-day, full-day, and weekly workshop formats. Prices vary from $25 to $360 depending on the course, and tuition assistance is available. For more information on upcoming writing circles, visit womenwritingbloomington.org.