Daily Archives: June 16, 2012

An open love letter to Laurie Wagner and Telling True Stories

Certain people that you encounter in your life will change you, alter the way you experience the world in significant and long lasting ways. The impact of their light, their nakedness, their wild love continues to ripple and shiver and quake all corners of your life, sending out aftershocks that continue long after your focused time together, making things forever different, illuminated. Laurie Wagner is one of those people.

image from Laurie’s website

I first heard of Laurie Wagner in the same way I heard about every other good and precious thing I’ve discovered in the past year, on Andrea Scher’s Superhero Journal, this post to be exact. Rachel Cole was also talking about her, how Laurie is an amazing teacher and writing mentor. That was all the proof, the second opinion, the encouragement and nudge I needed (I’m no dummy), so I signed up for Laurie’s Telling True Stories ecourse, the very first run of it.

Holy wow.

Holy crap.

The structure of the class is simple enough: “a 5-week writing course with 3 weekly lessons, writing assignments, and deadlines. Writers will share their work with the community, giving and getting feedback.” Laurie also set up a private Facebook group for those of us who wanted to play. As in every other ecourse I’ve taken, it’s really up to you how much to participate. Some of us posted something every week and shared feedback and chatted on Facebook, others never said a word–you can do as little or as much as you can, be involved or not, to whatever degree you like.

image from Laurie’s website

Even though this is an online course, Laurie’s energy is radiant, vibrant and raw, lighting up and electrifying the space, however virtual it might be. She is at once your favorite grade school teacher, most popular camp counselor, beloved childhood friend (the one who climbed trees and loved books), best girlfriend, and precious mother. She also is the most skilled and kind doula, every piece I wrote for class felt like I’d given birth to something magic and wild. The class wrung me out, wrecked me, in the best possible way. In a Well-Fed Woman interview with Laurie, Rachel Cole says “I know her teachings and how they can crack you open.”

Yes, crack you open and let the light in.

Laurie says in one of her latest blog posts, “If I’m about anything, it’s authenticity. That’s what I teach, that’s the edge I consistently lean into. It’s what I encourage my students to do – to trust that showing up as their natural, vulnerable, imperfect, Words With Friends playing, gorgeous bed-head, didn’t-have-time-to-brush-their-teeth-selves is all we want. In fact that’s WHAT we want!”

image by andrea scher

I’ve signed up to take Laurie’s “Straw Into Gold” in the fall, but in so many ways, I feel like I’m still in a class with her. Most certainly, her teaching hasn’t stopped. When I sit at my writing desk or stand at my computer, afraid to say what I really want to say, I think of Laurie, her support and her strength, and it gives me the encouragement I need to get real, be messy, tell the truth. Just this week, she posted “10 Tips for Telling the Truth” and #1 was “Ask yourself what you’re afraid to write about. Bingo. Write this.” See, still teaching me.

What my writing needs, adores, desires: space and time, gentleness, kindness, nature, joy, my Pentel Clarius medium point black ink pen, my blog, my copies of Writing Down the Bones and Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott’s Facebook status updates, my dogs, my yoga and meditation practices, quotes from Pema Chödrön, dharma talks by Susan Piver, Mary Oliver poems, friendship, a camera, music, long walks, enough sleep, and now, the beacon of Laurie Wagner’s wild love, her insistence that I show up as I am and speak my truth.

If you are someone considering taking Laurie’s upcoming Telling True Stories, let me tell you, first hand: take this course, do not hesitate, run don’t walk, just do it–you will not regret it. Rachel Cole said it perfectly, about how Laurie and her teachings can “crack you open.” And yet, you will feel utterly safe and protected reaching down into the darkest, most raw place and be willing to roar like a lion about what you find there, will discover a wild power that you didn’t even know was there. Life altering…no kidding.

An open love letter to Andrea Scher

Photo by Mara

I’ll admit, kind and gentle reader, I am afraid to write this post. I have avoided it for months, while at the same time silently writing and rewriting it in my heart, longing to say it out loud, to tell her. But what do you say to someone who has given you so much, altered your experience so completely? How can you ever possibly thank them? See…I’m right to be afraid, because every time I think about it, about how much I adore her and how grateful I am, I start to cry (now, for example).

Andrea Scher has been the sun at the center of a universe of amazement and goodness, the shiny middle that all the other bright and precious things orbit around.

self-portrait by andrea scher

Here is just a short list of what she’s given me, what she’s introduced me to: Boho Girl, Susannah Conway, Kelly Rae Roberts, Brene’ Brown (!!!), Jen Lemen, Flora Bowley and the wonder of painting, Laurie Wagner, Rachel Cole, Mondo Beyondo thinking, and the joy of photography.

I’ve taken two of Andrea’s classes, Mondo Beyondo (which she taught with Jen Lemen) and Superhero Photo, and on Monday, June 18th, I’ll be starting Mondo Beyondo Dream Lab.

Horse or Dog?

horse or dog? picture I took of sam during superhero photo

Superhero Photo altered how I saw the world. I got down on the ground, climbed on chairs and tables, went out in all colors and weights of light, looked close and far away, and went on treasure hunts. I took some of the most magical pictures I ever had, and I haven’t stopped taking them.

Mondo Beyondo fundamentally shifted the way I approached my life, the way I saw myself. In this post, (which Andrea wrote when she first introduced the course in 2009), she describes the concept of a Mondo Beyondo list, what that approach looks like and means. She says,

I had been making these kinds of lists for years but had never had a name for it, or ever formalized my mental list by writing it down. My Mondo Beyondo. I liked the sound of it. I also loved the idea of stretching yourself into this world of the outrageous. If your imagination could reach a bit farther with this exercise, then you were giving yourself a powerful gift: expanding your idea of what is possible.

image by jen gray

Here’s the list of what I’ve done because of Andrea Scher, things I can cross off my Mondo Beyondo List:

  1. Started writing this blog
  2. Bought a ticket to World Domination Summit (WDS, just a few weeks away!)
  3. Took a few classes with Susannah Conway, got a signed copy of her book (sent by her!), am taking a writing workshop with her at WDS, and attending an event on her book tour at Kelly Rae Robert’s studio (!)
  4. Met Brene’ Brown (holy crap, I even talked to her!), took a two-day workshop with her
  5. Signed up to take a yoga class with Marianne Elliott at WDS
  6. Went to a Fearless Creativity writing and meditation retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center with Susan Piver (oh how I adore that woman!)
  7. Hosted a Well-Fed Woman Mini Retreatshop led by Rachel Cole
  8. Started writing a book

Maybe for some people, this list wouldn’t seem that astonishing, but we are talking about me here: INFJ, introvert, highly sensitive person who suffered from depression, anxiety, and writer’s block for 25+ years, (maybe longer?). This list is huge, ginormous, crazy wild amazing.

andrea scher, taken by laurie wagner

I found Andrea Scher’s blog, Superhero Journal, at a time when I was so brokenhearted, such a mess, so stuck, so tired. I didn’t know how to keep going, where to even start. I was searching, my view clouded by grief, knew that I had abandoned myself and my dreams, but didn’t know how to find my way back.

The person I am today: writer, artist, warrior, brave, open-hearted, funny, strong, joyful, sane, is possible in part because of Andrea Scher. She invited me to expand my idea of what was possible. She encouraged me, was kind and honest. She was constantly admitting the things that are hard and messy, while still pointing out what’s beautiful and precious. She reminds me of this quote from Muriel Rukeyser, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” Split open, and through the cracks, the light would get in (or maybe get out?).

Thank you, Andrea. I adore you and am so grateful for your work, your truth and your light, which have been of such great benefit to me as I stumble along.