The Healing Art of Writing began as Writing the Medical Experience, a conference that first met in 2003 as part of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers in the breathtaking Sierra Nevada. The conference continued for four years on the campus of Sarah Lawrence College, attracting participants from all over the country. Past faculty members have included notable writers and poets such as Richard Selzer, Frank Huyler, Courtney Davis, John Fox, Ted Kooser, Donald Hall, and Alicia Ostriker. Now we are pleased to bring WME to Dominican University of California, with a new title intended to reflect more closely its aspirations.
Our conference offers a unique experience in bringing together caregivers and patients who share a passion for writing about the mysterious forces of illness and recovery. The conference fosters communication between the two worlds we are all born into, described by Susan Sontag as “the kingdom of the well and . . . the kingdom of the sick.” A belief shared among all the participants is that being cured of the disease is not the same as being healed, and that the writing of poetry and prose brings us to a place of healing. Our subject is the body, our medical experiences widely diverse, our goal to express through literature what happens when a physical or mental anguish disrupts our lives.
Since participants are exploring intimate subjects, the conference fosters mutual support and friendship. The campus of Dominican University provides a secluded retreat, yet lies within easy distance to San Francisco for those wishing to venture forth. Wednesday afternoon of the conference is non-scheduled to allow participants to explore the Bay Area, socialize, or take time for quiet reflection.
We offer 53.5 hours of Nursing CEU.
Poetry workshops will meet from 9:30 to noon each morning. Workshop members and leaders change daily so that all may experience a variety of styles and voices. Poets will be required to write a new poem each day to bring to the workshop. In this atmosphere of challenge and support, poets will be free to break old habits and write with more strength and truth. Since time is limited, you may wish to bring a list of possible subjects for new poems.
Prose workshops meet from 9:30 to noon each morning. Participants will meet with a different leader each day. Two to three manuscripts will be treated at each session. Participants will have the opportunity to read manuscripts in advance so as to be prepared to give constructive feedback in the workshop. The first two days’ manuscripts will be due two weeks before the start of the conference, the remainder upon registration. Participants whose manuscripts are being discussed the first two days will be notified in advance.
In addition to daily talks and panel discussions on craft, ethics, publishing, and other subjects of interest to writers, the conference offers early morning writing sessions with Certified Poetry Therapist John Fox. On Wednesday afternoon Susan Cornelis will lead an art collage and writing session; that evening we will screen our new documentary, The Time We Have. Neurologist and poet Dawn McGuire will give an address on Thursday afternoon. Faculty readings, participant readings, and social gatherings will take place in the evenings. Participants will be offered a one-on-one session with a faculty member to allow for more detailed feedback on their work.
Joan Baranow, Co-Director