I cannot imagine the course of my adult life without the Guild. It has transformed me and been a central part of my healing journey. I have found a way to express emotions and process my life. I can say I am a writer and have the publications to prove it. Being part of a community of women writers who bear witness and honor each other has been redemptive.
I remember my first conference. I came for a weekend as a commuter. I sat in on Judy Beach’s workshop amazed that pearls of poetry seem to fall from women’s mouths. I was stunned by the memories women in June Gould’s workshop shared. Everyone I met was welcoming and I was moved to tears by the readings at the open mic. I was a rank beginner; the lack of judgment was central to my willingness to pick up a pen and share my work.
Several years later, I took Myra Shapiro’s workshop. She had chosen St. Francis and the Sow by Galway Kinnell as the poem of the week. She shared that her breasts sometimes ached because she hadn’t breast fed her daughters given the propaganda that formula was superior to mother’s milk. The memory of my premature daughter’s death tumbled out twenty-five years later. With no baby to suckle, my rock hard breasts became infected. The poem I wrote in Myra’s class was eventually published in Akros Review. I named my daughter, Segalit, in that poem. My grief was given voice. Afterwards women came up to share their experience with losing a baby. A sisterhood was formed that continues to this day.
Linda Leedy Schneider became my mentor and helped birth my book, Bearing Fruit, a Poetic Journey. She provided succour when I thought I was dying and worked overtime to finish my book. June Gould has encouraged me to write political poems in a post-modern voice. Marj Hahne challenged me to use poetic technique, where musicality is central. Dorothy Randall Gray has helped me become fierce with the reality of who I am and what I have achieved. I have written litanies and created sacred stories with Jan Phillips. Learned to write and read using my entire body with Pamela Sneed. Plumbed the depth of my unconscious with Susan Tibergien. Explored new forms of lyric essays with Arielle Silver. Written about my body with Jan Garry. Made soul collage cards with Judith Prest. Learned how to integrate visual journaling techniques, writing and spiritual practices with Suzi Banks Baum. Written about healing from illness with Lisa Neumann. Been inspired by the monologues and plays that Kelly DuMar brings forth in her students. Each of the workshop leaders I have taken over the years has touched me and helped me hone my craft. I learn from all the women who attend. Their stories and poems illuminate my life. And now, with our digital village, I am able to take workshops and write throughout the year.
The Guild has open doors to others and to myself. I am proud to serve on the Board of Directors. We are blessed to have Michelle Miller as our new Executive Director and I look forward to seeing the Guild grow under her leadership.
Leslie B. Neustadt
Lesliewas born in Poughkeepsie, New York. She received her B.A. in History from the University of Rochester and her J.D. from Temple University School of Law in 1976. A former Assistant Attorney General for the state of New York, she retired from that office following a long and rewarding career. A member of the International Women’s Writers Guild and the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, Leslie created an award winning Community of Jewish Writers reading series in the Capital Region. Pursuing a wide range of expressive arts and holistic practices as part of her healing journey, her work is illuminated by her Jewish background. Her poems and essays have appeared in a variety of literary journals and publications including Akros Review, Cure, Cylamens and Swords, Found Poetry Review, Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, and more. She continues to find inspiration and solace through her writing and artwork, giving voice to her experiences as a woman, daughter, wife, mother, patient and survivor.