By June Gould
Alice Munro says, “In your life there are a few places, or maybe only one place, where something has happened. And then there are the other places, which are just other places.” In my life and in my teaching and writing, The International Women’s Writing Guild has been such a special place — a place beyond simple description.
Important things happened to me at the Guild — special, original and creative things — my teaching blossomed and the important concerns of my life (family, politics and memory) also became the center of my teaching. Not only did my writing improve because of the marvelous, open and thoughtful writing workshops that I took, the readings at night and the sharing of work during breaks and meals, but a side benefit happened to me as well.
As Dorothy West, author of The Richer, the Poorer, said, “To know how much there is to know at the beginning of learning is to know how to live.” Through the Guild, I learned not only how to write better, how to teach better but also how to observe, reflect, and how to live better. The talents, affection and openness of the women in my workshops inspired me to go beyond teaching and to become a mentor to the many women who eventually published or developed writing workshops of their own. I learned to experiment and develop brand new workshops because I was not given a script or syllabus, but trusted to develop my own brand of exercises, prompts and themes.
And I published. I met my agent at the Guild. I published The Writer in All of Us, and co-wrote Counting the Stones with two fellow Guild members, Barbara Haber and Ruth Steinberg. I also wrote my novel, In the Shadow of Trains, under the feedback of Guild members who became part of my ongoing critique group. My teaching improved, true, but my world improved as well.
Most important, the women in the Guild became more than students. They became life-long supportive colleagues and friends. They are now my profound network of like-minded and diverse writing women. I don’t believe I could have found such remarkable, imaginative women elsewhere.
Toni Morrison said, “Our self is our own best thing.” Because the Guild offers more than the sum of its parts, it isn’t only a place to take a workshop, write a poem, read a story, share work or meet a variety of fascinating women. It is also a place to discover and hone what it means to construct a self, a human being, a friend, an artist, a lifelong learner.
For me, the Guild is huge, bigger than Brooklyn, Staten Island, the Empire State Building. It is a monumental embrace where I have received and given love, admiration, connection, and appreciation. It is a world of hope, an oasis in our world of confusion, conflict and worry. It is what the world and relationships are meant to be. It is model for growth, change, creativity and imagination.
JUNE GOULD, Ph.D., a poet, novelist and author of The Writer in All of Us: Improving Your Writing through Childhood Memories, E.P. Dutton, is a Master teacher who has led IWWG writing workshops for thirty years.