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How Humanity Fell in Love with Itself Once Again, By Lyla June Johnston


The Story of How Humanity Fell in Love with Itself Once Again

By Lyla June Johnston

I spend a lot of time honoring and calling upon my Native American ancestors. I am keenly aware that my father’s people hold a venerable medicine as well. He has ancestry from the Great Sacred Motherland of Europe.

I have been called a half breed. I have been called a mutt. Impure. I have been told my mixed blood is my bane. That I’m cursed to have an Indian for a mother and a cowboy for a father.

But one day, as I sat in the ceremonial house of my mother’s people, a wondrous revelation landed delicately inside of my soul. It sang within me a song I can still hear today. This song was woven from the voices of my European grandmothers and grandfathers. Their songs were made of love.

They sang to me of their life before the witch trials and before the crusades. They spoke to me of a time before serfdoms and before Roman tithes. They spoke to me of a time before the plague; before the Medici; before the guillotine; a time before their people were extinguished or enslaved by dark forces. They spoke to me of a time before the English language existed. A time most of us have forgotten.

These grandmothers and grandfathers set the ancient medicine of Welsh blue stone upon my aching heart. Their chants danced like the flickering light of Tuscan cave-fires. Their joyous laughter echoed on and on like Baltic waves against Scandinavian shores. They blew worlds through my mind like windswept snow over Alpine mountain crests. They showed to me the vast and beautiful world of Indigenous Europe. This precious world can scarcely be found in any literature, but lives quietly within us like a dream we can’t quite remember.

As all this was happening, I peered into the flames of our Diné hoghan fireplace. These Ancient Europe voices whispered to my heart to help me understand. “See, our songs are not so different from your Diné songs,” they seemed to say with a smile.

In this moment, the moment I first acknowledged and connected with my beautiful European ancestors, I could do nothing but cry. It was one of those messy, snotty, shuddering cries, where my face flowed over with tears of joy and sorrow. It was the cry of a woman who met her grandmother for the first time. I always wondered where she was. What she looked like. What her voice sounded like. Who she was. And now, for the first time, I could feel her delicate hands run through my hair as she told me she loved me. I sobbed and I sobbed and I sobbed.

Intermixed in there were also tears of regret. My whole life I was taught to hide my European “side.” All I knew was that my father came from Dallas and that was all I needed to know. These pale-skinned mothers and fathers were to be forgotten, I was taught. They carried violence in their blood and avarice in their smile, I was taught. They were rubbish, I was taught. There was no need to ask questions about them or think about them, I was taught. Whenever I wrote down my race on official forms, I would only write “Native American,” as I was taught.

But then, as thousands of European ancestors swirled around me and reassured my fearful heart, I wished I had honored them sooner. I wished I hadn’t disowned them. I wished I knew how beautiful they were. I wished I could have seen through the thin wall of time that dominates our understanding of Europe. I wish I could have realized the days when Indigenous Europeans were deeply connected to the earth and to kinship. In my mind I told them I was so, so sorry for forsaking them. But, of course, they did not care. They only held me tighter and assured me they would be with me to the end.

The sweetness of this precious experience changed me forever. I have come to believe that if we do not wholly love our ancestors, then we do not truly know who they are. For instance, I get very offended when people call Native Americans “good-for-nothing drunks.” Because by saying this, people don’t take into account the centuries of attempted genocide, rape and drugging of Native American people. They don’t see the beauty of who we were before the onslaught. And now, I am offended when people call European descendants “privileged good-for-nothing pilgrims.” Because by saying this, people do not take into account the thousands of years that European peoples were raped, tortured and enslaved. They do not understand the beauty of who we were before the onslaught. They do not understand that even though we have free will and the ability to choose how we live our life, it is very hard to overcome inter-generational trauma. What happens in our formative years and what our parents teach us at that time can be very hard to reverse.

They estimate that 8-9 million European women were burned alive, drowned alive, dismembered alive, beaten, raped and otherwise tortured as so-called, “witches.” It is obvious to me now that these women were not witches, but were the Medicine People of Old Europe. They were the women who understood the herbal medicines, the ones who prayed with stones, the ones who passed on sacred chants, the ones who whispered to me that night in the hoghan. This all-out warfare on Indigenous European women, not only harmed them, but had a profound effect on the men who loved them. Their husbands, sons and brothers. Nothing makes a man go mad like watching the women of his family get burned alive. If the men respond to this hatred with hatred, the hatred is passed on. And who can blame them? While peace and love is the correct response to hatred, it is not the easy response by any means.

The Indigenous Cultures of Europe also sustained forced assimilation by the Roman Empire and other hegemonic forces. In fact, it was only a few decades ago that any Welsh child caught speaking Welsh in school would have a block of wood tied to their neck. The words “WN” were there-inscribed, standing for “welsh not.” This kind of public humiliation will sound very familiar to any Native Americans reading this who attended U.S. Government boarding schools.

Moreover, our indigenous European ancestors faced horrific epidemics of biblical proportions. In the 1300s, two-thirds of Indigenous Europeans were wiped from the face of the earth. The Black Death, or Bubonic Plague, ravaged entire villages with massive lymph sores that filled with puss until they burst open. Sound familiar?

The parallels between the genocide of Indigenous Europeans and Native Americans are astounding. It boggles my mind that more people don’t see how we are the same people, who have undergone the same spiritual assault. The only difference between the Red Story and the White Story is we are in different stages of the process of spiritual warfare. Native Americans are only recently becoming something they are not. They are only recently starting to succumb to the temptations of drugs, alcohol, gambling, self-destruction and the destruction of others. Just as some Native American people have been contorted and twisted by so many centuries of abuse, so too were those survivors of the European genocide. Both are completely forgivable in my eyes.

Now I see I have a double-duty. I must not only honor and revitalize my Diné culture, but also that of my European ancestors. This ancient Indigenous European culture is just as beautiful as Native American culture and was just as tragically murdered and hidden from history books.

And so, some years later, armed with this new understanding, I traveled to Europe. I scaled a beautiful mountain in Switzerland to see if I might hear hints of ceremonial songs in the wind. I stepped upon the earth guided by those grandmother and grandfather whispers. I plucked a strand of hair from my scalp and placed the offering upon the earth, still wet from morning dew. I ambled through the forests enchanted by the new sights and smells. And I did see glimmers of visions of the villages of yesteryear. And they were full of Earth People living out harmonious community. And, they had beautiful music.

As the sun went down, I fell back on the grass and looked up to the sky. At the time, I was going through a very painful separation from a person I loved. To my surprise, it felt as if the earth was pulling all the sorrow I was carrying down into her core where she could transform it into beauty. The sky was speaking to me about how I didn’t need to worry, that I would be happy again one day. The earth and the sky healed me that day from the great weight I had carried for months. It was a special reunion with the mountains of my foremothers.

My mountain experiment yielded astounding results: the Great Sacred Motherland of Europe is still alive and breathing and waiting for her children to come home! She is waiting for us to ask her for songs so that we may sing to her once again. She is waiting for us to scratch passed the surface of time, into the B.C. period when our languages were thriving and our dancing feet kissed the face of the earth. She is waiting. She is waiting for us to remember who we are. If you hold this descent, or any forgotten descent for that matter, I am asking you to join me in this prayer to remember who we are. I have a feeling this prayer will heal the whole world.

In 2009, archaeologists came across a female effigy believed to be the Goddess of the Earth buried inside of German soil. The radiocarbon dating tests came back. They indicate that this clay deity was molded by European hands 40,000 years ago. 40,00 years ago. This is the time she beckons us to. This is the world she hopes we will remember: where man and woman alike, held the soil in their hands and saw the value and sanctity of women and of the Mother Earth. This is the world that still flows through our veins, however deafened we have become to it. With prayer we can learn to hear it once again.

I compare this earth-based, Indigenous European culture to the witch-burning psychosis of the first and second millennia. I cannot help but ask myself, when and how did this egalitarian, earth-loving, woman-honoring culture, become the colonial, genocidal conquerors that washed upon American shores? Could it be that our beloved Indigenous European ancestors were raped and tortured for so many thousands of years that they forgot who they were? Could it be they lived in a pressure cooker of oppression for so long that conquer-or-be-conquered is all they knew? Yes, I believe so.

Our task is to shake the amnesia. To not be ashamed of our European-ness, but to reclaim our beautiful grandmothers, to reclaim our venerable grandfathers, to reclaim our lost languages, our lost ceremonies, our lost homelands and become one with the Great Sacred Motherland of Europe once again. The European diaspora is spread all throughout the world, searching the planet for something that lives is inside. I promise you will hear it when you climb the mountains of Switzerland! Of Scotland! Of Tuscany! Of Hungary! Of Portugal! Of the Great Sacred Motherland of Europe! Just because bad things happened upon her bosom does not mean she is bad.

Our task is to honor our ancestors, even those who caved beneath the weight of systematic destruction and became conquerors themselves. Our task is to remember that we are those beautiful Earth People. The ones whose love and prayers were so strong that they could carry 25-ton blue stone monoliths for miles and miles and build the sacred place of prayer known as Stonehenge. That is who we are. When we remember this, the healing of our lineages comes full circle. When we remember this, we will no longer need to borrow spiritual practices from other cultures (although that can be very helpful when there is nothing else to hold onto.) When we remember this, we will remember that the fates of all beings are intertwined with our own. When I remembered this, I found whole-ness in my self—no longer a half-breed, but a daughter of Two Great Lineages, Two Great Rivers that ran together to make one precious child.

This is the story of how I became whole. Some days, it feels like both fire and water live within me. They dance and swirl around one another. In the morning when I wake up, each bows to the other, honoring themselves as equals, as beautiful. When I go to sleep at night they wish each other good dreams. They teach me how it could have been when Columbus first stepped upon Taino shores: a meeting of two long lost brothers, embracing each other and celebrating their unique cultures. They teach me how things can be for our children in the future.

Because that’s what matters most, doesn’t it?

Not how the story goes… but how it ends.

We each hold a pen. Now, let us co-author a story of how humanity fell in love with itself and its Mother Earth once again. Shall we?


About Writing for Peace Adviser Lyla June Johnston

Lyla June Johnston, Writing fr Peace Young AdviserLyla June Johnston is a poet, musician, anthropologist and human being, from Taos, New Mexico. Her passion for peace unfolds both outside of herself through community organizing and within herself through continual prayers to forgive and love a wounded world. Learn more about Lyla and her work here.

(c) Copyright 2016. Lyla Johnston. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted here with permission by the author.

Photo courtesy of Wikicommons: Sami Indigenous Peoples of Norway, circa 1900. They are standing beside their “lavvu” which look strikingly similar to the tipis of Plains Indigenous Peoples of North America.


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Writing for Peace News

2016 Young Writers Contest Begins!

Writing for Peace challenges young writers (ages 13–19) to expand their empathy skills by researching an unfamiliar culture and writing from the point-of-view of a character within that new world, while exploring social, political, and environmental pressures, and universal themes. We’ve extended the submission deadline to April 15, 2016 at midnight (Mountain Time). There is no fee for participation. Check out our guidelines here.

Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace Adviser“How do we fight for what we want and need; to protect the planet; and to ensure justice for all, when we are confronting an oligarchy?”

Newsletter: Defeating The Oligarchs



Copyright © 2016 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Posted in Activism, Inner Peace, Peace, Uncategorized, Violence Against Women, Young Advisers, Young Writers Contest Guidelines | Tagged | 1 Comment

2016 Young Writers Contest Begins!

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 The 2016 Young Writers Contest Is Open!

2016JudgesSince we first started our contest in the fall of 2011, we’ve received stories, essays, and poetry from students in over 24 countries. And now our 5th annual Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest is up and running.  Due to the late start, the deadline has been extended to April 15th, 2016. You’ll find our guidelines online here.

We’re very excited to announce our prestigious panel of judges:

Meg Pokrass, Fiction

Meg Pokrass is the author of “Damn Sure Right” (Press 53, 2011) “Bird Envy” and a novella-in-flash “Here, Where We Live” one of five novellas-in-flash in the award-winning anthology “My Very End of the Universe – Five Novellas-in-Flash and a Study of the Form” (Rose Metal Press, 2014). Read more about Meg Pokrass and her work here.

E. Ethelbert Miller, Poetry

E. Ethelbert Miller is a writer and literary activist. He is the board chair of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a progressive think tank located in Washington, D.C. For ten years he has been the editor of Poet Lore, the oldest poetry magazine published in the United States. In 1996, he delivered the commencement address at Emory and Henry College and was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Literature. Mr. Miller has been a Fulbright Senior Specialist Program Fellow to Israel in 2004 and 2012. In February 2006 he was the keynote speaker at the 50th Anniversary of the Fulbright Program in Israel, at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C. Read More about E. Ethelbert Miller and his work here.

Rebekah Presson Mosby, Nonfiction. 

Rebekah Presson Mosby is a Grammy nominee and Audie award winner known for her work in poetry audio, for arts reporting on National Public Radio and for interviews with writers and artists. Read more about Rebekah Presson Mosby and her work here.

Special Note:

Writers for Peace, with this late start we’ll need your help more than ever to get the word out. As always we’re happy to mail you free bookmarks to hand out in classrooms and workshops. Contact us at Thank you so much for your help and support. It really does make a difference. Happy writing!


Copyright © 2016 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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Near rebellion, By Djelloul Marbrook

Djelloul Marbrook, Near rebellion
Near rebellion
We’re born to pass through walls
unmuddled by geometries,
to crumple dimensions in our pockets,
paint imaginings in the air,
born to rip persuasion
from our faces, to know
our parents speak in fear.
In which dream do we sleep,
day too staged to trust, or night
where we’ve seen everything before?
Heaven is as we remember it.
We’re not strangers anywhere.
We’re lost among derangements,
but wind bears the scent of home.
Morning is always unfamiliar.
We must relearn each object’s nap.
Sometimes we can’t remember
the ways in which we’re bent,
waiting for the image in the mirror
to evaporate, hoping to return
to an original condition
sparkling restive in our marrow.
In so many eyes elixir, why
unnatural wont to turn away
and why in the grace of deja vu
are we in the way of ourselves?
If you tied your shoes together
you’d get around no worse
than grabbing a cab and thinking
you’re actually getting somewhere.
The awareness of a puma,
translucence of a leaf.
I remember huddled atoms
in a Macedonian shield,
near rebellion in Baybars’ sword,
nothing too exquisite to bear.
Then I remember to pretend
I’m going to be buried here.
“Near Rebellion” was first published by Arabesques in 2005 and then republished in several online journals, including Occupy Poetry.

About Writing for Peace Adviser Djelloul Marbrook

djelloul-marbrook leaning“Our poetry, our fiction, our art is the news of our society, not the fog that a handful of oligarchs call the news. War means profit to these oligarchs. How to smash this lock on the way we view conflict? First, writers must be conscious of their role as rogue operatives. They must subvert the propaganda machine that conceals the real purpose of war in geopolitical blather. We have examples of this—the scriptwriters of the films The International and Lord of War. They showed us that war is a racket, like insider trading.”  ~Djelloul Marbrook

Djelloul Marbrook is the author of three poetry books, Far from Algiers (2008, Kent State University Press, winner of the 2007 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize and the 2010 International Book Award in poetry), Brushstrokes and Glances (2010, Deerbrook Editions), and Brash Ice (2014, Leaky Boot Press, UK). His poems have been published by American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Taos Poetry Journal, Orbis (UK), From the Fishouse, Oberon, The Same, Reed, Fledgling Rag, Poets Against the War, Poemeleon, Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology, Atticus Review, Deep Water Literary Journal, and Daylight Burglary, among others. He is also the author of five books of fiction: Mean Bastards Making Nice (2014, Leaky Boot Press, UK), Guest Boy (2012, Mira Publishing House CLC, Leeds, UK), Saraceno (2012, Bliss Plot Press, NY), Artemisia’s Wolf (2011, Prakash Books, India), and Alice Miller’s Room (1999,, UK). He won the 2008 Literal Latté fiction prize for “Artists Hill” (, an excerpt from Crowds of One, Book 2 in the Guest Boy trilogy, forthcoming in 2015 from Mira). His short fiction publishers include Literal Latté, Orbis (UK), Breakfast All Day (UK), Prima Materia (NY) and Potomac Review (MD). He serves on Four Quarters Magazine’s poetry peer review board and maintains a lively Facebook and Twitter presence. A retired newspaper editor and Navy veteran, he lives in New York’s mid-Hudson Valley with his wife Marilyn. Learn more about his work here.

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Writing for Peace News

Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace Adviser“Raise the flag for West Papua today!”

December 1st – Is More Than A Flag-Raising Day, By Herman Wainggai!



Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Posted in Advisory Panel Contributors, Djelloul Marbrook | 1 Comment

First-World Problems and Refugees, By Cara Lopez Lee

longform-original-15096-1444308710-9Magnus Wennman / Aftonbladet / REX Shutterstock

First-World Problems and Refugees

By Cara Lopez Lee

This entire week, my husband and I have been awaiting word on our mortgage loan documents, hoping our lender draws them up soon so we can close on a new house. On Monday, nobody was answering our calls and we grew anxious. For the past three days we’ve heard promise after promise followed by delay after delay. For some reason, it all makes me think of Syria’s refugees, whose situation is of course a million times direr than ours. I can’t help but seek metaphors, because that’s what my mind does when I try to make sense of things that don’t make sense. So I imagine Syrians desperate for a new home, anxious they made a mistake by leaving the old one, and at the moment they most want help, unable to get it.

About half of the homeless Syrian refugees are children. Yesterday, a friend shared these images by photographer Magnus Wennman, who has been documenting where Syrian refugee children sleep, and I can’t get them out of my head. Some of the children live in fear of the pillows they sleep on, because the attacks on their former homes came at night and they worry that their pillows caused the attacks. Of course, many of the children have no pillows.

Most of the suspected terrorists arrested for perpetrating the Paris attacks have already been verified as European nationals, not Syrian refugees. Nobody is suggesting we stop allowing European nationals into our country. But someone found what appears to be a fake Syrian passport carried by a suicide bomber, and even though someone else was carrying the same person’s passport in another country, and even though this one was likely planted to inflame public outrage, many have allowed that outrage to be inflamed without further investigation. Those people say we should not risk letting Syrian refugees seek refuge in our country. This is one of the goals of terrorists, this sort of knee-jerk fear and anger.

Who do you think many Syrian refugees are running from in the first place? The violence and chaos caused by Islamic State and other extremist elements. Who benefits when Westerners escalate discrimination against Muslims? Extremists who want a holy war with the West.

If you’re one of those who want to shut our borders to people who are fleeing for their lives,  because you believe it will make our lives more secure, you’re kidding yourself. Islamic State is better funded than Al Qaeda ever was, many times over. The organization is rolling in oil money. Do you think if we close our borders to Syrians, we’ll stop Islamic State from continuing its rein of terror, that terrorists won’t find a way to attack Western nations? Most, if not all, the terrorists in this recent attack already lived in Europe. They already found a way in. They were not refugees.

Do you think it was Iraqis who attacked America on 9/11, when it was in fact Saudi Arabians? Do you know we have not closed our doors to Iraqis or Saudis in this country? Because most of them are not terrorists.

If you want to slam the door in the face of people running for their lives, at least half of whom are children, then shame on you. Pray you never know what it’s like to be running from death and destruction only to find that nobody will open their doors to you.

As for my husband and me, we’ll continue waiting for word on our loan documents, and until we close on the house we want, we’ll worry that something will happen to stop us from getting it. If we don’t get the house, it’s not as if we’ll be homeless. We’ll simply find an apartment and keep looking. Actually, our mortgage consultant assures me that we will get the house, sooner or later.

Come to think of it, we’re very, very lucky. Shame on me for worrying over such an enviable First-World problem.

Reprinted from Cara Lopez Lee’s blog by permission from the author.

About Writing for Peace Guest Adviser Cara Lopez Lee

Cara Lopez Lee - Headshot (2)Cara Lopez Lee is author of They Only Eat Their Husbands: A Memoir of Alaskan Love, World Travel, and the Power of Running Away (Ghost Road Press, 2010), and co-author of Back in the Real World: A Novel (Graham Publishing Group, 2011), about two survivors who face the impacts of war long after it’s over. She blogs at Girls Trek Too, dedicated to inspiring women to approach life as an adventure. Her stories have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Denver Post, and Wazee Journal. She has been a TV journalist in Alaska and North Carolina, and a writer/producer for HGTV, Food Network, and Discovery Health. Cara is a book editor, coach, and workshop leader who assists youth and adults in achieving their writing goals.

You can join Cara’s mailing list for updates about her travel memoir, historical novel, and upcoming events.

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Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace Adviser“The first of our reports on the very successful days of action to ‪#‎FlushtheTPP‬. Please share widely. This was bolder and more beautiful than past actions. The next mobilization will be even stronger.”

The World Is Rising To Stop Transnational Corporate Treaties

DoveTales “Nature” Edition Update

DoveTales "Nature" CoverPurchase your copy of DoveTales “Nature” and support Writing for Peace! To all those who have ordered books for yourself, family, and friends, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

DoveTales are available through our website here.


 Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Violence Against Women: 2015, By Kit Gruelle

Domestic ViolenceViolence Against Women: 2015

By Kit Gruelle, Guest Writer

During the last 12 months, I’ve traveled around the country talking with and listening to women and men talk about the violence and abuse they have experienced or are experiencing. After 30 years in this work/movement, I am appalled at what is still happening, everywhere, and how our systems still practice institutional misogyny, combined with racism and classism, as a matter of course.

It’s not that good advocates are not in programs working hard, and it’s not that there are not good cops and good prosecutors. By good, I mean cops who understand the complexities of domestic violence and do everything they can to gather all the evidence, and prosecutors who fight hard in court using woefully inadequate laws, like North Carolina’s Misdemeanor Assault With A Deadly Weapon, for example, or a domestic violence law in SC, where a man gets thirty days for beating his wife (while in the same state, punishment for beating one’s dog is five years).

But good police work and good prosecution still fail when heard by a judge who remains ignorant about domestic violence, or worse, is openly hostile to abuse victims.

Sometimes I have to check the date and remind myself that this is 2015, not 1965. Despite the progress we have made, women are still re-victimized routinely. They are universally blamed for the violent and abusive acts of their partners, not just by the abusers but also by society in general (Why don’t you just leave? and I’d never put up with that! are still commonly heard), and by departments of social services who do things like take their children away from them because they are being abused. Again, it is mind-blowing that so many “social workers” fail so miserably in connecting the dots between his choice to be controlling and violent (see the Power and Control Wheel  and her sense of helplessness and hopelessness. Rather than punish her and the children, why not draw a line in the sand for the abuser and tell him it stops right here, right now?

But even after all these years, it seems to be easier to blame her for his abuse. We are a deeply misogynistic country.

I have heard stories from women that echo the stories I first heard when I started doing this work. One young woman recently told me that her female family doctor would not prescribe birth control pills for her, despite the fact that those pills would address her intense and unbearable periods, and instead, gave her a Christian book to read. Another woman I met recently told me that when she went to speak with her Bishop about the domestic violence she was experiencing at the hands of her successful businessman husband, he counseled her to be “more righteous.” Finally, she left her church, but felt unmoored because that was the community she grew up with. And I recently met a mother whose daughter is now serving a 35 year sentence in prison for killing her incredibly abusive husband. She gave me a copy of the case history, including some of the court testimony. Her daughter reported the abuse numerous times, to the police and to doctors in the hospital, but when she killed him (not long after he had sexually assaulted her and was returning to do it again), they simply decided she needed to be locked away. She is scheduled to be released in 2042.

Why are we so hardwired to accept misogynistic and patriarchal violence and abuse? What will it take to change this fundamental dynamic?

I’m out the door now to go meet more students, young women and men with their lives in front of them. I wonder what they have already witnessed, and I wonder what is waiting for them in their futures. A less violent, less misogynistic, racist, homophobic culture would be a refreshing change.

About Writing for Peace Guest Writer Kit Gruelle

Kit Gruelle, Writing for Peace Guest WriterKit Gruelle is a survivor of domestic violence and has worked as a battered women’s advocate and community educator for over 25 years. She educates advocates, criminal justice professionals, healthcare providers, faith leaders, educators and other allied professionals about domestic violence. She is dedicated to challenging the stereotypes and prevailing belief systems about violence against women and children and highlights the prevalence of out-of-date responses that do little to change the fundamental dynamics of domestic violence.

Learn about the  documentary, Private Violence.


quill3Victoria’s Writing Tips~

Beliefs of Fictional Characters

By Writing for Peace Adviser Victoria Hanley


For this exercise, write down three beliefs you hold dear, including when they first developed in you and how they may have changed over time. In what ways have these beliefs influenced the actions you take? Now, consider which beliefs would fit the motivations of fictional characters you’re writing about. Try making a list of all the characters in a story, what they believe, and what those beliefs have driven them to do. Often in fiction, it’s better to show characters taking action, rather than getting them to talk about what they believe. Make notes on ways your characters could demonstrate a belief without declaring it. And peace be with you!


Meet Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace Adviser

Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace AdviserVictoria Hanley’s novels have won many honors and awards at home and abroad, and inspired two nonfiction writing books: Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write, and Wild Ink: Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market. She teaches writing at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver and at Northern Colorado Writers in Fort Collins.

Learn more about Victoria’s books, read her blog, download a free chapter of Wild Ink, and watch Victoria in action at

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Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserPopular Resistance Newsletter – A People United Will Never Be Defeated, By Dr. Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese

2016 Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest

Writing for Peace Young Writers' Contest

Young Writer Contest information will be released shortly. Watch for our announcement, coming soon!

DoveTales “Nature” Edition Update

DoveTales "Nature" CoverPurchase your copy of DoveTales “Nature” and support Writing for Peace! To all those who have ordered books for yourself, family, and friends, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Book sales help to cover the substantial costs of funding our mission.

DoveTales are available through our website here.


 Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.


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Hope At the End of a String, by E.J. Tivona, Ph.D.


balloonsHope At the End of a String

By E.J. Tivona, Ph.D.

I’m driving my buddy David’s van filled end to end with helium balloons, making my way through the streets of Denver, and questioning the wisdom of my plan to park in the midst of a hostile confrontation between Jewish supporters of Israel and Palestinian Arab sympathizers. What in the world was I thinking when I cooked up this crazy plan? It all seemed so simple in the beginning.

Shift back to the early months of 2003, when I began picking up threads on the Internet that a local version of the bedlam running non-stop in the Middle East was about to play right outside the steps of Congregation Rodef Shalom in Denver, Colorado.

The stage was set for the evening of Monday, May 12, 2003. The location was this modest conservative synagogue on a quiet block in a Denver residential neighborhood.   The familiar script called for Colorado Jews and Palestinian supporters to confront each other — complete with hatred and the threats of violence that typically bring the media running.

The protagonists were poised for a showdown, incited by the Colorado Coalition for Middle East Peace (CCMEP) and Action Israel (AI) in the run up to the May 12th drama. Each of these groups benefits from a long-standing reputation as fervent advocates for its own side: CCMEP as a militant Palestinian solidarity organization, and AI as an equally militant voice for the state of Israel. Both organizations had issued URGENT ACTION ALERTS via the Internet to their respective constituents.  Each side called for partisan sympathizers to wear T-shirts and carry posters and flags advocating their position, to chant inflammatory rhetoric and sing nationalistic songs; all this heat and noise either in protest or support of the Advocating for Israel panel discussion that would begin inside the synagogue at 7:30 that evening. The scheduled event was co-sponsored by the Denver Anti-Defamation League and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee/AIPAC, but the spontaneous performance unfolding outside Rodef Shalom promised to be far more emotional and richly colorful than expected— perfect fodder for the media.

I followed the dueling e-mails from the comfort of my home office as all of this was taking shape, and I thought long and hard about my affiliation with a small Jewish peace group called Colorado Jews for a Just Peace (CJJP). CJJP is a vocal proponent of a two-state solution in the Middle East, and stands firmly by the idea that neither extreme position – an expansion of Israeli occupation of land to create a “Greater Israel,” or the violent overthrow of the existing Israeli state to create an all-Arab Palestine – holds promise for an end to regional violence in the foreseeable future. The only hope for both sides is a negotiated settlement of hostilities and the establishment of two states – Israel and Palestine – existing side by side: a position that is articulated in painstaking detail in numerous unofficial peace settlements such as the Geneva Accord. But it is one thing to advocate this position among friends gathered in a relaxing living room around veggie lasagna and a couple bottles of Chianti; taking this position to the street is quite another matter.

First of all, although steadfast in our advocacy for peaceful negotiation, members of CJJP were small in number. Second of all, we were objects of suspicion on pretty much every front. Mainstream Jewish organizations assumed we were anti-Israel and consequently labeled us self-hating Jews. Local Palestinian solidarity organizations were generally suspicious of any Jew who appeared to take issue with Israeli government policy … this was totally outside their realm of experience. And peace activists of all stripes thought we were just very, very confused.

Never one to be daunted by being part of a tiny minority, I began to strategize how best to intervene in the middle of all this implacable mistrust and hatred, not just hypothetically but in reality, on the day of the scheduled demonstration, in order to get the message of peaceful co-existence heard above all the noise.

Operative word here: ABOVE. Once again turning to the inexhaustible Internet, I found the perfect image – a map of Israel flanked on either side by the Israeli and Palestinian flags. With some judicious editing I added the phrase “What if you didn’t have to choose sides?” Also through the magic of cyberspace, I found a website advertising custom balloon orders delivered in one day. They happily accepted my digitally transferred image and voila I had a hundred balloons on my doorstep that very week. Although I never did rally the full support of CJJP for this effort, I did have a couple compatriots. Vicki, for one, took the initiative to run copies of a flyer displaying our image along with a long list of local, national and international organizations that shared the viewpoints we were advocating. I raced down to my local Party America and got a small helium tank. Cheryl agreed to join us.  In less than a week we were preparing to play the clowns in this spontaneous street theatre.

Never mind that there were only three of us. We were headed for the demonstration in David’s van with fifty inflated helium balloons and fists full of flyers that asked simply, “What if You Didn’t Have to Choose Sides?” Although I began all this with great resolve, as the decisive moment grew near, I was beset by anxiety. It dawned on me that we were about to wade into a crowd of agitated adversaries, many of whom, on both sides, were friends and acquaintances of mine. Truly, what was I thinking?

What then is the real irony of this story? As we emerged from the van, struggling with the tangled balloon strings, people on both sides of the street kept demanding to know who we represented – who did we speak for?  And although our flyers listed numerous organizations, we clearly came as individuals, representing only ourselves.  Few official demonstrators would believe us – many claimed we had hidden agendas either on behalf of the Palestinian people or on behalf of the state of Israel.  Ugly shouts ricocheted from one side of the street to the other “Hitler should have finished the job!” from the Palestinian side. “Death to Arab criminals!” from the Israeli side. It might have been almost comical if it hadn’t been so tragic to see the three of us, with our plea for a peace and a two-state solution, get tossed off the sidewalk on the Jewish side of the street, only to be shouted down on the Palestinian side. But the three of us remained steadfast, clutching the fragile strings of our peace message, trying to engage one person, then another, in some kind of meaningful dialogue.

And then, much to our surprise, the power of simple listening began to prevail.  Slowly, a person or two (from one side of the street or the other) wanted to talk, wanted to be heard, wanted to explain how impossible it was to trust the other side and why.  And the more they talked, the more one or two others came to listen and to take part. Small side conversations across the divide sprouted up here and there, under the shelter of white, green and blue balloons.

• A respected Rabbi agreed that conditions on the West Bank were deplorable and acknowledged the extreme hardship caused by the collapsing economy.

• A Palestinian man understood the terror that anti-Semitism evokes in the Jewish psyche, a scar stamped indelibly by the Holocaust.

• People on BOTH sides denounced acts of terrorism, recognizing the need for both a viable Palestinian state and security for a viable Israel.

• And beyond that, a beaming Hispanic police officer took our flyer and looked at me in wonder and amazement.  He declared, “I didn’t get it at first, but you’re trying to be neutral … like ‘Switzerland!’”

In the end, he allowed the three of us to stand in the middle of the street, and to release the balloons as we nodded “salaam” to one side and “shalom” to the other.

Who is to say exactly what we accomplished that day? We did attract the attention of the media: the Intermountain Jewish News, the Boulder Daily Camera, and Rocky Mountain News reporters who were on the scene – all of whom, by the way, also wanted to know who we represented. (For a brief moment, we considered calling ourselves “Short Women for Peace” because at a whopping 5’4” I towered over my companions, Vicki and Cheryl.) Despite our stature-challenged physiques, we all agreed that for one day maybe we did make a difference.

Four years later, the membership of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, stood at over 25,000 American Jews, AND Brit Tzedek’s successor, J-street, a political home the Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace Americans, swelled to hundreds of thousands in five years. Back then, when we were clutching those tenuous balloon strings, the “final status” principles of the Geneva Accord were making headlines throughout Europe and the U.S., AND Ariel Sharon (Sharon, mind you!) orchestrated a withdrawal of Jewish settlers from Gaza, AND Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), as the democratically elected leader of the Palestinian Authority, was attempting to disarm breakaway extremist organizations among his people.

Are any of these developments something we could have anticipated? Did our small stand on one day in May of 2003 in Denver, Colorado have anything to do with these momentous developments? Certainly, I can’t report a direct line of causality; nevertheless, about a year after the “short women” carried messages on helium balloons in Denver, I was again surfing through my daily flood of e-mail. One headline in particular caught my eye. The subject line read “10,000 Kites taking Israelis, Palestinians to a higher place.”

Enthusiastically I read the story of an international project inspired by a small Palestinian boy flying a kite amidst the rubble of his war-torn neighborhood in Kalkiya. This innocent scene captured the imagination of Israeli artist Adi Yekutieli and Palestinian artist George Nostas, and in August, 2004 they took their dream –10,000 kites being held aloft by Israelis and Palestinians together as expressions of their dreams for the future – to grassroots organizations throughout Israel and Palestine. The idea caught on quickly, with more than 80 Israeli, Israeli Arab, and Palestinian communities and organizations signing on in support. Adi also contacted family and friends in the U.S. for their support, among them the West Coast regional director of Americans for Peace Now. The response was overwhelming, and plans were soon made to raise money to help Israelis and Palestinians fly 10,000 kites and for local communities to make and fly kites in solidarity.

The target date for this confluence of worldwide energy passed on May 20th, 2005 when thousands of individuals – religious and secular, adults and children, Israelis and Palestinians, and citizens all over the world – sent thousands of kites soaring into the skies. Each kite was personally decorated with words and images depicting the dreams and hopes, the fears and fantasies of participants. 10,000 kites dancing across the separation barrier, each one a poignant symbol of possibility: possibility of dialogue, of reconciliation, of understanding the other, of peace.

In the words of Israeli artist, Adi Yekutieli,

“Let’s imagine ourselves in a plane flying over our troubled land. It doesn’t take long to fly across the country. It’s spring, and the country is in bloom. There is a wonderful aroma in the air, from the orange trees, and from the wildflowers, the scent of freshness. Now imagine yourself seeing all this exquisiteness from above. And then before you a beautiful sight emerges: painted dreams, 10,000 or more, rising up to the sky on colorful kites. Remember that at the end of every kite there is a person. Next to him are standing 10, 20, 50 more people who are flying kites with him. In 200 different places all over the country there are more people doing the exact same thing: flying their dream. Living their dream for only just a moment.”

Perhaps the muse that gives rise to 10,000 kites or just half-a-hundred helium balloons embodies wisdom that escapes hard-line fundamentalists and seasoned politicians. Perhaps the noise of ceaseless argument and gunfire, of constant war and self-righteousness, has rendered them deaf to the millions who are simply trying to get on with life, safe somewhere out of harms way. The wind is the perfect vehicle to carry these whispers — urging us to stop taking sides and start building a common future — above the chaos and clatter. This is the language of balloons and kites, subtle yet powerful symbols to help people rise above old thinking and barriers, and get beyond stereotypes, fear, and ignorance. Perhaps the flight of balloons and kites will become the new rituals that break through the myth of us and “the other,” so that together, “we are becoming always better, always more human in changing times.” (Libby and Len Traubman, founders of the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group.)


About Elissa Tivona, Writing for Peace Board Member:

Elissa Tivona, board memberDr. Tivona is a non-tenured faculty member at Colorado State University in International Education, a Development Consultant for Tiyospaye Winyan Maka, and a freelance writer. She was awarded her interdisciplinary doctorate in Conflict Transformation and Peace Studies in 2008 from CSU, where she served with faculty and students to establish a Peace and Reconciliation Studies Minor for undergraduates and Certificate program for graduate students. She appears in Susan Skog’s book, Peace in Our Lifetime, and is widely recognized for her work as co-coordinator of the 2002 Perspectives on Peacemaking Conference in Boulder, Colorado. Her writing has been featured in both academic and popular media. Dr. Tivona was honored with the Peace Ambassador Award, conferred annually at the local Hour for Peace celebration. Ms. Tivona lives in Ft. Collins, Colorado with her husband and two children.

Learn more about Elissa Tivona and her work here.

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Writing for Peace News

Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace Adviser

Newsletter: The Revolution Of Values


 Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved



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From Gaza to Sheffield, By Malaka Mohammed

Students stranded at the Gaza-Egypt border. Eyad Al Baba (APA images)

Memories: A Journey From Gaza to Sheffield

By Malaka Mohammed

It was early morning last Wednesday, 18 September, when my father received a call from an official explicitly stating that no student from Gaza would be allowed to travel via Rafah crossing at Gaza’s southern border with Egypt. I was shocked but insisted that I try nonetheless. After a few minutes of further phone calls and nervous hesitation, my father reluctantly gave his permission for me to try. Within two hours, my long and perilous journey to the UK began.

When I reached the Hamas-controlled checkpoints leading to the border checkpoints with Egypt, it appeared that the decision to close off the border crossing was met with a fiery response from students whose right to study abroad was being denied. The room was packed with chants and cries of protest. Many students soon joined them to arrange a sit-in demonstration, physically barricading the road. Unfortunately this came with great risk. Casualties were reported. In one instance, a demonstrator’s leg was broken by cars passing through the human barricade.

The policemen, in an unsuccessful attempt to control the situation, insisted that we retreat. Their efforts were dismissed by the student body, and after an hour of further protest, the head authority of the Rafah border crossing arrived. He made a statement that the crossing would be opened for students one day later, on the condition that we cease our protests immediately.


This promise was naturally met with skepticism. A spokesperson for the students, who had demanded written confirmation of this agreement, was then left with the responsibility to organize the whole student body and delegate members to collect students’ names and passport details, while the officials watched on with amusement.

The moment the registrar submitted our names, a blanket of silence and tension fell over the room. Some of us waited with tears in our eyes, contemplating our futures; a single decision determining the difference between traveling to the outside world to pursue our dreams of higher education, and the other possibility of being stuck behind. Some of the demonstrators fainted from the overwhelming anxiety and the oppressive wave of heat and humidity.

After ten hours of protest and anticipation, the room of more than 1,800 passengers was brought to a standstill by a police officer’s anti-climatic announcement: “You have to leave; we have finished our work for today. Come tomorrow and maybe you will be able to travel.”

After an outcry from the crowd, the police quickly announced that the next thirty names that were announced would be allowed to pass through. Thirty names were called, and none of them were mine. When a few didn’t answer, some more were called.


The names Malak and Malaka were called. Malak did not answer. I could see the police quietly pronouncing my name once more. I made my way towards the two officers. “I am Malaka,” I said to them. To my astonishment, of all those 1,800 passengers standing and protesting for ten hours in the heat, my name was one of the few to be announced. It felt like a miracle.

I made my way to the table where I received my green departure card. I was told to come back the following morning at six o’clock sharp.

As I was turning to leave, I was struck by the sight of my friend. She was standing there crying after an entire day of anticipation. Her name had not been announced. My efforts to soothe her were in vain. School had already started abroad. A choice left in the hands of indifferent officials determined who could leave and who would stay behind. This meant so much in the lives of these other students. I could only hope that her day would come tomorrow.


The following day felt like one week tightly rolled into the compact space of 24 hours. It was the first time I had to say farewell to friends, relatives and the land that I have known my whole life. It was a personal experience that can’t easily be communicated.

I was one of many students starting the day with these tearful farewells. And I was not comforted by the stench of hopelessness hanging in the stifling air.

After saying goodbye to my loved ones, I stood in line with my friend Rana. We exchanged nervous glances and agreed that further protests could possibly occur should we be left in the dark for much longer. We repeatedly asked the police officers what was happening, only to be told that the bus for the green card holders would arrive. We waited. Bus after bus stopped. But it was almost two hours later when our bus came.

Still, we were not allowed to board the bus. Instead, we were ushered from one line to the next, having our passports stamped and a series of questions repeatedly asked about our destinations and the purpose of our travel. Eventually we were led towards the correct bus. We could see the Egyptian military, tanks and police officers awaiting us with another level of hostility.

After another period of waiting, a police officer signaled for us to enter the next room, taking us closer to our bus. Moments later, he told us not to move any further. We were left dazed and perplexed, and were forced to wait under the baking sun for another hour.

We were finally led into the Egyptian hall, the last room leading to the bus. At this point we were separated from our luggage and forced to wait. After thirty minutes of negotiation, we were allowed to have our passports checked.

Little did I know it would be another five hours before my passport was verified. I reminded the police officers that the border would be closing in an hour and that I needed to have my passport returned to me.

Like the character K in Franz Kafka’s The Trial, I passed from one line of officers to the next, determined to get an answer that made sense and led me to my passport. I was directed from one empty office to the other, my passport nowhere to be seen. I could see my chance of leaving slipping out of my hands like grains of sand in an hourglass. With one last morsel of resilience, I kneeled on the floor and prayed. At last, my name was called and I was finally able to receive my passport.

It was nightfall by that time. I was left to deal with a rather threatening situation for a single young woman entering Egypt.

Threatening situation

Within Egypt’s current political climate, strict curfews are applied to drivers, resulting in a scarcity of transport at certain times. I knew that I was in a position where I would need to find transport urgently, or as the police kindly phrased it, I would be left to travel alone in the Sinai desert — an area deemed incredibly dangerous and volatile for all travelers, regardless of their gender and origin.

In a state of growing concern, I was fortunate to come across some of my international friends who were also leaving Gaza. Luck was on my side; they had already booked a taxi with a known Egyptian driver and kindly invited me to join them. During this drive to the hotel we were stopped and questioned by Egyptian military officers. They seemed particularly keen on questioning Palestinians.

Faced with blatant disapproval and derogatory body language, we were reluctantly allowed to pass when I had given suitable answers to the officers’ questions. I was lewdly and repeatedly propositioned by officers. The whole experience was humiliating and dehumanizing, to say the least.


Having reached the hotel, I parted from my friends. The threatening atmosphere in Egypt was so frightening that I was afraid to allow myself even a moment of sleep for fear that something would happen.

In my haste to leave, I booked another flight — with Emirates Airlines — to take me from Egypt to Dubai. I spent the rest of the night calling my family members and waiting in the hotel lobby, Internet access at hand, typing away at a laptop. In the background I could hear Egyptian television broadcasters spreading rumors of kidnappings and murders committed by citizens of Gaza in the forbidden sand dunes of the Sinai desert.

I felt like an imposter, unwelcome in foreign lands, even though we practice the same religion and culture, speak the same language, and ultimately share the same gene pool.

Having faced a last hurdle of interrogation at the airport, I boarded a bus and then the plane that would take me to the UK. During the sleepless flight, I reflected on my ordeal in Egypt. My only consolation was finally arriving in Britain where I would be able to pursue my studies in international politics and law.

Upon reaching Gatwick Airport, I immediately noticed how kind and polite the immigration department was. The immigration officer asked me if I had my papers confirming my scholarship from the University of Sheffield. His only response when I told him that all my documents were in my other bag was “it is okay.” He had a soft smile.

I then waited for the head of the student union at Sheffield University, Ally Buckle, who kindly picked me up from the airport to take me to Sheffield. I have reached my destination safely, but I still feel traumatized by the situation in Egypt.


Having reached my destination, I think of hundreds of students who are still stuck in Gaza and cannot leave. My friend Manar has lost her scholarship at Canada’s Trent University as she couldn’t make it to Egypt for a visa interview. My friends’ schools have started and Rafah has been closed for the last five days.

In Gaza, life is full of uncertainty. There is nothing you can take for granted besides corruption, cruelty, and potentially a life of lost opportunities. These fears are never more than two steps from one’s own shadow.

The odds of obtaining an international scholarship are slim enough, never mind other circumstances that are well out of our control: obtaining a visa and finances within a short deadline, the journey through the infamous Rafah crossing, the political instability in Egypt, the blanket of curfews in the Sinai desert, the perpetual threats to a young woman’s safety, the cruelty and discrimination of the military and, finally, the flight out.

Nothing is certain, and a lifetime of aiming for greatness can be shot down in the blink of an eye.

About Writing for Peace Adviser Malaka Mohammed:

Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace AdviserMalaka Mohammed serves on the Writing for Peace Panel of Young Advisers and will be a keynote speaker in our annual Youth Summit in March of 2016. She is a Palestinian activist and freelance writer living in Sheffield. She has graduated with a BA in English literature from the Islamic University of Gaza and a MA in global politics and law from the University of Sheffield in Britain.


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Writing for Peace News

Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace Adviser“Black Lives Matter is bigger than police brutality.”

Follow the latest Popular Resistance developments here.


DoveTales “Nature” Edition Update

DoveTales "Nature" CoverPurchase your copy of DoveTales “Nature” and support Writing for Peace! To all those who have ordered books for yourself, family, and friends, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Book sales help to cover the substantial costs of funding our mission.

DoveTales are available through our website here.


 Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved

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Tree, by Azfar Ali Rizvi


By Azfar Ali Rizvi

Among other things that almost all children universally share, is a tree. It could be the one in the backyard of our oldest house. The tree you played around. It could be the one you carved your name in, or the one you buried your pet cat under. Sometimes it’s simply the one you held close, while curiously looking at the funeral of your best friend’s brother. Or worse your own brother’s. Trees are our saviors, whether we acknowledge or not. They allow us to celebrate our gains and mourn our losses. They let us be.

This fleeting thought was triggered by news last year that the 007 Skyfall director Sam Mendes will bring to life the much loved British Author Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree series. Blyton has left behind an unmatchable legacy– her books not only sold over 500 million copies across the world, but were also translated into 40 languages. Pippa Harris, co-founder of Neal Street Productions, the company responsible for this ambitious task, expressed her excitement over the development, saying, “The Magic Faraway Tree is one of the most loved children’s books series from an iconic author whose work has been adored by generations. To be able to adapt these for the big screen is incredibly exciting.”

So I picked it up again last week, and saw the merit in C.S. Lewis’ words: “ … a story worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then.” I can read it again and again, and find something new every time. Storytelling at it’s best, the series sparks imagination about peace, diversity and family values. It reminds of us the potential of love and coexistence in a small world. This is a story that opens a portal to another world in every week, and gently nudges the readers to accept contrasting nuances and cultures. As adults, we tend to forget this as we take the world head on, and life gets in the way of our understanding of stories.

A good story amuses us; a great story allows us to fantasize and bend this world and the situations we find ourselves in, to allow us to clearly focus on the moral aspects of what’s happening. Hence, I consider it a privilege to be a small part of WFP. Every year, we are treated to some of the most challenging, unique and diverse perspectives from around the world. WFP is simply championing the cause of barebones storytelling for peace. My allegiance is not just because I crave a peaceful future, but also because writing liberated me from the clutches of my past, and allowed me to soar to a better future. A future where I could be with my tree and carry it on my sleeve.


Azfar Ali Rizvi, Writing for Peace Adviser2Azfar Rizvi is a proponent of social justice, and a driving force behind interfaith, cross-cultural and pedagogic initiatives across three continents. He is a Toronto based documentary filmmaker, Photographer, an academic and a cross-platform communications strategist.

Originally from Karachi, Azfar experienced extremism in his early years after surviving violent ethnic cleansing first hand. The incidents shook him to the core and he started exploring reasons behind extremism through this writing; something that evolved from local dailies to covering systemic national issues for news and current affairs publications across Pakistan. Before transitioning into television news and documentaries, he took to presenting radio with the country’s first English radio network at the time.

Learn more about Azfar Rizvi here.


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Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace Adviser“Black Americans, Indigenous peoples and immigrants who are standing up to highlight the injustices they suffer on a daily basis are creating a long overdue teachable moment for whites in the United States.  Whites who believe in equality, an end to prejudice and equal justice for all are standing with them; together we can make transformational change on racism and prejudice.”

Follow the latest Popular Resistance developments here.


DoveTales “Nature” Edition Update

DoveTales "Nature" CoverPurchase your copy of DoveTales “Nature” and support Writing for Peace! To all those who have ordered books for yourself, family, and friends, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Book sales help to cover the substantial costs of funding our mission.

DoveTales are available through our website here.


 Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Posted in Activism, Advisory Panel Contributors, Environment, Inner Peace, Nonviolent Resistance, Peace, Writing | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Purse String Stagecraft, By David Scott Pointer


   Purse String Stagecraft

By David Scott Pointer


Flesh-eating economic system



over community blood pressure apparatus,

attached to intergenerational empty wallets

attached to local and international poverty

attached to invisible, intertwined groups

with similar, different interests systemically

turned upon each other like pit-bulls or birds


opening up the doors of paddy wagons


box spring-bounce house, driver euphoria

disguising decades old ‘screen test’ metal

rebranded as unfortunate rough ride…….

splashed into teenage brain cells


to corporate college, mass consumerism


page-turner TV, sound byte burn-bits

strategically misusing blackness stilled

aiding 1% adding machine economics



Brake Slamming Role Players


Police act like casting agents



prisoner transport van, vamoose,

stomping on, lead-footing gas…

catapulting cuffed, unsuspecting

prisoners head-neck first into

their ‘screen test’ debuts, with

slim chance at Hollywoood, now

enroute to overcrowded hospital


About Writing for Peace Adviser David Scott Pointer


David Scott Pointer is a long time social justice/political poet. His father, a piano playing bank robber, died when David was just 3 years old, leaving him to be raised by his grandmother, who determined that the best way to keep her young charge from emulating his “scoundrel” father was to socialize him to be a good soldier.  David’s earliest memories are of training for battle in his backyard in Kansas City, Missouri. Learn more about David and his work here.



quill3Victoria’s Writing Tips~

Creating Story Tension with Characters

By Victoria Hanley

An important part of writing a story is creating a convincing antagonist to oppose the main character. For this writing exercise, bring to mind someone from real life whose personality grates on you and whose perspective seems to be all messed up. Now, write a scene from that person’s viewpoint. Describe the world through their eyes, and do your best to imagine and express the turbulent tides of their emotions. How will this help you to create an interesting antagonist for a story of your own?


Meet Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace Adviser

Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace AdviserVictoria Hanley’s novels have won many honors and awards at home and abroad, and inspired two nonfiction writing books: Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write, and Wild Ink: Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market. She teaches writing at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver and at Northern Colorado Writers in Fort Collins.

Learn more about Victoria’s books, read her blog, download a free chapter of Wild Ink, and watch Victoria in action at

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Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace Adviser“A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, “The Climate Deception Dossiers,” proves that the corporations which profit from the burning of fossil fuels knew about global warming decades ago, knew their industries contributed to it and responded by funding propaganda to deny global warming and pushing policies that increased their profits at the expense of a livable future.”

Follow the latest Popular Resistance developments here.


DoveTales “Nature” Edition Update

DoveTales "Nature" CoverPurchase your copy of DoveTales “Nature” and support Writing for Peace! To all those who have ordered books for yourself, family, and friends, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Book sales help to cover the substantial costs of funding our mission.

DoveTales are available through our website here.


 Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Posted in Activism, Advisory Panel Contributors, Dr. Margaret Flowers, Environment, Racism, Take Action, War, Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Poems from The Night I Heard Everything, by Mary Carroll-Hackett



Poems from The Night I Heard Everything

By Mary Carroll-Hackett


She Gave Her Meat and Milk

to her children, for years, claiming to be a vegetarian, her portions of each meal steaming on their plates, any extra, carcass picked clean with her mother’s fingers, pulled from the bony chicken bought carefully on sale at Food Lion, the cold white sweetness in their glasses, the brown earthiness of tough stew beef simmered tender with onion gravy—they ate what was hers, and they grew. She smiled at the milk mustaching their little mouths, the clanging music of forks hitting plates, and ate her own bowl of beans, greens grown in the garden she kept, rice to fill the same space beneath her ribs where once these babies—now children, now adults–had swam. She ate whatever remained, every bite a prayer they never heard her say.


Dirty Feet

and dirty fingernails, angels, ten thousand of them, living in trailers, canned angels, holy meat, languishing in the Carolina heat, driving up from Kinston, and Shelby, and Bear Grass, and Calico, driving in the vans they bought second hand at Car Coop, headed to the ocean, to Buxton, to Avon, to Duck, for a day, for a week, seeking some sun, and some water. Wings tucked into tank tops, t-shirts from Walmart, glittered with sayings like Hot Stuff, Daddy’s Girl, and Talk to the Hand. They dig angel toes into the hot sand, and pray over pimento cheese sandwiches, and pickles and Tupperware pitchers of tea. On the best days, they run into the sea, hugging their dirty-faced babies close, then holding them up to the wide white sky, whispering in ten thousand languages: Remember, no matter what they say, you can fly.


In Lousiana, They Say Not to Plant

on Good Friday, that blood will run from the cold ground, but Miss Pearl, my mountain grandmother, believed otherwise, believed that any seed planted that day would thrive. Her gnarled fingers clawed at the clay outside the cinderblock house she and Pap built in their sixties, the block painted as pale green as the peas she set to climb on sticks, on poles, on whatever she scruffed up into the garden. Peas and potatoes dug into the that hillside in Nebo, later when it warmed, tomatoes and okra, some soft-faced petunias, touching their velvet bodies with her cotton-picking scarred hands. But not beans, she planted no more beans after that winter my mama was twelve and Pap had run off and not come back for that long cold time, leaving her with a tribe of children to feed on nothing but the beans she’d scratched from the garden the summer before, and canned, stacked on shelves, on the floor, jar after jar green in the weak light from the window.

Years later, in the slow places all lives go, in the soft twilight of her dementia, where no matter what he’d done or that he was gone, she still hunted for Pap, this time between the night hallways and the doors my mama kept locked—to keep her from safe from wandering—in those waning days without calendars to consult, without schedules to turn to, she still knew it was Good Friday, still scrambled from her bed, still called for my mama to Come on git to the garden, where there were seeds to planted, needs to be tended, souls to be fed.


The Skin Project

involves yours, and mine, lined and curved and carrying all that we have managed to survive, fifty lifetimes in fold and lip, teeth like tines against hip, lavender ankle, tangle of feet, no longer choosing, simply following my finger to trace the line of your cheek, your hand losing its path, bent knee, the laughter of thighs, the sigh of my belly. You whisper into my ribs, wait for the echo, I know what you want me to speak—This, this is the way. Put your head on my chest and listen to what my heart says. We both know bones to be brighter in winter, lips and kiss an entirety, words we couldn’t know when we were young pass forth to tongue, go toward—not back—this ancient act, this searching for forms of fire.


What Hands Do After a Death–

they forget. Her hands didn’t know anymore. Nothing other than the bean pods, planted outside the door, the leathery switch and hang of shell and seed, her hands didn’t know themselves, knew only the snap and swing of vining things, beans like leather britches, sewn together and hung, like the old women had shown her. Her hands had always known, as had her feet, the fold of towels, the path back home, the perfect curve of cursive vowels the nuns demanded, the subtle stitch of crewel and needle pulled, the three-strand braid—all now unsprung. Now her hands dropped and wrung and slapped and stung, the drinking glass shattered to shard on hard cold tile, the thread in knots, ink shot across the page in hieroglyphs, ancient outlines of hurt. Only dirt made sense, the growth and give, then decay of seeds, her hands needing to dig, until a proper hole was made, so that something, anything, might live.


How to Save the World, and Ourselves

When the name of a place is a bird, when the bird is a song, when the song is a prayer, when the prayer is a footstep, when the footstep is a drum, when the drum is a womb, thundering open, giving birth to a sky so wide that even the stars chase across it, falling, calling out to each other, we can save it, we can, if we just remember.



About Writing for Peace Adviser Mary Carroll-Hackett

Mary Carroll-Hackett, Writing for Peace Adviser2Mary Carroll-Hackett earned degrees in Philosophy, Anthropology, and Creative Writing from East Carolina University, then the MFA from Bennington College. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in more than a hundred journals including Carolina Quarterly, Clackamas Literary Review, PedestalMagazine, Superstition Review, Drunken Boat, and The Prose-Poem Project, among others. She was named a North Carolina Blumenthal Writer and winner of the Willamette Award for Fiction. Her chapbook Animal Soulwas released in 2012 from Kattywompus Press, and a full-length collection, If We Could Know Our Bones, from A-Minor Press in January 2014. Another full collection was released in March 2015, The Night I Heard Everything,from FutureCycle Press. Another chapbook, Trailer ParkOracle, is forthcoming from Aldrich Press in November 2015. She has taught writing for twenty years, and in 2003, founded the Creative Writing programs, undergraduate and graduate, at Longwood University in Farmville, VA, serving as Program Director of those programs until Fall 2011. She also founded and edited for ten years The Dos Passos Review, launching Briery Creek Press, and The Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry. Recently, she also joined the low-residency faculty for the MFA program at West Virginia Wesleyan. Mary is at work on a memoir.

The Night I Heard Everything is available here, from FutureCycle Press.

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Writing for Peace News


Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserUpdate From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

“We are at a crossroads to either a future of global corporate governance or a chance for democracy. As Chris Hedges writes in his new book, “Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt,” a revolution is coming but we can’t guarantee which way it will go. Will you be there to fight for justice? You have an opportunity to do that now.”

Read Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese latest article at Popular Resistance.


DoveTales “Nature” Edition Update

DoveTales "Nature" CoverDoveTales “Nature” is now in the distribution process, making its way across the globe through the USPS. We’ve sent two shipments this week, and a third will go out on Saturday!

To all those who have ordered books for yourself, family, and friends, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Book sales go a long way toward the substantial costs of funding our mission.

DoveTales are available through our website here.


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