Monthly Archives: April 2015

2015 Progress Report, by Carmel Mawle

cropped-winslow-homer-american-painter-1836-1910-girl-in-a-hammock-187312015 Writing for Peace Progress Report

By Carmel Mawle, Founder and President

One of the questions I am most frequently asked by fellow activists is, “How do you keep from getting burned out?” I always struggle a bit with this one. Like many artists I know, I’ve never found a way to face the suffering of the oppressed, the groaning of this beautiful planet earth, without internalizing that pain. As activists, we have different burn-out thresholds, and our resilience may rise or fall depending on health or other stress factors. We do need to make decisions about energy expenditures, and be aware of those times when our reserves are low. But, if you are lucky enough to have an artform in which you can express that awareness, if you can take the pain and suffering of the world and create art with the intention of shaking the imperial foundations and corporate pillars, then you might have already learned one of the hidden joys of artivism – pour your heart and soul in, and it fills you up. Creation heals us and increases our capacity. As Kurt Vonnegut put it, “Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake.”

Writing for Peace was founded on the premise that the very act of writing is transformative. We experience that shift when we read, slipping into a character’s mind, like walking in another man’s moccasins, to think their thoughts, and understand their reasoning. Imagine how exponentially greater the transformative impact when we are creating the story, researching the environmental, familial, or political pressures crushing down on our characters, and imagining our way into their consciousness. This is empathy, the seed of compassion, and the foundation of a more peaceful world.

One of the coolest aspects of Writing for Peace is when we check in with our young writers a year later. We ask them how their writing is coming along, and where they see it going in the future. This year we also thought it would be interesting to ask a more philosophical question: What does “writing for peace” mean to you? The answers are always moving and inspiring. For those of us who need the periodic boost to the energy reservoir, it’s helpful to shift our focus to where something positive is happening. Here are some examples:

Writing for Peace holds a special place in my heart because it’s really the first time I had written a fictional piece that digs so deeply into the struggles and wonders of cultural identity. It gave me the valuable opportunity to think about what peace really means, and how to apply the concept to a cultural perspective. Writing for Peace was truly a catalyst for my passion for writing, and I am honored to have participated in it. One of the best things about it is that it is open to the entire world; anybody can submit a piece of writing, and anybody can be encouraged to explore our world’s cultural diversity. Some of the most inspirational world leaders have all started out writing pamphlets or articles for a certain cause because to them and to me, writing has always had the power to move minds. Writing for Peace can truly make future world leaders.

~ Angela Yoon, Grade 10, Gangnam-gu, Seoul-si, South Korea

The next major phase of my writing came in the form of college essays. I carried the same lessons I learned from Writing for Peace—incorporating personal examples, evoking pathos, and writing with passion—into my college essays. The consummation of my college writing/application process occurred when I was accepted into Cornell University, where I will be writing the next chapter of my life.

~ Ben Gershenfeld, Grade 11, Voorhees, New Jersey, USA

To me, the moment that I was silent with incredulity at the sight of my name on the award-winning essays of Writing for Peace Young Competition, was one of important milestones in my journey to become an international journalist. Writing For peace brings me a great deal of personal experiences and knowledge that at a certain extent dissolves my cultural preconception and at the same time boosts my self-confidence.

~ Yen Nguyen, Grade 10, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I hope to continue to explore issues of current events and global citizenship through my writing. To me, Writing for Peace is a vessel for empathy between people who have little in common. It strives to break down barriers which we’ve erected over millennia, and I’m thrilled to be a small part of it. 

~ Dash Yeatts-Lonske, Grade 10, Rockville, Maryland, USA

 

In the future, I plan to continue writing and using this art form as a mechanism for spreading messages of peace.

~John Vernaglia, Grade 8, Medford, Massachusetts, USA

 

When I talk with our readers and advisers, I hear it again and again, “These young writers give me hope.” I feel the same way. How can we not be inspired by young writers who maintain their optimism despite what might be an unprecedented awareness of global crisis? But hope is a two-way street, a reciprocal commodity. While their optimism may give us hope, our faith in these young writers, our commitment to educate, support, and lift them up, also gives them hope. In the words of Cassidy Cole:

Writing for Peace, and all that it stands for, is what this world needs in the light of peace, happiness, equality, and a more desirable place. Just the pure existence of an organization that aims to create compassion and peace through creative writing gives me easeful thoughts for our future. Writing for Peace gives me hope and I am utterly inspired by its vision and what the organization does. This organization is the light of not only what lays on the other side, but the light that guides all us writers there.

 ~ Cassidy Cole, Grade 8, Denver, Colorado, USA

 

All of our 2014 winners’ work is featured, along with works from many of our advisers, and other established and emerging artivists, in our “Nature” edition of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. This beautiful book will be released a week from this coming Friday, on May 1st. Watch our blog, website, and Facebook page for information on how you can purchase your copy, and support Writing for Peace.

 

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Victoria’s Writing Tips~

Writing for Peace is pleased to introduce our newest adviser, Victoria Hanley. Victoria is an award-winning author, known for her exciting young adult and middle grade fiction, as well as her nonfiction books dedicated to developing the craft of writing. Victoria has offered to provide bi-monthly writing tips for our young writers (and the  rest of us). Thank you, and welcome to Writing for Peace, Victoria!

Writing Exercise for Peace of Mind

By Victoria Hanley

No one else will read what you’re about to write. This is because you need to know you can confide in yourself no matter what you have to say.

Write about something that’s troubling you. Let the emotion pour through you, and use your strongest verbs and most illuminating adjectives to describe how you feel and what’s going on. When you’re done, hit the delete key–or if you’ve written on paper, feed the page through a shredder or tear it up.

When at least two hours have passed, write again, and this time write anything that occurs to you that might be able to solve your problem.

 

Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace AdviserMeet Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace Adviser

By studying fiction, I’ve learned that a good story is built around conflict. However, a good life is built around peace.

~ Victoria Hanley

Victoria Hanley spent years preparing for a writing career by holding as many contrasting jobs as possible, from baking bread to teaching anatomy and hosting radio shows. She’s lived in California, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Oregon, and Colorado, and traveled throughout North America via plane, train, bus, car, and bicycle. Who knew she’d be the author of 7 books published in 12 languages!

Victoria’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 www.victoriahanley.com.

 

Writing for Peace May Day Events

  • 2015 DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts “Nature” Edition Book Release! Watch for news of the latest DoveTales, a truly extraordinary and beautiful edition of our annual journal.
  • 2015 Young Writer Winners Announcements! Find out what our prestigious judges (Antonya Nelson, Fiction; Steve Almond, Nonfiction; and Stephen Kuusisto, Poetry) have to say about our talented young writers!

Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Staunching Wounds, By Richard Krawiec

 

antonio-rotta-helping-hands-approximate-original-size-24x30Staunching Wounds

By Richard Krawiec

 

Recently I met with a group of women who had suffered terrible transgressions and losses in their lives from an early age. Deaths of loved ones, violent rape and abuse, humiliations by friends and abandonment to strangers.

We all know the clichéd responses to this, right? When life gives you lemons…put it behind you and move on…etc.etc.

But I think there is something ultimately dismissive in failing to recognize that sometimes we suffer damage we can’t get beyond. Sometimes we suffer damage that creates a wound so deep it will not heal. We can learn to live through it, we can try to accommodate it, to go forward despite the wound – but the wound remains. It’s what is meant by the term ‘survivor’ I think. The person who knows what happened can’t be ignored, or changed, but has found a way to live past without denying the damage.

Many of us have things happen to us that are difficult to move on from. I had a girlfriend who was haunted by the memory of watching her father die on their kitchen floor, begging God not to take him from his family. I can’t seem to get past my best friend as a child growing into an estranged teenager who blew his brains out with a shotgun; I’m still haunted by memories of the time I walked out of a Juvenile Court in Pittsburgh without the 5-year-old girl who was returned, by the courts, to her sexually abusive father.

I know these incidents pale in comparison to what others have to deal with. I didn’t survive the concentration camps. I wasn’t a child growing up in war-torn Gaza. No gang of soldiers raped me in a tent. I wasn’t that girl, that friend.

So it always feels childish, whiny to admit these things still create a profound sorrow in me when I think about them. But we don’t choose our damage, and to a large extent we don’t choose, at least initially, our ability, or inability, to deal with the traumas of our lives. Aren’t our ways of response to at least some extent conditioned by those around us, especially those around us when we were growing up?

On another thread a woman speaks about visiting her father in the hospital and holding his hand, like she used to when she was a child. I can’t remember ever holding my father’s hand. He wasn’t a cruel or abusive man, but he wasn’t attentive in that way.

When friends died in high school – from hanging, drug overdose, leukemia – I don’t remember any of our parents offering support, advice, condolences or ways to deal with the loss to those of us who remained.

When you don’t have a way to deal with a wound, it remains unstaunched. People find different ways, not so much to move forward as to cover it up, to bandage pain with sex, drugs, violence. Because they don’t know how, or aren’t allowed, to look at it. Just put it aside, we’re counseled, forget about it, so you can become a productive member of society again. It’s a type of cultural denial, isn’t it? But what do people do when they can’t. Well there is the previously mentioned trinity –drugs, sex, violence. But there are other ways for people who can’t articulate but somehow know their concerns aren’t being addressed.

Some people turn to writing, others to song, painting, dance. Because nothing offers a better path into the interior, a more honest and unflinching way to look at what has happened, as well as a better vision of new paths out of that darkness, than art. I think it was Springsteen who once said the best part of him existed in his songs. In real life he could be a mess. I know that feeling. God, do I know it.

But the point is, art offers us the potential to examine the past and an array of paths – spiritual, moral, ethical, philosophical, psychological – that can lead to a future full of what, in another context, David Brooks calls “the eulogy virtues”.

I never thought I’d say Conservative columnist David Brooks wrote a probing piece -but there it is. In today’s NYT, Brooks talks about something that resonates with what I’m thinking about here. He discusses how we live in an age of self-absorption; we are told to be individualists, “be true to yourself…follow your own path.” It’s easy, Brooks says, “to slip into self-satisfied moral mediocrity.”

And he contrasts this with those whose lives had followed a pattern of “defeat, recognition, redemption. They have moments of pain and suffering. But they turn those moments into occasions of radical self-understanding…The people on this road see the moments of suffering as pieces of a larger narrative.”

What’s the connection with this and damage? I guess that what I’m trying to say is this – the culture that says take an anti-depressant when your loved one dies so you can obscure your pain is not a culture that accepts damage. Damage is distasteful, unpleasant, not something we want to discuss. Let’s all get beyond it as quickly as possible so we can go out and have fun.

And if you don’t? Why isn’t there something wrong with you?

Because if we really, truly looked closely at the damage people endured, and it’s long-lasting effect on them, wouldn’t we have to do something to help?

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser Richard Krawiec

Richard KrawiecRichard Krawiec is the founder of Jacar Press, A Community active Press dedicated to paying writers and working in under-served communities and has worked extensively with people in homeless shelters, women’s shelters, prisons, literacy classes, and community sites, teaching writing. Richard’s second book of poems, She Hands me the Razor, (title poem nominated for a Pushcart Prize) was published by Press 53. It was one of 17 finalists for a SIBA Award. His latest collection is Women Who Loved Me Despite (Press 53).  To learn more about Richard Krawiec, check out his page here.

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Meet Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace AdviserAs a Palestinian, peace for me is the the end of Israeli policies of the occupation of our historical lands, ethnic cleansing, colonization, and racial discrimination that have been continuously condemned by human rights and international law organizations, yet Israel chooses to ignore all these calls with full impunity. Peace is by putting so much pressure on this settler colonial state to abide by human rights and international law. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is one of the tactics that has proved its success to tell Israel that you’re no more impune; the world is watching and looking for a peaceful Globe. I use writing as a way to raise awareness and to express myself. It is good to have approachable platforms that one can use to reach a large number of audience around the world.

~Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Malaka Mohammed is a Palestinian activist, freelance writer living in Sheffield, and our newest member of the Writing for Peace Young Adviser’s Panel. A powerful voice for peace and justice, Malaka 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. Read Malaka’s articles on Huffington post here.

Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserBeyond Extreme Energy: Uniting to Retire Fossil Fuels

Clearing the FOG speaks with activists from Washington State to Washington, DC who are taking on Big Energy to say “no” to more fossil fuel infrastructure. We begin with four organizers who walked across the United States last year to raise awareness about the climate crisis. They visited front line communities along the way. When they arrived in Washington, DC, they spent a week protesting the little known Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as part of the Beyond Extreme Energy coalition. Now they are planning more resistance. In Washington State, the “SHell No” campaign is organizing a Flotilla to keep Shell Oil out of the Port of Seattle. We’ll discuss why direct action is the necessary tactic to end fossil fuels and move to renewable energy sources.

Writing for Peace May Day Events

  • 2015 DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts “Nature” Edition Book Release! Watch for news of the latest DoveTales, a truly extraordinary and beautiful edition of our annual journal.
  • 2015 Young Writer Winners Announcements! Find out what our prestigious judges (Antonya Nelson, Fiction; Steve Almond, Nonfiction; and Stephen Kuusisto, Poetry) have to say about our talented young writers!

 

Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Hospital Earth, By Djelloul Marbrook

earth

Hospital earth

Can we walk around?

His wounds are giant screwholes
by which we hold down our grief.

We are her bronze plaques,
saying tragically usual things.

Can we walk around
to persuade ourselves life is going on
if only in a shudder of green scrubs?

Words bore into our granite minds,
janitors will polish us at night
with solvent dreams,
gurneys will rush past bearing
the bungles of civilizations,
our griefs will surpass relatives’
because we have had time for terror
to sink in, its pink hue announcing
the costliness of another day.

Can we walk around,
buy gewgaws in the gift shop,
slug a machine, slurp coffee
and listen to the wind arguing
with canopies while gauges
inside measure varying degrees
of hopelessness and shifts change
the greater hopelessness of going home?

Can we walk around
to jig corrosion out of of our bones,
to look in on the casualties of war
and infamous diplomacies
that bring earth to this hospital
of emergency operations
to fix the heart with threads of soul?

Who is dead,
whose death awoke us past midnight
and trucked us here in an ambulance
of schadenfreude because it’s not us,
not yet, so we can celebrate,
mock-solemn as we are,
with another war?

Who is dead?

That is why we walk around to see,
to understand why we are here,
not sleeping in our beds
but pretending we know what to do,
how to grieve, who to grieve, when
all we know is how to bolt ourselves in
against demons riding tsunamis
and calling themselves our friends.

Can we walk around
to shake this dream
or will security bar us
and in whose name?

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, OnlineOriginals.com, UK). He won the 2008 Literal Latté fiction prize for “Artists Hill” (http://www.literal-latte.com/2008/11/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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Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserOur pressure is working!

“Obama wanted Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by the end of March but the largest coalition to ever work to oppose Fast Track has made that impossible. Through phone calls, emails, visits to members, rallies, bird-dogging and more, Congress is feeling the heat and struggling to get votes. We expect that Fast Track legislation will be introduced in mid-April.”

Writing for Peace May Day Events

  • 2015 DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts “Nature” Edition Book Release! Watch for news of the latest DoveTales, a truly extraordinary and beautiful edition of our annual journal.
  • 2015 Young Writer Winners Announcements! Find out what our prestigious judges (Antonya Nelson, Fiction; Steve Almond, Nonfiction; and Stephen Kuusisto, Poetry) have to say about our talented young writers!

 

Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.