Category Archives: Advisory Panel Contributors

Small Bites: Regional Chapters of Writing for Peace, by Mary Carroll-Hackett

Gandhi gentle way quill

Small (Local) Bites: Creating Regional Chapters of Writing for Peace

By Mary Carroll-Hackett

I’ve had the privilege of working with the national organization Writing for Peace for the last four years, an organization dedicated to employing the skills, talents, and energy of writers toward the goals of promoting empathy and peaceful activism. The dream of one woman, Writing for Peace was started in Colorado by our founder Carmel Mawle, with its initial goal of particularly reaching out to young writers, through an annual Young Writers’ Contest. The dedication of this organization, to writing, to working to create real social change, to the belief that art can be and is a powerful tool for changing hearts and minds, and especially the organization’s dedication to young people, mirror in nearly every way the beliefs that drive my own writing, my own teaching, so I was thrilled when asked by Carmel to join the team of Writing for Peace advisers.

Writing for Peace continues to grow under the direction of our new President, Andrea Slack Doray, and an excellent board, all committed to the mission Carmel first set out years ago.

I introduced the organization and its mission to my own students, young poets, essayists, and fiction writers, in the classes I teach at Longwood University, and they loved it. They loved how the goals aligned with their own desire and passion for activism and social justice, loved that it embodied what they saw as the vital role of artists in creating real change in the world. From this initial introduction, we created the Online Youth Summit, an educational venture featuring keynotes from young activists from all over the world, creating a safe space for young people to engage, and fostering discussions of social justice and change, as well as celebrating their own creative work.

But Colorado’s a long way from the rolling rural farmland of central Virginia, and while we share so much in common, no matter where we live, every community and region faces its own unique needs and challenges. One question that kept arising among my students was How do we bring what matters about Writing For Peace home?

So, as is my habit, to promote and make space for autonomy and ownership, (and because I learn as much from them as I’ll ever teach them), I answered my students’ question with a question. I sent a message through an online thread to a list of twenty or so of my current students and alums, asking, “How do you see us bringing Writing for Peace here to Virginia? What would a regional chapter of WFP look like to you?”

The thread exploded, with the energy and enthusiasm and wisdom young people can bring, and the idea of WFP Regional Chapters began to grow, including community activists in our area, and supporters of the arts, as we developed the proposal, sought board approval, and began the steps to making a first chapter of Writing for Peace a reality here in Central Virginia.

This past Sunday, using the magic of online video conferencing, we gathered, a small group of like-minded collaborators, for the first meeting of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace.

Writers of all backgrounds and ages, supporters of the arts, community activists, we, as a chapter, along with anyone who wants to join our efforts, have come together to do what we can and use the skills we have to make our own communities and region better, stronger, more peaceful places for all who live here. We believe, too, that one of the most effective roles we can play is in acknowledging, assisting, and providing support to other activists and organizations already doing good work on the ground where we are.

We envision the work we will do together arising from three primary goals:

Awareness. Education. Action.

In every day real-world terms, we envision chapters affecting change through projects we develop as a group, through the support we extend to efforts already in place in our communities, and through our own writing, using our voices right where we are.

I tell my students when they’re overwhelmed, as so many of us are these days:

Take small bites. We can’t run to the UN and create world peace all by ourselves. But we can, each day, in our daily conversations, promote peace and be willing to listen, even to those with whom we don’t agree. We can’t run to the White House and single-handedly stop the onslaught against the civil rights of American citizens. But we can show up for our own neighbors, our colleagues and peers, doing whatever we can to defend and protect their rights, and to let those in endangered populations, through real presence and action, know that we stand ready as allies, that we are truly there for and with them. We can’t cure world hunger, or solve homelessness, or rescue every child caught in domestic violence or fostercare. But we can work at food banks, distribute coats and blankets to the homeless, or come together to raise funds in support of domestic violence shelters.

I recently opened a small food bank in my office, so that any student who struggles with hunger on our campus can come in and be helped. When they show up in my office for food, I don’t ask their politics, don’t ask how they voted. In that moment, in my community, on the local level, politics don’t matter. In that moment, in my community, on the local level, I can make a real-world difference. And in that small act, both of us, the student helped, and I, can move a little more peacefully through the rest of our day.

Doing what we can, where we are, with what we have, to help—that’s what matters.

This is the heart of Writing for Peace, at the national and international level, and now, at the community level as well. So Writing for Peace chapters were born.

For anyone who is interested, or wants guidance, in starting a chapter, the Central Virginia Chapter stands ready to help in any way we can. For more information, check out our page on how to start a chapter here.

We hope that this inaugural chapter will inspire others to do the same, to come together to create Writing for Peace chapters across the country, across our beautiful planet.

This, we believe, is how real change happens. This is how we work together, boots on the ground, to make the world safer, kinder, more peaceful for all of us.

Mary Carroll-Hackett
Member, Central Virginia Chapter
Regional Chapter Liaison
Board Member, Writing for Peace

Mary Carroll-Hackett, Writing for Peace Adviser2Mary Carroll-Hackett is the author of The Real Politics of LipstickAnimal Soul, If We Could Know Our Bones, The Night I Heard Everything, Trailer Park Oracle, and A Little Blood, A Little Rain. Her newest collection of prose poems, Death for Beginners, will be out from Kelsey Books in September 2017. Learn more about Writing for Peace Adviser Mary Carroll-Hackett and her work here.

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Take Advantage of Our Donation Match Offer:

An anonymous donor has generously offered to match all donations up to $2500 during the month of December. This, coupled with our holiday Fundraising Special (below), means your contribution will go further and supplement more libraries than ever before!

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Holiday Fundraising Special!
During the month of December, we will donate a complete five-volume set of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts to the public school library of your choice for every tax-deductible donation of $75 or more!

Our administration is board operated, and all members, board and advisers, work on a volunteer basis. 100% of contributions go to support our mission. Writing for Peace is a 501c3 nonprofit corporation, Federal Tax ID Number, 45-2968027.

Ours is a simple mission with profound affect on the lives of our young writers:

Through education and creative writing, Writing for Peace seeks to cultivate the empathy that allows minds to open to new cultural views, to value the differences as well as the hopes and dreams that unite all of humanity, to develop a spirit of leadership and peaceful activism.

Donate now to take advantage of our special library offer and see your contribution doubled!

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

A World of Voices, by Vicki Lindner

Photo: New York City Dawn, By Hans Lienhart

A World of Voices

By Vicki Lindner

 

In May I flew to New York, my former hometown, for PEN America’s 2017 World Voices Festival, “Gender+Power.” Unlike most literary conferences, this one, founded after 9/11 by Salman Rushdie and others, focuses on international writers and combatting isolationism. This year, 200 writers from 40 countries were featured in the festival.

PEN defends unjustly imprisoned writers in countries that fear the power of the word—China, Africa, and Mexico. I’ve been a PEN member since 1982, when I worked with the Prison Committee, teaching writing to Sing Sing prisoners and judging an annual prison writing contest. PEN also sponsors prestigious book awards. Since the 2016 election, it sends members a daily update on political issues affecting freedom of expression.

The international festival was appropriate in a city teeming with immigrants (almost everyone has an accent) and foreign tourists. Every event was held in a bar, bookstore, or theater, like the Nuyorican Poet’s Café, in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. Every panel was political, vociferously anti-Trump, and focused on identity politics, multicultural literature, sexual orientation and gender, with titles like “Unapologetically Afro Latina,”  “Identity in the Age of Globalization: An African Diasporic Perspective,” “Militancy and Sisterhood,” and “Queer Representation in the Media.” Most events featured international women writers, although some white Americans, like Marge Piercy, Jennifer Egan, and Vivian Gornick, were included. Straight white men could be glimpsed mostly in the packed audiences.

I never heard the word craft, though “how to” did come up in discussions about process, including self-editing. The panelists on “Badass Writers; Power and Truth” advocated letting the “real editor” take over, but one, who commented on white editors’ cultural blindness said, “Hey, if you don’t know what a quinceanera is, do your job! Google it!” Both Gabby Rivera, a feisty gay Latina who writes for Marvel comics, and Natalie Diaz, a Native poet at the University of Arizona (“I’m the go-to person when you need a Native to dance for all-white institutions.”) spoke about anxiety. Some eschewed Twitter for fear of encountering nasty Tweets. Gabby recommend Lexapro: “It made me a better person.”

I attended three events in the Housing Works Bookstore in Soho, my old neighborhood, where every product and service is donated to help homeless AIDS victims. (Free condoms at the counter.) On one panel, “Forbidden: Too Desirous,” on writing about women’s sexuality, glamorous Mona Eltahawy, the Egyptian author of Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, began by taking PEN to task for making her the panel’s only Muslim woman of color, saying that sex for African women is a vastly different issue. (I asked, “Where are the older women?”)

My favorite panel was a two-hour discussion of Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the New York mayor’s “read” for the city. The five Nigerians and one African American revealed fascinating material about their lives and views as they related personally to Adichie’s themes, creating a new, inspiring drama.

PEN World Voices is usually held in May. Most events were free, though advance tickets are recommended. You don’t have to join PEN to attend, but PEN offers memberships for writers, readers, and students from $125 to $25.  A good cause!

This essay was previously published in the Lighthouse Writers Workshop Blog and reprinted by permission of the author.

vicki Lindner (3)Writing for Peace Adviser and Lighthouse instructor Vicki Lindner is a writer whose work has appeared in the Paris Review, Kenyon Review, and Ploughshares. Learn more about her work here.

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Writing for Peace Welcomes John Holley to Board of Directors

John Holley crop3John Holley’s fiction has appeared in Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, Fast Forward, The Barcelona Review, Expressions, and received honorable mention in Glimmer Train’s very short fiction contest. His non-fiction was a regular feature in the Casper Star Tribune and the Sol Day News. John lives in Denver, and is a graduate of Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop inaugural Book Project.

 

2017 DoveTales, “Refugees and the Displaced” Now Available

2017 Front CoverThe fifth edition of our annual literary journal, DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, will be shipped on May 1st. Our “Refugees and the Displaced” themed DoveTales is a timely affront to a status quo comfortable with the suffering of others. With contributors from every continent on the planet except Antarctica (we’re working on that), this is a book that is meant to challenge assumptions and explore issues of peace, social justice, and our responsibility to our fellow man. Cover art is by Canadian artist, Allen Forrest. You can purchase your copy here.

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Seated Figure, by Sam Hamill

habitation

Seated Figure

It is a long way from there to here.
It is longer than all the roads of exile,
longer even than the silence of the heron.
The landscapes changed. Someone
numbered the dead, someone mapped the pain.

Once, they say, the animals came to us,
and licked our palms for the salt,
and looked at us with huge knowing eyes,
then turned and left
alone. And entered Paradise.

 

(Previously published in Habitation: Collected Poems, Lost Horse Press, 2014)

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill, black background 1Sam Hamill was born in 1943 and grew up on a Utah farm. He is Founding Editor of Copper Canyon Press and served as Editor there for thirty-two years. He taught in artist-in-residency programs in schools and prisons and worked with Domestic Violence programs. He was the founding editor of Copper Canyon Press, directed the Port Townsend Writers Conference for nine years, and in 2003, founded Poets Against the War. He is the author of more than forty books, including celebrated translations from ancient Chinese, Japanese, Greek and Latin.

Learn more about his work here.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

Two Poems by D.M. Aderibigbe

AUGUST VISITORS

We ran that night when they arrived.
The ground wet with August’s breath.

We ran from Zuba Hall down
to the hillside, following the back

of Uncle Usmanu’s bald head.
The principal’s wife ran, her first son

strapped to her chest in a pouch
like a Mother Kangaroo.

Nne, the paralytic girl
ran with her hands—leaping

after us like a frog.
At the hillside: our breaths smelled

of relief. Soon, gunshots became
nearby neighbours. Some of us

who were already dead jumped
into the next river. Those who lived

ran and ran into the mouths
of the visitors’ guns.

 

(Previously published in Burntdistrict)

 


ETYMOLOGY OF HOPE

After Dante, after Robert Pinsky

Soon, the sun slipped into a grey quilt
above and the street began to vaporize:
skidding cars, passers-by, even the silt

beneath our bums fell asleep. We’d rise
and talk and talk and walk from road to road.
The night folding itself into our eyes.

We’d talk and walk. A church loomed: my friend, bold
like a child around a parent, led me
in. On the floor, we fed our dreams to cold

sweeping across the church. It was sunny
when we opened our eyes to a woman
in a white robe. Dangling in her left hand, key

to the car she drove us with to a can-
teen, where wraps of Eba and Ewedu soup,
seeds of joy dropping in our stomach. A can

of Coca-Cola in my left hand, I stooped
in respect with my right. My friend did
the same. The woman smiled, her head dropped,

as a mark of respect. Goodbye, we would bid.
She, agape, how hope-filled were these hopeless kids

 

(Previously published in Drunken Boat)

About Writing for Peace Adviser D.M Aderibigbe

DamilolaD.M. Aderibigbe is from Nigeria and came to the US for graduate studies in 2015 and earned his MFA in creative writing from Boston University as a BU Fellow and also received a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship. His chapbook is In Praise of Our Absent Father. He knows God loves you.

D.M. Aderibigbe is a Writing for Peace Adviser and was a Keynote Speaker at our 2016 Youth Summit. You can view his powerful address here:

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

 

Famine, by Djelloul Marbrook

 riding-thermals

Famine

I’ve kicked my ass all over the world
for sipping poisons like an oenologist,
but it’s not without its rewards:
the cracks in buildings speak
and I’m the plenipotentiary
of a foreign power whose name I forget.
I enjoy name recognition
among the ghosts of certain places
because they recognize a fellow taster,
one who let the invaders settle in
before levying a dhimmi tax on them.
This is my Islam, that I died
so often standing up, stepping out
to get a breath of air and going in
for all that crap about genetics;
my Islam is noticing what’s going on,
burning the authorized version in oil drums
under bridges, growing abutments
to support my Queensboros
over rivers of shifting wrecks
& vortices of forgiveness not so much
as a famine of the eye.

djelloul-marbrook leaningDjelloul Marbrook is the author of five published 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), Brash Ice (2014, Leaky Boot Press, UK) , Shadow of the Heron (2016, Coda Crab Books), and Riding Thermals to Winter Grounds (2017, Leaky Boot). Forthcoming in 2017 from Leaky Boot are four more: Nothing True Has a Name, Even Now the Embers, Other Risks Include, and Air Tea with Dolores. His fiction includes Saraceno (Bliss Plot, 2012), Mean Bastards Making Nice (2014, Leaky Boot), and two books of short fiction forthcoming in 2017 from Leaky Boot: A Warding Circle: New York Stories and Making Room: Baltimore Stories. He won the 2008 Literal Latté fiction prize for “Artists Hill,” an excerpt from Crowds of One, Book 2 in the Light Piercing Water trilogy, forthcoming in 2018 from Leaky Boot. A U.S. Navy veteran and retired newspaper editor, he lives in the mid-Hudson Valley with his wife Marilyn and maintains a lively presence on Twitter and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/djelloul.marbrook.5

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2017 Young Writers Contest

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest

Our March 1st deadline is quickly approaching! 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. There is no fee for participation. Spread the word!

Check Out The Latest From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserNewsletter: Being Prepared To Turn Crisis To Our Advantage

“What lessons should the protest movement of today take from the 9/11 experience and similar events that have occurred, e.g. the 1933 burning down of Reichstag under Hitler, which turned him into a dictator even though his party did not have a majority in the legislature?”

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

We Shouldn’t Wait, By Melissa Hassard

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I was invited this week to talk with a group of young writing campers held at a local university campus. The e-mail I received advised there would be about 100 kids, from 3rd to 12th grade, and asked me to talk about “being an author,” what I write, and my writing process. I did some of that. But I also wanted to hear from the kids; how they are experiencing camp and the world.

Early in the conversation with them, I brought up Writing for Peace. I asked them how they thought a person might write for peace: how that might work, and how it is possible that writing might somehow accomplish peace. They were tentative at first but ultimately they came to these wonderful answers about understanding another person’s point of view through reading their stories, and how by reading what others have to say we can better understand their experiences. And then this one young man raised his hand and started speaking earnestly:

“Because really good writing,” he said, slowly, “can touch your heart.”  This beautiful response moved me deeply.

I was also asked to bring them a “writing prompt,” so I asked half of the room to write down two or three new laws–things we should start doing to make the world a better place, a safer place, a more peaceful place.

And to the other half of the room, I asked that they write two or three new laws of things we should stop doing in order to make the world a better, safer, more peaceful place.

Again, they were shy at first, but then they started getting into it and hand after hand went up. They’d come up with some amazing ideas, many of them talking about love and respecting all genders, skin colors, and religions. One young woman, cautiously and from deep in a corner, stated quietly but steadily that we needed to begin thinking more deeply and responding much more thoughtfully to the events happening around us.

Again, hand after hand went up, young people presenting idea after idea, until I ran out of time. And just as I had to stop calling on the young writers, one more hand went up–a clearly determined young girl who hadn’t yet raised her hand to speak during the time I’d been there. I called on her, of course. She said the most amazing thing.

She said, “We shouldn’t wait for these things to become laws. We should start doing them right now.”

I turned and put it to the group, “Who can start right now?”

Every hand went up.

“Really? You all are serious?”

The hands went up harder. Many nodded.

“Okay, then.”

I was so proud of these kids. I hope they settle firmly into their ideas and their generous and kind hearts. I hope they keep writing.

And I wanted to share these moments with you.

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser Melissa Hassard

Melissa Hassard, Writing for Peace Adviser

Melissa Hassard is speaker, writer, poet, mother, womanist, and activist — currently residing in North Carolina. Her background is public relations, advertising, and travel, and she considers herself a student of the world, who loves travel, history, culture, and language.  Writing is as much a part of her life as breathing. Partner at Sable Books and founder of Women Writers of the Triad, she is blessed to work with writers on meaningful projects — from helping writers publish, to teaching writing to survivors of domestic abuse, to organizing local community workshops and readings. Her essays and poems have been published in various journals, is she is now revising work for a first book, that will no doubt take her years to finish. For more information about Melissa and her work click here.

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Writing for Peace News

cropped-Peace-Correspondent-header.jpgThe Peace Correspondent: Call for Submissions

Information is beginning to go up on the website about our new online periodical, The Peace Correspondent, a tri-annual solution-based publication. The first issue will be published on October 31st. Submission deadlines are September 1st. Guidelines are posted here.

DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts: Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceGuidelines are posted for the 2017 Edition. DoveTales is an extension of our mission to promote writing that explores the many aspects of peace.  Our purpose is to expose young writers to a diverse collection of thoughtful works by established and emerging writers, as well as our advisers. The journal will also feature works by the winners of our annual Young Writer Competition. The journal will be released on May 1st, 2017. There is no fee for submission, but please read our guidelines carefully.

Theme: The theme of our 2017 issue of DoveTales is Refugees and the Displaced. As in our earlier issues, we encourage contributors to take a broad view of the definitions within the context of peace.

  • The reading period begins July 1st, 2016 and ends January 15th, 2017, and the journal will be released on May 1st, 2016.

Support Writing for Peace

You can help make the Writing for Peace Mission a reality by supporting our youth outreach, international journal, and peace journalism in the following ways.

  • Help spread the word about Writing for Peace. One way to do that is to frequent our Facebook page, share and like our posts.
  • Purchase copies of DoveTales for yourself, friends, and loved ones.
  • Add Writing for Peace to the list of organizations you support in your annual giving. Writing for Peace is a 501c3 nonprofit corporation, Federal Tax ID Number, 45-2968027. Donate now.

Thank you for your on-going support!

 

Copyright © 2016 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

With Ilaria and Francesca in Piacenza

habitation

With Ilaria and Francesca in Piacenza

By Sam Hamill

The years can be brutal––yesterday
a torrent, today just a drizzle. I sat
in the sidewalk café sipping cappuccino,
watching the morning’s passersby. The girls
found me amusing, “like a grampa,” they laughed,
“grizzled old poet against the war,”
who creaked down cobblestone streets in search
of ice cream or granita, or a newspaper.

The girls I knew at such a tender age
wanted no part of me. And now my daughter
could, indeed, be their mother. They are beautiful
and intelligent, and happy to be kind
to the foreign visitor, practicing their English.
All of their joys and heartaches will rise
in time like summer storms, but today
they are laughing, teasing, laughing as only
girls can laugh, and the sun is burning off the clouds
as Plaza Duomo fills with noisy people.

Pigeons coo in the bell tower above the cage,
for sinners like me, that swings in the morning breeze.
I tell the girls, “I sentenced a couple of writers
to that cage last night, kvetching with friends
over pizza and wine at Pasquale’s.” Down here
in sweet samsara, the girls and I get a laugh,
and the cobblestones glisten and the air grows thick
and sweet as honey. “Buon giorno,
buon giorno,” as happy people pass. Cappuccino
finished, I suggest a stroll and put on dark glasses
so Francesca and Ilaria won’t notice
a tear in an old man’s eye.

From HABITATION, Collected poems by Sam Hamill, published by Lost Horse Press.

About Writing for Peace Adviser Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill, black background 1Sam Hamill was born in 1943 and grew up on a Utah farm. He is Founding Editor of Copper Canyon Press and served as Editor there for thirty-two years. He taught in artist-in-residency programs in schools and prisons and worked with Domestic Violence programs. He directed the Port Townsend Writers Conference for nine years, and in 2003, founded Poets Against the War. He is the author of more than forty books, including celebrated translations from ancient Chinese, Japanese, Greek and Latin.

For more information about Sam Hamill and his work, visit his page, here.

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Writing for Peace News

DoveTales Reprinted and Replaced

2016 DoveTales Front cover ImageDoveTales readers noticed a problem with the color images in some of our most recent  Family and Cultural Identity books. Our printer, McNaughton & Gunn, a company with a reputation for quality and attention to detail, insisted on making it right. We appreciate their integrity in this matter, as well as the opportunity to correct the little typos and errors on our end that were found after the first printing. The new books have arrived and they are perfectly beautiful. Shipping will begin in the next week, first to those who have been waiting for book orders, and then to our contributors and readers who purchased the book when it first came out. Contributor discounts will be extended through July . Thank you, friends, for your patience and support through this process, and thank you to McNaughton & Gunn for standing behind their product.

Meet Our 2016 Young Writers

Writing for Peace dreamer2016 Young Writers Contest winner and finalist profiles are beginning to appear on our website. Learn more about these accomplished young writers here.

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. There is no fee for participation. The 2017 contest will open on September 1st, 2016. Interested school representatives and teachers can contact us at editor@writingforpeace.org for information, bookmarks, and a DoveTales ebook at no charge.

Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace Adviser“The government of President Park Geun-hye is using the National Security Law in an extreme way to ban protests and arrest activists. For example, simply speaking positively about North Korea is a crime punishable with seven years in prison.”

Newsletter: Free Prisoners Of Conscience In South Korea

 

Copyright © 2016 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

2016 Youth Summit Now Public

cropped-17WFP_Listen-To-Me-

“Listen to Me” created by Paula Dawn Lietz, artist-in-residence

The last weekend of April, Writing for Peace hosted our first annual Youth Summit to provide a safe place for young writers, artists, and activists (ages 18-30) to discuss aspects of peace, artistic expression, and activism, as well as the chance to engage with keynote speakers and develop their craft through educational opportunities.

During the event, work and conversation is not shared publicly, allowing for uninhibited self-expression. Participants are offered the opportunity to remove work and comments before the summit is shared publicly.

2016 Writing for Peace Inaugural Online Youth Summit

Participants shared and discussed their own work. For those interested, we offered a workshop on Peace Journalism, taught by Dr. Elissa Tivona, and given the opportunity to accept assignments and join the ranks of our Peace Journalists in our developing Writing for Peace Journalism Program. They also watched and discussed Dr. Erica Chenoweth’s TED Talk on Nonviolent Resistance. You’ll find links to these and the key note speeches on the site. We welcome you to peruse the site’s content and discussion. Comments have been disabled there, but can be directed to Writing for Peace on this page, or through our contact page. Comments are moderated.

Topic:
“What I Would Say If I Knew They Were Listening, Conversations on Peace”

Keynote Speakers include:

Lyla June Johnston, Writing fr Peace Young AdviserLyla June Johnston is a Navajo poet and peace activist from Taos, New Mexico, who has found her home in the service of humanity. After studying Human Ecology at Stanford University, Lyla founded Regeneration Festival, an annual celebration and honoring of children and young adults worldwide.

Natan Blanc, Writing for Peace Young AdviserNathan Blanc is an Israeli who refused to serve in the IDF (Israeli army) “because of its actions against the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.” Nathan held fast to his convictions, despite being sentenced 10 times, to a total of 178 days in jail. Nathan’s struggle was first of all a struggle for the freedom of conscience, but it was also a struggle for peace between the Jews and the Arabs in Israel.

Amal KassirAmal Kassir is a 20 year old Syrian‐American spoken word artist. Born and raised most her life in Denver, CO, she came from a dinner table of tabouleh and meat loaf, Arab father and American mother, best meals of both worlds. She runs a project called More than Metaphors that focuses on the education initiative for displaced Syrian children, but uses the grass roots to bring communities together for all conversations.

Damilola

D.M. Aderibigbe was born in Lagos, Nigeria. He graduated with a BA in History and Strategic Studies from University of Lagos in 2014. His chapbook, In Praise of Our Absent Father was selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the APBF New Generation African Poets Chapbook Series. He is the recipient of 2015 and 2016 fellowships and honours from Oristaglio Family Foundation, Entrekin Foundation, Dickinson House, Callaloo and Boston University where he is currently an MFA candidate in creative writing.

Writing for Peace is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to cultivating empathy through education and creative writing in order to develop a foundation of compassion on which to build a more peaceful world. Our goal is to inspire and guide young writers (and other artists) to refine their craft and consider the many ways their writing focus can bring us closer to nonviolent conflict resolution, a society that values human rights, as well as environmental and economic sustainability.

 

Copyright © 2016 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

D.M. Aderibigbe Joins Advisory Panel

Damilola 1Writing for Peace welcomes D.M. Aderibigbe to our panel of young advisers and Youth Summit keynote speakers. Aderibigbe was born in Lagos, Nigeria. He graduated with a BA in History and Strategic Studies from University of Lagos in 2014. His chapbook, In Praise of Our Absent Father was selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the APBF New Generation African Poets Chapbook Series (purchase information below). He is the recipient of 2015 and 2016 fellowships and honours from Oristaglio Family Foundation, Entrekin Foundation, Dickinson House, Callaloo and Boston University where he is currently an MFA candidate in creative writing. 

Says Aderibigbe:

“A few months ago, several children were burnt to death in my native country (of course this happens everyday now.) I posted this to my Facebook, with the caption ‘the real face of the world.’ One of my poet-friends commented and said, ‘Dami, this post won’t change the mind of the world, but your writing can. Keep writing those necessary poems you have been churning out.’ It dawned on me that day, that all along I have been writing for peace.”

Two Poems by D.M. Aderibigbe:

NEW HELL

Fire burnt on a cold morning:
he screamed “E mi o mo nkankan,
I’m innocent” until his voice was

swallowed by the ravenous fire.
The woman arrived at the scene
to see her love had become ashes.
She poured tears before a broken
statue of Oshun.
I and my two siblings stood, staring —

our skins, veiled by Akure’s harmattan.
Police sirens were a muezzin’s voice
that slashed through the morning for solat;

the vigilantes, who made the fire
that melted the life of their thief
without proof he was thief,

dispersed into our bewilderment.
Guns and truncheons lay
on the road, casualties in a war —
torn country.
Police led the new widow to a van.
I and my two siblings stood, staring.

The fire died.
 

 

ELEGY FOR MY MOTHERS

Let’s not pretend the sky
is always plaited with beauty,
even the gods are not too perfect.
On my grandmother’s skin,
the heaven doesn’t stop
crying for 13 years– God’s
eyes are patched with red.
A schoolboy’s body–
her only son– empty
like a soda can
found at the doorway
of his mother’s store.
All the women in his life gather
around what the police’s anger
has left of him: each calling
his name, as though death
is a disease noise could cure.
Each calls his name,
their breasts flapping like clothes
on a line driven by wind. Lord,
is this what it takes to be a woman?

 

D.M. Aderibigbe’s poems appear in numerous journals including Alaska Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, Ninth Letter, Prairie Schooner, RATTLE, Stand and elsewhere and featured on Verse Daily. Spillway recently nominated his poem for a 2017 Puschcart prize. His first manuscript is a 2015 and 2016 finalist for The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. He’s also an essayist, with essays in Blueshift Journal, B O D Y and Rain Taxi. He knows God loves you.

To purchase his chapbook, In Praise of Our Absent Father, send $10 through PayPal to dammyg1989@gmail.com. Also, send your mailing address to the same email and you’ll receive your copy within a week.

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Call for Participants: Online Youth Summit

Join young artists and writers, ages 18-30, in conversation about the matters you care about in this online Youth Summit.

Summit Dates: April 29th, 30th and May 1st

Submission Deadline: April 25th

Topic:
“What I Would Say If I Knew They Were Listening, Conversations on Peace”

Fees: There is no fee for participation in this summit, with thanks to a generous grant from Longwood University in Virginia, United States of America.

Participation:  In order to provide a safe environment for participants to express themselves, this event is closed to the public. Participants are invited guests, ages 18-30, and will be given the password for admittance to the Summit following the acceptance of their submissions.

Description: In this online summit, 100 invited participants from schools and colleges in the US, Mexico (through Colectiva Poéticas), and Canada will have the opportunity to submit and present their creative work on the following theme: “What I Would Say If I Knew They Were Listening, Conversations on Peace”.

Submissions will be accepted in the following areas: Creative Writing, Visual Arts, Music, Theatre, and Dance. For more information and to submit your work, go to Youth Summit.

2016 DoveTales “Family and Cultural Identity” Edition

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceOur fourth edition of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts will be released on May 1st! Links will go up soon, and if you are in the Fort Collins area we hope you will join us for our Book Release Celebration Reading! Check out the details and RSVP at Book Launch Celebration.

Copyright © 2016 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

When the bell tolls for coal, By Vicki Lindner

VickiLindnerHorizontal1000-745x373When the bell tolls for coal: Pull yourself up by your WHAT?

By Vicki Lindner

(Previously published in Wyofile.com, Wyoming’s truth-telling online newspaper, representing free journalism in a conservative state. Reprinted by permission.)

(Opinion) — I moved from New York to Laramie in 1988, when cheap foreign oil made drilling for domestic reserves unprofitable. Unlike unemployed roughnecks, who’d walked away from vehicles and homes, I came for a job — teaching creative writing at the University of Wyoming. The salary ($28.2K) wasn’t so hot (my New York friends groaned), but it included benefits, and thanks to severance fees paid by the minerals industry, I wouldn’t have to “give the governor” a dime.

Like most newcomers with romantic notions, I was looking for change more than high pay. I soon rented a funky cabin on the Big Laramie River, 30 miles from town, and fantasized that a single rugged individualist like me would soon be two-stepping with cowboys down at the bar.

But strangers were suspicious characters in Woods Landing. A university administrator, an  outsider, complained about his high electric bill, a faux pas, as the rural power company was run by his next-door neighbor. My landlord, an artist, had shared the green shack with her lover — another gal. Then she rented it to a woman who left her miserable pets to fend for themselves while she flagged for highway construction crews in other counties. What, locals wondered, would this new citified single lady, also a UW prof, get up to in there? For almost four years, they kept their distance and waited to find out.

Isolated on the Big Laramie, I pondered the folksy signs and sayings that seemed to offer prescriptions for my Wyoming life: “If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It,” was a motto never heard in New York, an economic “energy center,” where whatever didn’t change demanded rethinking. Were the stickers on pickups, “Welcome to Wyoming: We Don’t Give a Damn How You Do It Back Home,” aimed at me? And what about, “Stop Whining,” “If You Don’t Like it Here, Leave,” and “Pull Yourself Up by Your Bootstraps”? (Were those the wee loops on the tops of my used gold parade boots?) Most unnerving was the expression I heard when natives didn’t know I was listening: “Our Way of Life.” Was my new state an exclusive country club, open only to insiders?

While on one hand the maxims advocated self-reliance and proud survival on high desert plains, on the other, they concealed warnings for presumptuous newcomers: We own this place. Don’t try to change it. Cowboy up or ride out on the horse you rode in on. What was the difference, I wondered, between Our way of life in a boom-and-bust state, where the population had sunk to 458,400, and Xenophobia — defined asan unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers, or that which is foreign or strange.”

Meanwhile, my students feared they’d betray their birthright if they abandoned small, remote towns for overcrowded cities in other states, or even Jackson. I soon heard that only the Wyoming-born could win major state offices. In 2014 Gov. Matt Mead announced that three new additions to his staff were men with “Wyoming roots.” And last May, the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services introduced a new program, “Wyoming Grown,” designed to bring natives home by clueing them into job opportunities. Hayley McKee, the information officer, said that in the last eight months 26 professionals have been placed.

Yet, as the 21st century got underway, “Our Way of Life” took a sucker punch. The world finally acknowledged that climate change was real, and billions of tons of CO2 spewing from coal-fired power plants played the largest role in higher temperatures, storms, tornadoes, floods, impending food shortages and species’ extinction, not to mention lung and heart conditions. Thanks to new EPA regulations inspired by the June 2014 Clean Air and Climate Change Act, followed by the Paris Agreement on climate change, U.S markets were no longer buying the 400 million tons of publically-owned and federally-regulated Powder River coal that 15 mines had railroaded out every year. And largely dependent on fossil fuel fees, 11 percent of state revenues went down the drain. As 2015 ended, coal stocks continued their dive, the industry reeled from debt, two companies went bankrupt, U.S. coal production fell to its lowest level since the 1980s, and coal mine workers  applied for unemployment insurance. This past Christmas, New York Times reporter James B. Stewart wryly joked that we could extend coal’s future by putting more lumps of it in bad children’s stockings. Then, on Friday Jan. 15, the Obama administration landed  a knock-out blow by announcing a “pause” in approving new coal leases. If the National Mining Association had any doubts, it now knew that the Feds intended to keep coal in the ground.

Coal’s dim future was already a sensitive issue in 2012, when Tom Buchanan, then president of the University of Wyoming, was pressured by coal-county legislators and the Wyoming Mining Association to raze Chris Drury’s $45,000 campus installation, “Carbon Sink” — a spiraling circle of beetle kill lumber that morphed into coal. Yet the sculpture only symbolized what everyone knew: that CO2 emissions were largely responsible for tepid winters that allowed lodgepole predators to thrive. By 2015, the warmest year yet, Gov. Mead, the university’s School of Energy Resources, and legislators beat their breasts like ancient Egyptian mourners after the Pharaoh’s death, and asked what offerings coal would need to embark on its afterlife.  

You’ve heard the proposals: What about turning the mineral into a gas that makes plastics, pharmaceuticals, paints, and food sweeteners? (Those gasification plants are costly to build and also eject CO2). Could Wyoming cash in on iffy CO2 sequestration technologies that neutralize emissions in different kinds of reservoirs, or better yet, enhance oil recovery? How about shipping Powder River coal to Asia? (The states with ocean ports said no, and, it turned out, Asian markets could access closer, cheaper suppliers as they, too, began phasing out coal.) Meanwhile, Wyoming’s renewable energy sources, wind and sun, didn’t engage imaginations preoccupied with schemes for coal’s second coming.   

“Thank God for the rainy day fund,” Wyomingites sighed, meaning the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account, flush with $1.8 billion. But states can’t retire and live off their savings, like I did. And how long will Wyoming’s other non-renewable fossil fuels — oil and plentiful natural gas — hold out (centuries?) before they, too, go the way of coal, coal methane gas, and the dinosaurs that left their bones in Como Bluffs?   

The governor suggested diversifying the economy. (Not a new idea.) True, Wyoming is one of three states (with Texas and West Virginia) where the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the 10 highest employment quotients are energy related. Other industries, Mead affirmed, would make state coffers less susceptible to energy downturns. He focused on clean, high-paying technology companies, (Colorado has 495 in Denver alone), and proudly announced that Microsoft had expanded its Wyoming operation by 25 jobs.  (A positive move, but to put it in perspective, the new Google campus in Boulder, Colorado, will add 1,500 positions to the 300 the company already had.)

Diversification is a soul-stirring word, but what does it call for? Not just a few companies, expanding high speed wireless broadband, but a wider business base, including small manufacturers. They might choose Wyoming over China and Vietnam when they got a load of the Cowboy State’s lack of corporate and income taxes, less stringent regulations, and low union participation, as well as federal tax incentives for staying and producing in-country. (New Wyoming businesses do pay a franchise tax.) But one crucial factor is missing: Asia’s abundant labor force. You can’t attract a factory that makes, say, mattresses, or diesel-hybrid electric tractors, or even a meat packing plant without  potential workers.

A viable workforce demands an increased population. (Wyoming is the least populous state in the union.) And where in Sam Hill will the state get that? The answer, my friend, is blowing in a gale-force wind: The answer is people from other countries — yes, Immigrants, including refugees, with other religions, languages, traditions, and skin colors, who are unlikely to share “our way of life.”

These people, who may have suffered human rights abuses, war, economic and political oppression, don’t think that “freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”  As I write, the foreign-born that the state needs to transform its economy are walking through 31-mile tunnels under the English Channel, and risking their lives to cross turbulent seas in inflatable rafts. They’d love to have a job, a home, and a school for their kids in a peaceful place with beautiful scenery. And, I bet, they’d be happy to pay a state income tax, like the one Tax Reform 2000 suggested. (Sixteen years ago the group of legislators and economists estimated that a small, flat-rate tax would raise $153,633,405, only about $5 million less than the 2016 budget shortfall. And, they pointed out, every state on Wyoming’s borders, all red but one, has an income tax, except South Dakota.)

Other governors realize that paying taxes is one of the ways that immigrants expand local economies. Michigan’s Rick Snyder called for a new program to attract and welcome the foreign-born, citing statistics that said newcomers were more than three times as likely as non-immigrants to start a new business. (They also filed more international patents.) Cities, too, have adopted pro-immigrant initiatives. Despite Congress’s discouraging rhetoric, Washington, Atlanta, Nashville and Memphis, Charlotte, Louisville, Tucson, and Dayton have pledged to create immigrant-friendly climates because they recognize that new arrivals who attract businesses also start them, spend gobs of money, and pay sales, income, and property taxes.

Actually, immigrants already reside in Wyoming. The American Immigration Council’s statistics say that in 2013 one in 10 Wyomingites was Hispanic or Asian. The foreign-born made up 3.5 percent of the population, or 20,081. (All but 5,000 were “authorized.”) Comprising 4.1 percent of the workforce, they paid $105.9 million in federal taxes and $38.5 million in state taxes (property and sales). Like immigrants elsewhere, many are better educated than natives. As a Dubois summer resident, who buys groceries in Jackson, I can vouch that the thriving tourist town’s restaurants, motels, and grocery stores depend on Hispanic and Eastern European workers. (The former owner of the Italian bistro, The Yellowstone Garage, once told me that Hispanics had saved the restaurant and hotel industries, and are the only restaurant employees who still have a work ethic.)

This brings me to Syrians — for Wyoming, largely a symbolic issue, as the U.S. hopes to settle the 10,000 in cities where Syrian communities already exist. Instead of joining 27 Republican governors who rejected the war-ravaged victims of Assad and ISIL, Gov. Mead, who ran into political flack when he sensibly proposed a refugee center, should have begged for 5,000. With federal subsidies, nonprofit grants, a committee to create acceptance strategies, and a chunk of that bulging rainy day fund, the state could have stimulated its own economy by building the strangers housing in Casper, where Monster.com now lists 691 positions, mostly for drivers and sales associates. Like your grandfather and mine, the foreign-born who worked the Butte copper mines, and my cab driving Ethiopian friend in Denver, immigrants know you gotta start somewhere.

Diversity, however, describes not just changes in population, or a good business mix, but personnel in individual organizations. A study from The Center for Talent Innovation shows that companies benefit from hiring diverse employees, instead of safe “cultural fits,” like their friends, who root for the same team, look and act like the boss, and share his or her taste in movies and books. Research shows that homogeneity breeds complacency; and the mere presence of someone from a different social background improved workplace performance and accuracy. The strongest teams employ different ages, races, and genders, as well as members with “acquired” diversity, like military experience, foreign language skills, and time spent abroad.  Leaders who are receptive to unexpected or challenging questions, and support new ideas, increase their companies’ profits and capture new markets.

Which brings me back to the Manhattan emigrant I was long ago. Although I made no waves in rural Woods Landing, I shook up the university’s English department. I said what I thought in faculty meetings (a cultural no-no), challenged students to excel in harder courses, and designed a visiting writer program that hired authors from many states, including Wyoming, who also taught community members. As my own contribution might indicate, the diversity that energizes a single workplace, could energize an unsustainable fossil fuel-based economy.  

So how to fix what’s broke? Sure, create a Refugee Center to vet Muslim immigrants and dream up new lives for coal, but grow the workforce with ambitious newcomers who will have a profound personal stake in enjoying and enhancing their American home.

But what will keep the new residents from moving to Oregon? Before you roll out the welcome wagons, stop saying, “Our Way of Life,” and tear off that xenophobic bumper sticker, “We Don’t Give a Damn How You Do it Back Home.”

About Writing for Peace Adviser Vicki Lindner

vicki Lindner (3)Vicki Lindner is an Associate Professor Emerita at the University of Wyoming, and an instructor at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, where she serves on the Diversity and Inclusivity Committee. She is the author of a novel, co-author of Unbalanced Accounts: How Women can Overcome their Fear of Money, and many essays, short stories, magazine and newspaper articles. Learn more about Vicki Lindner and her work here.

— Essays are the signed perspective of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of WyoFile’s staff, board of directors or its supporters. WyoFile welcomes guest columns and op-ed pieces from all points of view. If you’d like to write a guest column for WyoFile, please contact WyoFile editor-in-chief Dustin Bleizeffer at dustin@wyofile.com.

WyoFile is a nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.

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Check Out Our 2016 Young Writers Contest!

Writing for Peace dreamerWriting 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.

First, second, and third place prizes will be awarded in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry categories. Announcements will be made on May 1st on the Writing for Peace Blog.

  • First place winners will receive $50. Second  place winners will receive $25. Third place winners will receive $10.
  • Winners work, photo, bio, and a follow-up interview will be published in DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts. Winners will receive one hard copy of the book.
  • Finalists may be eligible for online publication in our Writing for Peace blog.
  • Winners and finalists may receive invitations to participate in other Writing for Peace events, such as our Annual Youth Summit, readings, and possible mentoring opportunities.

Check out our full guidelines here.

Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace Adviser“The conflict between democracy and state repression, often claimed as necessary to protect our safety and security, has moved the United States consistently toward a greater national security state that has become inconsistent with people’s privacy and freedom; as well as their ability to exercise First Amendment protected political activities. Where are we in this balance? How do we change it?”  Newsletter: End The Security State

 

Copyright © 2016 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.