Writing Out Loud
by Deborah Morgan


Grass Roots Press, PO Box 52192, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2T5, Canada, grassrt@telusplanet.net, 2002. ISBN 1894593162.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 04/29/2002

Nonfiction: Creative Life

Writing Out Loud is a delightful manual for leaders of writing and personal growth groups of all levels. Deborah Morgan developed this easy-to-use tool as part of the Literacy Coordinators of Alberta Chapters Project. The students—all of them adult women in the Chapters Program—called the project "Fearless Writing," and it seems to have reached its goal of helping them gain enough confidence and literacy skills to become independent.

This spiral-bound handbook, which is designed to help students write from the heart,is divided into seven sections: Getting Ready, Starting Out, Having Fun, Taking Risks, Building Confidence, Feeling Good, and the bibliography. Each of the writing sections has several exercises with adaptations, samples in cursive of Deborah's students' work, and her own reflections. In "Getting Ready," Deborah explains what she means by "writing from the heart."

"The writing I'm talking about in this handbook is 'writing from the heart'—writing about how we feel, in words that are as simple as the words we think and speak....It took the students a few weeks to believe me when I told them I didn't care about spelling or grammar or what the words looked like on the page. I just wanted them to write—to write for the pure pleasure of it. I explained to them that if we worry about where to put the comma before we start writing, we'll never write anything. Once the students stopped worrying, they started writing. They wrote about things that were important to them, they wrote in their own words and they were amazed by what they had to say. This is writing from the heart."

Writing from the heart can give us some interesting insights into who we are. One exercise that I cannot wait to try with my SCN Writing Circle is the "Tattoo Parlour" in the section "Having Fun." Deborah writes that a number of the women in the group had tattoos on their bodies. The whole group decided to obtain some temporary tattoos—hearts, flowers, angels, birds—and wear them. Then they wrote about the experience, asking these questions:

How does it feel to have a tattoo?
Would you like to have a real one?
What would your family say if you got a tattoo?
Do you know people with a tattoo?

Reflecting on the activity, Deborah writes, "I found my own comfort was a little challenged with this exercise, but because a student had suggested the idea, I was willing... It turned out to be a wonderful experience. We laughed and had fun and discovered a great deal about ourselves as women. To my surprise, I learned that the students felt really empowered with a rose tattooed on their arm, shoulder or chest...." (Judith's Austin Writing Circle, watch out! You're about to be tattooed!)

At the end of the book, in a section called "Polish & Publish," Deborah writes, "Nothing gives writers more confidence than to have their words published." She reminds us that one definition of publish is to "put into circulation." So whenever we share our writing in a small group, in the SCN Journal, on-line, or in a church bulletin, we have become published writers. She adds, "The process of preparing work for publication is an act of determination, discipline and faith."

Writing Out Loud can be used with any writing group. As a rich bonus, the members would discover more about themselves. The spiral binding adds to the cost ($33.00 US), but makes the book very easy to use.

Check out our interview with the author of Writing Out Loud.

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