I've very much appreciated Judy Reeves' books on writing in the past and was definitely keen to read her new one. Wild Women, Wild Voices has resonated with me because I've been part of women's writing circles for twenty years and that sense of writing in community is remembered fondly.
Reeves has based her book on Wild Women writing workshops she has been leading for more than two decades. She was inspired by Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes as many of us were—and continue to be. Other writers quoted and referenced are Mark Nepo, Susan Wooldridge, Jamaica Kincaid, Diane Ackerman, Mary Oliver, Anne Sexton, Eudora Welty, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rumi, Dorothy Parker, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Toni Morrison, Virginia Woolf, Sue Monk Kidd, and Maxine Kumin.
Excerpts from the writing of women who have attended Wild Women Writing Workshops are also included and they help to create that sense of a community of writing women throughout the book. You realize you're not alone as you embark on your writing journey.
Thirteen chapters invite explorations into the varied aspects of women's lives: looking at ourselves as girls, our initiation into womanhood and remembering and acknowledging ourselves "as artists and creators and as adventurous travelers of inner and outer landscapes."
As for the term "exploration," Reeves said in an interview that the explorations "refer to following a path laid out by the voice and the language to a destination that isn't fore-planned... So we don't write to learn a certain method or technique; we write to discover our story."
Writing about the body; family; the geography of our lives; loves and lovers; and friends and companions are among the chapter themes.
In the "Artist/Creator" chapter, Reeves suggests "a map of creative expressions." Using different colored pens, a large piece of paper can be filled with statements, words, or images. Those words can then become a list of pleasurable ways one was creative. Painting a room, creating a collage, dancing the two-step could be among such creative pursuits.
Reeves recalls a time when she was in kindergarten and a high school troupe performed for the school. She felt transformed by the theatrical performance of "Aladdin and His Magic Lantern" and recalls others times when she feels like a participant in the making of art.
The fact that Reeves shares her own story in each chapter adds a comforting support from a respected writing mentor.
I appreciated the list of intentions Reeves created one year instead of making New Year's resolutions. One of them: "to be open to wild imaginings and receptive to the charm of the ordinary."
For "Life Journeys," Reeves suggest a "scatterpage" on which memories scattered on a page become a source for writing rather than a chronological list. Then you can go back to one memory of a pilgrimage for instance and "let your pen take you on this journey."
The book continues with "illuminating the shadow," "intuitive wisdom," and a final chapter called "Death, Loss and Legacies."
Each chapter is full of prompts for "further explorations" and questions about the journey thus far. She calls the writing we do "Journey Notes."
The Appendix gives some guidelines for creating your own Wild Women writing group. I like Reeves' idea of creating a chapbook of writing from the group and offering readings to family and possibly, the general public. Reeves refers to the "brave and beautiful women" reading their work. And of course that bravery has been honed by facing the page too. Judy Reeves is a very encouraging guide and in sharing her own story throughout, gives us support and inspiration for telling our own.
Judy Reeves is a writer, teacher, and writing practice provocateur who has written four books on writing, including the award-winning A Writer's Book of Days. In addition to leading private writing groups, Judy teaches at UC San Diego Extension and at San Diego Writers, Ink, a non profit literary organization she cofounded. Visit her website.
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