If you know Jen, you know the thoughtful and creative force, the awesome, that is she. If you do not know Jen, let me introduce you to her, because to know her is to love her. She is a writer, photographer, and storyteller raising a family in New York and bravely helping to forge a new genre "...that marries story, myth and poetry to the wisdom mined from [the individual]..."
She is also the author of a course that helps you guide yourself to your own storytelling voice, Finding Your Voice: A Multimedia Course, a course that she and I are giving away to one of you lucky readers for free at the end of this entry, because you are so keen. The course we're giving away includes an audio learning program, an interactive workbook, a handwritten blessing, and private access to a course-specific discussion board.
Jen let me interview her about the course, how she came to create it, and why finding your voice important.
First, tell us a little bit about who you are as an artist and storyteller.
I feel like a bag of paradoxes. Superhero brave and totally chicken shit. I'm this crazy old-school, Little House On the Prairie girl with an aversion to technology and a high need for privacy who somehow found her way into being an internet artist and a live performer. I'm someone with something to say who is always looking for a way to get out of doing it. I want to be heard, and I want to be hidden. The tension of it all feels like it will tear me apart sometimes, trying to learn to live with some kind of peace in the middle spaces, but it grounds me in my humanity. We are complicated beings — there's no way around it — and the parts that appear to be contradictory are perhaps the most interesting (and true) of all.
What led you to want to create Finding Your Voice: A Multimedia Course?
I wanted this work to be available to a wider community. It's hard knowing so many people are longing to be a part of this conversation, but are prevented from attending live events like workshops and retreats by situational or financial constraints.
Tell us about experiences you had while you developed this course at Squam?
I'm laughing, remembering the first workshop I taught there. I was SO tired, and one of my students said afterward, "You're doing more content in half a day than other instructors are doing in a whole day. What you just told us is a BOOK — do you know that?" I didn't. I had no concept of pacing, and how much people could absorb in a 3-hour period. I wanted people to feel like they were "getting their money's worth", so I was just spilling all the goods like a jackpot win pouring out of a slot machine. If it were just a question of intellectually entertaining some ideas, that would be one thing. But people stumble into realizations that really shift something on a very foundational level. The kind of things that you need time to rearrange your cells and your soul around, that make you want to lie down or not hear another word until you can process it. And I was just blazing through this stuff like a racehorse, trying to jam it all in before our time ended.
Ever since, I've been working to slow the content and the process down. It took me years of living to move through these spaces, and it's crazy talk to try and move others through it as fast as I was. I had this work — really good, foundation-shifting stuff — but I was up against the constraints of what people could absorb and integrate into their living.
I started experimenting. What could we do in three days together? I hosted three retreats last year that were three-day affairs, and I was still lopping off content left and right. Then I thought, what could we do in three months together? I wrote a 12-week voice and story curriculum last year, presenting the various parts and pieces in my Squam workshops along the way.
I often say that we don't know what we've got until we give it away, and this was completely true of my workshops and retreats. People responded to the material in a really powerful way, so I knew that I was onto something. That this work was making a difference and mattered. So I began the process of producing that 12-week curriculum, slowing it down even more and breaking it into multiple courses. Finding Your Voice is the first in that series.
What did you learn from the process of creating this course, and what do you want others to take away from it?
I've been trying to check this work off my list and move on, but one thing I'm learning is that some assignments from the universe are not fulfilled so quickly or easily. This conversation is going to have my presence and attention for some time to come.
Creating it has also been an exercise in really rooting my work in myself--my values, my story, every aspect of my expression. It's so easy to become distracted by how "everyone else" is doing it and second-guess oneself, but I have such an aversion to anything that doesn't line up with my values that I knew I couldn't present this work any other way, at least right now.
I want others to know that it's never too late to visit old injuries and process them in a new way that gives you more freedom, more awareness, more access to all of yourself. We all want to be brave, but making our way across our personal minefields is daunting, no matter how you frame it. These are my best avoid-the-blast moves, and if they get even one other person through a precarious place, I will be so deeply happy.
What is the basic first step in finding your voice, and why is finding your voice important?
The first step is to bring your awareness to an aspect of your voice that eludes you or is hard to access. Identifying that alone shifts something. Once your awareness is on it, it's pretty hard to believe those things we've been telling ourselves about how *we're fine* and *it doesn't really matter anyway*.
Our voice is like those old phones we used to make out of cans and a string--it's the communication line to our true, whole selves. It's how we reach back to the parts of ourselves we condemned to the attic long ago, it's how they come out of the dark and get to be heard along with the rest. Whatever we're creating, it will be more rich and full if we are creating with our whole voice, in all its contradictions and complexities, instead of some thinner, two-dimensional version that is simply easier to live with or more palatable for others to take.
Jen and I want to give Finding Your Voice: A Multimedia Course away for free to one of you, because we are, all of us, storytellers, whether we're writing the next great American novel or documenting a spectacularly disgusting diaper incident.
There is nothing quite like finding your voice. It's like coming home.
If you would like ONE chance to get your hands on Finding Your Voice: A Multimedia Course, do one of the following. If you would like TWO chances to win, do both of the following:
- Leave a comment on this post. You can tell me why you need this course or about your latest cooking snafu. We're not picky.
- Post the following tweet on Twitter, complete with hashtag:
I want to win @jenleedotnet's course, Finding Your Voice - http://tinyurl.com/findingmyvoice #findingmyvoice
I will pick one lucky person at random on April 21st at midnight using random.org, and then I will announce the winner both here and on Twitter.
So, have at it and comment and tweet this baby! Your voice is waiting.
UPDATE: And the giveaway winner has been chosen. It is The Other Laura!