Workshop host Rachel Monaco-Wilcox during The Voices and Faces Project's "Stories We Tell" writing workshop in Milwaukee, WI. | Elaina Meier
“We tell ourselves stories so we know how to live,” Joan Didion famously wrote.
With a similar belief in the power of our testimonies, The Voices and Faces Project launched "The Stories We Tell," North America's first two-day testimonial writing program for survivors of gender-based violence. Since its inception in 2011, "The Stories We Tell" has been offered in dozens of US cities. In 2013, we debuted a short-form version of "The Stories We Tell," focused on the ethics and challenges of sharing testimony in conflict zones, in South Africa. In 2016, The Voices and Faces Project piloted a "teen" version of the workshop for girls, ages 15 – 17, whose lives have been affected by violence and the criminal justice system.
By using our stories in service to not only personal but also political transformation, we become more effective change agents. During "The Stories We Tell," workshop participants read and discuss world-changing testimonial writing across social justice movements, while taking part in a series of innovative real-time writing exercises. This is a workshop that is as purposeful as it is powerful - a way to our voices to create a more just and fair world.
According to the World Health Organization, over one billion women worldwide have been victims of some form of gender-based violence. Language too often becomes a tool for avoiding this painful truth. So the devastation that is childhood sexual abuse becomes simply "a family affair," the international trafficking of women and girls merely "the world's oldest profession," and rape and torture during armed conflict part of the inevitable, regrettable "messiness of war." The stories that come out of our Voices and Faces Project testimonial writing workshop do something very different with language. They take us close — at times, painfully close — to the experiences of women who have lived through violence. They show us that behind every social injustice there is a deeply personal story.
Anne K. Ream is the founder of The Voices and Faces Project and the author of "Lived Through This," a narrative and photographic memoir of a multi-country, multi-year journey spent listening to the testimonies of gender-based violence survivors. Anne’s writing has appeared in The New Republic, the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and numerous other publications.
R. Clifton Spargo is a novelist and cultural critic. The author of "Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald," he writes the HI/LO, on the interplay of high and low culture, for Huffington Post. A graduate of The Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Clifton has taught creative writing at Marquette University, University of Iowa, and Yale University. Listen to Anne and Clifton talk to the CBC (Canadian Public Radio) about "The Stories We Tell."
Click on the photos to read about participants' experiences in our first-of-its-kind testimonial writing program.
To find out more about applying for one of our writing workshops, or to bring the “Stories We Tell” program to your community, contact us.
February 6-7, 2016
November 7-8, 2015
October 24-25, 2015
October 17-18, 2015
July 25-26, 2015
April, 11-12, 2015
November 8-9, 2014
October 18-19, 2014
June 21-22, 2014
April 5-6, 2014
January 18-19, 2014
November 30—December 1, 2013
October 5—6, 2013
November 10—11, 2012
June 1—2, 2012
April 12, 2012
March 10—11, 2012
April 14—15, 2011
March 26—27, 2011:
"Through The Voices and Faces Project's writing workshop I found my voice—and I found the joy that comes with realizing that I don't have to go it alone. Thank you for affording me the opportunity to be heard, to hear others, and to experience immeasurable healing."
- Elaina Meier, Wauwatosa, WI
"The Faces and Voices Project writing workshop was a life changing experience…
- Imani Capri, Cleveland, OH
"What I witnessed during the Voices and Faces Project's 'Stories We Tell' writing workshop was palpable, raw courage and strength…
- Laura Swift, Davenport, IA
"The Voices and Faces Project's "Stories We Tell" Writing Workshop provided a safe and comfortable environment for survivors and their allies to share our collective experience
- Serena Curr, Chicago, IL
Here is a selection of some of this writing, from our pilot workshop at the Chicago Cultural Center.