We Believe that every woman's story has power and purpose, which is why The Voices and Faces Project launched "The Stories We Tell," the country's first testimonial writing workshop for survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence and trafficking.
The workshop was co-created by R. Clifton Spargo, an award-winning fiction writer and Arts Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and our Voices and Faces Project creative initiatives team.
Over the course of our two-day workshop, which debuted at the Chicago Cultural Center in March, 2011, workshop participants considered testimonial writing by Sandra Cisneros, Charlotte Pierce-Baker, Primo Levi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Adrienne Rich, among others, and took part in a series of innovative writing exercises. "I am still reeling from what an incredible experience this workshop was for me," noted one of our participants in the post-workshop evaluation. "The instructors created an atmosphere of intellectual challenge and engaged and inspired learning, and a connection to a greater purpose. Most striking was how balanced the educational component was with the emotionally supportive environment."
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."
The best way to find out more about "The Stories We Tell" is by hearing from the survivors who have taken part in it. Click on the photos to read about Tammy, Roger and Christa's 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.
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.