The stories we tell can change the world.

How do we create lasting social change? One powerful, purposeful story at a time.

The Stories We Tell, The Voices and Faces Project’s immersive, two-day testimonial writing program, was developed to help those who have survived or witnessed gender-based violence use their stories to call the public to greater compassion and social action.

During our writing workshop, participants discuss examples of world-changing testimonial writing from various social movements and take part in a series of innovative, real-time writing exercises. We seek to support emerging and established writers, activists, and direct service providers as they think about what testimonial writing is and why it matters. We help workshop participants imagine how they can most effectively carry forward the work of witness. Above all, we encourage the creativity of our participants, leading them to find new sources of personal and political power within themselves.

We’re not just training writers.
We’re creating community.

Our trauma-informed creative writing instructor and workshop facilitator are media neutral and genre-inclusive. We examine poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, memoir, spoken word, playwriting, and speechwriting, and encourage work in all these areas. Most important, we focus on creating a community of activists ready to go public with their stories. The power of the stories emerging from The Stories We Tell is twofold. They call the public to an honest accounting of gender-based violence, and they attest to the strength that survivors find in a safe, creatively challenging community.

Since its inception in 2011, our Stories We Tell workshop team has traveled across the North American and African continents and trained over 600 writer-activists. In 2016 The Voices and Faces Project launched a youth-focused edition of The Stories We Tell, targeted to at-risk girls ages 15 – 18. Most recently, we expanded our writing program to reach refugee women and girls in Nairobi, Kenya, through our ongoing partnership with RefuSHE, a United Nations NGO.

We’re breaking through ideological barriers, one storyteller at a time.

In an era of information saturation and compassion fatigue — and often divisive political discourse — a well-told story breaks through ideological barriers in a way statistics alone cannot. When we testify about our own experiences with gender-based violence, we draw people out of their comfort zones and into conversations they might not otherwise have.

Too often in our society language becomes a tool for avoiding the realities of rape and abuse. 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.”

Our Stories We Tell workshop participants are doing something different with language. Through their testimony and writing, they take us close — at times, painfully close — to the experiences they have lived through or witnessed. And they show us that behind every social injustice lies a story with the power to create change.

The Stories We Tell workshop schedule.

Nairobi, Kenya

June 4-8, 2018

In partnership with RefuSHE (formerly Heshima Kenya) and Manaaki Foundation.

Milwaukee, WI

September 22-23, 2018
(applications due 8/30)

In partnership with LOTUS Legal Clinic and Wisconsin Humanities Council.

Villanova, PA

October 27-28, 2018
(applications due 10/7)

In partnership with Villanova University.

Chicago, IL

Winter 2019 (date TBD)

In partnership with World Without Exploitation and CounterQuo.

Chicago, IL

Winter 2019 (date TBD)

Words = Change: A writing workshop for Chicago-area youth (ages 15 – 17).

San Diego, CA

Fall/Winter 2018-19 (date TBD)

Writing workshop alumni on what The Stories We Tell meant to them.

Rachel Monaco-Wilcox

A graduate of our 2011 workshop in Milwaukee, WI.

Christa Desir

A graduate of our 2011 workshop in Chicago, IL.

Jeanne DeVita and Larena Patrick

Graduates of our 2016 workshop in San Diego, CA.

Roger Canaff

Roger Canaff

A graduate of our 2014 workshop in New York City, NY.