Written by Catharine Bramkamp
Welcome brand new member Michelle Wing!
Michelle finds volunteering, “incredibly enriching in so many ways. I serve as a board member and the public relationships director for Redwood Writers, coordinated two teen poetry slams for the Sonoma County Book Festival, acted as assistant editor on two anthologies, and served as a judge for a poetry contest. I also am a board member for the Healdsburg Literary Guild. And, outside of writing groups, I volunteer with YWCA Sonoma County, with my ‘Changing Hurt to Hope: Writers Against Domestic Violence’ program.”
The YWCA project is close to her heart. While brainstorming for projects to highlight Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October), Michelle came up with the idea of holding public readings around the Sonoma County focused on Domestic violence.
“The program’s success exceeded my expectations, in that writers responded from all walks of life, came forward to share their words, and were transformed by that sharing. By the third year, I knew I wanted to somehow capture what was happening beyond the nightly readings by creating an anthology, but I didn’t have the personal resources to act on that desire.
“In Fall 2013, Ann Hutchinson and Kate Farrell approached me, saying they wanted to help me as co-editors of a ‘Hurt to Hope’ book. We completed the manuscript of Cry of the Nightbird: Writers Against Domestic Violence on, fittingly, Independence Day of this year, and expect an October release.
“The pieces in Cry of the Nightbird are often a step on the path towards healing for the writers who penned them, since many of them are written by survivors in one form or another.” (Profits from the book will go directly to YWCA Sonoma County).
Like many of us, volunteering is not only its own reward, but also the acts of volunteering often enhances our own work. “Being a PR director taught me valuable lessons when it came time to build my own author platform. Diving into the world of slam reinvigorated my own poetry style. Being a judge fine-tuned my reading skills, and the anthology work enhanced my ability to edit my own writing. The additional bonus, of course, is that I found community—a place to read my work, share my successes (and frustrations), learn more about craft, social media and branding, and simply grow as a writer.”
Michelle personally relates to the “Changing Hurt to Hope” project and is thrilled to be able to contribute to the community in this way. “I know that each time I can write about a particular painful memory, and place it into the contained box of a poem, I gain distance. It is as if I have taken away some of its power, plucked it from that burning pit inside my chest, and put it inside a jar up on a shelf. I can then look at it, even shake it, read it to an audience—but the memory no longer hurts in the same way. I am the one in control now. I hope that Cry of the Nightbird will do this not only for our contributors, but also for readers—that they will find themselves in its pages, and even as they grieve, they will see the hope written between the lines. This is survival, as manifested by the very words on the page.
Michelle’s first book of poetry, Body on the Wall, was released this May from Saddle Road Press. “I went from being a timid, unsure, not-writing wannabe, to being a writer with two books released in one year, confident reading in public, struggling to find time for all of the projects I want to work on. It’s been one heck of a ride.”
To learn more about Michelle, visit her website: http://michellewing.com/