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Writing Your Truth: Mentoring program creates safe space for women writers

This year, 12 local women of different ages will embark on a yearlong writing journey in a productive environment where they can write and share the truth of their lives without fear of judgment or criticism.

In Writing Your Truth, these women will get support from each other and mentors through the program offered by Write On, Door County. 

“My approach in this yearlong mentorship is going to start with creating a safe, supportive and collaborative environment for these incredible women,” said Lauren Ward, the managing director of Write On and the class facilitator.

The concept evolved from a one-time class – Writing against the Fairytale: The Truth in Women’s Liveswhich explored how women could reclaim their own stories and voices after an examination of the false promises and cultural values set forth by fairy tales.

The idea of extending the scope of a one-off class began to germinate.

“What do we do after we get them inspired?” said Jerod Santek, artistic director of Write On“How do we get them to continue to be engaged, and to keep them motivated, and to feel empowered to share their story?”

Write On decided to remove as many barriers as possible that would prevent women from committing to a yearlong program. The program is offered for free thanks to a grant from the Women’s Fund of Door County. If child care or transportation obstacles threaten to prevent a participant from attending a meeting, there are funds to help cover those costs. 

Then there are the barriers that don’t come in physical form, but are mental hurdles. That’s where the safe, collaborative, nurturing environment comes into play.

“As I’ve learned over the years as an educator, writing is a very intimate activity,” Ward said. “For many, putting your thoughts down on paper, whether they are big or tiny thoughts, can be intimidating and overwhelming. Fear of judgment, fear of not being good enough, fear of the risk can all be barriers to creativity.” 

Jess Farley saw a posting about the new course while scrolling through social media and didn’t hesitate in contacting Ward to find out how she could join.

Jess Farley with her son, Wyatt.

“I would have loved to have gotten into something like this a long time ago,” Farley said, “but being a single mom, you just don’t have the time to do things.”

Farley loves to cooks, and loves to share her cooking and recipes with family and friends, and writes food stories for Door County Living magazine. The Writing Your Truth program is an opportunity to further her interest in writing.

She wasn’t the only one who found the opportunity compelling.

About 40 women expressed interest in filling one of the 12 available spots. Santek and Ward weren’t anticipating such an enthusiastic response and had to send a secondary application to narrow the field. 

Participants range in age from 25 to 64, with one high school student. Seven of the participants are from the Sturgeon Bay or Southern Door area, and five are from Northern Door. They will work on their writing throughout the year, but a big part of the program is the mentorship aspect. Ward is facilitating this year’s class, but the idea is that some women will return next year to participate as mentors.

“I hope to impart on these women that words are powerful and that they are powerful,” Ward said. “Women do so much in their lives: They work hard, they create, and they give and they give. My hope is that they find their voices to share their stories with one another, but most importantly, with themselves.”

Farley said she’s looking forward to the supportive structure of the program, hoping it will not only get her back into her writing habits, but also help her rediscover herself in the process. 

“I’m at a point in my life where I’m ready to look into the mirror and not be afraid,” Farley said.

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