Make Room For The Stuttering

Presenting: Writers Who Stutter

Posted on: July 28, 2018

I promised two weeks ago that I would offer a short summary of a few of the powerful, especially meaningful workshops that I attended just for myself at the recent National Stuttering Association conference in Chicago. I say “just for myself” because as usual I did find myself busy at the conference helping lead a few workshops and helping with other things. It took me two weeks to write this because I’ve been busy and I needed time to process how wonderful some of these workshops were.

So it was important to me to attend a few sessions that I was just a participant and could enjoy the experience facilitated by others. One such workshop that I found profoundly important was “Writers Who Stutter” which was presented last year and again for the second time this year. I couldn’t attend last year because of a schedule conflict so I was excited and intrigued to see what they might offer.

“They” were people who stutter who all happen to be women and immensely enjoy writing. In fact, they started a “writers who stutter” Facebook group within the last year and encourage others to participate and share some of their pieces with each other. These women – Elizabeth, Jaymie and Chani – all express themselves exquisitely in writing and in voice too. They have all been guests on my podcast and are great storytellers.

Since I didn’t get to attend last year, I wasn’t sure what to expect. And it was a 9:00am workshop, which honestly I choose to skip most of them in favor of squeezing in some needed rest. Which, at a stuttering conference, you don’t get much of, so you take it when you can get it.

As preparation for the this year’s version of the writer’s who stutter workshop, the facilitators offered a warm-up writing exercise through the Facebook group. They offered a “writing prompt” used from last year and asked participants to write a six word story about stuttering. I was thinking, “yeah, right, like that’s possible.”

But I thought about it and offered my thought to the group. “Stuttering is about me, not you.” The facilitators commented right away that they loved it and even asked permission to use it in some other way. So, I was hooked and knew I’d find time to go to that workshop in Chicago. Even if it was at 9:00am.

I’m so glad I did! Elizabeth, Jaymie and Chani talked about the important of our writing voice and how it becomes part of our identity. I could so completely relate with that. For years, because I stutter, I often found the only way I could express myself was through writing. I believed the voices in my head that said my voice wasn’t worthy of being heard.

But with writing, the words would flow, fluently and fluidly. I remember in the early days of this blog, I recall writing things but don’t recall the actual process of typing them. The words just sort of magically flew from my fingertips and often just appeared on the screen and I’d stare incredulously and wonder how did those words appear. And sometimes those pieces were my best writing and didn’t need any editing. It was amazing to me to see that unfold time and time again.

It still happens once in a while. Like right now, I am not thinking any thoughts as I type this, but somehow the words are coming together, so effortlessly and fluidly filling the page,.

And I think that was the point of the writers who stutter workshop, at least to me anyway. It may not have been the facilitator’s main premise at all. But my take-away was that we should respect the identity we create as writers and go ahead and let stuttering inform our stories and what we choose to write about. Stuttering experiences provide rich, compelling stories that belong to us, the community that stutters. And we need to have a space to do just that – write and create and share and get feedback and write some more.

This workshop gave attendees a chance to break into small groups and write a bit on a prompt that we were given to get us started. Then we could share within our group if we wanted. Or not. Maybe we just wanted to soak in the experience and keep our musings private. Then the last fifteen minutes or so of the workshop brought the smaller groups back together to share out and process as a whole and see the beauty of our creations, our identities and the power of our voices – both in writing and voiced out loud.

How lucky I was to attend that workshop. It reminded me how many of us who stutter have often gravitated to pen and paper to express ourselves. Because that often felt better, right and eloquent like we think we aren’t. But we’re wrong! We are eloquent both in writing and in voice. When the two collide and we’re given a space to explore that, great things happen.

Thank you Elizabeth, Jaymie and Chani for staying true to you and sustaining your group for a year and giving writers who stutter a place to realize our words are worthy, no matter which way we choose to express them.

I look forward to next year’s version of this workshop.

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2017.
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