Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘writing about stuttering

PamEpisode 184 features Madeline Wahl, who presently lives in New York City. She moved to NY from Florida five years ago to take a job with the Huff Post. She currently works as an opinion editor with the Huff, has always loved writing and writes a lot in her spare time. Madeline also greatly enjoys solo traveling and talks about how your “travel self” is your “true self.”

I first “discovered” Madeline when I read a few of her articles about stuttering that were published on the Huff Post. I remember being so thrilled to see pieces about stuttering in a popular site that I read and I really wanted to see if I could get Madeline to come on here as a guest. I emailed her, but didn’t hear back. So, I honestly forgot about it!

Then, shortly before this year’s NSA conference I  heard from Madeline. She had archived my email and reached out, saying she’d love to be a guest if I’d still have her. Of course, I was thrilled to hear from her. We started corresponding through email, as Madeline was planning to attend that NSA conference for the first time. I offered her some tips and suggestions and we vowed to meet in person at the conference.

Well, we did, very briefly. Then we followed up about two weeks later, and here’s this conversation we had. Listen in as Madeline shares what that first NSA conference was like, some really deep thoughts about the value and importance of words, and the deep emotions that get stirred up when being surrounded by other people who stutter.

We also talk about intense listening, patience being mindful, and the true spectrum of stuttering that exists within the stuttering community.

I was grateful for this “deep dive” conversation and hope you find it as compelling as I did.

Here are links to several of the articles that Madeline mentions in this episode.

What It Actually Feels Like To Stutter

Why I’m Thankful That I Stutter

As always, the podcast safe music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

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.

PamEpisode 147 features Mona Maali, who hails from Austin Texas. Mona was the chapter leader of the Austin National Stuttering Association (NSA) chapter for four years, and was named the NSA Adult Chapter Leader of the Year in 2010. Presently, Mona is a bookseller at an independent book store in Austin.

Mona also compiled, edited and published a book called Turning Points, which features the stories of many people from the Austin NSA chapter.

Listen in as we discuss parts of Mona’s story, where she honestly and courageously shares her journey both with stuttering and ADHD. She has lived with ADHD as long as she has with stuttering and both have had a profound impact on her life.

We discuss whether Mona thinks there is a connection between stuttering and ADHD. Mona shares that both disorders are highly stigmatized and often the individual is “blamed for” having the disorder. Mona didn’t receive help for either stuttering or ADHD while growing up.

The second half of our conversation focuses on how the book, Turning Points, came to be. It was a two year process of gathering other people’s stories and at the same time overcoming and delving deeply into Mona’s own personal journey.

turningpointsMona shares quite eloquently why she didn’t include her own story, and how she feels very hopeful to have published a book. She is very pleased with how it turned out. You can purchase the book at Amazon or at the NSA online store.

Today’s music is credited to ccMixter.

On this last day in December 2012, I looked back at some of the many posts I’ve written since February 2009. It’s wondrous to me that I’ve kept up with blogging for almost 4 years.  Not everyone can say that. It’s easy to start something. The hard part is sticking with it, and sustaining it.

Writing takes effort, time and persistence. We write in the hopes that other people will read and be moved. We’ve either inspired them, given them something to think about outside of their experience or have called them to action.

Writing about a pretty narrow topic for four years also takes something else – the ability to know when I have something to say and when I don’t. And to not force it when there’s nothing there. I learned that the hard way. When I first started blogging, I thought I had to write everyday.

Then I began to question that. Who said I had to write everyday in order to be a success? Being a success in my book began to mean sticking to it – persisting with writing good content. And how did I know I was writing good content? Because people were reading and leaving comments.

That was good enough for me.

Now, I see that “Don’t force it” also applies to my topic itself – stuttering. When I have something to say and I am having a particularly “stutter-y” day, the best thing to do is not force it. When caught in a block, I try to remind myself (as hard as that can be) to not force myself to push through it. Sometimes it makes the block worse.

The best thing is to stop, compose myself and breathe through the block. Taking a moment to just breathe, and not force anything, seems to help me to move forward, freely.

So it is with writing. Don’t force it – write when there is something to say. And don’t write when there is nothing to write about.

Oh, if only stuttering, and life, were so simple.


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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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