My Right Livelihood Story
I was born hard-wired to make things. When I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn and New Jersey, I was never without a sketchpad, and I found solace in hours of playing the piano, painting, drawing, and doing any crafts that came my way. At 14, I fell wildly in love with poetry, and that love has lasted a lifetime.
When it came to making a living, I first turned to journalism, which got me to the Midwest, where I truly belonged, but I became too involved in the stories I reported. So I turned to grassroots organizing for five years, working in the labor movement, especially on environmental issues, leading a social services coalition, and organizing bioregional congresses. I started, staffed, and helped sustain many non-profits (including teaching myself grant-writing and fundraising) while writing poetry late at night. I loved the meaning and purpose in all this work, but it was hard on my body and soul.
Poetry brought me back to school where I discovered a twin calling: teaching, which I ended up doing at the college level for 33 years. This encompassed a decade at the University of Kansas, a stint at Haskell Indian Nations University, and 23 years working one-on-one with MA students -- mostly adult learners -- designing individualized studies at Goddard College. I also started leading community writing workshops.
Photo by Stephen Locke
Along the way, I realized how much my students and writing workshop participants -- as well as most others I knew -- needed to speak our truths and be well-witnessed. So I founded Transformative Language Arts (TLA), a field and profession rooted in individual and community transformation through writing, storytelling, music, theater, and other arts. First a MA program at Goddard, TLA continues to flourish through the TLA Network.
In concert with TLA, grassroots organizing, and spiritual callings, I developed Right Livelihood workshops, curricula, writing, and approaches as I realized how integral our livelihoods are to our health, creativity, and the stories we're living. For over 20 years, I've collaborated with and coached people on unearthing, articulating, amplifying, and enacting their Right Livelihood.
For my own Right Livelihood, I facilitate workshops, coach clients, consult with groups, and present talks and readings, all on growing our voice and vision. I also collaborate with singer-songwriter Kelley Hunt on Brave Voice writing and singing retreats.
What about poetry? It continues to travel with me along with writing fiction, memoir, and, with Kelley Hunt, songs. I've written or edited over two dozen books, including my mothership collection of poetry, How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems. Writing continues to tether me to mystery, sanity, presence, and the wonder of the living earth.
I make my home just south of Lawrence, Kansas where my husband Ken and I are stewarding 135 acres of prairie and woodlands that's also part of an emerging wildlife corridor. I still love making things, from collages to poems to songs to dinner. I'm wildly grateful to have found work that keeps unfolding and deepening my courage and creativity.