Early fall newsletter: Writing workshop! New book! Book sighting!

Dear friends,

This was supposed to be the summer newsletter, but I was waiting to be able to share some big news with you, so let’s call it the early fall newsletter instead. Okay, are you ready? Here we go!

Announcing the Finding Your Voice Writing Workshop!

For more than two years—ever since my first book came out— I’ve been dreaming of leading a writing workshop for folks who, like me, struggle with depression or other mental illness. At first I envisioned it as an offering at in-person writing conferences, but then the pandemic happened, and kept happening, and I started to daydream about doing it as an online workshop. 

I thought about my own dream of being a writer, and how challenging it was to get there, and especially how the ebb and flow of depression and anxiety made it harder both to write and to believe in the importance of my words. After the worst depressive episode of my life, which took years to fully recover from, I wrote my first book, The Long Night: Readings and Stories to Help You through Depression. That was my best attempt to make a book into a friend, a companion for others who were going through what I went through, and to say in every way I could think of to say the words I most needed to hear myself: “You are not alone, and this will not last forever.”

But then I started thinking about people like me who struggle with depression and who also, like me, want to be writers, and I thought, I want to do something to support them, too. I’ve written three books now, I know a little bit about what it took for me to get there, what processes you have to go through both to write and to publish. I’ve been reading books about writing since I was young, from Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style to Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet to Rainer Marie Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. And I read as many books as I could by folks with depression as I researched my own books. I also have years of experience as an editor, as well as experience attending writing conferences and leading group discussions in my former life as a minister. 

So I started working on a six-week course, entitled Finding Your Voice: Developing Your Unique Way of Telling Your Story. Finding Your Voice is a six-week workshop for aspiring writers who struggle with depression or other mental illness. You will receive affirmation and encouragement, as well as an overview of four genres of writing: Poetry, fiction, essay, and creative nonfiction. Through six guided writing assignments you will have the opportunity to try out different ways of writing, to receive feedback on your work, from me and the other participants, and to offer feedback to others. By the end of the workshop, you will have six pieces of writing to build on, and a community of other writers to support and encourage you in your work.

A couple of weeks ago I connected with Quantum Spin Studios, a production company in California, and they were excited about the idea, too! They are going to help me with all the stuff I don’t know how to do, like setting up the landing page, handling payment and being there for support and questions throughout the course. 

Today we are moving ahead with presales, hoping to cast a wide enough net to find 50 people who are interested in registering for the course this fall. If you are interested, please sign up! And if you know anyone who might be interested, please feel free to share.

I’m so grateful that this is moving forward, and excited to create a unique space for us to practice our craft and encourage each other.

You can learn more, and sign up at https://workshops.jessicakantrowitz.com/.

Blessings for the Long Night preorders

In other news, my third book, Blessings for the Long Night, Poems and Meditations to Help You through Depression is available for preorder! Blessings for the Long Night is a companion book to The Long Night, filled with poems and short meditations. In both books my goal was to acknowledge the pain and struggle of depression, to sit with the reader for as long as it takes, so that no one has to feel that they are alone.

I think a lot about trees, and seasons, and the way our bodies and spirits are connected to that ebb and flow of energy and life. In Blessings, I use the framework of autumn, winter, and spring to explore the way a depressive episode can parallel that fall into fall, the deep cold and stillness of winter, and the glimmers of hope that come, haltingly at first, in the spring. Here’s one of my favorite poems from the autumn section:

The Death of Leaves

You are not the leaves
which blaze with color every fall, then fall
ground into the ground.

Their death is not your death.

No, you are the tree, which moves its energy
down in autumn, to the roots, in ample store.
Bare branches best prepared
for winter cold and winter winds.

That’s not to say the loss of leaves is not a loss.
The grief of losing all your color, your
connection to the sun
is real grief. The stripping is a real stripping.

But as every fall speaks of coming spring
and every winter holds its end in its beginning
your own sap will rise again in longer light
nourishing every small branch
and you, tree, human, living creature
will grow green life again.

***

You can preorder Blessings for the Long Night wherever books are sold, including Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and your local bookstore! Preorders count towards first-week sales, and first-week sales determine how much bookstores and websites promote the book, which determines sales, which determine whether or not authors can pay their rent, so if you’re able to preorder that would be lovely! If you’re not, adding the book to your wishlist (or to your “want to read” list on Goodreads) also helps a lot.

Look what happened!!

Portrait of the artist at B&N

I recently had the big first of finding one of my books in the wild, in a Barnes and Noble in Burlington, MA. The woman who looked it up for me was so excited to be a part of my big day, and made me pose while she took my picture. Apparently a bunch of Barnes and Nobles have The Long Night on the shelf. Let me know if you see it there! (It was in the psychology section.)

Thanks for reading along! And if you know of anyone who might be interested in the workshop, please do share! I’m confident there are people out there who will benefit from it, but I’m a little nervous about spreading a wide enough net to find them, so I appreciate any and all shares!

Till next time, all my love and hope,
Jessica

***

For more news, conversation, and community, follow me on follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! (I’m the weirdest and most honest on Twitter.)

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