Writing Circles Give Voice to Life Stories
May 28, 2014 07:39AM
● By By Nancy Somera
At 400 pounds, Scott Feifer believed he would be dead by age 30. Then he woke up one day and realized he wanted to live more fully and freely, rather than just wait to die. After his newfound commitment to living, he began to call together groups of people that may have lived beyond the things that could have killed them to explore the lessons that their lives offered.
Feifer now develops, organizes and facilitates Writing Circles, a fast, reflective writing practice, in classrooms, detention centers, recovery programs, homeless shelters, support groups, prisons, probation programs and transitional houses in Lancaster, Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as well as a few in New Jersey and New York. As he explains the process, “I ask participants to stop, think and look back in order to orient themselves with right where we are now, in the present, and realize that there is no moving forward other than from the spot that we’re in.”
For these often-neglected segments of the community that are hungry to be heard, reading their personal stories aloud to a circle helps them feel valued. Putting their words on paper is more than just an exercise; for many, it creates solid ground upon which to stand. “It’s a way of making sense out of chaos,” Feifer remarks. “Learning to care about our own stories while being moved by the stories of others fosters a greater sense of empathy and works toward creating the kinds of communities that we all need and deserve.”
Feifer constantly sees how people are liberated through their writing; how they are able to take off their armor and masks and while reading to the circle, reveal a deeper part of themselves that is mostly unseen by others. This becomes empowering and helps those that have considered themselves victims realize their trauma and painful experience is only part of their story, not the whole story. “These circles are about exploring the bigger and better parts of our story,” he says.
Feifer works as a full-time seventh grade teacher, but still finds time to volunteer 15 to 20 hours a week to facilitate the writing circles. During summer months, he volunteers 35 hours or more per week. “This work is about being confused together and being strong together,” he comments. “The stories may be individual ones, but we are all writing the human story together. I have been humbled by the healing nature of naming what we think, feel, fear, hope or dream. I have been transformed by stepping into our communities and asking others to share pieces of their stories, to speak truths and to speak strength, to utter regrets, to name pain or anger or confusion or hurt, to remember joy or to describe what is loved,” shares Feifer. “I applaud everyone who has the courage to tell their truth.”
Contact Feifer at [email protected]