Putting Life, Art and Heart into Words
Feb 01, 2015 06:49AM
● By Gisele Siebold
Melissa Greene, founder of Write From the Heart, teaches creative writing workshops for adults, teens and children in an atmosphere of warmth, whimsy, compassion and trust. The professional fiction writer, poet and writing coach helps students notice the beauty, inspiration and hope found in everyday surroundings and guides them to see how the simplicity of making art enriches and transforms lives.
Greene reminisces about understanding both visual art and words as a child; she loved color, texture and the power of the senses. This led to the process she currently uses in her workshops.
Her process is simple and organic. She helps students find mindfulness through creative focus, emphasizing the art of seeing, reflecting, and then writing from what is felt in the soul. She celebrates nature, from the importance of studying snow flurries to noticing the quality of light through the blossoms of an orchid.
Greene reflects, “Creating should be fun—a comfort—especially in today’s hectic world. People think we don’t have time to create, but we do, we must. The process begins with slowing down, unplugging our technology and getting back in touch with our senses. That alone can lead to a happier, more creative life.”
In the 1980s, Greene received a grant to teach the elderly at Sweet Brook Nursing Home in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She created a program that heightened their sensory awareness by using objects to spark writing ideas. “Sitting in wheelchairs all around me, my students were delighted to touch the objects; things like a smooth shell or a bird’s nest. Using their senses, they described the items, dictated their thoughts to me, and together, we wrote poetry and short stories.”
In 2001, a devastating personal loss, as well as the 9/11 disaster, prompted Greene to move to Lititz, Pennsylvania, and start Write From the Heart. “I came to Pennsylvania to reinvent my life because I found the area had a gentleness about it that would allow me to do my work and bring healing to others.”
After founding her business, Greene spent two years in Manhattan using her therapeutic process in one-on-one creative writing sessions with the patients of Dr. Clarice Kestenbaum, a psychiatrist and professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University.
According to Greene, the core of writing, where healing occurs, exists in its process, not just the subjects. “Writing grounds us and whatever grounds us also heals. The written word transforms our lives by making them come alive.”
Intended to gently awaken the creative spirit without intimidation or pressure, her thoughtful, uplifting workshops are purposely free from grammar, punctuation, spelling rules and competition. Greene leads “with kindness and a touch of mischief,” so that playfulness trumps fear. Her process enables courage, confidence and hope, especially for individuals that have always longed to write but thought they could not.
Her latest project, “Cancer and Creative Writing: Who Knew?!,” is a free, creative writing workshop series for adult patients, survivors and caregivers, held at Lancaster General Health’s Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute, in Lancaster. Greene designed it to be “a safe haven for experienced writers and first timers alike.”
In 2015, she will host Memoir, Women’s Introductory and Fiction workshops, as well as workshops and camps for teens and children, in her Lancaster studio. Private coaching sessions are available for adults, teens and children by phone, Skype, FaceTime or person-to-person. Skilled, compassionate essay support is available to high school students and college applicants.
Greene says thoughtfully, “Writing from the heart isn’t about speed, pressure or getting published. It’s about taking a deep breath, harnessing what we feel and writing without fear.”
Gisele Siebold is a contributing writer for Natural Awakenings Lancaster-Berks edition who lives in Lancaster.