Gisele Rinaldi Siebold
Greene is a full-time writer and teacher of Write From the Heart creative writing
workshops. After September 11, 2001, she was moved to create a writing program
designed to share her belief that the act of writing––without stress––has the
power to console, illuminate and heal. She teaches adults, children and teens,
collaborates with schools and therapists, and leads workshops for cancer
patients at the Milton S. Hershey/Penn State Cancer Institute and the Lancaster
General Health Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute.
When did you start writing? How has writing opened
began writing stories around age 7. My father was a songwriter for Hollywood
movies in the 1930s and 40s. I would sit on his lap at the piano when he sang
his songs and savor the rhythm of his words, how they sat on each musical
phrase. It was impossible not to experience the deep relief and joy that words and
music brought to him. At these moments, I understood that writing was how he
went inside to find a softness he rarely showed. It was his safe haven, and I
wanted to connect with that place inside myself, too.
What inspired you to offer therapeutic writing
my 40-year career, I’ve written everything from advertising copy to Hollywood previews
of coming attractions. I’m also a published poet, lyricist and short story
writer. In the 1980s, I had the good fortune of working with a professor at
Williams College who highlighted the good in my work rather than the errors, helping
me to overcome anxiety and perfectionism. I learned to see beyond the academics
of writing into the heart of the work, and into myself; to value my passion for
writing over the need for publication. I discovered that it’s all about a
longing to express, rather than simply about technique; that humor plays a huge
role in helping us relax and write, so that ideas are able to unfold on their
own. Most of all, I learned that my responsibility as a mentor is to hold a
student’s deepest thoughts and feelings sacred.
How has the culture around therapeutic writing changed
both in general and in health care?
idea of expressive writing as emotional support, along with all the arts, is not
new but has long been undervalued, especially within the medical community. Thankfully,
those experiencing health challenges have recognized a need for healing options
and spoken up. Because of this, the arts are no longer designated as New Age, but
recognized as valid healing modalities. This is also thanks to oncologists and
therapists at hospitals such as Hershey Medical Center, who recently gave Write
From the Heart the opportunity to teach a clinical study researching the effect
of creative writing on cancer patients. With these and other positive results,
art and science have begun to link arms.
What is the biggest fear you see in new writers?
The idea that we must hit the page running, that greatness must pour out of us
within minutes, otherwise we’re no good.
What is your response to that fear?
there is no right or wrong in creating. Writing is not a machine requiring
answers. It’s a magic all its own, filling a person with the joy of
self-understanding and the freedom to feel.
What are the most important things writing has taught
you over the years?
is the place I call home. It has taught me to trust my instincts and senses; to
listen for and delight in the sound of geese in flight or the sight of dawn
breaking across the desert; to be patient as these images emerge. But
especially, that it is a frontier of endless surprises that lead to healing and
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