Pathfinders Build Community
Welcome, Dreamwalkers. Today I invited my dear friend, Katherine Grace Bond, to talk about the paths that lead us out of Isolation to Community.
Katherine’s been creating community for as long as I’ve known her. She’s an author, writing teacher, a bridge builder and a pathfinder. Today I asked her to share the background to her newest innovative community serving writers at all stages of the writing process.
Labyrinth, An Academy for Writers.
Photo Riccardo Farinazzo Unsplash
Imagine a dedicated group of fellow-writers who understand and face the challenges with you.
Imagine a teacher who listens deeply and gives you tools built from thirty years of experience
Janet: Hi, Katherine. I’m in my upstairs office with ginger tea. I’m also armed with fortune cookies, which you can ask me to open at any point in the conversation (if you dare!). Where are you, and what’s your beverage?
Katherine: I am in my new office, not yet set up. My son moved out, so it’s just a big room with a desk and chair, at present. But I LOVE the acoustics for violin and voice so much I don’t know if I want any more furniture.
I’m drinking coffee with a little honey and milk.
Janet: Sounds delicious! And yes to acoustics. I used to sit halfway down the stairwell as a kid and sing “My Favorite Things” where I’d hear the echo. Speaking of favorite things – I love creative innovation, so I’m excited to hear the story behind your newest venture.
How did you come up with Labyrinth?
Katherine: I’ve been brainstorming a group coaching idea for a long time. You know I do 1:1 coaching for writers, which is one of my favorite things–love that energy, and seeing a WIP grow and change. I love seeing my writers finish their novels. I love it when they get an acceptance!
But I wanted to offer something more affordable that also gave long-term support for writers with big projects. A place with the collegiality and accountability a group offers. A place that offers something for people, wherever they are in the process. A place for feedback and brainstorming. For those lightbulb moments that come with group synergy.
I also realized that I want to go on teaching craft with my classes and retreats. When I take a writing class, my favorite thing is those quirky angles on craft another master writer can offer me. Things I haven’t read over and over. So when I teach, I play with craft, thinking of new angles, new metaphors for how to approach story. That keeps it fun for me and for the class. We need each other’s unique ways of looking at things, you know?
Janet: Yeah! So you were already doing all these things. When did you have that Ah-Ha moment to put it all in one place? I’m crazy for Ah-Ha moments!
Katherine: Well, people already take my classes and retreats a la carte. I noticed that students were always asking when the next one would be. I was driving around in my car, brainstorming aloud–sort of my unconventional approach to prayer (I figure people who look over from the next lane will just think I’m talking on my Bluetooth.)
Janet; Ha Ha!!
Katherine: Yeah. That’s when the word “academy” popped into my head. I realized that if I took the time to plan an integrated program over several months, adding in the group coaching, it made the whole thing way more affordable, and allowed people to sustain their practice over a long period of time.
So it would have three things: group coaching (support for specific projects), classes (tools for craft), and day retreats (an oasis of time to explore a topic together and then dive into your writing.)
Janet: I love that story! I know you’ve been working on launching Labyrinth for months. Secretly working away at it in your echoing office and long into the night (when not playing the violin). You planned to have most classes online, I believe? It was prescient of you to be working on this dream, getting ready to launch right when Covid-19 hit though you had no idea what was coming. Following your vision and working toward it, you were able to swing into online classes when writers had to stay at home.
We’ve all hit a big unseen plot twist in our lives. I’m glad you were there to offer something creative to bring us out of isolation.
Katherine: This pandemic is really scary. I’m reeling with concern for family members who have it or were exposed. I am so grateful to have already had online coaching and classes in motion for a couple of years, which has allowed for more geographic diversity. It does make the pivot smoother for me and my students.
For so many on the planet right now, online is the only way we’re able to connect outside our households. I’m seeing some wonderfully innovative uses of the online space among artists–virtual artwalks, Zoom choir performances, long-distance opera. Many critique groups have moved online (including yours and mine, Jannie!) My gym is now offering live online workouts. And people have access to continuing education online that they would have had to drive to in the past. If you’re feeling sluggish, try reaching out to some friends for an online open mic or a virtual ideas-share for your writing. These kinds of things are lifting my spirits so much. And, if it resonates for you, I hope that other writers who find themselves isolated at this time can find connection in the Labyrinth.
Janet: Thank you for encouraging writers and for giving us hope. We who work alone need to be reminded that we are wanted and welcome, and we are part of a community.
Should I open the fortune cookies?
Janet: Here they are:
1- “Your eyes are the windows of your soul. Don’t worry. Be happy.”
2- “Your present plans are going to succeed.” I think 2 is for you, Katherine.
Katherine: Maybe #1 is, too. #2 is, I pray, for everyone.
Janet: Yes! And I always say you have to eat them to make them come true, so I’m eating both for you and for everyone. (0 grams of fat and cholesterol) Yummy! Okay, I wanted to give Dreamwalkers another story –a taste of the kind of things that happen on your day-long retreats. You told me something about GIFTS FROM OUR ENEMIES. Will you share it?
Katherine: Yes. I like to do the exercises with the retreatants when I can. This one had to do with “becoming” one of your enemies and seeing the world through their eyes. We all went outside and quietly walked. (We can go outside in our virtual retreats, as well. You’ll go outside in your own environment.) I use the term “enemy” loosely. In literature, the “opponent” is often someone beloved.
In my case, it was a best friend whose friendship I lost in the eighth grade.
When I looked at the lake, the island on the lake, the cattails, the rotting leaves on the ground, through the eyes of my friend when she was thirteen and vulnerable and in a time of great family change, I remembered saying something very hurtful and judgmental to her. Something that grew out of my own thirteen-year-old sense of morality. I didn’t even think it had anything to do with her, personally. But looking back as an adult, I know it sounded like condemnation of the core of who she was. I suddenly wondered whether she had abandoned me (which was the story I’d always told myself) or if I had abandoned her.
This moment of connection with an opponent transfers over to my fictional opponents, as well. While we all want to give story opponents depth, there was something about that emotional connection with a real person, who is still lodged in my heart, that was profound to me.
Janet: Thank you for sharing this story. I felt a chill. And, yes to trying this practice both in life and in our fiction. I’ve used what I call the “becoming” meditation to get inside the body of a character — to feel their physicality and understand where they are emotionally. This is a profound thing to do with someone we feel judgmental towards or someone with whom we have animosity or unfinished business. The insights are deeply surprising and healing — as yours were.
Katherine: You know, I think I got that “becoming” exercise from you. Since you told me about it, I’ve thought of the “becoming” prayer often in reference to both characters and real people but had not stepped into it like I did that day.
Janet: So much awaits us when we enter in.
One of the reasons I love working with you is your courage to do just that. In writing and in your workshops. I like the sound of your upcoming one-day-retreat online this coming Saturday, 3/28. What made you want to explore OPENING THE FORBIDDEN DOOR
Photo– Dima Pechruin Unsplash
Katherine: The idea of secret rooms in our psyches. I’ve got wounds and memories I don’t want to touch. And as a human who has learned to be gentle with myself, I don’t force myself to touch them. They will be there when I’m ready. I have gradually opened those doors when I’ve had the support and safety to do so.
But we writers need to know our characters intimately. We need to ask them questions and learn things about them they may not be ready to share. Why? Because that’s what story is. It’s meeting a character at a crossroads, when the thing they want least to deal with is thrust upon them, like it or not. We’ve all had those moments when the door has been forced open. It’s not fun, but it’s often when we find courage we didn’t know we had. The same is true for our characters. If we can discover what the forbidden doors are for them, we can call them to courage. And that’s a kind of storytelling readers are craving–to follow a character through their forbidden door and discover what they will do there. It’s a reason that stories can be so healing to readers–and to writers, for that matter.
Janet: I think the forbidden door for my character Uma—from In the Time of Dragon Moon, was the moment she was forced to heal her enemy. She had to dig deep beyond her hatred for the English Queen who held her and her people captive and move beyond her own self-hatred (because she was half-English). Thank you for this workshop idea. Can Dreamwalkers come to this online retreat day?
Katherine: Thanks for reminding me of Uma. I so loved In the Time of Dragon Moon. I would love for Dreamwalkers to come to OPENING THE FORBIDDEN DOOR. My only requirement is no laundry.
For this retreat, guard some time for yourself at home when you can immerse yourself in your writing for a few hours. You’ll get to discuss these ideas with fellow writers, to step outside if you can, and to take a deep dive into your work. At the end, we’ll have a chance to read to each other. I think our psyches need this, especially now. And oh! This retreat isn’t officially part of Labyrinth, but if you sign up for Labyrinth before the retreat, you get it as a bonus.
Janet: Thanks for that, Katherine, and for all you’re offering the writing community at this time. We need the stories everyone is writing now more than ever. Though many of us work on our novels, memoirs, and poetry alone, we don’t need to Dream alone. Better to support one another and share our Dreams. This is how humanity will find its way through. I believe future readers will be holding many books, reading many tales that are birthing now.
Katherine: That’s my hope. I’m so grateful to fellow writers. Honestly, you all keep me sane.
Dreamwalkers, as we walk through this time, may each of you be a pathfinder. May you find community, health and love. Until next time. Walk well.
Whew! What a fun interview, Janet! So happy to be on a dreamwalk with you.
Yes! I enjoyed adventuring with you, Kit.
Hi, you two! So good to read your conversation. And great to see what you’re up to these days, Katherine, prophetically being available with online retreats and all.
Hi fellow author and artist, Margaret.
So glad you enjoyed our conversation.
Yes to prophetic online classes and retreats right when they are needed. Artists keep their ear to the ground — sometimes first to hear the rumbling.
Hope you are staying well an finding artful moments. – Janet
Such a soothing balm to read this conversation today. Much love to both of you. I’m so grateful to have you in my community. ❤️
It’s always such a treat to talk about creative solutions. Reminds me of your book, Be A Changemaker: How to Start Something that Matters.
We pass the inspiration on.