Finding Your Own Voice in Writing, a monthly creative writing program at the Swedish MS Center, was scheduled to start in March 2020, the same time social distancing restrictions began in the Seattle area.
One of many free wellness programs offered by Swedish for people living with or connected to multiple sclerosis, this class had to quickly convert an in-person program with live feedback, peer reviews, and guided instruction to a completely virtual class using unfamiliar software for brand-new students.
Instructors Richard and Evelyn Arvey were up to the task. Richard, an experienced university-level teacher and editor with an MA in English, and Evelyn, a published author, were quick to adapt the class for Zoom collaboration. Through creative and clear class structure, thoughtful homework assignments, and peer feedback via Zoom breakout rooms, this program has flourished as a source of connection and self-expression during an increasingly isolating time.
“Finding your Voice is my new community. A shared sense of trust, respect, and genuine support for each other has deepened over time,” says participant Lucinda Hauser. “Using laughter, probing questions, and, of course, constructive criticism, we analyze each other’s writings and learn about each other. I love our group and value our time together. It is a gift that allows me a break mentally from a progressive disease that continues to take so much from me physically.”
Now, a year after this program began, the students and instructors are challenging themselves and each other to work on longer and more creative essays, some of which will eventually become a published book of short works from all the students.
Says participant Katie Yusuf, “MS makes it difficult for me to unblock my thoughts at times and untangle my words, but learning to write has given me a new way to communicate. It allows me to not only tap into the creative recesses of my mind but also share a part of me in my stories.”
Read monthly featured stories from the Finding Your Own Voice in Writing Program here.
Click here for more information about the Swedish MS Center, and other virtual wellness programs. Swedish MS Center Wellness programs are free and open to anyone living with multiple sclerosis.
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