This is a story about connection. About what happens when women sit around a table with a common goal of sharing stories. When people build trust, shed their armor, voice their fears, and speak their truth.
Five years ago, Nina Badzin and I rented a conference room at The Hopkins Center for the Arts and posted on Facebook that we were starting the Twin Cities Writing Studio for anyone who wanted to join a writing group with the common goal of sharing stories. No experience necessary. Just show up with your pen, paper or laptop and be open to the exploration of stories. Real stories, invented stories, your stories, someone else’s stories, stories that are not yet developed, stories that make you ashamed, proud or scared to reveal publicly but that you need to write.
As we begin our fifth year of our renamed and relocated ModernWell Writing Studio, of the women pictured, 11 of 12 are still with Nina’s and my original writing group. And the one who is no longer in the group lives 90 miles away and the commute was too tough. Of these 11 women, since joining the writing studio, five have completed manuscripts for books (one completed two manuscripts), one has published a book and her second book will be released soon. Four women started companies and two started a company together. One woman completed a memory book in honor of a deceased family member, one is now utilizing her writing to work with nonprofits, and one uses her writing to work with an at-risk population, and most have found community with women they never would have met otherwise. Every one of these women is using their need for storytelling to advance her own life story.
And this is just one section of the Writing Studio. We have two other sections—one led by Nina alone and one led by the amazing Kate Hopper. And the women in those classes are also creating magic right and left!
For both Nina and I, leading these groups and being inspired by the amazing women in them has been transformative as well. The writing group gave me the strength and support to release The Self-Care Solution in 2016 and motivates me to keep working on my two current book projects, one of which is a gift book illustrated by one of the women in the group. My inspiration to build ModernWell was born at this very table (pictured) in downtown Hopkins. I wanted a space for these incredible women and ALL women to gather and share their stories because we are all in our stories. Right now. Whether or not you are putting pen to paper, you are living your story! So why not do so in a community that cares about you, that is interested in your story and wants to be a part of what makes you feel whole. That is what we do at ModernWell. That is who we are.
Nina continues to publish articles right and left, write her friendship column, work on her novel, lead our ModernWell book club, and teach additional creative writing classes at ModernWell. Our partnership and friendship is rock solid. She is the head and I am the heart of the ModernWell Writing Studio, and none of it would have happened without her.
Here is what some of the ModernWell Writing Studio members have to say about their experience:
How has joining the ModernWell Writing Studio enhanced your life as a creative person?
“I would never have imagined the opportunities that have come my way as a result of the connections, suggestions, support, and accountability from being a member of the MW Writing Studio. Family, friends, and neighbors refer to me as a writer now. That wasn’t the case four years ago—because I didn’t have much to show that I was one! Now I do!”
“Being surrounded by a community of other motivated, creative people which has led to a renewed sense of purpose in my creative writing life.”
“This is very different from my day-to-day job, so I love having this creative outlet to stretch my brain.”
“It gave me back my voice and my confidence.”
What accomplishment are you most proud of that has come as a result of being a part of the MW Writing Studio?
“Having a play published and staged. Confidence. My first class I spent the entire time trying not to throw up, sure I didn’t fit in. By my last class others were telling me they couldn’t believe I had only started writing two years earlier.”
“Starting my own business.”
“Being vulnerable in what I’m finding I’m writing about and being open to exploring some of my more difficult memories and experiences through my writing.”
“My first book and now my second upcoming book. Just writing that is crazy to me.”
“I am proud of seeing myself as a VALID creative person. I am proud to have started a business based on my creative ideas. I’m actually proud of a lot of things, and THAT in itself is something to be proud of. I don’t think I’ve ever been all that great at affirming myself… I’m better at that, now.”
What has surprised you the most about being a part of the ModernWell Writing Studio?
“How the confidence from writing seeped into confidence in other areas of life. The empowerment of finding women who are just as scared, just as frustrated by the expectations of others.”
“The connections and that it wasn’t competitive, there is real support.”
“The genuine friendships I have formed and the sincere joy I have found from watching others succeed.”
Would you recommend the ModernWell Writing Studio to a friend who wants to start or strengthen their writing practice? If yes, why?
“YES! It’s a NONJUDGMENTAL place to go that provides structure and new knowledge without feeling formal or stuffy. If you don’t see yourself as a “writer”, others will simply because you show up. There’s no pecking order. No ego. Just women supporting women on their creative journey. LOVE LOVE LOVE!”
“Absolutely! MW has so much to offer….from the dabbling writer like me to the soon to be published novelist. There is something for everyone.”