Jennifer Wolfe has journaled since she was 10 years old. Journaling is keeping a written record of your thoughts, feelings, observations, and experiences. A person can benefit from journaling because the process can help preserve memories, explore complex thoughts and feelings, or be used as a creative outlet.
In addition to being a journal-keeper, a writer, and a trained journalist herself, Wolfe is also the founder and certified facilitator of Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville, the local chapter of a national group that, since 1991, has provided a safe and non-competitive environment for individuals to develop their writing skills, cultivate their creativity, and strengthen their voices. Through group workshops, Wolfe encourages others to use writing in all forms, including fiction, poetry, memoir, personal essay, and creative non-fiction, as a gentle, but powerful, way to explore aspects of yourself, your life, and your relationships with others.
10 Questions with Jennifer Wolfe
What is the mission of your organization?
We are here for one purpose: To nurture and celebrate the individual voice by facilitating supportive writing circles and by encouraging people to craft more conscious lives through the art of writing and the practices of community.
When was your organization formed and how has it grown?
The first Women Writing for (a) Change school was established 25 years ago in Cincinnati by our founder, Mary Pierce Brosmer. Since then, we’ve trained new leaders and established affiliate schools all over the country; we’re one of them. We started holding classes here in Jacksonville in the fall of 2013. Our participation has grown significantly each year. Last year we reached more than 600 participants in at least 20 different classes with multiple sessions.
What strategies are in place within your organization for you to engage your audiences?
The entire purpose of our writing circles is to engage the audience. We hold participatory writing circles. We focus on the process of writing, not just the product. A strong product is a positive outcome, but, the most important part of the process, for us, is to create a safe container for participants to write, read their work, be listened to respectfully, and gather feedback as requested. The real “product” is self-transformation and therefore community transformation.
Why is art and culture important?
It’s important because it’s creative. And creative power is the most important cultural force that we have. Using the transformative process of art-making, we can create the kind of culture that we want to have. Art in general—in all its forms— helps us do that, and writing is a very specific way we can do that. The act of writing itself is a powerful transformative process. It leads to greater self-awareness and new understandings about our world. The latest brain research shows that writing can help you, literally, re-write the story of your life. We can re-write the story of our culture, also.
What’s your organization’s next major milestone and is this milestone part of a long-term plan?
Good question. Besides filling our classes each semester, one idea on the table is an anthology of our writing from the past few years, including from participants at the jail. There may be a book or a magazine that will come out of that. I’d also like to do another open mic to help raise more women’s voices in our community. We will probably create a 501(c)3 foundation to help raise money for our outreach programs. Finally, I’m considering a new book club focused on works by female authors and activists, especially those who are making a difference with their words out in the world.
What would you like to see in the arts and cultural community in Jacksonville?
More participation in writing circles! Writing can be an important tool for every artist, regardless of their medium. In fact, we held a series a few semesters ago using the book The Artist’s Way, and that was one of our biggest classes yet! So our local artists do already know, and are interested in, Julia Cameron’s process of daily journal writing to unleash creativity in all art forms. Also, while artists can benefit from more writing, EVERYONE in the cultural community can benefit from learning to use writing as a tool for transformation, self-awareness, and creative expression.
Does your organization partner with other organization(s)?
Yes! When we opened our doors, we wanted to align with organizations that share similar values and objectives, particularly those that serve women in our community. Since then, we’ve partnered with a number of groups, including:
What is a program offered by your organization that you’d like to highlight? Additionally, what is an organization that you think more people need to know about?
I think absolutely the most meaningful work we do is with the incarcerated women at the CTC. We run classes there three times a month, using exactly the same material there that we do in our outside classes. Their stories are powerful, and are shared in a setting that is safe and intimate. Their insights are proof positive that writing is a powerful act of transformation. I think it’s much more important what they find out for themselves by writing than what anyone else—including me—can tell them. I love facilitating that process, and I hope I can continue to get support in the community for that work. Also, more people need to know about Cultural Fusion. It’s a powerful model of collaboration within this community.
How do you stay up to date with the art and cultural happenings both nationally and in Jacksonville?
I enjoy all the local publications, especially the ones focused on art and culture. I love to read what our local writers and editors produce! We’ve got lots of talent. Nationally, I read The New York Times. I also stay connected to the larger national writing community, especially the expressive writing community, through The Center for Journal Therapy in Colorado. I also love supporting local institutions and artists, big and small, such as The Cummer Museum, Bab’s Lab, and Hope At Hand, among many others.
How can others get involved with your organization?
Sign up on our Women Writing for (a) Change Meetup page. You can register for our upcoming Spring Series, which startsWednesday, January 25, and runs for 12 weeks. Check out our free Fourth Fridays lunchtime series at the Main Library in the Maker’s Space. Read more about us on our website or Facebook page. You can sign up for our email list, too, and get our newsletter with updates and reminders on all our classes and activities! We hope to see you in the circle soon.
Questions? Comments? Submit something for consideration?
Please email Jihan@CulturalCouncil.org