AROHO is a fantastic organization that is dedicated to serving writers at all stages of development. I recently attended their retreat at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico and it more than met my expectations. I had the privilege to work with some of the most talented and supportive people I have ever met. I walked away not only inspired, but with practical tools that I will continue to use. I give AROHO the highest recommendation possible.
I learned about AROHO in 2005 when I was first "coming out" as a writer. What a supportive and amazing organization. They put the "unity" in "community" for me. I can't say enough about what this organization has meant to me and countless other women artists. This is why I volunteered with them to begin a small version of their biennial conference in Texas--to spread the word.
New Mexico lives up to its name, the Land of Enchantment, and AROHO exceeded all expectations. The unknown poet in me surfaced, my pages filled with notes, ideas, words. My purse grew heavy with rocks, leaves, and books.
Without the fellowship that I received I wouldn't have been able to attend. In a supportive and nurturing environment all women were encouraged to listen, share, and write. I am blessed to have shared space, time, and words with many amazing women.
My first face-to-face with AROHO began at Ghost Ranch in 2011. I brought intention and question and left with purpose and answer. I had found a community of writers, who shared and challenged and accepted me. I returned home determined and enriched. Over the next two years I kept in touch with some in the community and often reflected on the impact of this organization and my connection to it on my writing life. My second face-to-face with AROHO was at Ghost Ranch in 2013. I brought focus and hope and left with gratitude and commitment. The women I interacted with, and those who I sat with under the stars, in the places where we ate and read and listened to others read, are individually and collectively my AROHO sisters. It is this support, this shared dream, this enriching and accepting that makes this organization a unique group for women writers. AROHO continuously offers guidance, help, support, and acceptance for our writing life. It is truly a great nonprofit.
I came to AROHO as a writer invited to hold the space for a small group of women writers. What happened in my first retreat in 2011 was that -- by about the end of the second day -- I realized a space was being held for me too. This year, 2013, I took another invitation: to evolve what the space could be and to meet others in a space we made together. I still have very few words (ironically) to describe what happened on the last day of our small group: we went to a river in the Chama wilderness. And we let something dissolve. We let go of something: debris, glitter, clay. There was a verge. There was magic. I had a room of my own -- a gift that was immeasurable for many reasons. Beyond my immediate small group experience, I was very moved by the grace and fierceness of the AROHO community as a whole -- whether at lunch, or in the hot springs, or in the library or during a talk or other offering. I returned to my life at home feeling braver and more resilient than I had in a long time. AROHO is about surrender. It's about not feeling ashamed of your life any more. It's about healing as much as writing; at least, that's what happened for me. On the last night, there was dancing. Normally, I love to dance, but I was exhausted -- in a good way. In the way that I am after a long travel to India. This was New Mexico. I went back to bed and lay there, my heart bursting with gratitude for the day and the week and the journey there and back. AROHO was magic and chance and connection and love and community and joy. I recommend it to anyone who wants to connect to what a writing life could truly be. There is a labyrinth at AROHO. There is a red thread at its entrance. See: Ellen McLaughlin's keynote talk, 2013. There are beautiful, vibrant and immensely compassionate friends.
I had never had a writing class, and when I received word that I'd won a fellowship to AROHO's Women's Retreat I cried and embarrassingly re-enacted the scene from Pinocchio when he becomes a real boy...I could hardly believe I was being taken seriously as a writer. I'm still struggling to put into words how the week itself affected me - being nurtured with strong women writers, teachers, friends, and all sorts of superlatives that are simply too weak to explain how I began to take myself seriously as a writer, as a meaning maker, and to innately value my truths. I work 65+ hours a week at my day job, and find myself waking up in the middle of the night, compelled to write. It's been so powerful to uncover what's been there all along.
AROHO's 2013 Retreat came at exactly the right time in my (writing) life, but I was not expecting it to be quite so pivotal in transforming my sense of self. I'd read about the "creating community" aspect, but thought, "that won't happen for me -- I've never felt part of a community in my life". Well, I do now. Everyone I met was interesting and engaging. I learned more about myself, about my connections to place, and about how I've changed over the years than I thought would be possible in 1 short week. I met so many amazing people there!
I'm counting the weeks until the 2015 Retreat.
Today, I sat at the edge of Old Mill Pond, sat in stillness on the rock there - and thrilled at the Great Blue Heron that appeared in the reeds. And so such gifts often arrive when we most need them - surprising, magical. Like AROHO... which I first came to know while attending their 2011 retreat for women writers: "A Dream of Our Own: Women Writing New, Women Writing True." I have recently returned from their 2013 Retreat for Women Writers which somehow was even more amazing than the retreat in 2013.
And I have thought a lot about how that "somehow" happened to be and this is what I believe: this magic is not accidental. Yes, some of the beauty of AROHO is beyond anyone's control and happens by virtue of the magic of bringing a bunch of creative, smart, generous women together. But AROHO also works because its talented founders, directors, board members and advisors have vision, tenacity, and a deep commitment to their mission AND they are smart about running a non-profit. Some non-profits have great vision but lack great leadership - AROHO is blessed to have both vision and leadership. And we who benefit from this - hundreds of women writers - are blessed in turn.
My recent attendance at and participation in the AROHO retreat was my 2nd experience there. Immediately following the 1st retreat I attended in 2011, i was convinced nothing could ever surpass my AROHO / GHOST RANCH experience. Truly it was life altering in so many ways! But I was wrong on it's impact. This year's retreat did surpass my prior experience largely because I was more receptive to all that I cld gain and everything being offered at th e retreat.
Like so many experiences, the retreat seems to improve with each doing and those who attend it are the luckiest beneficiaries.
I was first attracted to AROHO when I read the description for their 2011 retreat which put out a call for women across the writing spectrum to gather and share their strengths, inspirations, and challenges with one another in what felt like a unique structure: everyone would give, everyone would receive. I loved the challenge of putting together ten minutes of something worthy for a Mind Stretch to inspire the group and loved being trusted to teach a small workshop, and loved having the opportunity to do a little poetry consulting.
AROHO opens its arms to wherever a woman writer is on her public trajectory of writing and creates a week long venue where she can literally try out new ways of being and thus emerge redefined. The friendships I fell full heart for are deeply rooted in that bedrock of self-discovery, change and joyful fulfillment--relationships that sustained me the two years until the next retreat and relationships I will have for the rest of my life. I love AROHO's sincere focus on the collaborative beauty of women writers pursuing their dreams, shoulder to shoulder.
Ever since a friend of mine told me about the Gift of Freedom Award from AROHO, I have watched the website to see who received the generous gift of $50,000 as well as to see what other activities were going on with the group and with the women writer's retreat at Ghost Ranch. Finally this year I was able to attend the amazing retreat. Retreat may be a misleading word in this case; there is more connection than retreat among the women writers. In addition to providing time and support for a very diverse group of women, the organization--in the way that it conducts its business--is a model of generosity and professionalism. And when I say the group is diverse, I mean that in the truest sense of diversity: age, economic background, beginners & professional writers, etc. The economic diversity among the women is one of the things that makes this group unique, in my experience. It is not a retreat for only those who can afford it. AROHO will do everything it can to see that a woman who might be able to afford the conference fee or the travel to a rather out of the way location can be part of AROHO. It is a model of the spirit of generosity.
I sobbed the day I graduated. I was trading a home in academia for a home in laundry and diapers. How does someone cope with that? We only had one car. I would literally be at home with a baby—stranded.
Thankfully, four months after my graduation, a stranger reached out online, encouraging me to come to an AROHO day conference in Austin. I came to the conference with a pad filled with questions, notes, and scribbles, but after hearing Mary Johnson ask us to embrace vulnerability, something pulled my hand into the air, and I asked the question at the heart of all my darkness: “I love my daughter and husband, but they tie me here. I can’t leave for a residency or a retreat. Heck, we could barely afford this place. I feel stuck. What I do? I want both. Can’t I have both?” I felt stupid crying in front of an ex-nun. She likely doesn’t even have children. I thought. She probably doesn’t even get it. I don’t remember Mary’s answer.
But I remember the surge of AROHO women who crowded around me. They held my hands, my shoulders. They kissed my face, wrapped their arms around me. They shoved bits of paper in my hands, business cards, bookmarks: “This is a virtual residency,” one said. “This is a writing mother blog.” “This is my email.” Weeping, I held to their scraps of paper like scripture. I had found home again.
Since that day, I have found the fortitude to continue with my writing endeavors and be a mother. I have attended the AROHO writing retreat on a much-needed fellowship and made life-long connections.
AROHO has not changed who I am as much as it has awakened me to myself. I never knew how much I missed myself until I came to AROHO.
AROHO offers support, connections, and creative renewal for women writers and artists that they won't find anywhere else. Through the 2011 and 2013 retreats, I've gained confidence, developed lifelong literary friendships, and become part of a vibrant national community of writers. This kind of support is rare, beautiful, priceless!
AROHO has changed m life. Before attending their 2011 summer retreat, I was a writer who was too timid to tell people I write. At that retreat, I encountered wonderful, caring people who encouraged me to feel confident in my words. I made lasting friendships with women from around the country. Before this year's retreat, I was nervous. Could it come close to the last one? To my surprise, it was even more inspirational. I came away feeling empowered, ready to proudly say I am a writer. I have completely changed my writing routine. I now get up at 5:45 a.m. to write before going to my middle school teacher job, something I never thought i could do. AROHO says they are out to transform the lives of creative women -- they are doing just that.
BEING in contact with a room of her own foundation has led to my actually renting a room in which to write- The foundation is a great moral booster and an encouragement. Maybe someday I will submit. I am a published poet working on a creative non-fiction piece which incorporates poetry. I live in the northeast, cannot get away for any length of time and cannot participate in the activities of the organization.
Living abroad is wonderful for the a writer. There's a wealth of smells, sights, tastes, experiences--but a dearth of support, including grant money, if you write in English. A Room of Her Own Foundation is an invaluable, and international, source for women who write in English.
AROHO brings women artists and writers into a room together, there I found inspiration, acceptance and encouragement. At the retreat last August, I met women of every age. The atmosphere at AROHO is invigorating. When I read my poems the acceptance of other writers is so strengthening The newsletter keeps us informed and connected.
I've been following the activities of AROHO for years, and I make a point of reading the work of women writers whom AROHO supports. The work that comes from the support of this foundation is incredible. It is clear that the organization provides much more than financial support, providing a community much needed for women writers. I've entered several of their contests and found the process seamless and rewarding!
Hope. Inspiration. Dreams. All of these have been nourished with A Room of Her Own. Work. Support. Illumination. This is all available, and most encouraging. My book will be written. And AROHO will be an important contributing factor. Thanks, AROHO!
I have had the honor of working with Darlene in some early brainstorming about this great organization. I also taught "Overcoming Creative Obstacles" at one of the Ghost Ranch retreats and was amazed at the incredible talented women that attended and the loving support they gave one another. This is a high quality organization that is doing breakthrough work for women.