Herstory is dedicated to the voices of women, silenced and unsung, or just coming into being . . .
“We all know our stories, but it is the act of shaping them that teaches us our journeys.” These are the words of Herstory’s founder and artistic director Erika Duncan, who pioneered an approach to memoir writing that over the past 13 years has touched over 2,000 lives.
Whether we are beginners or seasoned writers, we work with the belief that writing at its best can conquer oppression; indeed it can change hearts and lives. As each writer finds a way to recapture her memories so that others can walk in her shoes, she reaches the hearts of those who have helped her craft her story, and barriers that so often divide us begin to dissolve. Week by week and chapter by chapter, what was relegated to silence begins to be heard. Sometimes the result is deep bonding. Sometimes it is individual healing. But always the writing grows more powerful as blocks are overcome and larger structures are sighted.
The “Herstory technique" of daring each new writer to blaze a path towards reader empathy starts with the awareness that we don’t necessarily care about what is happening to the pale “paper stranger” we find on the page, unless the writer finds a way to let us in. Writing memoir with the hope of engaging the “Stranger/Reader” represents a giant leap away from the personal diary or intimate story that is told to a friend or a lover or therapist. Practiced in a guided group setting, it can bring about healing and understanding, even as it creates powerful art. Extending the “dare to care” into every stage of producing a written work, professors of literature are able to work on level ground with those whose main education derives from the lives they have lived, each guiding the other in the task of making memories come to life.
At any given time Herstory offers 11-17 weekly workshops, including three for women in prison, two in Spanish as well as numerous community options for women and girls. Through our public readings, special thematic workshops and our magazines, we reach out to an ever-increasing audience. Our manual Paper Stranger: Shaping Stories in Community was published in October 2008, and is the centerpiece for our training program and special seminars. Not only is it used in our own training workshops; it is being circulated to writers, educators, healers and social activists.
Newcomers are always welcome.