Herstory works with a distinctive method, based on playacting remembered scenes with a view to discovering how to fit them together into the larger stories that each writer wishes to tell. The moment a woman enters Herstory’s rooms, she is guided to a place in her memory, safe enough to hold her story, yet powerful enough to propel her project forward, for the months or years she wishes to devote to it.
It is relatively easy – even for the inexperienced writer – to find a strong scene and then another, and another. As the photographer points her camera, the skill is in the selection. But this doesn’t lead to connecting a lif e on the page. This is where the work of Herstory comes in.
As members first playact and then read aloud each new scene – with the vision of startling the Stranger/Reader (Herstory’s trademark) into caring – the game of finding powerful structures becomes equally available to all. Each group member becomes a teacher to the others, regardless of her level of formal education, as college professors and those who didn’t complete grade school work on crafting literary works side by side.
To go into deep places in front of another is a risky, scary thing; it is something we don’t normally do before an audience. Yet isn’t that precisely what we aim to do, when we write for a stranger? To shape each page and each moment to allow us to share our “trance” states in the making, is part of why the writings of the women of Herstory are startlingly powerful, regardless of whether they have any previous writing experience. It is also part of the safety and the bonding experience that make the Herstory community so powerful.
Many women who have never written before find themselves writing books. For a taste of the topics covered in Herstory’s manual, we invite you to peek at the table of contents. Paper Stranger, our manual, takes its title from the fact that if we do our job right, our listeners and readers will forget we are mere paper strangers, as our stories come to life on the page.