Thursday, March 19, 2009

Small Press Story #19: Placing Writing for Wellness in Churches

"We are calling about four churches a day to see if they would be interested in starting Writing for Wellness classes," says publisher Tom Blaschko of Idyll Arbor. "Most say yes. We follow up with emails: one from Dawn at Idyll Arbor (including a description of how a church could implement the program) and one from the author, Julie Davey. Dawn follows up a week later with a phone call."

Idyll Arbor's website for this book is

"If anyone reading about the program wants to get more information about starting one, they can contact Dawn at or call us at 360-825-7797," added Blaschko. "We think that these classes really help and are always looking for people with time, energy, and the desire to help others."

Sample Letter from author Julie Davey:
Hello, I'm Julie Davey, author of the book Writing for Wellness: A Prescription for Healing.

Dawn Craft at Idyll Arbor Publishers gave me your email addresses after you all asked for information about possibly teaching a Writing for Wellness class. Some of you may have also asked about one-on-one help for members of your church through in-home ministries.

I offer here some advice and counsel. Having been a volunteer writing teacher for more than eight years, I can tell you for sure that the process works. People need to write about what they are going through or have gone through and have never discussed.

Given the right setting and opportunity, they will.

You may be in a better position to help people than I often am. Most of the time I do not know the participants in my classes at City of Hope until they arrive at the classroom door. I must, in just a few minutes make them feel welcome and safe and willing to write about what they are going through. I have methods I have developed. I feed them, I hug them and I tell them I have found that we all have stories to tell, especially when we have been through a great deal. I promise them they won't have to read aloud and that I will help them learn some techniques they will find to be easy.

Here is my "pep" talk to you. Since I can't feed or hug you, here is my advice:

As you establish Writing for Wellness classes in your church, follow your beliefs, follow your heart. There are people who need your support and that of your church members. They need to write about how they feel and to do so in a safe and comforting environment. Your church is that place.

You may discover, as I did, that the religious beliefs of participants as they face extreme challenges in their lives are sometimes tested. What they believed before their child got cancer or they lost a friend to it may come into question. When they suffer great losses or have family separations, they need to write and talk about these upheavals in their lives.

Unlike in my classes which have been offered in a secular setting, City of Hope National Cancer Center, yours can bring spirituality and faith to the forefront.You may choose to refer people to the minister/pastor for Biblical explanation. You may choose to open and close your classes with prayer.

In my 33 years as a public high school teacher and college professor, I learned to avoid revealing my own religious beliefs in classroom settings. Had I been free to express those, as you are in your own church setting, I would have had much to say. My "mixed-faith" background of Methodist (mother), Catholic (father), Lutheran (husband) makes me more ecumenical than some, perhaps, but my belief in God has brought me through cancer twice and, I believe, has placed me in the classroom at City of Hope for more than eight years as I try to show, by example, that we are indeed, our brothers' keepers.