Dear All - I wanted to reach out with some exciting news. As many of you know, in 2011 The Voices and Faces Project launched "The Stories We Tell," the country's first testimonial writing workshop for survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence and trafficking. Created by writer R. Clifton Spargo, an Arts Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, our program brought together a diverse community of survivors, each seeking to write and speak out about sexual violence.
Over the course of our reading and writing focused two-day program, which debuted at the Chicago Cultural Center, workshop participants engaged in an innovative series of writing exercises that emphasized fiction, creative non-fiction, memoir, and poetry. During one such exercise, we asked our participants to write about sexual violence from the perspective of someone of a different sexual orientation or gender. At that time, workshop participant Christa Desir - a Voices and Faces board member - conceived the idea for a YA (young adult) novel, written from the perspective of a male high school student whose girlfriend is raped at a party - a scenario that those of us working on sexual violence issues have encountered all-too-often.
When Christa read her piece out loud during the workshop, we knew that she had written something special. What we did not know was exactly how special: coming out of our workshop, and with the encouragement of our Voices and Faces Project team, Christa expanded that initial writing exercise into a novel, and subsequently sold her book to Simon Pulse (a division of Simon and Schuster that targets the young adult audience). "TRAINWRECK," a compassionate and candid exploration of the gang rape of a high school student and the responses of her friends, boyfriend and community to that tragedy, is an important and much-needed book - one that will reach high school students "where they are" with a message that they very much need to hear. It will be published in fall, 2013.
Books like Christa's have the potential to do more than engage. They have the power to create change by showing the heartbreaking and all-to-human costs of sexual violence. In a world in which the media too often celebrates violence against women and girls, we believe that TRAINWRECK will provide a very different perspective - one that can lead to a more compassionate and activist public response to sexual violence.
For the many of you on this list who helped to make that pilot writing workshop possible, thank you. For those of you who are interested in bringing the writing workshop to your own communities, I look forward to speaking with you! I'd welcome the chance to tell you more about our workshop plans for the future, and to detail the support that we are seeking so that we might realize those plans in North America, and beyond.
With gratitude and respect for each of you,