“I am so grateful for my experience at the Writer’s Guild Initiative workshop,it has given me my passion for life again…”
Sheila Greenfield, caregiver of a disabled veteran

The Writers Guild Initiative was born out of a desire on the part of several writers to use their talents to give a voice to populations not being heard. It was 2008 and while wars were raging in Iraq and Afghanistan, veterans of those wars got little attention back home.

Our first writing workshop with veterans in Columbus Ohio was such a success we were approached by the Wounded Warriors Project to partner with them on workshops with family caregivers, wounded soldiers, and doctors at the Landstuhl Hospital in Germany suffering from “compassion fatigue.”

Since then we have continued to work with veterans while expanding our reach to other marginalized populations, including exonerated death row prisoners, the Muslim Writers Collective, DACA recipients (DREAMERS), people living with HIV/AIDS, victims of Hurricane Sandy, LGBT asylum seekers, inmates at the Pendleton Prison in Indiana, NoVetAlone (dedicated to suicide prevention among veterans) and a group of chronically ill people in PortlandOregon.

Through our workshops, participants develop their writing skills and share the full range of their experiences. The success of the workshops depends on our mentors building trust and creating a safe and supportive environment. We have built an extraordinary roster of mentors, including some of the finest writers in the country from a variety of disciplines.

For participants, the result is a growing confidence in their writing skills and an enhanced ability to process their lives and the world around them as they discover their own unique voice.

Our program consists of two weekends of intensive writing. We divide participants into groups of 4-6 with two mentors in each group. A series of writing exercises is geared to increase creativity and promote attention to detail, description, and dialogue. The spirit in the rooms is one of trust, collaboration, and humor. The results can be transformative: one recent participant called the workshop “the singularly most important experience in my family’s life in the past five years.”

The response from participants through the years has been so enthusiastic we have started an online workshop where writers from our various workshops around the country can continue to collaborate with our mentors and each other. This dedication to the writing process has resulted in remarkable progress in their work, some of which has been published.

We also do micro-workshops with smaller populations and just a few mentors so we can respond quickly and efficiently to urgent situations, such as suicide among veterans.

We have grown since our modest beginning in 2008 but we maintain the ability to adapt to our fast-changing culture, with an eye to identifying populations whose voice is not being heard.

The writing workshops have deepened and enriched our lives as writers and as citizens by working closely with people we would not have met any other way. We are as empowered by the work as the participants. While the Writers Guild Initiative has gone farbeyond what we imagined when we conceived of it in 2008, it’s clear that our most important work is ahead of us.

We invite you to be a part of this effort. Please give generously to support what we do and volunteer your time to be an active part of it. We want to share what we do as writers: What’s your story? Find your voice. Tell it.

Richard Dresser
President, Writers Guild Initiative

Volunteer with the WGI

Opportunities to volunteer for WGI Programs are open for all Writer’s Guild Members.

As a member of the Guild, you have personal experience of the power of a story to change lives. Our mission is to bring the power of storytelling to the lives of people who need to tell their story.It’s not altruism, by the way; I am as self-interested as the next guy. The fact it, I have been consistently blown away, humbled, and moved to both tears and screams of laughter by the stories I’ve heard… You would not believe the stories!

Read more from Susan Kim, Mentor

As Michael Weller writes:

What these people share is an experience of life heightened by exposure to extreme events. What we bring is a conviction that writing is a way to honor the most deeply subjective parts of one’s being that may have been bruised or wounded in coping with these events.

What we gain is a sense that our skills (writing) are enormously valuable to people hungry to learn them, and even more significantly, from a writer’s point of view, we are granted a chance to share other people’s personal experience, and as writers to expand our understanding of the world.

You can read about Michael Weller’s experience with the WGI here.

And discover from writer Andrew Bergman how volunteering for the WGI is a little bit like sex.

If you’re a member of the Writer’s Guild and are interested in volunteering, please contact us here.

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