2020 workshops and coaching

foliage-covered path leading into woody area

Dear humans,

This fall, I’m offering workshops and coaching!

Practice and sustain creativity in community, artistic, academic, and private settings. Meld mindfulness and a sense of play to re-envision creative work, reveal and heal the relationship with the inner critic, and gain access to joy.

I’d be thrilled to design something specific for you, or your:

  • COVID-19 pod
  • family
  • school
  • group
  • organization

If you are local and weather permits, we can meet outside with masks and physical distancing. Or I can work with your in-person group via Zoom. (Learn more on my workshop page.)

And follow the blog to be informed about upcoming Zoom workshop dates!

Love,

Rebecca

short story published in CROOKED HOUSES

CROOKED HOUSES anthology by Egaeus Press

(photo by Merida Kuder-Wexler)

My short story “Your House, Any House. That House” was published in Crooked Houses, a new anthology from Egaeus Press. The story was heavily inspired by the house in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where I grew up, which was burned down by the fire department (as an exercise) when the Village expanded Gaunt Park. (I am also writing a memoir about that house.)

The first printing of Crooked Houses sold out immediately, but the press plans a reprint in January 2021. It’s a great table of contents, and I’m honored to have my story included.

VESTIGES OF COURAGE by Mireya S. Vela

book cover of Vestiges of Courage, by Mireya S. Vela (cover art by the author!)

Vestiges of Courage, by Mireya S. Vela (cover art by the author!)

There are ways of saying things, making phrases and sentences that could not be any more succinct or perfect. It’s hard to describe, but I know it when I read it. When I consider the brilliance of Mireya Vela’s writing in her memoir, Vestiges of Courage, I marvel at her ability to work with a gratifyingly tight linguistic economy. In the memoir, Mireya exposes the toxicity and spirit/mind/body assaults women are expected to endure, and boils it down to the bone, illuminating the lived truth. Her act of peeling back, her lack of veil and refusal to bullshit carries incredible power. There is no time for waste, she seems to say. You just have to speak the truth.

For instance, on page 24:

“Women are trained into this type of acceptance:

‘Kiss your relatives.’

‘Hug creepy Uncle Manny.’

‘Don’t be uppity. You’re rude. Go sit on Uncle Joe’s lap.’

‘Uncle Manny gave you a gift. Show proper gratitude.’

‘Liar. He didn’t touch you. That’s your imagination. Why are you always such a drama queen, looking for attention?’

Whittle down the women. Take off all the rough edges till they are smooth and fit into the palms of men.”

***

And it’s beautiful how she writes about the armature of memory…on page 132:

“Sometimes I see people I know aren’t there. This has been happening since I went into therapy four years ago and I unhooked the memories from their anchors.

Memories float. No matter what you do, whoever you were 15 years ago can float to the surface to haunt you. It doesn’t matter if you are ready or if you are walking back to your classroom.”

***

And finally, she offers affirmation about the pain and necessity of healing. On page 134:

“I don’t talk to my psychiatrist about the people I see. I know she’ll heavily medicate me. I strongly suspect this is post-traumatic stress disorder. The problem with PTSD is that it prefers to unsettle you just as you feel you are moving beyond those memories. When you feel strong, the memories appear, waiting for resolution.

Instead, I go to my therapist. The words spill out of my mouth with trepidation.

‘Is it men?’ she asks.

‘Yes. How did you know?’ I say.

‘It’s out of the corner of your eye?’ she says.

‘Yes.’

‘Do they look like the men who hurt you?’

‘Yes,’ I say.

‘That’s common with people who have had sexual abuse. I’m sorry,’ she says.

‘I’m not crazy?’

‘No,’ she says, ‘You are just healing.’

‘Healing feels awful. Why am I doing this to myself? I just want it to stop.’

‘Because,’ she says, ‘you want something better for your children.’

‘Yes. Yes, I do.’

But for a moment, I think about quitting. Why do they call it healing when it feels like being ripped open?”

***

We need to do this work; we need something better for our children. We need more books with the inside of the human showing. We need more writers who can cut through bullshit, use deft strokes to arrange the words so that they accumulate to tell the truth. I am grateful for the act of humanity that Mireya Vela did in writing this book.

(And speaking of deft strokes, Mireya Vela is also a visual artist. Please go peruse her creations here: https://www.mireyasvela.com/)

HAGS ON FIRE!

 

shadow of person on wooded trail

(I miss the woods.)

Dear Humans,

This summer solstice, I’m elated to announce that my essay “Hot Thing #2 (2:30am)” was published in the inaugural issue of HAGS ON FIRE! Thrilled for the conflagration of sisterhood alongside Alma Luz Villanueva, Elaine Gale, Gayle Brandeis, Amy Buchwald, Michaela Carter, Amy Roost, Bridget Kelley-Lossada, Bella Mahaya Carter, Robin Harwick Jenny Forrester, Jude Walsh, and Barb Buckner Suarez…

…HAGS ON FIRE is a sparkly new literary zine featuring “Unapologetically embodied writing about menopause—minus the patriarchy.” (Extreme gratitude to Laraine Herring for noticing such a place was lacking in the world, and for manifesting HAGS ON FIRE.)

Please consider sending your work to HAGS ON FIRE! “We are specifically looking for work to feature from BIPOC folks, neurodivergent folks, non cis-het folks, and folks with physical disabilities.”

Love,

Rebecca

Open letter to the Yellow Springs Village Council

June 12, 2020

Dear Yellow Springs Village Council,

I am writing in support of declaring racism a public health crisis. It is a health crisis everywhere. Naming is important.

YS is a white-heavy town. We like to think of ourselves as part of the solution. But are we really part of the solution, yet? Even (maybe especially) in “progressive” places like this, (we) white people need to do real work–toil–not just giving lip service–to dismantle racism and white supremacy. Kindness is not enough. I know we humans are all at different stages in the process (internally and externally) of the walk toward true equality, and I think that calling racism a health crisis is a reasonable early step.

And: it’s just a start.

We have years of work to do, in our bodies and in our communities. Listen well. Listen well. White people need to listen before talking, and do what we can. Every day we can do more. Do what we can, inside and outside ourselves.

I hope this will be the real start of real change. I am committed to doing what I can. I hope the YS leadership will, too.

I encourage you to read this important book: My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem (read more and order it here: https://www.resmaa.com/books/). Resmaa Menakem writes about the trauma that racism inflicts upon bodies, specifically Black, white, and police bodies. We Americans (yes, even in YS) all carry racial trauma in our bodies, and until we work through and resolve that terrible condition, we won’t have real, lasting change, in YS or anywhere.

What a beautiful opportunity we have right now.

It’s going to be the most worthwhile work we can do in our lifetimes.

Please let’s not go halfway.

Respectfully,

Rebecca Kuder

 

Open letter to Joe Biden (Don’t go halfway)

I just sent the following to Joe Biden via his campaign website (https://go.joebiden.com/page/s/contact-us).

June 9, 2020

Dear Vice President Biden,

The U.S. stands at a moment of opportunity to make real and lasting change. We must work to dismantle systemic racism and white supremacy. You feel it, the momentum. I can tell that you feel it as I watch you speaking. As a white person of great privilege, as you journey toward the election and beyond, please make sure that you are listening carefully and thoroughly to people of color. Make sure that your circle of close advisors includes people of color, specifically Black Americans. Listen well. Listen well. Do what you can. Do what you can inside yourself, and outside yourself.

You stand to bring humanity back into the White House. I hope you will.

Please read this really, really important book: My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem (read more and order it here: https://www.resmaa.com/books/). Resmaa Menakem writes about the trauma that racism inflicts upon bodies, specifically Black, white, and police bodies. We Americans all carry racial trauma in our bodies, and until we work through and resolve that terrible condition, we won’t have real, lasting change.

What a beautiful opportunity we have right now.

Please don’t go halfway.

Respectfully,

Rebecca Kuder

belated, but still flowering

the book of flowering cover(May you be free from suffering and the root of all suffering. May you enjoy happiness and the root of all happiness.)

In the flurry of last year, I neglected to announce that THE BOOK OF FLOWERING from Egaeus Press is officially available to buy, here. My apologies for the delay! It’s a beautiful book, inside and out. My story “The Only Flower That Mattered” is included between these covers, and if you have the means, I hope you will consider supporting this lovely small press.

Below, you can read the first page of my story. I know you’ll want to read more!

1st page of Kuder story

essay “Cushion & Frame” in Bayou Magazine

Cover of Bayou Magazine #72

Bayou Magazine #72

(This post was written using the imperfect yet helpful voice typing feature on google docs, because I am recovering from wrist surgery. Please forgive typos!) 

I’m excited to announce that my essay, “Cushion & Frame,” was recently published in Bayou Magazine Number 72. Founded in 2002, Bayou Magazine is a biannual, national literary magazine published by The University of New Orleans. Bayou’s mission is to publish exceptional, exciting work by both established and emerging writers. “Cushion & Frame” is part of my memoir-in-progress. 

“Cushion & Frame” is also likely the most personal piece I’ve ever put into the world. Its publication leaves me heady and vulnerable. The essay deals with trauma and my history as a survivor of sexual abuse. When the essay was accepted, I realized that beyond the sweet sunshine of strangers believing in my work, they also believed my story. To a survivor, being believed is essential. And while I usually like having my work accessible online, I’m a little glad this one is only available in print. That fact makes me feel somewhat less exposed.

 I am grateful to beloved humans who read this piece at various points along the way, or in other ways provided nourishment, including Deanna N., Jahzerah B., Lisa P.,  Renee A., Diane B., Nick F., Jennifer N., Lisa B., Candace R., Elaine G., Kristin W., Vanja T., Rachel F., Anne E., Susanne F., Mary H., Amy C., JoJo K., Puy N., Dina P., Gayle B., and especially Melissa T. 

And especially Mama. And especially Hummy. 

I’m also grateful to the humans who invited me and heard me read and read with me in 2018 at AWP in Tampa for Tiferet Journal. And extra-rainbow-sprinkle grateful to Gayle B. for encouraging me to read that piece. And Mireya V. for a beautiful connection after the reading.

I hope I did not forget to thank anyone. So many have helped me survive and write this piece. Thank you all. 

(And may we all continue to heal.)

Issue 72 is available for purchase from https://bayoumagazine.org/.

 

Many Restless Concerns by Gayle Brandeis

many restless concerns book cover

Many Restless Concerns (a testimony)  by Gayle Brandeis

(This post is being drafted using voice typing on Google Docs. I am using this technology because I broke my dominant wrist and had surgery, and am still recovering.  Please excuse any Typos and imperfections!)

In thinking about my friend Gayle Brandeis’ new book, I recalled Joy Williams essay “Why I write” from her book Ill Nature. In the essay, Williams writes, “The good piece of writing startles the reader back into Life. The work– this Other, this other thing– this false life that is even less than the seeming of this lived life, is more than the lived life, too. It is so unreal, so precise, so alarming, really.  Good writing never soothes or comforts. It is no prescription, neither is it diversionary, although it can and should enchant while it explodes in the reader’s face. Whenever the writer writes, it’s always three or four or five in the morning in his head. Those horrid hours are the writer’s days and nights when he is writing. The writer doesn’t write for the reader. He doesn’t write for himself, either. He writes to serve… something.  Somethingness. The somethingness that is sheltered by the wings of nothingness– those exquisite, enveloping, protecting wings.”

I was thinking about how to talk about my experience of reading the new work of Gayle Brandeis. How these riveting verses accumulate into story, and along the way, yes, enchant, for their lyrical brilliance, and yet still, for their horrifying imagery, explode in my face. Although (please know) they are extremely unsettling and certainly violent, the voices of these (imagined or channeled) victims of Countess Bathory make their impression in part because of the importance of not looking away.  The lives of these girls and women, from the perspective of their torturer, were incidental, always a casualty to Bathory’s drive to torture.

The victims survived by adapting. As victims often do. On page 29, Gayle writes,

“We learned to stay upright, to work even when wounds wept beneath our sleeves; we learned to keep our voices down, learned to not look her in the eye; we learned fear becomes another organ in the body, pulsing gall through every vein.”

On page 35, Gayle writes about how the body keeps the score, writes about the words burn, drown, freeze, scald, verbs which were among the methods of torture, how they stay with the spirit even when the body is gone.

“…These words have become something more than words. They have become weapons, ready to get under the surface of you, pry you back open.

Your body remembers even when you no longer have a body.

(some tender part of you still flinches.)

( some immaterial nerves still flare)”

This short, crystalline book is not an easy read. After diving in and becoming quickly engrossed,  I was unsure how exactly I would get through it. But I trusted that Gayle–and the survivors’ spirits–would lead toward light. And they did. The victims, so many unnamed survivors, found and picked up their power through making a circle, banding together. And they needed to tell their story. Ghosts need witnesses. 

We need to witness.

From page 102,

“It’s fine you don’t know our names now.

 You know our testimony.

 You know enough to yell “Meat!”

 when we call out “Bone?”

 if you are listening

(are you still listening?)

 You know enough to lay some flesh upon our forgotten skeletons,

 to feel the weight of our death inside your own body.

 You know enough to remember how alive you are

(how lucky).”

***

I am grateful for the reminder, for knowing enough to remember how alive I am, and how lucky. 

writing with a missing piece of the self

graffiti: "whoever is reading this is Georgeous"

graffiti from the Mills Lawn girls’ bathroom

( Of necessity, This blog post was drafted with the assistance of Google docs voice typing. Please excuse Associated errors.)

January 12-29, 2020

On Monday evening, January 6th, I tripped and fell backward and tried to catch myself with my right hand, but broke my wrist. Dominant hand. Parentheses people keep asking about that. Which hand? end parentheses.

 in the middle of that first night, I was awake a lot, worrying, wondering when I would ever be able to use my right hand to do everyday things, like the morning pages.  since 1993, pretty much every day except some weeks following the birth of my child in 2007, I have handwritten 3 Pages first thing in the morning. the morning Pages have been a way of keeping in touch with myself, keeping myself sane.  That Monday night, my lower arm and wrist in a splint, unable to sleep because of the discomfort and the shock, I worried about when I would ever be able to use my hand again with such fluency. I knew that I could dictate text and email messages into my phone.   but this would not suffice for my planned January writing project.  

My intention  had been to spend this month putting together  many messy, complicated, and disparate files on my computer to  submit a manuscript in progress to The graywolf Press non-fiction prize contest. I had planned 2 submit my work last year, but this  Contest is only open every other year.  in the dark on that Monday night, I despaired, realizing I couldn’t imagine the way to do this as I planned.

 The contest is very competitive, and is a huge long shot, and I knew that, but it  seemed like an important thing to do anyway. there’s no reason to disqualify yourself by not trying.

it’s Sunday, January 20, now, and I have let go of gray wolf for this year. But I’m learning other ways to do the physical act of writing, even if it’s not quote unquote anything beyond process. In other words, even if it’s not something I will publish some day  Beyond my blog.

 I got my notebook out, realized quickly that my fountain pen wouldn’t work in my left hand, got a black Flair pen. wrote down the date.  Stated the facts about my right wrist, in very scrawly, funny lettering. everyday I have written with my left hand in that notebook, and it’s interesting what I’m learning.

 I also got on the internet and discovered that Google Docs has a voice typing feature which I am using to draft this right now. It’s been very helpful to use that feature for emailing on my laptop as well. So I’m not just limited to my phone.  hooray for Adaptive technology. and here I want to acknowledge that I am a baby in this land, and many people have been dependent on this technology for their lives, sanity, and livelihood. at any rate, I am very grateful that I can speak words and have them typed in front of me, even with typos and mistakes, some of which are very amusing, sometimes hilarious.  sometimes I have to slow down and speak again. To avoid typos, I have to push the words carefully out of my body, and even then, you see what you get. 

 As a writer who has always been very careful about correcting typos Etc and very hard on myself, with high standards about what my words look like when I share them with others, this is a humbling time. I am letting myself go. I am not sweating typos errors Etc. (I am learning that it is okay 2  eschew perfection. I had to type the word eschew, for instance, because the machine was not getting it right.) I’m just getting the words out. But when I dictate words that are typed on the screen as I am doing right now, I can only go in One Direction, my brain can only move step by step, word by word, mindfully, and it feels very limiting.  I must speak my punctuation. Of necessity, I am learning about slowness.

Similarly, when I write with my left hand on paper, I find that my right hand sometimes does what seems like a sort of lip syncing: my right hand sort of mimics my left hand, or tries to. Very interesting. I would love to see a functional scan of my brain during this process. But in the same way as when I speak words that then get typed on the screen, when I write with my left hand, I can only move forward,  only move in One Direction. My brain has to slow down. so that I can get the letters shaped, even messily or with errors, onto the page or screen.

 I have  taken for granted my way of writing until now. That I can write things in the margins, that I can zoom around in my head, have three or four things happening, or way more than three or four, in my brain while I’m also writing has been a luxury. I know that handwriting even with my dominant right hand makes me focus in a way that is linear, that is one step at a time, but this is very different. I’m not even sure how to describe it. All I can do for now is pay attention, try to learn something from this painful experience. 

As I form scrawled shapes with my black Flair pen on paper, sometimes I skip a line, sometimes I have to slow down and  print Or reprint words, sometimes writing cursive is easier, and in almost every way, I feel like a monkey. nothing against monkeys. Just that I’m  Not thinking in the way I am accustomed to thinking, but only doing what a body does. As well, I have been thinking about the Lynda Barry Workshop that I attended at Omega Institute. Lynda Barry talked about how when your brain starts to speed up while you’re  writing, try slowing your hands down. I tell my students this sometimes. slow down. I tell them to not Worry about catching the words, but slow down and focus on the shapes that your pen makes across the paper. 

(this is funny to me:  as I speak the word p e n,  repeatedly, Google Docs voice typing will only type the word  pain.) 

 following  Lynda Barry’s advice, in the past I would slow down on purpose sometimes when writing with my right hand. It was somehow reassuring and felt good. Right now, with Only my left hand, I have no choice. I can only do one thing at a time.  my previous self was Adept at mental multitasking, and now, that Way of being–That fast fast rabbit! somehow Always hustling, always trying to get it all done!– is no longer available to me. now I have to find a new way 2 think, teach, communicate, and be in the world. Now I have to slow down or else  Everything will be completely illegible.

 And maybe legibility is a questionable pursuit. Maybe legibility isn’t even the point.  Like when my daughter was first learning to form letters from shapes. Maybe right now the thing is just the physical  attempt, getting words out of body.

I imagine, or hope, that my brain is making new associations, new wirings.  that this accident will somehow change me in a way that makes me wiser. this does not mean I think everything happens for a reason. I do know that  Since January 6th, as I navigate the physical world, I think about ableism, ableism in myself and others, and about those who struggle with physical tasks for various reasons.  It had been an intellectual sense previously, slow down, let the person with mobility issues safely pass, let them have space to pass. let them not be invisible. Rebecca, you are not the only person in the universe.  There are others here too.