ASHEVILLE—Meta Commerse, founder of Story Medicine Asheville, will lead the session "Story Medicine 2.0" at the North Carolina Writers' Network 2019 Fall Conference, November 8-10, at the Doubletree by Hilton Asheville-Biltmore.
Registration is open.
Meta Commerse studied health, history and writing at Goddard College. Her community-based healing work began with a focus on domestic violence prevention. Blending her study and work, she demonstrates story as medicine across genre. She is an award winning writer, performer and seasoned teacher originally from Chicago, living in North Carolina since 2009. Meta founded and launched Story Medicine Asheville in 2011, and continues to empower her students with story medicine applied to today’s topics, both through UNCA’s Great Smokies Writing Program, and as an independent scholar. She is the author of six books, including Landscapes of Abuse (2001), Rainsongs: Poems of a Woman’s Life (2012), her novel The Mending Time (2014), her forthcoming untitled memoir, and her second poetry collection, Rhubarb Pie.
This year, NCWN has been celebrating libraries, so we asked Meta to give us her best library memory.
Here's what she wrote:
"After my divorce, I let my familiar life die naturally and my new life be born. I allowed the empty nest to evict even me. I gave up close friends who’d merely been friends of the marriage. I went on one date with my mailman. I retrieved my dreams from the top shelf of my consciousness to explore at last. As if golden, I bought good pens and paper by the case and began a daily, sacred journaling and gratitude practice.
"Then, in our historic Atlanta suburb, I shed my shock through new and simple ventures. I became a substitute teacher in our neighborhood schools. Other days, I set out on foot, seeking to widen my sphere, starting with a walk/run downtown and back. Sometimes, I’d drive to the mall and power-walk several laps with the regular seniors to the sounds of smooth jazz. Or, I’d drive to our community Recreation Center for a workout and swim. Our newly renovated post office branch had two friendly clerks. I’d check in with them, transact business, and then hear and tell a story or two. Trying to capture its preciousness, I even wrote a snapshot poem about our little town.
"Just around the corner from the post office sat our small library with its kind, generous librarians. Soon immersed in writing a book about my work, I’d also become a graduate student of history. I showed up regularly. Surrounded by people of all kinds, I studied, ordered books, used the internet, and worked hard.
"Eventually, the library sponsored my workshop where I spoke about my healing program with formerly abused women. At about that same time, a woman of color was promoted to the position of Head Librarian. She described the challenges she’d faced while moving up. She was the first WOC to hold that position. So we had one party to congratulate her AND to say good-bye to her retiring predecessor!
"For the past two decades, my library has served as a hub in these ways. There, I enjoy that well of resources and quiet I surely need. It’s true, I’ve gone there just as much for the human contact and belonging, at those times when I’ve needed to embrace major life change. Today, my neighborhood library in WNC is where I chat with librarian friends, where I go to vote, to meet fellow activists, to sample books, films, and music. I also stock my home library by purchasing some of the great books they’ve 'withdrawn' from circulation. It’s a bit disappointing on days when they’re closed and I’ve gone anyway, by habit. Bottom line: My neighborhood library is now the heartbeat of my community."
In "Story Medicine 2.0," we’ll take a look at the hidden value and power of story. Our ancestors’ story medicine was lost to us through modern age “progress.” Reclaiming and exploring this modality now in pressing times, we rediscover story as far more than a way to document our lives as it is to fundamentally change them. If you knew your own story and those of your people, how would this knowledge change your worldview? Your work and sense of purpose? Join us for this heartfelt and eye-opening discussion.
Fall Conference attracts hundreds of writers from around the country and provides a weekend full of activities that include lunch and dinner banquets with readings, keynotes, tracks in several genres, open mic sessions, and the opportunity for one-on-one manuscript critiques with editors or agents. Jeremy B. Jones will lead the Master Class in Creative Nonfiction; Nickole Brown and Jessica Jacobs will lead the Master Class in Poetry; Ron Rash will give the Keynote Address.
The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers, in all genres, at all stages of development. For additional information, visit www.ncwriters.org.