Karen: So tell me, Sue Ann, how did this program come about? It appears to be about food, yet not about food. An online writer’s workshop, is that how you’d describe it?
Sue Ann: Good question. The Luscious Legacy Project had been in the dreaming and scheming stage for a very long time. I had just finished the last round of my Well-Nourished Woman Inner Circle when this one started to take shape. One of the pieces I loved most about my WNW program was the writing element. I loved watching women write snippets of their food narrative and I wondered what would happen if I opened a new portal for those stories … one that included legacy in all of its forms. The legacy we hold, the legacy we create, the legacy we leave. Then, in June, my dad passed away after a rather devastating decade of decline. My family gathered around his deathbed in a tiny little room in his skilled nursing home, sharing slices of his life. That was a very healing hour for us. We had struggled much as we tried to make the best decisions in various stages of his decline, feeling fractured at times because caring for a loved one under those circumstances is never easy. When he died we found ourselves deeply nourished by the power of reminiscence. I wanted to bring that experience to my community. I’m always looking for new and interesting ways to honor food and story. For me, getting in touch with my food roots and bringing the energy of my ancestors back to the table has been an uplifting experience. I loved the idea of facilitating a deeper inquiry into our ancestral roots and how our food life is shaped by those roots. For me, food is a place of great personal ancestral significance. And while that’s not true for everyone who enters my Circle, the conversations around this topic have been rich.
Karen: You’re entering round three. How is it evolving? Is it everything you hoped it would be?
Sue Ann: It’s everything I hoped it would be and then some. I’m finding that women enroll in this program for many reasons. Some love the idea of food writing and they want to dabble in that. Others are working their way through the loss of a loved one and they know I’m doing the same so they are looking for some company on the journey. Others are looking to elevate their writing so that they can show up more fully on their blogs or wherever they happen to be writing. And a few simply want a writing community in which to grow a more cohesive writing practice. While many of the invitations begin with food, the writing extends way beyond the plate. We’re sharing slices of our lives, recording those slices and, in some cases, turning them into fully developed pieces. The Circle has really become a safe container in which to grow a writing practice … to take a risk or two, to give voice to our words. Many of the women in the group have formed a lovely bond and continue to share their work as they complete new pieces. Largely, I think women are hungry to be heard.
Karen: What can we hope to produce in the six-week framework?
Sue Ann: That’s a really interesting question and it varies from person to person. There are eighteen prompts/invitations (three per week) from making a list to dabbling in poetry to writing a fully developed piece from one of your snippets. If you commit even just ten to twenty minutes per invitation you can expect to have the beginnings of a viable project with at least five pages, often more. One of the final prompts is “Take Five.” That’s where we take five of our pieces and we put them together in some form: ebook, art journal, photo essay, wherever our muse takes us. The best part, however, is that the group stays active once the program ends so even if you just build the architecture of your project during the six-week period, you have a warm, supportive container in which to continue posting your work. Plus, moving forward, you have the added benefit of looking at your life through the ‘lens’ of legacy. For me it’s been a glorious way to notice all the ways my dad shows up in my life even though he’s gone.
Karen: Tell us about the LLP Living Room Circle.
Sue Ann: Yes! So much fun. Last week I took this program on the road and held my first Luscious Legacy Living Room Circle in San Rafael, California. After six years running online programs this was a delicious way to spend a morning live and in person with women I had only met online. Cami Flake, a member of my LLP community and a talented multi-media artist, hosted this mini writer’s retreat and we had so much fun collaborating we even decided to plan a longer retreat together where we combine writing, photography and possibly other art forms to enhance and amplify the project. I can see where my work will move into and out of the online format and that feels really good.
photo by Cami Flake
photo by Cami Flake
Karen: Where can we see some of the Luscious Legacy Projects?
Sue Ann: Well, you can click on mine! At first I wasn’t quite sure who would be the recipient of this book; I do not have children of my own. And then, as I got deeper and deeper into the content, I realized I was creating it for my nephew Eric. I know his mom is working on her own Luscious Legacy project and that some day he will have not one, but two very rich bodies of work to enjoy. I would give anything to have something similar from my parents today as I look back on my past and try to piece together some of the stories I’ve been told over the years. I suspect this will be a work in progress. Every time I begin a new round I’m excited to construct something new. You can also go to my Luscious Legacy Project registration page and click on the little icons under ‘snapshots from the circle’ to see what some of my participants are writing. It looks like this:
Karen: What’s next?
Sue Ann: Ultimately I would like to find a way to bring this Luscious Legacy Project into assisted living facilities and nursing homes to record and chronicle some of the stories the residents would want to share with their loved ones or with a larger community. We live in a culture of ‘busy’ and ‘some day’ and I fear we are missing gorgeous opportunities to capture these stories while our loved ones are still alive.