In March, I began attending a women’s writing circle called Las Lunas Locas in El Sereno, Ca. The women’s circle was started by Karineh Mahdessian and Sophia Rivera, with the intention of creating a safe space for women to write in communion. Each Monday night we meet at 7:30pm and begin our journey for that evening. We sit in a circle inside Here & Now a beautiful space that provides reiki, herbal workshops & community events.
As a poet, a mujer, I noticed that the manuscript I have been developing for 5 years is extremely feminine. This was somewhat of a surprise to me, but I’m not sure why it wasn’t obvious since I am a woman who writes about herself and other women. Perhaps it was because no one has ever taken the time to acknowledge me and say you are a woman, you write from your own perspective, and then follow that with encouraging words that made me feel comfortable writing from my femininity.
In graduate school, I participated in large workshops filled with a variety of races and genders. I rarely had the pleasure of enjoying a workshop that was less than 10 people. And let’s be honest, graduate school workshops are not nurturing environments for writers. They are spaces where people critique your work, many of whom have nothing in common with you. And as a woman in a workshop, I encountered many of the same social forms of oppression women endure on a daily basis. Often times there was someone saying, this is too emotional, too wordy, too personal, and many of those times the comments came from a man.
After finishing my MFA in Creative Writing, I was burnt out like many graduate students. Over a two-year period, I barely wrote anything. So when earlier this year, at an open mic for Palabra(a reading series at Avenue 50) I met Karineh who also hosts that series. She invited me to join the circle. The group was a new idea to me, only women? really? I realized the reason why Las Lunas Locas was appealing to me was because I had never in my life written with only women.
Attending my first Monday was a mission, I live in Inglewood and was trying to find the motivation to drive through Los Angeles traffic to El Sereno. I convinced myself that I could do this and the stars aligned for me: there was no traffic and it only took me 35 minutes to get there. I have been attending the circle for six months now and I can honestly say that the circle has been a source of amazing inspiration. The space is a place to produce work, to write as freely and as openly as we desire, without judgment. There are no formulas, no expectations, and especially, no criticism.
To be surrounded by women as I delve into myself to write poetry, in one of my most vulnerable moments, is perhaps the most energetic experience I have encountered since I started writing poetry. We begin each session with an icebreaker and then we are given the prompts for that night. Our prompts are always quotes from what people have said or written. When we use the words of others to inspire our own words, that is the true spirit of writing in communion with others. After we write, we share what we have written (on a voluntary basis) and it is in these moments of sharing—of positive reinforcement—that some of the most powerful conversations I have had in my entire life have emerged. The energy is incredible and the next day when I wake up all I want to do is work on poetry. I want to put all of my responsibilities on the back burner and write.
And since joining the circle, I often just sit and write. I forget about cleaning the house, about doing the laundry, about grading essays—because the conversations we have at Las Lunas Locas inspire and support me as a female writer. And yes, sometimes we cry— to express what cannot be expressed in words— the purest emotion we all know as women: how to bare tears. Y eso es convir como una familia de mujeres because we are actively reinforcing each other with the power of our femininity.
As each Monday evening comes to an end, I always wish it would continue, that we’ll talk into the early morning hours because I don’t want what we have just shared to be over. Of course, it is a Monday, (and we all have jobs to attend to) so reluctantly, we say goodbye with a promise to return again on another Monday, with a promise that if we don’t return the following week the circle will still be there when we are ready to return to it.
I highly recommend Las Lunas Locas to women in the greater Los Angeles area. But the greatest advice I can give you, if you are woman or woman-identified, is that you experience what it is to write with woman—to convivir. You can begin your own circle of women to write with and that might, just might, inspire you in a way you didn’t know existed.