Frequently Asked Questions about Writing through Trauma to Truth

Who would benefit from the Writing through Trauma to Truth online writing class?

This one-on-one study in trauma writing is designed to facilitate and encourage writing about difficult, traumatic experiences, and so is suited for aspiring or advanced writers looking for guidance in that area.

What type of writing will I be expected to create and what kinds of trauma will be covered?

The writing you will produce in this course will include short, informal responses to assigned readings as well as your original creative writing, in poetry, essay, memoir or fictional form.

Types of trauma that could be covered include, but are not limited to, domestic violence, rape, 9/11, the AIDS epidemic, racial and sexual discrimination, murder, suicide, PTSD, and more. The welcome letter you will receive upon registration will ask you to introduce yourself to Shawna Ayoub Ainslie, your instructor. Your introduction will include a brief statement of a topic or two (related to your trauma) that you would like to explore. Based on that synopsis, Shawna will select readings most relevant to your personal experience and forward you your assignments for all five weeks of the session. This customized format allows you to read published writing on topics that could be most beneficial and interesting to you.

How will this class help me transform trauma to truth?

We’ll begin this course by examining and developing empathy, and then explore personal trauma. After week two, we’ll move into distancing and reframing your trauma by moving into collective trauma (i.e., traumatic events that effect people on a mass scale, like 9/11), then creating personas and symbols to re-tell our stories. This structure is intended to show students multiple ways of writing about the same experience in the hopes of identifying “the heart” of each person’s most traumatic memory.

What is a safe space?

Safety is of the utmost importance in this course, but safety is defined differently by different people. Shawna Ayoub Ainslie’s personal idea of safety, within the context of a writing workshop on the topic of trauma, is contingent upon a feeling of mutual trust and respect for individual experiences and emotions. Shawna believes we can create that trust even through a virtual workshop by pledging to maintain confidentiality, avoiding criticism while still focusing on “bettering” creative work through explorations of craft elements, and being honest about the effects of reading and writing about difficult topics. If you find an assigned poem or essay to be particularly disturbing, you may opt out of responding to it and ask to read something else, or substitute a response to the disturbing work by articulating, in writing, why it was challenging for you. Recognizing and admitting our limitations is not the same as succumbing to them; ignoring, avoiding, or disavowing our discomfort does not lead to growth, healing, OR good writing. Shawna wants all students who choose to study and practice with her to feel comfortable sharing in a space that is free of judgment or critique, while still emphasizing writing fundamentals.

What is the time commitment for the course?

Each week, expect to read a longer piece of prose and a few shorter poems, approximately 20-30 minutes of close reading.  Responding to the assigned readings, plus the creative writing component, might take up to an hour or more. A reasonable range for the time students should devote to each weekly assignment would be one and a half to two hours.

How many people are in a class?

Just you and your instructor, Shawna Ayoub Ainslie.

When does the class meet?

There are no required meeting times in this online writing workshop. Assignments are submitted weekly at your convenience, anytime prior to the deadline of midnight EST on Sunday.

Do I need computer skills to participate in this online writing program?

All you need is a basic familiarity with e-mail, an ability to click on links to the Internet and the capacity to download a PDF file

Do I have to purchase anything?


How do I submit my weekly writing assignments?

You email your homework to your instructor anytime prior to midnight EST on Sunday.

How do I interact with my teacher?

Via email. You may email your instructor at any point during the course to discuss anything related to the work or reading you’re doing. Because writing about trauma is uniquely personal, Shawna believes in attentiveness to both the creative work a student produces as well as to the complex emotions that arise during the creative process. She will provide comments on your work, but she will also listen as you reflect on the experience of un-silencing and offer her own parallel experiences. Writing about trauma is writing to connect in the aftermath of disconnecting events. Instruction, feedback, and supportive community combine to give you a dynamic growth experience.

How is my writing critiqued?
Your writing will not be “critiqued” in this class because criticism inhibits your creative spirit, and because the nature of the work you’ll be sharing is sensitive. In Writing through Trauma to Truth, you receive supportive feedback that highlights your strengths and helps you to map out the main points of the story you’re trying to tell. Your instructor will respond to your work by examining the clarity and arc of your story, making suggestions on how to incorporate effective imagery and refreshing language, and giving you insight into the emotional response of your readers.

Shawna will also ask you to respond to aspects of assigned writing by answering questions like these:

  • How did reading about this author’s experience make you feel?
  • Is the narrative arc of this written experience clear? What are the main actions and who are the main characters? What is the main tension?
  • What are the strongest images or themes in this work, the ones that best serve this story?
  • What is “the heart” of this story?
How much does it cost?

The Writing through Trauma to Truth online writing course consists of 5 weekly sessions and costs $265.

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When's the next class?

New Writing through Trauma online writing classes start up continually throughout the year. The next one begins Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.

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How do I register?

You may register online by paying with your credit/debit card through PayPal.  No additional forms are needed.

You may also register by check using a printable form.

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