Writing heals. And in a post-pandemic world, people are craving healing and community.
Local author Robin Finn has put the two together to create a writing workshop aimed at helping mothers — and mother figures — communicate their experiences during the pandemic and check in with how they are doing now.
“The stories of mothering through the pandemic are historical narratives worthy of being explored and shared.”
“For too long, women’s lives and stories have been undervalued,” Finn, an award-winning writer, teacher and coach, told the Journal. “The stories of mothering through the pandemic are historical narratives worthy of being explored and shared, regardless of whether you mothered a child, grandchild, friend or neighbor.”
“What Just Happened: Mothering Through the Pandemic and Beyond,” will be held at Adat Ari El in Valley Village, and runs from January 17 to March 21. It will conclude with a live, public reading by the participants on March 26.
According to Finn, who has master’s degrees in public health and spiritual psychology, there are many benefits to writing in the aftermath of the pandemic, including understanding the value of your story. Your words matter and your experience is important, she explained.
“In our post-pandemic world, people are lonely,” she said. “Writing in community with others is healing and creates connections that nurture the soul.”
Plus, she said, studies have long shown that writing and journaling improve brain function and enhance mental and physical wellbeing.
“It’s my hope that participants will leave the 10-week workshop with greater confidence in their creative powers, a deeper understanding of the value of their self-expression, a richer connection to their voice, a clearer understanding of what the changes the pandemic has wrought and with tools and tips to incorporate writing and creativity into their daily lives,” she said.
Finn, who is also the founder of L.A.-based women’s writing program “Heart. Soul. Pen.,” received a Neighborhood Engagement Artist Residency (NEAR) Grant through the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. This grant enables her to offer this workshop at a reduced cost of $50 per participant; full scholarships are also available for those in need.
“I was so thrilled when I found out I was awarded the grant and grateful to have Adat Ari El partner with me and offer their wonderful facilities for the workshop,” she said.
The NEAR grant honors and supports individual teaching-artists who act as project-leaders to design and manage a series of community-relevant workshops, culminating in a free public presentation. NEAR supports freelance teaching-artists, social-activation artists and social practice artists in providing community-based, participatory projects in self-selected non-arts venues within the City of Los Angeles.
“COVID-19 affected all of us, but research shows that women were disproportionately affected, particularly mothers,” Finn said. “Job losses, additional childcare duties, school closings and the daily disruptions of life fell squarely on mothers.”
Finn knows this personally.
A mother of three, Finn parented three young adults through the pandemic, including a daughter who came home from college and a son who spent his high school senior year on Zoom. Her youngest transferred schools in the middle of quarantine.
“Shortly after the pandemic began, I lost my mother,” Finn said. “No shivah, no family gatherings, no visits from family. I mourned my mother alone.”
Part of what Finn will explore in the 10-week writing workshop is how mothers, mother figures and caregivers have been changed by COVID-19.
And “mother figure,” Finn said, refers to anyone who has mothered others, whether it’s an aunt, dad, neighbor or nurse. “You do not have to fill the traditional role of mother to have mothered others through this difficult period.”
Finn believes this workshop is ideal for any Jewish mother, who is yearning for creativity, community, connection or all three. You don’t have to be a “writer” — no prior writing experience is necessary — but you certainly can be.
“If you feel like you have lost your voice or have been overwhelmed or are wondering what’s next, we are going to discover our voices on the page and reflect back and look forward to what’s ahead,” she said. “This workshop is a perfect place to connect to yourself and to others.”
Finn, who was brought up as a Reform Jew, is not religious but feels very connected to Judaism, the people and traditions.
“I would say that Judaism has impacted my journey as a writer because it’s an integral part of who I am and how I see the world — my humor, my hopes, and my fears,” Finn said. “My kids love to say that there was nothing Grandma (my mother) loved more than Jewish people. And it’s true.”
Finn’s mother loved all things Jewish, and raised her with a love of people, community, words and reading.
“As I’ve gotten older, I realize these gifts she gave me planted the seeds for my own love of writing and teaching and for my passion for building community,” she said.
For more information and to register for the “What Just Happened? Mothering Through the Pandemic and Beyond,” writing workshop, go to www.adatariel.org/form/mtp_registration_form.