Susan Lynn Reynolds

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We rave every day about the tastes on our tongues. Giorgio, Leela and their helpers succeed in evoking moans of pleasure as table music at each breakfast, lunch and dinner. From the surprise of a crunchy cheese muffin-like thing at lunch, to a vellutata di Zucchine (soup) to a brioche with red cabbage, aubergine and cheese, roasted lamb with garden rosemary, Farro Perlato with porcini mushroom, to home-cured prosciutto and Caciotta cheese slices with truffles, all the way to Crema Catalana and Colomba Pasquale, every mouthful a surprise and a bit of a swoon. Our plates are always spanking clean after each meal.

The meals have served as inspiration for our writing as well as being the marker for the passage between activities. Many have remarked that although each repast is a veritable feast of taste and choice, none of the foods are too rich or too sweet, and we often leave almost directly from the groaning board of lunch for a long walk up and down or down and up these beautiful country roads, or book a taxi to take us to nearby Gubbio, Assisi or Perugia. Continue reading

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Gubbio Gubbio wherefore art thou Gubbio?

I knew nothing of Gubbio prior to this trip, aside from some vague connection to Francis of Assisi. My loss, apparently. Gubbio is a wonder of terraces, cathedrals, palaces, palazzos, ancient stone, a surprising treasure in the form of a golden fountain spigot in the shape of a duck head, Roman ruins, and sweeping views into a broad green valley.

After our morning of yoga, breakfast, and a shift in perspective with James leading the writing practice, we ate yet another exquisite lunch and climbed into taxis with the enthusiastic (and handsome) Marco and Stefano. The ride was quicker than we imagined and full of swoops and dodges, as we careened through the Umbrian hills to Gubbio. Continue reading

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Although she is modest and shies away from taking credit for her students’ successes, the truth is that writing with Sue Reynolds has resulted in contest wins, publication, and a two-book deal with a major publishing house. I believe this is on account of a particular, (ironically) ineffable magic that happens when she launches a circle of writers down the writing road. Sue Reynolds leads the daily writing practice in Valfabbrica, Italy this April:  http://radicalrestoration.ca/yoga_writing_retreat/italy/
Who knows, a piece begun in the ancient hills of Umbria could put you in the winners’ circle. In fact, if you come, that’s exactly where you’ll be.

Terry: Sue’s writing group took me to places I did not think I was capable of going.  I was worried about being able to write anything at all and was pleased to discover I could.  The whole format is very gentle and supportive – I felt I could really expose my “narrator” and feel very safe.  I used the writing to explore my creativity and to do a little therapy on myself, knowing all of this was okay.

Jude: The prompts offered by Sue engaged my imagination.  The encouragement and support of the other writers led me to dig deeper, to share more.  My writing is richer than when I came.

Theresa: My experience of the writing group?  Pressed together, pressure of pen against that always blank page to create something worthy.  Soft words lead, blank mind struggles to follow.

Nancy: The writing group was an awakening experience.  I was able to put a few thoughts on paper and laugh about it.  I found another new hobby!

Jon: Each day unfolding freer, fresher, deeper.  A venturing into dark indigo corners, a bursting forth into rhythmic flow of unexpected images.  Instructive too!

Sue: I was deeply grateful for the way the entire group showed up day after day and gave their entire hearts and minds to the practice, engaging with the material of their lives on the page (in memoir, fiction and poetry) with the same kind of focus and commitment they brought to any standing position or seated meditation.

Suzanne: Acceptance and understanding – words flowing like a river – raucous laughter and the acceptance and release of tears and fears and joy and sorrow.  My only thought would be a couple of yawn and stretch moments to breathe.

Sharon: Hard, easy; silence helps to stimulate the brain cells.  Learning to keep the pen to the paper and the butt in the chair!  Listening to the readers, including self, with absolute confidence of acceptance, with no criticism; learning what works for me.

Esther: This group is like a warm hug of support.  Their words – music and waterfalls.  Their voices – laughter and sorrow.  I feel altered, grown anew, and blessed by their hearts.

Esana: A quiet space of listening and hearing the heart song.  That song that sometimes sputtered out of my own reluctant pen, that danced on the tongues of my beautiful fellow travellers.  My ears delighted to take in the love.

Colleen: Energized me, inspired me and gave me the seeds of new skills.  I felt myself unplug from mourning and pour forth unexpected things.  I also got unblocked from where I am in my novel.  Everything started to flow again.

April: Catapults all writers, new and seasoned, to look deep within themselves to find, either through story or experience, words that lift you off the page.

Deepam: Diving down into the ocean of words, images, sensation, memory surfacing like old friends from the depths.  In the safety of the circle, we offer our ears, our hearts, our shoulders, each to another.  The magic emerging from those who believed they could not.

Dawn:  I really enjoyed the variety and depth of the writing prompts.  I also enjoyed listening to everyone else’s pieces and giving and receiving supportive feedback.

James: Nobody encourages deep writing and brilliant writing better than Sue Reynolds. I came back with five good poems and four short stories that have great potential. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of producing new work. The best aspect of the writing component is sitting with the group and sharing our stories and poems. I am always so impressed with how some of the writers go into painful places and produce gifted works of art. They set an example that encourages everyone else. And Sue creates the safety that makes it all work so well. New friendships abound.

Sue for bio

Sue Reynolds

BSc. Psych., Masters Candidate
(Read testimonials about writing with Sue)

I am a published novelist and an award-winning writer of poetry and creative non-fiction as well. I have been writing all my life. My first novel was published in 1992 and won the Canadian Library Association’s YA Novel of the Year award.

When it came time to write my next book, I panicked. I froze. I got a monumental case of writer’s block. Just exactly how had I managed to write that first book again?

That’s when I began studying the craft of novel writing. I read everything I could get my hands on. I took courses. I went to New Mexico and studied with Natalie Goldberg (of Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind) three times. Over the next few years I also studied with Barbara Turner Vessalago (Freefall Writing), Anne Michaels (Fugitive Pieces), Orm Mitchell (W.O. and Mitchell), and Robert J. Ray and Jack Remick (of The Weekend Novelist books).

AWA Affiliate logo smlThrough experiencing the workshops with Natalie Goldberg, I realized that I needed to find community – my tribe – to write with. And so, fifteen years ago, I began passing on what I had learned. In 2002 I took the AWA Certification to lead writing workshops with Pat Schneider (The Writer as an Artist and Writing Alone and With Others) and Patricia Lee Lewis, and I’ve never looked back.

I already had a really clear idea of how important writing was in my life: journalling kept me grounded, helped me process my thoughts and feelings, and let me murmur things on the page I was uncomfortable telling anyone else. Journalling let me be myself. And writing fiction let me tell the truth.

Through leading writing workshops I also began to witness how profoundly healing it could be for others to write their truths – even if that writing took the form of fiction. I changed my life so I could go back to university to study Psychology with a particular focus on the therapeutic use of journaling and memoir (my thesis on that topic received the Canadian Psychological Association’s Award of Academic Excellence in 2006).

I began teaching writing to women who were incarcerated in the Lindsay Superjail in Ontario on a volunteer basis, and in 2007 I earned the June Callwood Award for Outstanding Volunteerismfor that program. I also began doing my counselling practicum in the jail under the supervision of the psychologist there and the head of Social Work.

I expanded my writing studies and began adding other therapeutic modalities to my toolbox. I studied in the Progoff Intensive Journal Workshop method. I engaged in a series of courses in Narrative Therapy. In my studies in Psychology I took courses on sleep and on dreaming and dream interpretation. I undertook training in Hakomi Therapy.

Currently I am working on my Masters at the Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies at Trent University, doing an interdisciplinary degree. The topic of my thesis is an institutional ethnography of the female units at the Central East Correctional Centre; I am looking particularly at the issue of gender responsivity there.

I am enthralled by the work I do. I consider it a grave privilege to be witness to people claiming their stories, acknowledging their own lives, dreams, regrets and desires, and to see the healing and integration that comes about through people exploring the labyrinths of their lives by following that unwinding line of ink.

I facilitate writing groups for many not-for-profit and social service agencies. As I said earlier, writing can be very healing.

My recent literary work has appeared in lichen literary magazine and my short story “Gargoyles in Montmartre” was accepted for the British anthology series Erotic Travel Tales. My novel Strandia won the Canadian Library Association’s national award for Young Adult Novel of the Year. I am a three time winner of the Timothy Findley Creative Writing Award for my poetry and short stories, and a winner of the Writer’s Community of Durham Region’s 24 Hour Online Contest and the WCDR’s Summer SLAM from July 2010 and 2012.

My first poetry chapbook skinned was launched in January 2008 and I am working on my third novel.

*Member of the Ontario Association of Consultants, Counsellors, Psychometrists and Psychotherapists

Sue with the dinosaurs