Writing is to organizing as preaching is to religion: We have to do it well if we hope to build the organization/congregation.
That was the theme of the second “Writing for IAF Organizers and Leaders” workshop held over Indigenous People’s Day weekend in Chicago from October 13-15, 2019. The workshop was organized and led by Greg Pierce, the Metro IAF organizer in Illinois, and participants include 7 organizers and 5 leaders from Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois.
The question asked at the end of the intensive 48 hours was: “Are you convinced that writing well would increase your personal and organizational power?”
All the participants agreed that it would. The issue was how they would find the time and develop the discipline to write
“First you have to write a good opening sentence” was the first lesson. In the initial introductions, participants were asked to pick from a list of great opening sentences in a book of essays, The Best American Non-Required Reading. Half the group chose this sentence from “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance,” an excerpt from Kiese Laymon’s book Cold Drunk: “I’ve had guns pulled on me by four people under Central Mississippi skies—once by a white undercover cop, once by a young brother trying to rob me for the leftovers of a weak work-study check, once by my mother and twice by myself.” This led, by popular demand, to a reading of the entire essay, done with great passion and eloquence by organizer Terrell Williams Lead Organizer of Turnaround Tuesday.
The other highlight of the workshop was a storytelling session, done over refreshments on Monday night, where each participant told one or more stories to the rest of the group, stories that all agreed needed to be written and shared with a larger audience.
A lot of workshop time was spent on the “how” of writing: how to find time and discipline, how to edit multiple drafts, how to develop a personal or organizational style sheet, how to write with multiple authors in an organization, how to get the work published (even if we have to publish it ourselves), how to get people to read it, and how it could build our organizations.
The evaluation of the three-day event was that the IAF needs to make good writing part of its organizational toolbox. A third workshop is tentatively scheduled for the same weekend in October 2020, at a site yet to be determined. Shorter versions of the workshop were also recommended that might be offered to individual IAF organizations or clusters of IAF affiliates or in conjunction with other training. For further information, contact Greg Pierce at [email protected] or on his cell at 773-590-3801.