Green Windows has retired, after twelve years!
Green Windows held a Retirement Celebration on June 28, 2020. The evening honored the community that we’ve built over the past twelve years and acknowledged Peggy’s creative guidance and nurturing of our space together.
Below are Peggy’s goodbye remarks, partly from her introduction to Book.Ends, and below that, reflections and goodbyes from members of Green Windows’ community.
Firstly, there are so many people to thank for the last twelve years!
My own last words are here are an excerpt from my introduction to Book.Ends:
After writing in workshops that use the Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) method since 2004, I realized, in 2006, that the AWA method was a perfect partner for my passion of bringing very different people together, safely and as equals, purposefully with care and intention. In 2007 I was certified as an AWA facilitator. In 2008, I started Green Windows and joined Intersection for the Arts as one of their incubator programs. And in the last twelve years, I’ve facilitated workshops in community colleges, youth centers, schools, community centers, affordable housing complexes, museums, libraries, juvenile halls, nonprofit retreats and for the general public. In these workshops I’ve had teens and seniors, students and teachers, homeless and housed, people with and without degrees and from different corners of Oakland. In 2009, I started a monthly drop-in workshop, sliding scale, finding a perfect host and partner in The Rock Paper Scissors Collective. And with this workshop, I drew my vast network together and people who would not otherwise cross paths wrote together, safely, as equals, each encouraged to be true to their own voice.
I’ve only skimmed the surface of what Green Windows has done. I haven’t mentioned the dozens of people who have supported the work in various ways (thank you), or the mentors and mentees who make the work not a paper but a circle. The books, blogs and articles. Twelve years of words given and received.
On March 24, 2020, we had the 127th and last monthly workshop. I am ready to shift my energies while deeply grateful for all this time with your words and seeing you listen to and affect each other. And deeply grateful that we made it, together, to this moment, sheltering in place from a pandemic and writing online. Twelve years brought us here, so profoundly needing each other and needing to write with each other that it feels fated. We wrote ourselves to this moment to have community while isolated and surrounded by tragedy and insecurity. Fate bewilders me; I would have never even known to ask for this blessing. And I am grateful.
Listen. When I write that I am grateful for this community, I am talking about you. You. Twelve years came to this moment with you all in a Zoom room. And I will leave the room, the moment, the dozen years, with an understanding of people and of words that I did not have before, that I need to navigate the gloomy foggy future. I thank you.
And I invite you. I invite you to continue the work. Each morning with your candle, over coffee six feet apart, while walking along the beach, in your dreams, in a secret notebook, I invite you to continue the work of being true to yourselves and of letting the choosing of words, the choosing of images, the choosing of characters, the choosing of plot, the respect of your own rhythms, your own voices, your own language, your own stepping stones into phrases, letting them help you to see what the truths are in yourselves, and by listening for what you like, on the beach, over coffee, in the zoom meeting, to see what the truths are that others’ offer you. I invite you to continue the work. You do not need me, or Green Windows to do it. I believe in you. I believe in your words and, when you let them, the truths they carry for you.
- Peggy Simmons
Green Windows: Art of Interchange
Below are participants’ answers to the following questions:
“How will Green Windows live on? How do you bring what you have learned, experienced and created with GW into your life and the world? Consider your artistic practice, sense of community, how we relate to each other, and how you see the world around you.”
My view of the world has expanded from what I consider a creative collaboration with other people, their writing styles, backgrounds, points of view. Careful, close listening skills, appreciation for words and phrasing, intended communication and subtle messages - all these attributes have been enhanced in myself and I dare say everyone else who has been part of Green Windows.
I've never talked to anyone who has been to a Green Windows workshop who didn't get some kind of deepened connection - to writing and or community and or poets... the world. I've been to many a writing workshop - Green Windows had an accessibility and a spaciousness I didn't get other places. Green Windows is the only AWA based writing facilitation I've participated in that never left poor folks behind.
Green windows has helped me be more authentically me and just show up as myself. It has also encouraged my writing voice. I'll be forever grateful to Peggy and Green Windows.
I will always keep writing and utilizing my listening skills to appreciate other people's writing and to develop my own. I really appreciate the openness of Green Windows and the ability to share anything and everything. It's like a makerspace, and this is the mindset I will carry with me.
I will continue to write with and be in community with the people I’ve met in Green windows. I will continue to use the AWA method when I write with others and incorporate everything I’ve learned into my writing practice. It’s hard to say how GW has influenced how I see and relate to people as it has been so fundamental in my growth but I’m sure it has opened my mind to different perspectives, seeing more of our shared humanity.
Compassionately listening. Seeing what we like about people's lawns instead of what we don't like. A sense of imagination. A web more vulnerable & real than most. Duh.
Green Windows has created bonds for me that I feel will never be broken! Immensely grateful that boundaries of space aren't keeping me from connecting and creating with others. I am much, much more daring in my creative practice.
In a real and lasting way, Green Windows has shifted how I approach writing and creativity. More and more, I'm learning that the act of making something has value in and of itself. Even if there's seemingly nothing salvageable (rare!), sometimes making the thing clears the way, primes the pump, and/or offers a foundation for something else. I feel such gratitude for the opportunity to write with many of the same people month after month, listening to their words and getting to know each person's unique voice and style has deepened my appreciation of "voice" in storytelling, including my own. I find myself more observant of everyday expressions of creativity: a hand-painted shop window, my neighbor's little garden, an auntie's colorful outfit, a friend's cooking, zines galore. Participating in Green Windows has amplified the gratitude I feel for other community spaces in my life, and it reaffirms my commitment to cultivating mutual trust and sharing my life with other people.
After writing with GW for so many years and being exposed to great writing, writing very different from my own, I have been able to try on new voices, explore the page, break all the rules I've learned. I've thoughtfully and carelessly put words and sentences and verses together always trusting that support would follow. It's precisely the support of the community that made me feel free to play in all those ways, and Peggy's voice always repeating, "trust your voice, trust your images, trust your words."
GOODBYE, Green Windows! You made a difference!!!.
Green Windows has been an opportunity to give my writing. For me the worst part and what turns me away from writing is the initial blank page. The prompts give me direction. They help me fill that white page. Through them I have been able to express emotion in a way I have never done before. I'll be honest though, I don't know if I have the motivation to keep writing like this on my own. But now I guess no choice but to try to fill that blank page on my own. Good thing I have great examples to take inspiration from.
I took a chance and went to write there with you, one evening, and it was a good experience. Though it felt odd, not knowing anyone, and I know I look mean when I am nervous, it was good for my mind and my writing to sit with people I did not know and didn't connect with to write. Made my brain work differently.
Peggy what you have done with Green Windows is so remarkable....You are very special...most of us don't find a way to 'make a difference.' You
The method of teaching and facilitating really stuck with me, and as I move on to become a teacher I know I will carry those principles with me!
Very grateful for the couple of times I was able to take part in Green Windows! The artistic spirit and positive environment inspired me and those vibes will live on in my life.
Thank you for all you’ve done as shared and thank you for always creating spaces that felt safe. GW definitely helped me come out of my shell.
I know GW will live on in my sister, all of the GW writers, and in the works they all made together!
I'd like to challenge myself more to generate prompts & really think outside of just written lines; how to make them multidimensional & invite the other senses. I loved the variety of prompts & have kept a few over the years. Perhaps I shall put them in a jar.
Goodbye, Peggy! What a wonderful thing Green Windows was!! You always
are so creative. Hurray!
Further spontaneous writing exercises, community writing opportunities, and MORE NANOWRIMO!
Peace and Love
I will definitely be bringing the confidence I've gained in my writing and ways of giving good feedback in Green Window's writing workshops with me. I will also try ways to connect with people creatively through Zoom just as Green Windows has done.
I have met people at the workshops who have become friends and mentors. I have heard points of view I would not otherwise have heard. I have written some of my favorite pieces there, pieces that would not have been written anywhere else--a couple of which are still getting published.
GW has changed my life forever. Not only does it live on in my artistic practice, but it has given me a place to belong in the greater community, and a greater sense of how I can contribute to community.
Yes, Green Windows is still scheduled to shut its shutters at the end of June.
This has nothing to do with the COVID-19 crises. You can read here about why Green Windows is retiring.
The timing, from my point of view, now seems perfect. I have been so deeply grateful these past several weeks for the community we've built over the last twelve years. I've needed you. I've needed to write with you. I needed you in order to find my own words to use as oars to paddle through these hard times day by day. I've seen you need each other, too. And sharing words helps us all understand everything better, not feel alone, and have a sort of collective empowerment.
We've also been able to write together a lot more. Not because I have more time (I don't) but because there is no travel time. Being with you online is not the same, and not as wonderful, but it is wonderful and the technology is a blessing, allowing us to be together and to be together even more often. And writing together more often has given folks an opportunity to explore ways the community might continue post-Green Windows. So I'm grateful that all the other times I considered ending Green Windows, I pushed on, so we could get to this moment together.
The timing of this retirement is also good for me because letting go of Green Windows will allow me the time, headspace and energy to find responses to the tragedies, deepening inequities, and opportunities of this crisis with organizations such as The Beat Within and the ATD Fourth World Movement.
Here's the retirement plan:
* Instead of a monthly Uniquely Yours workshop in June, we will have an online Celebration! June 28th, 7pm. Everyone is invited! We will do a little writing, because that's what we do, and I promise it will be painless even if that's not your thing. Please contribute your ideas for this celebration, your last words even if you can't attend, and RSVP here.
* Our 127th and last monthly Uniquely Yours workshop is Sunday, May 24th, 7pm, online. Please sign up for our newsletter and indicate your interest in online workshops if you would like to join us.
* Jenna Frisch and I will facilitate as many other online workshops as we can through the end of June. The schedule will change week to week to adjust to our other changing commitments. Please sign up for our newsletter and indicate your interest in online workshops if you would like to join us.
* We have been posting writing from the workshops, here on the blog. Check it out! Much of this blog is being put together into a book that will be available for online purchase at the end of June. You can still submit writing for the blog through June 30th, but submissions for the book are closed.
Thank you for all your support and all the words you've given Green Windows and each other over the years. I can't wait to see what you do next.
All my best,
I have some news. You don't need any more news today, especially non-joyous news. This is a moment that will be a reference point in our lives: before COVID-19 and after COVID-19. I hope you and yours are well, home, and safe. This is a moment when we are reaching out to each other. I was given roses at the grocery store today. It is also a moment to reach in. I hope you have moments of quiet and moments of creativity. I hope you are writing (drawing, dancing, singing...) so that this moment in time is as much as possible a time of growth and centering.
Two months ago, I made the decision to retire Green Windows later this year, after twelve years of incredible work. I've taken some time to have conversations and make some decisions, and can now make it public. (I didn’t call everyone I wanted to. I’m sorry if I didn’t get to you!) My timing is bad. I apologize. I like the word “retire.” After years of good work, Green Windows is not going away: it will stop working professionally, but its spirit and work can continue. Partly because they exist with you.
Thank you. Thank you for all your words: all the words you braved onto the page and all the words you found to tell other writers what you loved about their writing. Thank you for the community you created, with your openness, your belief in each other, your trust in your authentic self and your fidelity to creativity. Watching our community grow was a privilege. I have been deeply pleased to give you the space to create it.
We have done 125 monthly workshops! Many, many 4th Sundays, especially in the moments my life was hard, I spent the afternoon wondering how I would have the needed energy for the workshop that night. I wondered why I was doing this. Without fail, the very first lines of the very first piece of writing that was shared impressed, settled, warmed and inspired me so that I recalled, again, Oh, oh yeah, of course, this is why I’m doing this. Thank you.
Two years ago when my finances became more challenging, I had to ask Green Windows to pay more of its share of my livelihood. I had a clear choice: either Green Windows grew into something sustainable that could help me live in the Bay Area, or I’d have to close its doors (its shutters?). I gave it a last go, with a lot of help, especially from Yesenia Sanchez and Catherine Mencher, but also from everyone who donated money and/or showed up to a fundraiser. Thank you. We did this cool impact survey that enabled us to show others what we already knew: that Green Windows grows artists and develops cross-cultural community. And we met our financial goal for 2019! But that goal was just a step toward sustainability and I can’t imagine doing it again, much less ramping it up to be able to meet the next step’s goal.
I love the workshops. I love being in that space. I love the writing and the constant reminder of the brilliance of individuals when they are encouraged to be themselves. But I do not love all the work that has to happen to get folks in that space and to pay for it. Furthermore, I do not believe in the current (just pre-COVID-19) climate that it is possible to do the work - the work in the space plus the work to get in that space - part-time. I’m tired of the hustle. For these reasons, I need to retire Green Windows. But also, frankly, it’s time. Twelve years is a long time to do anything. I'm very, very proud of what we’ve done together for a dozen years. Proud of you. Grateful. And I’m ready for the next thing, though I don’t know what that is. (First order of business: get a full-time job).
And you all don’t need me. Or Green Windows. Your brilliant selves are still your brilliant selves. You can carry the spirit of community and creativity that we built with you, into everything you do. And I want to know how you will do that. Please let me know (in a comment on this post, ideally) what Green Windows and its community have given you that you will always have. Please let me know how you will carry it forward and share it.
Here is my plan, very much subject to fluctuations as we shelter-in-place and have to go through extreme measures to keep each other safe.
[Read May 20th update on the plan here.]
THANK YOU! All your words have always been welcome in Green Windows workshops. Your words remain welcome, and important, even just on the page, or just shared with one person. Please remember that I believe in you and your words. Trust yourselves: The page knows that with that trust, you can’t write wrong.
Thank you. Thank you all. Thank you for sharing.