Inside and Out: Women's Truths, Women's Stories

Editor's Note by Susan F. Schoch

The globe moves to the magnificent hubbub of happiness, sadness, love, laughter, grieving, and anger, as women's words sing out, each story separate, yet each story connected by a mystical thread reaching back to ancient times.
—Connie Spittler

Inside and out, personally and publicly, writing about one's life is most compelling when the reader can feel both the truth and the story in it. That ineffable appeal was the basic rubric for choosing the pieces included in Inside and Out: Women's Truths, Women's Stories. These essays are vibrant with telling, resonant with giving voice.

And giving voice to real women's lives is the fundamental mission at Story Circle Network. Since the first volume in 2002, SCN has created fifteen annual member Anthologies, publishing a total of about 650 pieces, most of them lifewriting and poetry. This rich trove of women's writing called out for us to create a book from the bounty. To simplify the selection process, and clarify the result, we focused on lifewriting, drawing from the eight most recent issues of the Anthology, 2009-2016. It was, nonetheless, a challenge to reduce the profusion to a manageable volume. The 76 pieces included here are works that stand out.

As current editor of the Anthology, Real Women Write: Sharing Our Stories, Sharing Our Lives, I was honored to lead the SCN team responsible for selecting this verbal chorus: Susan Wittig Albert, Mary Jo Doig, Pat LaPointe, Jo Virgil, and Jude Walsh, all skilled authors and teachers. We had no rules; we were looking for words that called to us.

We found important stories, sweet stories, stories of tragedy, love, pain, passion, humor, and gratitude. We discovered essays that feel timeless, chronicles that recreate vanished times, and tales that every woman knows as the shared experience of being female. In stories of every age, cast in places far and near, we found lyrical language, and language that made us laugh.

After months of selection and evaluation, we eventually came to this collection. I take responsibility and pleasure in it, along with Susan Wittig Albert's anchoring and energetic creative participation. Amber Lea Starfire (2009-2010) and Mary Jo Doig (2011-2013) were editors of the Anthology during the years when it was titled True Words from Real Women. Their wonderful selections and editing play a large part here, as well.

Ordering the pieces was a challenge. Grouping them by publication year made sense. Alphabetical listings did not. As we read, strands of women's experience gradually appeared: Witnessing, Connecting, Remembering, Waking, Recognizing, Acting, Nurturing, Growing. The pieces sorted themselves into an irregular but flowing whole.

Inside and Out reflects the two vivid realities of women's lives—our inner and most sacred private world, and the outside world of all that teaches and needs us. With courage, each of these writing women transformed her experience into a narrative that expresses a truth we can recognize, giving voice to herself and giving us a chance to know her, the better to know all women. All of them have our great appreciation and admiration.

"...each story separate, yet each story connected..." These true tales, our sisters' voices, link us and can lead us forward. I am grateful for that guiding hubbub, and pleased to offer you a part of it here.

Inside and Out: Women's Truths, Women's Stories is available on Amazon by clicking here.