Praise for SCN

SCN members often write to tell us how the organization has helped them. If you'd like to add your testimonial, please do so by sending email to news at

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"One of the transformational events in my life happened in 2006 when I was awarded a scholarship to attend the National Story Circle Network's Memoir Conference in Austin, Texas. From the moment I walked into the Wyndham Hotel, I knew I'd found "family." Women milled about. They smiled and greeted each other warmly. This sorority of like-minded sisters had stories to tell. Many of them in their sixties resembled me, their hair also short and silver-white, glowed beneath the room's fluorescent lights. They, too, had come to open themselves to learning, to take the first or second or third step in writing about people and experiences that had, for better or sometimes for worse, shaped them and their unique lives.

During that conference, I was transformed. I became empowered, gathering up the courage I needed to begin writing about my own odyssey. Because of this experience, it became my mission to bring what I had experienced at that conference back to my community. I returned to Green Bay and found a place to conduct my Women's Writing Circles. And so began my efforts, encouraging other women to write their stories in a safe, supportive, non-judgmental, non-critical, non-competitive environment, thereby becoming empowered through the act of writing and in some instances, healing old wounds through engaging in the creative process."

—Sandra Shackelford in Green Bay WI, August 2017

In May 2010, I retired early from a 24+-year teaching career. I was a broken woman disillusioned with the profession to which I'd dedicated my life. I felt vulnerable, fragile, unsteady, and unsure; and spent a good part of that summer trying to re-connect with some part of me that had meaning and purpose...My husband—the dear, brave, compassionate man that he is—encouraged me to take a writing course and pursue my lost teenage girl dream. I was hesitant, of course, but enrolled in the course anyway, stepping out on faith; slowly I anchored myself to the words within my soul that yearned to be expressed.

Little by little, I rediscovered my inner writer and began writing mostly memoirs...Kate [Farrell] told me about Story Circle Network and suggested it might be a place for me to connect with other female writers who, like me, were searching for their voice and for their meaning. I joined and have enjoyed the support and expertise of other female writers who have a story to tell. Story Circle has given me and other women a network and a venue for our writing and a comfortable space free of doubt, others' judgments, and unkind criticisms.

I am grateful for Story Circle's publications and contests that provide ongoing opportunities to share my words and voice with others.

Now I'm seven years a writer and member of Story Circle Network; many of my pre-existing wounds have healed, replaced with extra tough scar tissue...I am indebted to Story Circle Network, for it and many of its members unknowingly and quietly gave me comfort, purpose, direction, and hope. They offered me a life preserver during one of the most difficult times in my life; it truly was one of the anchors I needed as I navigated through some murky, tumultuous waters...

Thank you, Story Circle Network, for all you do to honor women and their voices.

—Sara Etgen-Baker in Texas, July 2017

Thank you so much for your uplifting letter and your "welcome back" to Story Circle Network. I have really missed my SCN sisters... I feel like it will save my life in many different ways by allowing me to share my story once again and to hear the stories of beautiful women. Listening to other's stories is one of my favorite pastimes. Also, when I went to SCN workshops I loved sitting in a circle and reading my words out loud. What a powerful tool for each of us to share our truth.

—Jeanne in Texas, July 2015

My Story Circle met this morning and wrote stories about impossible things we had done in our lives—of course we didn't finish them, but that's what the time in between is for! The group is bonding beautifully. It really hit me this morning—these people are my friends and they are going to be life friends with each other and me, soon. I can't think of anything more beautiful or more important! I think I got what Story Circle is all about this morning. Before, it was something I thought was important; women's stories matter. We should have this kind of group, people should look into their lives and so on. Now I feel it. These people will always be there for me and I for them. I see a future where we share everything and support each other. I see how opening up is going to help them (and me) live life more fully.

We are changing the world—from the inside—one person at a time. This is what we said we needed to do as the Women's Movement began to lose force. I remember listening to JoAnn Evans Gardner and Wilma Scott Heide talk about it. I can remember JoAnn holding forth on that subject for some time. It was all theory to me, albeit important theory. I lived in my head. I was a graduate student in psychology in those years; of course we needed to change behavior one person at a time. When you change behaviors, attitudes change. And so on. I've held to that thought a lot as I've struggled to make ends meet. In recent years other people have commented that the women's movement didn't die, it went underground. I am privileged to be alive for its re-emergence.

I was honored to hear the things women wrote. As I listened to a woman older than I read about having to support her family in the 1960's and what she did, I knew, and I knew in a way that the younger women couldn't, how difficult that was and how wonderfully well she did to have it work out so well. It is important that we share these stories so that the feeling as well as the factoids are available to people. We have come a long way.

—Elsa in North Carolina, October 2006

Why I Joined Yet Another Group

Several years ago I read that Story Circle Network was sponsoring a "Writing from Life Workshop" here in Austin, Texas, and that author, Susan Albert, would be one of the presenters. My daughter-in-law, Kara, an aspiring writer, and I thought this would be a marvelous opportunity for Kara to meet a "real live author." I persuaded Kara to come to Austin for the workshop, but she insisted that I go with her. Three important things happened to me at that workshop.

First, while writing in college and during my professional life, a respected colleague had once critiqued my writing. She said that I wrote well, but that my writing was "way too chatty" for professional writing. From then on, I worked hard to make my writing sound professional. However, the women I met at the Writing from Life workshop encouraged "chatty writing" and I was elated! Finally, someone appreciated my natural style of "chatty" writing.

Next, I learned a valuable lesson from Susie Flatau, who led one of the writing sessions. For several years I had collected genealogical stories of our family and had tried to arrange them into a book for family members, but without too much success. I had so much information and so many extraneous details that I could not envision how to organize it into a book. The mass of material overwhelmed me! Susie suggested that we might have many stories to write, but that we should start with one story or "one snippet" at a time. I explained my genealogical dilemma and she suggested that I write the story of one ancestor at a time and make that into a booklet.

So, I took the fascinating story of an ancestor that I had come to call "Ole Ezekiel" and compiled a booklet on his life and adventures for my family for Christmas. That began the first of numerous booklets that now include Mothers, Fathers, Favorite Christmas Stories, Growing Up in the Texas Panhandle, and Holiday Recipes and Stories. The past several booklets have included pieces written by various family members, and their stories have added greatly to our accumulating "family history."

Finally, during lunch at the "Writing from Life" workshop, I sat with Catherine Cogburn, the Story Circle Network director of the Older Women's Legacy (OWL) program. Catherine had listened to me talk about writing the stories of my family genealogy and she said to me, "Do I have a job for you!" She asked if I might be interested in working with her to direct of the Older Women's Legacy (OWL) program developed by Story Circle Network. She explained that the goal of the OWL program was to teach women over 60 years of age to write their stories—their memoirs. Initially I felt that I didn't know nearly enough about writing, older women, or Story Circle Network to do the job.

Several days later I met with Susan Albert, Catherine Cogburn, and Peggy Moody to discuss working with the OWL program. I accepted their offer and I have never regretted that wonderful decision! The experience has been one of the highlights of my life. I find it so rewarding to take a group of women through a five-week writing program and watch them blossom as writers as they learn to put their stories on paper with great ease. Many of the women I have worked with have gone on to become very confident and enthusiastic writers and I love to hear about their writing projects and to hear from their family members.

What I have learned from Story Circle Network has enabled me to write my own stories and share them with my family. I have also become very passionate about encouraging and helping people write their stories. In addition, some of my family members have started writing their own stories, several have joined Story Circle Network, and Kara will soon finish her first novel!

—Pat in Austin, April 2006
From The Wright Stuff Newsletter, 04/04/2006. To subscribe to this free, monthly publication, send an e-mail to

About two years ago I attended an OWL Workshop in Avon, Indiana. I was so impressed with the philosophy of this endeavor, liked the contents of the workshop, and personally felt strongly about documenting stories for my children that I decided to become a facilitator myself...and...have conducted three workshops myself over the past year...I am not a licensed or certified teacher and having had no training in this field, I was very apprehensive if I could even do this, but it has truly been a wonderful and rewarding experience. The stories generated from these ladies in the OWL Workshop have added so much to my life and to their lives as well...I feel so privileged to be a facilitator for OWL Workshops it has been a rewarding, healing and fascinating experience. Thank you!

—Jane in Indiana, October 2005

THANK YOU for providing a forum for writers who aren't (yet!) among the top creative writers in the country, but who want to be true to their calling for self expression. The Story Circle Network is a great blessing in my life.

—Pat in Florida, August 2005

There is no way to adequately say 'thank you'. The ten women (in my OWL-Circle) bonded so quickly. It was just wonderful! I am the most blessed because I got to hear all the stories and empower them to make the connections. It was truly a glorious have breathed such life into the lives of so many people and I am so grateful to you.

—Rosalie in New York, June 2005

I can't tell you how much finding your organization has meant to me. I am convinced that lifewriting is a tool for health and healing as well as leaving a legacy for our children and grandchildren.

—Sylvia in Idaho, April 2005

I think the OWL program is one of the very best ideas ever for the Arts Council...we need to keep it going, both for new sessions and for alumni to continue to meet and write and share. I definitely want to ... continue to do this... The entire concept is fun, rewarding, cathartic and educational. I also think it reinforces the whole idea that you are never too old to learn and try something new.

—President of Arts Council of Bainbridge, Georgia, March 2005


I want to share how wonderful our first [OWL-Circle] meeting was yesterday. We were 10 women who loved the opportunity to write and to share. It was really a very successful and meaningful experience for ALL of us. Thank you again for this wonderful work!

—Rosalie in New York, March 2005

I have never before felt the inclination to 'affiliate' with anything. Story Circle Network appeared on this screen as the most fiercely loving energy for women with the NEED to write...I could not believe my eyes.

These circles have changed my life in these last months. And I don't mean that in a small way. It is huge. It is as if each writing topic, each book selection, each offering by all the members is 'godgiven' directly to me, for my benefit. Amazing. Makes it crystal clear that we all have such common ground, such common heart. I am not dancing in these circles because I am bored and need a hobby. It is something else entirely. And it is Spiritual.

—Grace in New Mexico, March 2005

What a great idea to collaborate with each other. It is such a gift to be a part of a circle of women. I appreciate all the work the circle facilitators have done and I will rely on you all to guide me as I learn to be an effective circle leader. I think that the support that we can provide each other is synergistic; it multiplies what we can do alone.

—Lisa in Maryland, February 2005

I wish I could let people know the degree to which SCN is responsible for my writing more, writing better, feeling more confident, and getting some public writing attention. It all feels like miraculous progress and I am floating...

—Duffie in California, February 2005