Their Stories / Our Stories: A Creative Writing Workshop for Parents of Special Needs Kids

Allow me to introduce my friend and fellow Delaware writing tribe member, Shannon Connor Winward, and tell you about a unique and timely workshop she is offering soon–and why.
shannonShannon is a gifted poet and prose writer, and she’s also the dragon mother of a special needs child. Parenting is an experience that can’t be corralled into a rulebook, though many people try. As writers, the parenting experience becomes fodder just like the rest of our lives, but honest writing about parenthood can mean examining the downs more than the ups.  The most painful writing I have ever done has addressed my difficulties as a parent; the most positive feedback I have ever received as a writer has been after publishing pieces about my difficulties as a parent.
Multiply the above when your child has special needs and the world sometimes feels like a wilderness.
Shannon has taken the generous step of putting together a workshop aimed at parents and caregivers of special needs children. Details about Their Stories / Our Stories: A Creative Writing Workshop for Parents of Special Needs Kids and registration can be found here.
If you are, or know, a parent, grandparent, caregiver, or friend of a special needs child, and you or that person wants to learn how to tell your stories, please attend this workshop. It is a project from Shannon’s heart, which is big indeed.
Below is a Q&A with more information about what to expect, and the background for the event. I hope you will attend, and if you are also a member of the Delaware writing tribe, spread the word.
Question 1: Who should attend this workshop and what can they expect to learn from it?

Their Stories / Our Stories is a creative writing workshop specifically for caregivers—so parents, grandparents, family members, and anyone who shares their life with special needs children (of any age).

As a writer, I believe that everyone has a story inside them that wants to be told. But as a special needs mom, I know that we don’t always give ourselves space or permission to tell those stories—we’re busy, we’re tired, we’re focused on others.

My idea with this workshop is to create a safe, supportive space where caregivers can explore writing as a form of self-expression and self-care. It doesn’t matter if you like writing poetry or long letters or just venting on social media… it doesn’t matter if you never tried to write creatively before at all! The focus will be on fun, community, and finding our own unique voices.

Question 2: How do  you balance the writer you with the mom you, in particular in deciding how much to share about your child with all the world?

Aah, the quest for balance. It is the eternal struggle! Especially when your child has a diagnosis. Or three.

For me, it’s about triage: figuring out what’s most important in any given moment. I can put down my pen to go to IEP meetings and doctors’ appointments, that’s fine, but maybe the laundry doesn’t absolutely have to get done today.  Or this week, even. If I don’t write at least some of the time, I start to feel myself shutting down; I can’t be as good of a parent or advocate for my kids if I’m not tending to my own oxygen mask.

The question of how and how much to write about our children is a complicated one. The simplest answer is it depends: it’s a personal equation that should take into account the family, the child, what’s being written, for who and for what purpose, etc.

When we were first navigating my son’s diagnoses, fighting to get him the supports that he needs, I felt very isolated. We faced prejudice and misunderstanding. There weren’t many people I could talk to, and I had to figure out a lot of things on my own. But I was a writer, and I already had a blog, so I blogged about it. It was a kind of therapy for me, for sure—but I also made a conscious decision early on to chronicle our experiences. I wanted to help educate people who have no clue what this life is like, and I wanted to leave a trail of breadcrumbs for other families going through the same struggles. To that end, it’s always been important to me to be as open and honest about our lives as I can. But I aim to do that without thrusting my kid under a spotlight or a microscope, or betraying his own agency. Again, it’s a balancing act.

 Question 3: Why is now an ideal time for Their Stories/Our Stories to be heard?

Today’s sociopolitical climate is one of tension and uncertainty. It  impacts all of us, regardless of whether someone close to us carries a diagnosis.  That said, special needs families endure stressors and challenges that are unique, often misunderstood or even invisible to the larger community. It’s vital that we communicate and  support one another, and it’s vital that we speak our truths. These are things I hope to foster with this workshop. I want to encourage folks to pick up a pen—or a mic, or a soapbox. Whether it leads to changing laws, changing the way society sees us, or just helping someone get through the day, it’s all good. I want people to let their stories out.

Shannon’s bio:
shannon and childShannon Connor Winward is the author of the Elgin-award winning chapbook Undoing Winter and winner of a 2018 Delaware Division of the Arts Emerging Artist Fellowship in Fiction. Her stories, poetry, and creative non-fiction have been published widely in places such as Literary Mama, Lunch Ticket, Flash Fiction Online, The Pedestal Magazine, Thank You For Swallowing, Analog, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science, and elsewhere. In between parenting, writing, and other madness, Shannon is also a poetry editor for Devilfish Review and founding editor of Riddled with Arrows, a literary journal dedicated to metafiction, ars poetica, and writing that celebrates the process and product of writing as art. Shannon’s first book-length collection of poetry, The Year of the Witch, was just released by Sycorax Press. website:

2 thoughts on “Their Stories / Our Stories: A Creative Writing Workshop for Parents of Special Needs Kids

  1. Kudos to you for speaking out and for helping educate people. I had a special needs brother, (Down Syndrome, born in 1949), and know how important this is, how hard it was for my mother. Things have gotten better, but we still have a long way to go.


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