Dr. Ahava Shira,
Poet, Memoir Writer, Dancer, Visual Artist
~ Midwife of Creativity
~ Teacher of Therapeutic Writing
~ Guide at the Gates of Loving Inquiry
“I absolutely LOVE what I do. There is so much joy in creating a brave and sacred space where women gather to connect, write, listen, witness and honour each other. I feel so fortunate to offer this empowering and transformative work for women.
There is a feeling of deep purpose, when I am in the midst of a session. Listening to the women’s stories, witnessing their journeys, hearing their voices soften as they touch upon a vulnerable truth, or watching as their eyes light up when they taste the freedom of expression or the healing from having found a different way to tell their story that unburdens them, releases knots of frustration, guilt or shame. Or when they are sharing with each other how they resonate with each others’ experience.
I feel such gratitude that life has given me the skills, gifts and opportunities to be a loving support for each woman’s writing process, which is also a healing process, learning process, discovery process and a self-loving process.“
Here’s how I developed this beautiful work:
Journal Writing, Poetry & Spoken Word Performance
When I was 20 years old, I bought my first journal to take with on a 4-month solo backpacking trip to Europe. My second journal was written in Israel, where I lived in Jerusalem for a year while studying at the Hebrew University.
After a few more years of travel and study in beautiful places & healing centres (Bali with Naropa, Big Sur at Esalen, & New York at Omega), I left my hometown of Montreal and moved to the west coast of Canada, landing in Vancouver, where I started writing and performing poetry about the trauma and unhealthy relationships I had experienced in my childhood home and the post-traumatic patterns I was encountering as an adult, from disordered eating to self-picking.
After self-publishing my first book of poems, Weaving of My Being, I wrote and acted in my first one woman show, Chelo.
Writing helped me free my voice, give meaning to difficult experiences, and celebrate the joys and pleasures of life.
Loving Inquiry: A Journey through the Gates
I co-developed and facilitated an award-winning school-based violence prevention program called “Respectful Relationships,” from 2000-2007. Wanting to deepen my skills and awareness of my role as a facilitator, I completed a graduate program in writing and narrative inquiry. During my Master’s of Education in Curriculum Studies (UVic, 2005), with the support of my mentor Dr. Antoinette Oberg, I wrote poetry and stories exploring what I was learning about my own relationships as I taught the program to youth. Becoming aware of my tendency toward self-judgment and criticism, I committed to learning how to reverse these negative patterns and engage more kindly toward myself and others.
I dove even deeper into writing, narrative inquiry and other arts-based research through a PhD in Language and Literacy Education (UBC, 2010). Through the mentorship of my supervisor, poet and professor Dr. Carl Leggo, I developed Loving Inquiry, a practice of writing that uses the metaphor of the gate to open up to more generous, joyful and compassionate ways of being with self, other and the world.
After graduating, I created A Year to Love, a 12-month creative mentorship program supporting artistic women to engage in writing and other arts in a nourishing space of kindness and self-compassion.
I also produced my first spoken word CD, Love is Like This.
Writing Alone Together: The Book & The Four Practices
In 2014, after seven years of creative collaboration with two women who were also passionate, long-time journal writers (by then I had been journal writing for 20 years), we co-published Writing Alone Together: Journalling in a Circle of Women for Creativity, Compassion and Connection.
I have facilitated hundreds of workshops, retreats and facilitator training sessions in Writing Alone Together. I have worked with diverse populations including women with fused spines, youth in middle and high schools, and clients of a mental health drop-in centre.
I co-edited and published six collections of students’ writing, with the support of my dear friend, colleague and co-inspirator, Sarah Hook Nilsson. Sarah and I also codeveloped and facilitated Home Words, a Facilitator Training for educators, counselors and community members to use Writing Alone Together with their own clients and students. This arts-based community development work has been recognized through several grants from the Salt Spring Arts, ArtStarts and the BC Arts Council’s Arts-Based Community Development program,
The Writing Journey Continues
In 2015 I started to work on a memoir exploring some health and relationship issues. Through writing my stories, I deepened my understanding of traumatic events from my past, and developed more awareness of boundaries and other skills I needed to support myself and heal my body in the present.
Having the support of a writing mentor who gently guided me through the process of editing and shaping my story was so important and I am grateful to feminist author Betsy Warland for her guidance.
For writers who are wanting to dive deeper into the heart and craft of writing, I offer mentorship to help bring more of your stories to life. We gather, write, edit and develop our voices, while dreaming into the ways we want to share our words in the world.
Unveiling Our Stories is a journey in/words that will support you to express yourself freely while belonging to a wild, daring and caring community of writers devoted to cultivating and celebrating each other’s beautiful words.
Tendher : Creative Sanctuary for caregivers
At the start of the pandemic, the world as I knew it collapsed. My husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, the farm we had called home for 14 years went up for sale and sold in a matter of days, and I found myself in the unfamiliar role of primary breadwinner, while learning to be a caregiver for my husband of 21 years.
In mid-2021, as we were preparing to move, amid all the uncertainty, fear and grief of these difficult times, I said to my husband, “I wrote my way onto the farm, I will write my way off.”
This became the impetus for my second memoir, Touching Wood. I am still living and writing, the changes, writing and sharing the story in my weekly Substack newsletter What the Day Holds
I created Tendher for caregivers who are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, and would love the support to pause and give themselves some nurturing attention and creative affirmation.