I absolutely LOVE what I do. There is so much joy in creating a safe, 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 I get, 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 relief from having found a different way to tell their story that unburdens them, releases years of pent-up frustration or guilt or shame.

It’s a feeling of exhilaration, joy and wonder. 

I feel such gratitude that life has given me the skills, gifts and opportunities to be a generous loving support for each woman’s writing process, which is also a healing process, learning process, discovery process and a self-loving process.                                                               

                                                                            Dr. Ahava Shira

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, 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. Five years later, I produced my spoken word CD, Love is Like This.

Writing helped me give voice and meaning to things I hadn’t had words for, to understand what happened to me, and free myself from guilt, shame and self-doubt.

Loving Inquiry

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, 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 understanding how to reverse these negative patterns and engage more kindly toward myself and others.

After graduating from my M.Ed., 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 12-month transformational creative mentorship program helping women focus on their writing and other arts in a nourishing space of kindness and self-compassion.

 

Writing Alone Together

The same year I started my PhD, I also started writing with two women who were also passionate, long-time journal writers (by then I had been journal writing for 20 years). In 2014, after seven years of creative collaboration we co-published Writing Alone Together: Journalling in a Circle of Women for Creativity, Compassion and Connection.

Since then, 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 spinesyouth in middle and high schoolsand clients of a mental health drop-in centre.

I have co-edited and published six collections of students’ writing, with the support of my dear friend, colleague and co-inspirator, Sarah Hook Nilsson. 

I also developed 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 and the BC Arts Council.

 

Woman in Mirror memoir writing journeys

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 with Curve: A Memoir of (Self) Compassion.

I am currently facilitating Woman in Mirror online memoir writing journeys for women who want to free their voices, discover their stories and develop a loving relationship with themselves and others.

Immerse Yourself month-long daily writing practice

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 moving to a new house and learning what it means to be a loving care-partner for my husband of 21 years.

In mid-2021, as we were preparing to move, amid all the uncertainty and my fears and doubts about the future, I said to my husband one day “I wrote my way onto the Farm, I will write my way off the Farm.”

This became the impetus for my second memoir, Touching Wood.

A year later and I am still living, and writing, the changes. And I have noticed so are many other women in my classes.

I created Immerse Yourself, a month of daily writing to support women to create space and time to devote to their writing.