Outstanding Transformative Language Arts Awards

2023 Award Winners

Outstanding Transformative Language Arts Organization of the Year

Community Building Art Works

Seema Reza, CEO & Poetry Facilitation

Outstanding Transformative Language Arts Practitioner
Vanita Leatherwood
for Hope Works of Howard County

Outstanding Transformative Language Arts Publication
Journal of Expressive Writing
Edited and founded by Jennifer Minotti

Outstanding Transformative Language Arts Network Volunteer
John L. Swainston, TLA Network board member and treasurer

(clockwise from upper left)

Outstanding Transformative Language Arts Practitioner:
Vanita Leatherwood for her work at HopeWorks of Howard County

Vanita Leatherwood exemplifies what difference one person can make. As the Director of Community Engagement at HopeWorks – which provides support and advocacy for people affected by sexual and intimate partner violence – Vanita has founded many TLA programs in survivor wellness, youth leadership, self-care and social justice. These include monthly and one-on-one self-care and poetry for health sessions with survivors, a journaling newsletter, a survivors' speakers bureau, a theater program, and many essential public programs. She founded two publications: Dragonfly, an arts & transformative justice magazine, and Cultivate, a youth arts magazine. 

An award-winning poet with a MA in Transformative Language Arts from Goddard College, Vanita says, "The power of words led me to a place of safety, eventually to a place of joy, to that place within that I call the 'YES.' That’s part of what I wanted to create at HopeWorks – that’s what Dragonfly is; an opportunity to explore, learn, feel, connect, rebel and grow."

We are honored to present our inaugural Outstanding TLA practitioner award to Vanita for her compassionate leadership, visionary program design, and community social justice programming, all of which she does with the heart of a poet and soul of a change-maker. She also models and maps out the possibilities for all of us of how TLA can root itself and flourish in community-focused organizations.

Outstanding Transformative Language Arts Organization of the Year:  Community Building Art Works, Seema Reza, CEO & Poetry Facilitator

We award Outstanding TLA Organization of the Year to Community Building Art Works, a visionary non-profit organization making a huge difference in the world. Each week, CBAW offers lots of workshops in writing, visual arts and more for veterans and active military, their families and communities, and the general public. These workshops not only build connections, creativity, and mutual understanding and support, but help thousands of people struggling with emotional and physical injuries caused by trauma. CBAW is guided by a board of veterans from all four branches as well as established artists, military family members, and professionals.

We are proud to have Seema Reza, CBAW founder and CEO here. Seema is a poet, essayist, and deep-down TLAer – she served as chair of our TLA Network board and several Power of Words conferences, and also earned a BFA and MA from Goddard College on TLA. She began working with service members at the Walter Reed Army Medical center in 2010 and went on to create CBAW with Joe Merritt, an artist and facilitator who is medically retired from the United States Marine Corps.

Seema Reza says, “When you’ve experienced things that are out of the ‘norm’, it’s easy to feel totally isolated. Our programs give people the tools and space to talk about these things, first with people who feel the same way and then to people in their lives who are potentially very different from them. It’s how we begin to heal the fissures, and find ourselves experiencing belonging.” 

Outstanding Transformative Language Arts Publication Award to the Journal of Expressive Writing, edited and founded by Jennifer Minotti

When the pandemic brought tremendous risk to our good health, peace of mind and livelihoods, Jen Minotti listened to a small voice of conviction from within that urged her beyond her fears of creative risk taking. She sat down at her computer and founded the Journal of Expressive Writing. Because, Jen believes writing your feelings helps you survive, and sharing them helps others survive and say yes to each other. The Journal thrives on all of us saying yes to our feelings in writing.

As Jen describes on the journal's website, "the journal publishes expressive writing, free writing, personal essay, non-fiction, memoir, reflective essay, poetry, prose, contemplative discourse, and creative non-fiction—all that originate from a writing prompt—by both established and emerging writers."

Jen says, "At a fundamental level, I have this very strong belief that sharing our stories is a radical act of self-love and love for others….When we can write (and operate) from our authentic selves, our inclination to judge softens. Love emerges and so does healing, not only for the writer, but for the readers, too. Eventually, it’s a ripple effect. This is ultimately what I hope to achieve with the Journal." Congratulations to the Journal of Expressive Writing.

Outstanding Transformative Language Arts Network Volunteer:
John L. Swainston, TLA Network board member and treasurer

We have this year created a special award for an outstanding volunteer, our MVP Volunteer of the Year, if you will, to honor the service and special guidance provided to the TLA Network by John L. Swainston.

As a new member of our board, John has guided us as Treasurer on a path to financial health. He volunteered his services to us as a retired accountant with years of experience, including teaching accounting at area colleges. He has provided accessible and comprehensive monthly reporting to our board that continually helps us plot our course ahead. Because of John, our books, accounting, and tax status have been put in order, working closely with our bookkeeper. And because this has been a year of heavy transition, we have benefitted from John’s calm, cheerful, and witty presence, helping us keep our direction clear, and at times sharing his own poetry – as he is an artist in his own right. We are immensely grateful for his time, his talents, and his skills.

John says of the TLA Network: "At a young age I liked to dance. Then I discovered oil painting. When my grandpa retired he would come over and we listened to opera. Very late in life I became a poet. I never could find a place where I could enjoy all art forms. Until TLA Network. I just had to volunteer and help support the mission of TLA however I could. Discover for yourself all that they offer."

The TLA Network exists to support and promote individuals and organizations that use the spoken, written, or sung word as a tool for personal and community transformation.

Access our policies: Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use

The Transformative Language Arts Network is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization

1741 Valley Forge Road, #175, Worcester, PA 19490 | tlan.coordinator@gmail.com

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software