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  • How Pictures Heal: Expressive Writing from Personal Photos // with Kelly DuMar

How Pictures Heal: Expressive Writing from Personal Photos // with Kelly DuMar

  • 15 June 2022
  • 27 July 2022
  • Online
  • 4


  • Early bird rate available through 6/01! Regular price is $295.

We all take, save, and inherit photographs of the people, places, and things that bring meaning, mystery, hope, and connection into our lives. These treasured personal archives will be the source of inspiration for writing as a means of restoring meaning, purpose, hope, and resilience during and after loss. Expressive writing prompted by personally chosen photos can help loved ones cope with what Pauline Boss calls the “ambiguous loss,” associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. 

Particularly, throughout this time of the pandemic, unexpected losses, without meaningful closure, have mounted for many people. In this course, we’ll use expressive writing, in poetry and prose, to help build resilience, restore meaning and purpose, and honor and celebrate relationships through legacy stories. TLA practitioners and writers at all levels of experience will imaginatively encounter personal photos sparked by questions that generate remarkable and uplifting writing experiences.

Objectives & Goals

1.  Participants will use personal photos as prompts for creative writing -  poetry, memoir, or stories that capture the personalities, relationships, rites of passage, cultural identity, and family history evoked by personal photos.  

2.  Participants will recognize the healing aspects of storytelling from photos to build resilience and restore a sense of meaning, purpose, and value to life after loss.

3.  Participants will use photos to probe and preserve memories, find purpose and meaning amidst loss and change, and express truth and beauty from relationships after loss.

4.  Participants will explore the expressive benefits of writing from landscape and nature photos to connect with aspects of spirituality, safety, comfort, beauty, and transcendence.

5.  TLA practitioners we will explore specific applications in your work with individuals and groups, such as coping with memory loss, Alzheimer’s, and dementia, and the healing power of telling end-of-life or legacy stories.

Week by Week

Week One: Entering the Three-Dimensional World of Photographs - Stimulate Meaning, Surprise, Delight, and Possibility 

Week Two: Embracing The Imaginative Wonder - Exploring Role Reversal & Altered Point of View in Photos

Week Three: Writing Truth & Beauty – Telling Relationship Histories, Exploring Significant Rites of Passages, and Recognizing Gifts that Keep On Giving

Week Four: Exploring Nature, Landscape, & Favorite Places Photos - Stimulate Curiosity, Spirituality, Comfort, Relief, & Aesthetic Satisfaction & Transcendence

Week Five: Crafting & Revision: Developing Your Raw Material - Exploring forms, including Portraits, Essays, Poems, Monologues, [Unsent] Letters, Dialogues, and Creative List-Making

Week Six: Applications for TLA Artists, Writers, and Loved Ones – Ways to Share The Healing Power of Generating Legacy Stories from Photos

Who Should Take This Class

This course will serve writers and TLA practitioners at all levels of experience, as well as anyone interested in personal and artistic development.  Professionals and para-professionals who work with memory challenged seniors, as well as family members of those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s, and ambiguous loss, will find dynamic creative outlets for personal and professional development. Writers and artists with an interest in exploring the healing aspects of personal photos after loss may also be quite interested.


This is an online class, hosted on the online teaching platform, Wet Ink, and on ZoomThe Wet Ink platform allows students to log in on their own time to post comments and critiques directly to students’ works. You can also view deadlines, track revisions, and watch video or listen to audio. At the end of the class, each student will receive an email that contains an archive of all their content and interactions. 

The day before class begins, you’ll receive an invitation to join Wet Ink. There are no browser requirements, and Wet Ink is mobile-friendly. If you have any questions about the technical requirements, please email tlan.coordinator@gmail.com.

This class includes weekly Wet Ink assignments, plus three bi-weekly webinars on Zoom (scheduled during the first week according to best availability of participants). Each week will consist of engaging content designed to spark personal reflection, discussion and dynamic writing to be shared in the group forum on Wet.Ink. Each week, participants will (1) upload at least one personal photo to share with others that they will use as the foundation of their weekly writing exploration; (2) read writing in progress of classmates and respond in discussion forum; (3) receive written comments on the writing and sharing from instructor; (4) share (optional) revisions of creative writing in Wet.Ink and (5) bring writing for discussion and sharing to three (recommended but optional) live Zoom webinars.

Participants should expect to spend no more than 2 hours or so on the weekly writing prompt, revisions, reading and commenting on the work of others, viewing and participating in live discussion, and sharing works in progress live. We’ll create a safe and supportive environment, offering respectful support that inspires the development of every writer’s voice.

About the Teacher

Kelly DuMar, M.Ed. is a poet, playwright, and workshop leader who generates enlivening writing experiences for new and experienced writers. This is the fifth time Kelly has offered this monologue class for TLAN. Author of three poetry collections, girl in tree barkTree of the Apple, and All These Cures, Kelly is also author of Before You Forget— The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your Children. Kelly’s award winning plays have been produced around the US and Canada, and are published by dramatic publishers. She founded and produced the Our Voices Festival of Women Playwrights at Wellesley College for twelve years, and she is a past president of Playwright's Platform, Boston. For the past five years, Kelly has led the week-long Play Lab Intensive at the annual conference of the International Women's Writing Guild. Kelly is a certified psychodramatist, former psychotherapist, and Fellow in the American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama. She founded Let’s Talk TLA, a bi-monthly tele-conference and poetry open mic for members of the Transformative Language Arts Association. Currently, Kelly serves on the board & faculty of The International Women’s Writing Guild. Kelly inspires readers of #NewThisDay - her daily photo-inspired blog - with her mindful reflections on a writing life. You can learn more about Kelly, at www.kellydumar.com.

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