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Chapter II,  Part C

Creating a Caring Listening Community

Navigating the delicate divide between safe and brave spaces


  1. What to do when the same people aren’t there every time–  Stranger/Reader to the Rescue.

  2. What to do when people are in different stages of the writing process– Take me Back There/ abandoning full group prompts. 

  3. What to do when people are triggered by one another’s content.

  4. What to do when people have known one another before, or are living together in close confinement.

  5. What to do with deliberately provocative writing.

  6. Balancing Freedom of Expression and the lack of privacy.  

  7. The boundaries between shared group purpose and individual needs.

What to do when the same people aren't there every time

Life happens. So, imagine you got off to a good start.   Maybe you had a group of 18 people the first time you met. Much to your surprise, more than half of them hit the ground running with their first oral imaging, leading to their writing very strong Page One Moments that they shared with the group. You are elated, and can’t wait to meet everyone again, to see how they built on their promising starts.  


But suddenly, the corrections officers have assigned you six more people.  Do you start all over again with them? Or, if there are two of you, does one of you take the others aside?


You look around again and notice that half of the original group of 18 is missing.  Have they been sent to isolated confinement? Or are they called away to receive visitors or meds? Or have they been sent to another part of the state to maximum security prisons, without your knowing that they had been sentenced? Have they been called to court or released to the streets with no way of contacting them again? 

Stranger/ Reader to the Rescue

The trick is to begin each new meeting with what we call the go-round, whether there are newcomers to the group or not. This will allow you to engage those who are already on the journey in explaining the Dare to Care mission and how they are writing for the Stranger/ Reader, as a way of breaking the ice.  The newcomers are truly Stranger/ Readers, and can be at the forefront of taking the mission of daring each member to join in the task of creating empathy through their words.  


Instead of backtracking to go over the Day One Agenda all you need to do is to say a brief hello to the newcomers and briefly explain that each member of the writing circle began with the goal of finding a scene that would be a container of sorts for their story, fastforwarding an imaginary Stranger-Reader into caring. 


“So now we have real Stranger/ Readers,” you might say to the group, as you call on the people who have started the process to summarize their Page One Moments in progress, as they report on their own writing process and what they are going to share.  


This is the perfect opportunity for the group to join in the endeavor to make sure that the Dare to Care is working well.  

What to do when people are in different stages of the writing process

Abandoning full group prompts

More content coming soon!

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