Granddaughter Léna Roy on listening as a creative act

“Because we fail to listen to people’s stories, we are becoming a fragmented human race.”
— Madeleine L’Engle, Sold into Egypt: Journeys Into Being Human

Listening is a creative act: it takes great imagination to be able to step into someone else’s world, into their truth. We not only need stories to survive, we need witnesses. Listening to someone else’s story is a form of intimacy, of generosity, of connecting, of piecing our own fragments back together.

November brings not only Thanksgiving, but Gran’s birthday. She would have been 99 this November 29th,  so at this time of the year I look to her words and her legacy for inspiration.

I miss her — she continues to be my touchstone because her deep concern for humanity is palpable in every piece she ever wrote.  She calls on us to engage empathetically as active listeners, to have a willing suspension of disbelief in our communication with others who are different from us. My own concerns mirror hers: they lie in the way people treat each other, and that nobody seems to be listening. We get stuck in our own “stories”, not questioning our attitudes or using our imaginations.

Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.
— Madeleine L’Engle, The Rock that is Higher: Story as Truth

Listening is a form of responding, and I am grateful that I get to “respond” by working with children and teens in creative writing workshops through Writopia Lab. Every day of the week I am surrounded by amazing kids looking for truth and meaning through their writing — fiction, plays, poetry, and creative nonfiction. I’m grateful that our creativity feeds off of each other. I’m grateful for our reverence for imagination, and for co-creating  a space where kids feel safe to ask questions of each other and to explore both their visions and demons.

My grandmother wrote every day — at home, on the subway, in hotels, on airplanes. I am not as disciplined in my writing as she was. I spend much more of my time working with kids and teens, but that’s what feeds my soul the most — the creative aspect of active listening, of full engagement. I get to guide  kids to find their own power through the discovery that creative writing facilitates. I know they will turn into empathic adults who will keep their curiosity about the world and treat others the way they would like to be treated. They are learning how to listen – to the characters in their stories and to their peers in workshop. They are learning how to listen to their higher selves.

And I am learning — and listening —  too.

Léna Roy works with young writers in Westchester, NY and Connecticut as the regional manager of Writopia Lab. With her sister Charlotte Jones Voiklis she wrote Becoming Madeleine: A Biography of the Author of A Wrinkle in Time by her Granddaughters, which will be published in February 2018 by FSG. She is also the author of the young adult novel Edges.

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