State of Mind with Debra Sloss
State of Mind with Debra Sloss
Writing to Heal - Creativity and Wellness: Part 1

Episode 53: Writing and telling our stories can be powerfully healing. To honor National Poetry Month, we look at how the simple process of writing or journaling can support mental health and wellness and lead to healing. We’re joined by longtime writer, poet and teacher  Patrice Vecchione and two of her former writing students, diversity trainer Erin-Kate Escobar and high school student and writer Briar Spungin. Erin-Kate and Briar share some of their original poetry. This is the first in a two-part series on creativity and wellness. So join us again next month when we’ll explore the use of other kinds of art endeavors for healing and mental wellness.

Broadcasting 4/2/23 & 4/10/23

Special thanks to Jeanne Baldzikowski for audio production, Lisa Herendeen for advance research and Leslie Nielsen for “In Your Voice” Coordination and Patrice Vecchione for story coaching. And thanks to acoustic guitarist Adrian Legg for composing, performing, and donating the use of our theme music.

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* Indicates Santa Cruz local

*My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice: A Guide to Writing Poetry and Speaking Your Truth by Patrice Vecchione (2020) – This guide encourages new writers of all ages to find their voices, step up and speak their truths, and articulate what matters to them most—both personally and politically—whether it be boldly to an outside audience or just privately for themselves.

The Artists Way by Julia Cameron  (2016) – This book inspires readers to embark on a creative journey and find a deeper connection to process and purpose. The author’s novel approach guides readers in uncovering problems areas and pressure points that may be restricting their creative flow and offers techniques to free up  areas where they might be stuck, opening up opportunities for self-growth and self-discovery.

The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust (Gender and Culture Series) by Marianne Hirsch  (2012) – This book argues that memories of traumatic events live on to mark the lives of those who were not there to experience them. Children of survivors and their contemporaries inherit catastrophic histories not through direct recollection but through haunting postmemories, objects, stories, behaviors, and affects passed down within the family and the culture at large.

*Untethering from Terror: Reflections on International Holocaust Remembrance Day by Myra Goodman (Jan 27, 2023) – In this blog post the daughter of a Holocaust survivor talks about the multigenerational impacts of both trauma and post-traumatic growth.

Link to Poems

By Briar Spungin:
– Absent from you
– I am an empty staircase

by Erin-Kate Escobar
– My prayer for creativity
– Love of my life

Erin-Kate’s Recommendations:
The Artists Way by Julia Cameron – 12-week course to hone your creative self; one large component is daily morning pages.

The Painting Experience led by Steward Cubbly – painting workshops, classes and online courses. An opportunity to explore color, shape, texture and playful creativity. He also has a podcast called “The Painting Experience.”

Linda Thai Somatics – 12-week online course that includes a lot of science-based evidence of the work of listening to our bodies.

Briar’s Recommendations
Phoebe Bridgers music, “Chelsea” by Phoebe Bridgers (song

“Having a Coke with You,” by Frank O’Hara (poem)

Falling Up, by Shell Silverstein (book)

Patrice’s Recommendations:
*Hiking at Fort Ord and Riding a Noodle at the Pool:
 When I’m able, I take 3 – 5 mile walks alone on the Ft. Ord land in the early mornings, after the sun’s come up, but not much after. There I sort out what’s overwhelming, breath deeply, take in the beauty, and celebrate the gift of being alive. When I’m unable to walk, I go to the pool. There, silly as it sounds, I ride a noodle back and forth till my arms and shoulders sting from the good use of them.

My Journal: I’ve kept journals on and off since I was in high school. Beginning on the first day of winter, I made a commitment to write in it daily. Before looking at my phone or computer, in the wee hours of morning when it’s still dark, I sit down at my desk, reach for journal and pen. Whatever wants to come forward I accept without judgement or criticism—at least that’s my aim. I’ll write for 15 minutes, or when time allows and inspiration fuels, I write for much longer than that.

My Best Friend: Gina has been my best friend since I was 16 and she was 17. She lives in Michigan so we don’t see each other often but we talk on the phone almost every day. She knows my deepest secrets and she holds them with tender care. When my mother was dying, I called Gina, back when we both lived in the same city. She came over in the middle of that night and put my socks on my feet because I had forgotten what to do with them.

Books: Two of my favorite books, books that I return to, are The Names of Things, by Susan Brind Morrow and The Poetics of Reverie, by Gaston Bachelard. Reading is one of the essentials of my life, mostly memoir, poetry and short novels written by women.

Paper and Fabric Collage-Making: Making pictures and quilts employs a very different aspect of my brain from what writing does. I love the slowness and tangibility of hand-stitching and the magic and mystery of cutting out paper and putting pieces together as they’ve never appeared before to tell a new story.

“On Writing”
mixed-media collage 
by Patrice Vecchione


Arts Organizations
*Carl Cherry Center for the Arts presents contemporary performing and fine arts programs to encourage interactions between artists and the community in Monterey County. Their outreach includes a poetry writing program for under-served high school students.

General Counseling Support
Family Service Agency (FSA) 
of the Central Coast is a dedicated underwriter of State of Mind. FSA provides resources, support, and counseling services to adults and children.  FSA believes in the power and potential of people of all ages and backgrounds to discover their own creative solutions and welcomes people of diverse cultures, genders, sexual orientations, ages, faiths, socio–economic backgrounds.  FSA Counseling Offices offer Medi–Cal, Medicare, and low–cost, sliding scale services in both downtown Santa Cruz 831–423–9444 x200 and in Soquel 831–346–6767 x200.

Shine a Light Counseling Center – Shine a Light provides affordable counseling for couples, individuals, children, and families in English or Spanish in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day: Yad Vashem opens “The Book of Names” at the UN – CBS News Story in which Bronia Brandman is interviewed.

*Gitta Ryle Presentation at Cal Poly 2019 – Video of talk Gitta gave at Cal Poly University about the Holocaust and Word War II.

Contact Guests:
*Patrice Vecchione, Author, poet, and workshop leader. Patrice leads poetry and creative writing workshops for people of all ages.
Email: Phone: 831-206-2475

    • The Catamaran Writing Conference at Pebble Beach, July 31 – August 4, 2023. Patrice will lead a memoir writing workshop this summer for the Catamaran Writing Conference to be held in Pebble Beach at Stevenson School. The workshops meet daily. Open to everyone interested in writing the stories of their lives.


* Indicates Santa Cruz local