Merlene Davis: Carnegie Center class to teach empowering writing skills

Marianne Worthington
Marianne Worthington

Sometimes an occurrence in the news or in our region grabs our attention and makes us want to do something to either fix or explain it. Or maybe there are family or community issues that, once revealed, could help others in similar situations advance past their paralysis.

In either case, the move from observer to activist can be scary, especially if the chosen vehicle is the written word. Marching, protesting or boycotting don't seem to conjure the same degree of fear in some people as having others criticize their beliefs or arguments poured out on paper.

The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth are hosting a writing workshop that could alleviate those fears. KFTC is a statewide grass-roots social justice group that advocates and lobbies for a variety of issues.

"Our Voices Matter: Writing as Activism" will be taught Saturday by Marianne Worthington, an associate professor of communication arts at the University of the Cumberlands and a KFTC member.

"One of the tenets or purposes of the workshop is to share the thought that words and language and writing skills are empowering," she said. "Sometimes when we feel the most helpless, writing can help us overcome because it forces us to think straight and logically and even creatively about problems."

Addressing those problems could bring social changes and build communities, whether you tell your story or the stories of others who are experiencing injustices.

By writing it down, she said, it seems to matter more.

The workshop won't be a lecture, Worthington said. Instead, she will offer prompts that participants can use to create pieces during the workshop and then share them with the class.

"I'm going to do ice-breaking exercises," she said. "We'll think about what forms the writing can take, such as personal essay or narrative. We'll look at brief examples of good persuasive writing."

And she'll touch on issues such as organization, the use of sensory language and using scenes versus summaries.

Worthington, who teaches persuasive and editorial writing, moved to southeastern Kentucky 23 years ago and was drawn into activism because of the mountaintop removal mining debate. She has written essays in opposition to that mining technique.

Sarah Thomas of Lexington said she will be attending the workshop because activism writing can "effectively make change and empower change in others. We can share our stories and we can realize that our stories are all connected."

Even though she is a KFTC member, "I am not a writer," she said. "This will be my first Carnegie Center workshop."

Once empowered, the writers will learn the process for getting their work published in a newspaper, a newsletter, a blog or other publication.

"I'm not sure I can empower in two hours," Worthington said, laughing. "But we want to try to establish a non-judgment, non-critical atmosphere so people might feel free to offer suggestions.

"This might be a way to open your voice," she said. "I don't care what your skill levels are."

If you have an interest in exploring writing as a means to affect change, the workshop might be the push you need.


"Our Voices Matter: Writing as Activism," a workshop taught by Marianne Worthington and sponsored by the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning and by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.

When: 10 a.m.-noon July 20.

Where: Carnegie Center, 251 W. Second St.

Cost: $30.

To register: Call (859) 254-4175, or visit