Aspiring writers learn to speak their truths

Dasha Kelly exemplified her work as one of Milwaukee’s most recognizable writers, poets, and spoken word artists this week at a campus-sponsored community event for local writers. 

Though the Writers on Writing typically showcases authors outside of the Mount Mary community, Kelly is one of the University’s very own. Her prominence in the community comes from her work as founder and director of an outreach initiative utilizing the written and spoken word throughout the country, as well as her work as a writer.

Dasha Kelly is the author of one chapbook, Hither, and four books: All Fall Down, Hershey Eats Peanuts, and Call It Forth and her novel, Almost Crimson. She shares her knowledge on writing and performing to Mount Mary students this semester teaching a poetry-writing class entitled “I Revolution,” designed to engage students in writing from their heart and convictions.

Kelly began the event by introducing the audience to thought-provoking statements affixed to vinyl records that were placed on chairs throughout the audience. These conversation-starters brought people together by engaging with one another and discussing the topics. These statements spanned the topics of gender, privilege, generation, and incarceration sparked opinions among the audience that they were to share with one another.

Kelly also set up a physical soapbox in front of the podium, a wooden box that served as a makeshift speaker podium. She has done this in five different Milwaukee area communities to inspire conversation.

“I invite you to get on the soapbox and express your thoughts. One minute of anything. It’ll feel good,” Kelly said as she persuaded the audience to talk about anything they wanted to get off their chest.

As attendees shared from the soapbox, it served as a method to demonstrate how storytelling can create change on both an individual and community level. It was evident through the audience reception that common beliefs and emotions were shared. The exercise fell hand in hand with the reason Kelly began writing in the first place, and why she continues to write. 

“My favorite part of putting pen to paper is doing human stuff and creating stories that prompt conversation. Your pens are magic when you write your truth. A perfect story is boring. Just like your life, it can’t be perfect,” Kelly said.

Students also had the chance to ask Kelly about her craft and her writing process, and were also able to learn more about Kelly’s motivations for writing.

“I don’t need to stick with one narrative,” she said. Though fiction is her first love, she has never limited herself to one genre of literature. 

After writing for about 20 years, Kelly also says that her favorite thing about writing is having the chance to choose all the details. This is what that drew her in as a child and something that draws aspiring writers into the world of writing as well.

As the night came to a close, attendees had the chance to purchase Kelly’s newest novel, Almost Crimson. Mount Mary’s student writers took the time to interact with the author and learn the story of CeCe, a young woman who recounts the memories of her childhood taking care of her ill mother and struggling to create a life on her own.

Like the protagonist in Kelly’s novel, Mount Mary’s student writers are determined to discover who they are, and how they can take new opportunities to speak their truths and learn who they want to become.

This article was written by Jeana Prudhomme, a graduate student in New Media & Professional Writing program. To learn more about the Writers on Writing series, click here. These events are free and open to the public.