Abrazos: Celebrating 10 years of writing for peace

Column by Andrea W. Doray
Posted 10/26/21

Ten years ago, sitting outside a coffee shop with a group of Lighthouse Writers Workshop colleagues, I met Carmel Mawle. Carmel told us she was founding the nonprofit organization Writing for Peace, …

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Abrazos: Celebrating 10 years of writing for peace

Posted

Ten years ago, sitting outside a coffee shop with a group of Lighthouse Writers Workshop colleagues, I met Carmel Mawle. Carmel told us she was founding the nonprofit organization Writing for Peace, with the simple belief that the empathy we develop as writers – the ability to slip into the minds of our protagonists and our antagonists – could, quite literally, change the world.

I nearly leaped over the table. Carmel had just given a name for one reason I write. And the rest, as they say, is history: I am past president of this international organization and continue to serve on its board of directors.

I’ve written of Writing for Peace in this space occasionally, often about our Young Writers Contest. Carmel’s seed of thought – that empathy helps us explore new perspectives – has grown into a unique writing challenge that, to date, has attracted young writers from nearly 40 countries.

Additionally, over this last decade, we’ve not only featured these young voices in DoveTales, our international journal of the arts, but we’ve also published writers from around the world. In fact, with the addition of a submission from Antarctica this year, we have received work from every continent on the planet.

Carmel explains our mission this way: “We develop empathy through creative writing and peaceful activism.”

On Oct. 24, we honored this spirit of peaceful activism with a broadcast reading from our 10th anniversary DoveTales anthology, Abrazos – a celebration of thousands of writers, of all ages from around the globe, who write for peace and lift our voices against injustice. . “Because ‘abrazos’ means ‘hugs’ in Spanish, this is the perfect word to celebrate a decade of Writing for Peace,” says Carmel.

This extraordinary 590-page anthology is dedicated to the memory of Sam Hamill (1943-2018), our first Writing for Peace adviser. Hamill was more than an adviser … he was a living example of writing for peace. He taught in artist-in-residency programs in schools and prisons, worked with domestic violence programs and, in 2003, founded Poets Against the War.

On this October evening, as we gathered to pay tribute to Sam and commemorate 10 years of writing for peace via Zoom – geographically necessary for an international organization – we shared readings from the Abrazos anthology that spanned a decade. “I am awestruck and humbled by the wisdom and beauty shared over these years,” says Carmel.

Among the profound, compelling and sometimes-humorous poems, essays, reflections and stories of this evening, perhaps the most poignant moments for me were the readings from our young writers … their clarity of vision, their conviction of purpose, their community of voices.

And that’s one reason why we’ve been writing for peace for 10 years: We inspire young writers to refine their crafts, to engage in nonviolent activism and to consider how their words and actions bring us together as a society that respects human rights, as well as environmental and economic sustainability.

As the larger writing collective, through Writing for Peace, we seek to cultivate the empathy that values each other’s difference and embraces our common humanity.

Thank you, Carmel, and all writers for peace. Abrazos.

Andrea Doray is a writer who often quotes Sam Hamill: “You can’t write about character and the human condition and be apolitical … that’s not the kind of world we’ve ever lived in.” Contact Andrea at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

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