Who are You? And why do you do what you do?

It’s hard for some of us to write about what we do, especially if there isn’t a single easy term to describe what that is. And writing about who we are can feel even more daunting. I used to envy professionals who could simply say their title, and anyone would know what they meant by it. Carpenters, chefs, arborists: I have an immediate sense of what they do in the world.

I’ve always worn more than one hat at a time. Activist—Poet—Farmworker. Flower Harvester—Professor—Writer. Community Organizer—Screenprinter—Editor. Designer—Film Crew Member—Water Warrior. Jewelry Designer-Poet—Etc. (Like a lot of artists, I’ve taken a winding path.)

In truth, even though poetry has been a common denominator throughout my life, who knows what that means, or what I mean when I say it to describe myself.  (It’s not just about writing poems.)

So I’ve had some practice thinking about and writing about the kind of work I do in the world, especially in the last four years, when just doing what I do was not enough. After a move to Massachusetts from Michigan, I knew that my reputation would not precede me as it might done at home, where I’d been building relationships and collaborating in my community for over a dozen years. I needed to create a space in which introduce myself to those who might be interested in connecting with me—for those I want to connect with to find me. Not easy. Not even for me, and I write for a living.


As a result, I’ve studied the functions and pitfalls of “About” pages, that place on your website where your people will likely go to find out more about you. No more is this just a version of your professional biography or resume. It’s an opportunity to reach your people in a more personal and direct way, which usually involves close attention to narrative, voice, and clarity about who you are trying to reach.

This coming Monday, October 24, I’m running a workshop on this subject in Traverse City, Michigan.  My hosts are the dynamic creative force begin the live storytelling event, Fulfillament. I believe in their mission and “The Do Series” is a chance to build skills and take concrete steps to make your work more real in the world. I’m delighted to be involved in their project, and the last time we offered this we sold out all the seats (of which there are just 20.)

The workshop is designed with freelancers, artists and entrepreneurs. Basically, if you are working for yourself, and find it difficult to get words on the page to talk about what you do, and why, please come. It’s easier when you have a guide and I will do my best to share everything I’ve figured out along the way.

There are still some tickets left.Won’t you join us? (More info below.)

(A personal side note: My DIY web-designing efforts have given way to a rich collaboration with a small team of people who are helping me do what at I do, but better and smarter. This means that later this season I’ll launch the website they’ve been designing for me.

Besides creating a useful and inviting environment for those who come to visit me in cyberspace, they’ve helped me focus sustained attention on telling the story of what I do, how, and why. Who cares? This has been an important question for me to answer for myself, and I’ve been glad for conversations with others who can make the case for me, and for all of us, who have a place in the ecosystem, and something to offer of real value.

The amount of invisible work to make something like this tangible is staggering. But also exciting.  Thankfully, I’m being guided through the process with good questions and thoughtful feedback. We can often do for each other, what’s hardest to do on our own. We can offer perspective, but also strategies, examples, encouragement.

That’s how I work and what I can offer you next Monday. More info follows.


WORKSHOP: Use the art of narrative to shape others’ understanding of who you are and what you do. Ideal for artists, freelancers and entrepreneurs.

WHAT: Walk away with strategy and insights to help you write a compelling and authentic bio or “about” page for your venture, as well as greater conviction in the value of what you do in the world.

WITH: Part of the Fulfillament: Do Series, this workshop will be facilitated by award winning writer and creative advisor, Holly Wren Spaulding (Poetry Forge, STORYhouse)

WHY: Because our work matters but it can be difficult to talk and write about it (and ourselves) in a way that feels authentic and true, and yet most of us need to do this throughout our professional lives, and especially on the web. This workshop will help you write about yourself and what you DO, with more ease!

HOW: Through powerful questions, simple writing exercises, group discussion, and self-evaluation, Holly will help you articulate a clearer understanding of who you really are and how that empowers the work you currently do (or wish to do) in the world.

HOSTED BY Chelsea Bay Dennis and Shea Petaja: Fulfillament Storytelling

TICKETS: $50 online or at the door
This workshop is limited to 20 people at BLK MRKT Coffee

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  • Katey

    Great to see this photo of you wearing one of your many hats, so to speak. I appreciate this sharing and hope the workshop goes well. Sounds like an enriching theme.

    • Holly Wren

      My “climbing hat”, so to speak (Noted: I should be wearing a helmet) has been such a powerful metaphor in my writing life because it’s as mentally demanding as it is physically demanding, which is how creative work so often feels to me. Once you are on the rock and a certain number of feet off the ground, there’s simply no backing out or giving up. You just have to steady your mind and keep going–even through fatigue, even through fear, by solving one problem after another.

      Climbing was a way to get intimate with my physical and mental edge made my writing challenges easier to cope with as worked to overcame my fear of falling, and my doubts about my ability to do what had to be done.

      The technical challenges of climbing are compelling to me, too, in the same way that trying to work out the rhythm of a line in a poem can really engage my brain in a particularly focused (obsessive?) way.

      I don’t climb so much now, and really miss it actually. It always put me in contact with a kind of wildness–inside and outside of myself–that makes me feel more alive. Now that I don’t get the opportunity to travel west as much as I used to, I need to find ways to connect with this part of myself where I live.

      Thanks for reading, Katey.

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