After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, Claire Adams, director of the Community Writing Center at Salt Lake Community College, decided to create a space where women could share their feelings and reactions.
With help from The Salt Lake Tribune and Amplify Utah, that space became a writing workshop called “She Said: Womxn’s Voices in Utah.” The goal of the workshop is to encourage Utah womxn to share their stories – which “often remain untold or are silenced.”
The word “womxn” is intentionally spelled with an “x” to symbolize the inclusivity of all femme-identifying individuals across Utah. “We want to create a safe space for all of our community members. This spelling of womxn signals that for the community,” Adams said.
On June 3, the project, at the writing center in Library Square, celebrated a milestone with the publication of “We Want To Tell You: A She Said Anthology,” a collection of poetry and art submitted by community members. The anthology’s title comes from its first poem, “I Want to Tell You,” by Nicole Tomlin.
Lisa Bickmore, a recently retired professor at SLCC and Utah’s new Poet Laureate — a governor-appointed advocate for literature and the arts — kicked off the event by reading pieces of her own.
Bickmore then passed the mic to womxn whose work appeared in the anthology so they could tell their stories their way. The presenters covered a range of topics, from parenthood, inequality and violence to invisible labor, bodily autonomy and resilience in the face of marginalization.
One contributor, Amanda Heinlein, used photography to represent how it feels to be lesbian in Utah. Heinlein’s photo shows herself standing in front of a pride flag with duct tape around her mouth.
“I feel as if I’m constantly defending my marriage to my wife. Many people constantly ask if gay marriage [is legal in] in Utah,” she said. “Many tell me that if we want kids, one of us has to sleep with a man.”
Adams said it’s important to provide a space for voices that don’t always get the room they deserve.
“We received so many stories about sexual assault, harassment and resilience,” she said. “Often these topics aren’t discussed openly, and we wanted to provide a safe space to discuss the issues that are important to womxn in Utah.”
In explaining her reasoning for submitting to the anthology, Heinlein echoed Adams’s sentiment.
“We matter, and we’ve been raised [to believe] that our voice is not as important [and] that we are there to make men happy,” she said. “I don’t do that; I’m here to make me happy.”
Bickmore said poetry and writing can change someone’s life, citing her own, many years of personal experience.
“Learning to write poetry has been a project that has absorbed me, challenged me, lifted me up, frustrated me and taught me to sing,” she said. “Poetry has been not just a thing that I do, but a way of living my life.”
According to Adams, two free “She Said” workshops are scheduled for October. More information about those workshops, as soon as it becomes available, will be found at slcc.edu/cwc.