I’m also freelance writer, educator, and traveler.
I care about justice, creativity, and the human soul. I’m always on the lookout for hidden beauty and wisdom that must not be lost.
My own story is a crazy-quilt of wonder and loss: growing up in a war zone (Israel/Palestine), hopscotching between cultures, and finally coming to terms with life as an artist, sensitive person, and woman who struggles with the pain of this world, and works for healing.
To that end, I’ve lived and traveled throughout the US, UK, Europe and the Middle East, teaching and learning from women, youth, and minority communities.
Currently, I’m based in Chattanooga, TN, where I teach with the non-profit Turn the Page, bringing creative writing to people in jails and in recovery. You can read more of my experiences in this essay, The Poets of Hamilton County Jail.
Some examples of my projects and collaborations are:
- These Burning Women: Turning Trauma into Poetry (ongoing): I work with women to channel their unheard lives into poems of epic journeys. For example, I wrote the story of Lida T., an Iranian refugee to the US in the 1980s, during the Islamic Revolution.
- Red Clay Rising: Celebrating and Connecting with Cherokee Life, Women’s Power, and Poetry (May 2019): Co-sponsored by Red Clay State Park and the Baha’is of Chattanooga. I worked with Jerry Villegas, an educator of Cherokee descent, to create a day of remembrance for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. We learned about the Cherokee way of life, then wrote prayers and poems under the trees by the Blue Hole spring, a sacred medicine place, near where the Trail of Tears began.
- Songs of Deliverance: Healing from Abuse, Trafficking and Addiction (forthcoming): Co-sponsored by Love’s Arm, the Southern Literary Alliance, and the Johnson Foundation. As a writer, I am gathering stories of women’s suffering and soulwork, as told by three Tennessee women who have overcome violence and become agents for change and healing.
A few other amazing experiences as a freelancer and traveler:
From 2016-2017, I spent an amazing year at the Baha’i House of Worship for North America, collaborating with women across Chicagoland who are inspiring social change through the arts, sciences, religion, earth justice, and indigenous knowledge. The aim was to foster bonds of support, listening and advocacy, especially between communities where there is a legacy of fear and oppression.
In 2014, I was lucky enough to design and teach a class to 17 young Roma leaders from across Europe, at Central European University in Budapest. The course “Voice and World” explored the intersection of self-expression and social justice. In Hungary, I also worked with Furugh Switzer and her pioneering “Our Story” program of literacy and support circles for Roma mothers and youth.
Other organizations I’ve partnered with include Ashoka: Everyone a Changemaker; Eastside Educational Trust: London’s Leading Youth Arts’ Provider; the European Press Prize; and The Guardian Foundation. I’ve researched programs for broadcast on NPR and the BBC, including the documentary film To Light a Candle.
I have a BA International Relations and Education from American University in Washington DC, and an MSc in Philosophy & Public Policy from the London School of Economics.
I give workshops on voice and poetry to people of all ages.
Peace, Andréana (AE) Lefton