Meet the Instructor

Instructor Statement

When I was an undergraduate creative writing student, one of my professors referred to our class discussions as a way to “deepen the dialogue.” Realizing that a piece of writing has a voice of its own, my classmates and I weren’t just speaking about a text, we were interacting with it from our own diverse perspectives. The ensuing conversations helped us broaden our understanding of ourselves, each other, and the world. Since then, it has been my mission to foster empathy in my classroom through engaged and inclusive discourse. As the coach of a team of students, I work to understand the unique backgrounds from which they come, help them recognize and seek their potential, and learn with and from them.

I believe the best way to support this type of development is to create a trusting and collaborative classroom environment. In Writing to Heal, students have a safe space in which to share very personal work. Workshop discussions focus only on the way an experience is expressed in writing, not on the experience itself. Constructive criticism is a key component of the program, but judgment is not welcome. Students learn to support and encourage each other’s written craft, and healing, effectively and respectfully. I love watching students of different ages and backgrounds—who might not otherwise connect—read each other’s words, reach across the workshop table, and say, “I understand now.”

The structure of all of my classes, especially the Writing to Heal Program, always follows a connective approach. Each lesson and program section builds from the last, so that students can see overall threads and chart their growth as writers, thinkers, and literary citizens. I aim to give students the right tools to help them work through adversity and trauma in writing. While Writing to Heal is not a replacement for therapy, it teaches students to use writing in a therapeutic manner. The effects can be both personal and universal. Maya Angelou said that through writing, the “I” becomes “We.” I am grateful for the opportunity to guide students on that journey.

About the Instructor

Jennifer Crystal created the Writing to Heal Program after five years designing and teaching Writing to Heal I, Writing to Heal II, and Master Writing to Heal at GrubStreet. She has also taught Writing to Heal as a Winter Term course at Middlebury College and as a graduate level course in Lesley University’s M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program. Jennifer writes a weekly column for an international health organization, which has received mention in CQ Researcher and The New Yorker and on cbs.com and prohealth.com.

Jennifer’s first memoir, Et Voila: One Traveler’s Journey from Foreigner to Francophile, was published by Belfort and Bastion in 2015, and Jennifer spoke about that book as a panelist at the 2017 Boston Book Festival. Her second memoir, about her medical trajectory, is on submission. Her medical story was featured as a CBS news broadcast, and award-winning health writer Laurie Edwards included parts of her story in In the Kingdom of the Sick (Bloomsbury, 2013); that chapter was highlighted in a Wall Street Journal review of the book.

Jennifer was a finalist for the 2013 Writers’ Room of Boston Emerging Writer Fellowship, a 2014 recipient of an Emerson College Enhancement Fund grant to attend a Narrative Medicine Workshop at Columbia University, and an invited speaker for the 2014 New England Society for Health Communications Panel. She holds an M.F.A. from Emerson College and a B.A. from Middlebury College, and has completed a summer of study at the Bread Loaf School of English. Her work has been featured in many local and national publications, and can be viewed at www.jennifercrystal.com.

 

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