Lissa Oliver: The pen is mightier than the sword in changing society
Although I’m a fiction writer, most of my other fellow Maverick House authors tell of their own experiences and so many of those are quite disturbing. When I see how people suffer as a result of background, community or government, I’m grateful that the suffering caused in my books are imagined and dealt by me, not to me. I’m proud to be part of Maverick House, a publishing company not afraid to bring such stories to world attention and to give a voice to those who might otherwise go unheard.
Even more importantly, the authors have been brave enough to bring their stories to the public and, in so doing, they have transformed the lives of many others. We all learn from experience and those can be shared experiences, too. It’s an appropriate time for me to see just how powerful writing can be in transforming lives, because I am currently midway through a course called Transformative Education.
I am supposedly learning how I can use skills as an adult educator to empower learners to become active agents for social change within their community. I say “supposedly” because what I have actually learned is that as a facilitator of Creative Writing classes I am already achieving that goal. While other subjects may not naturally lend themselves to encouraging learners to share their experiences and to be aware of, and tackle, social injustice, that is exactly what Creative Writing is about. It’s about personal expression, the freedom of expression and the sharing of stories. As a group of writers, we are dependent on group feedback and critical reflection – everything Transformative Education aims for.
AONTAS is the Gaelic word for Unity, which is so fitting. Its aim for Community Education is for learners to emerge with a strong sense of social action and an ability to tackle social injustice. What a marvellous challenge for me as a facilitator! And I can look to my “stablemates” here in Maverick House, whose personal experiences, writing and voicing of those experiences and sharing with readers, sets such a shining example. My own stories may only come from imagination, but the issues I deal with in my fictional world, particularly in Sainte Bastien, have arisen from experience and my books are a great medium to make those issues more widely known in order to bring about change for the better.
I work as a writer, I relax and use writing as a pastime and I encourage those who come to classes to dabble in writing as a hobby. In work, rest and play, writing – and reading and listening to the end product – is a powerful tool, a source of empowerment and knowledge, sharing and it’s safe to say, as has long been acknowledged, it’s as powerful, if not mightier, than the sword.