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12/20/23-3/27/24 | Life Writing with ISPS-US (SOLD OUT)

12/20/23-3/27/24 | Life Writing with ISPS-US (SOLD OUT)

Update 12/7/23: This course has now SOLD OUT. Please follow the registration link to add yourself to the waitlist. If spots open up we will release them on a first-come, first-serve basis. We also hope to repeat this course again in the future.

We are thrilled to share that on December 20th, ISPS-US is launching Life Writing with ISPS-US, an 8-week course aimed at individuals interested in crafting personal narratives centered around experiences of altered states or what some may call "psychosis." We welcome both experiencers and family members to join us.

Please note that this course is preceded by our December 6th webinar, Rewriting the Narrative: Healing and Advocacy Through Storytelling which features author Sarah Fay (Pathological: The True Story of Six Misdiagnoses) and Tanya Frank (Zig Zag Boy: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood.) Tanya is the lead facilitator for this course.

Learn more below

 Webinar Description

"You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sandcastles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander."
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.

I am an ambitious writer – I don’t see the point of being anything; no, not anything at all, if you have no ambition for it. 
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? By Jeanette Winterson

This course, facilitated by Tanya Frank, author of Zig Zag Boy: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood (WW Norton 2023); Claire Bien, author of Hearing Voices, Living Fully: Living with the Voices in My Head, (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2016); and Mary Clista Dahl, author of Reconciliation of the Heart: Memoir of Mary Clista Dahl: A Healing Journey to Joy, Love and Compassion; will support you to write a personal narrative using lived experience of altered states or what some people might call psychosis.

You may want to build a body of work from the perspective of being an experiencer or to document what it means to be alongside someone in their journey. These sessions are for those who are just starting out as well as those who may be a bit further along in the writing process. All are welcome.

We hope that during the time we spend together, you will gain a deeper appreciation of the skills and techniques that are employed to create powerful prose on the subject.

We will ask each other why we want to write, and indeed how it is possible to express what has happened to us.

Does it fit into words, on the page, outside of the trauma that many of us still feel in our bodies? Whose stories are they to tell and what permission do we need to tell them?

What do we do with them once formed and can they help us to process the experiences therapeutically? Is this advocacy or activism, this truth-telling, and what is truth and memory in writing?

With such questions in mind and through in-class writing activities, you will be guided toward fashioning or further developing a piece of narrative.

As the course progresses, you will have the option to share some of these pages in smaller groups, where we will ask what works well and why. As well as focusing on your own writing, we will read some excerpts of published narratives in the same genre in which you are working to help us to understand elements of craft. We will also share our own insights to the writing process as published authors, shepherding you through the in-class exercises and feedback. This will enable you to read with a writer’s eye and look at how writing functions at the level of the sentence.

The facilitators will post readings using excerpts from the following texts:

Zack McDermott - Gorilla and Bird
Janet Frame​ - The Lagoon
Mark Haddon -The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Lukach - My Beautiful Wife on the Psych Ward
Nathan Filer​​ - The Shock of the Fall
Catherine Cho - Inferno
Daniel Bergner​ -The Mind and the Moon


  • Each workshop will run for two hours.
  • Workshops will be scheduled to run twice a month for eight sessions in total.
  • We will use Google Classroom as our learning platform.
  • At the end of the course, we will have a class reading and a chance to upload your work to the ISPS-US website.

About the Facilitators

Tanya Frank

Tanya Frank lives in the UK where she writes and teaches on the intersection of motherhood, disability, and immigration, using memoir and personal essay as a tool to aid self-expression and recovery, and to fight the deep-rooted prejudice our society holds against psychosis. Her New York Times essay "Unmoored by a Psychotic Break" was the catalyst for her memoir ZIG-ZAG BOY: MOTHERHOOD, MADNESS AND LETTING GO. Tanya has had her work showcased in the Guardian, The Observer Magazine, Los Angeles Times, and a range of literary journals. You can find more of her work at


Mary Clista Dahl, MA

Mary Clista Dahl, MA is a prolific author who has been playing with words and finding joy in writing since age three. She is a Reiki Master with a Masters Degree in Integrative Health and Healing.

Mary is well known in the global mental health reform community for her understanding of alternative perspectives and spiritual approaches to “psychosis,” based on her research and lived experience. An avid naturalist, Mary uses ecotherapy and shaman principles to promote healing. She works with individuals and organizations, encouraging others to reframe their diagnoses and find their own meaning to non-ordinary experiences. She especially enjoys giving voices to younger generations in order to help them drop their disordered labels and mindsets to create wellness-based lives.

Appreciating all views of psychosis, Mary is an active member of ISPS. She explores non-ordinary extreme states through a consciousness lens, and enjoys helping people navigate their experiences through writing.


Claire Bien, MEd

Claire Bien, MEd, is a mental health advocate and educator, author of a memoir: Hearing Voices, Living Fully: Living with the Voices in My Head, and research associate at the Yale University Program for Recovery & Community Health. Prior to her semi-retirement, Claire worked for more than two decades as a communications, publications, and community relations professional for nonprofit human services agencies that serve people struggling with poverty, homelessness, addictions, serious mental health challenges, and incarceration. One of her greatest joys was working with people to share their stories of challenge, resilience, and recovery. She is committed to the work of social justice and believes deeply in the value of delving into the backstories of our lives to gain an understanding of the ways in which the things that happened to us can have a profound impact on the ways in which we live in and experience the world. Claire is currently president of ISPS-US, is a member of the board of directors of the Hearing Voices Network (HVN)-USA, and facilitates in-person and online HVN support groups.

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