PORT TOWNSEND — She’s not used to public speaking. Talking about trauma to a roomful of people, well, that’s brand new.
But this week, Danielle Rueb-Castillo will participate in a panel discussion of “The Laments We Live and Freedom Songs,” the new book she helped bring into being.
This presentation, open to the public, will start at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Writers’ Workshoppe/Imprint Books, 820 Water St.
Admission is free while copies of the book are available for $10.
Owner Anna Quinn will serve as moderator when Rueb-Castillo and five other poets discuss “Freedom Songs.”
The group who put together the collection contacted Quinn back in March to see if she’d look at their book and consider carrying it in her store.
When she read it, Quinn asked them if they would meet with her to talk about a reading.
This is no easy endeavor. “Freedom Songs” is a chapbook of poems on the themes of sexual trauma and sex trafficking.
Rueb-Castillo, 41, is a survivor of abuse, and works with fellow poet Erik Gray to support survivors of the sex trade in Seattle.
The panel also includes Victoria Ahlfors of Scarlet Road (ScarletRoad.org), a Bremerton organization offering help to those exiting the sex trade, and three Poulsbo writers, Emily Henning, Anna DuPen and Margalyn Hemphill.
Quinn is the author of the acclaimed novel “The Night Child,” a story of a woman’s power to save her own life after abuse. She fervently wanted to provide the writers of “Freedom Songs” with a venue, while providing what she describes as a safe, gentle experience for those who come to the reading.
Thursday evening, Quinn will invite each poet to share a bit of their personal stories. Then she’ll ask them to talk about the meaning of “freedom songs” in their work; describe their creative process, and discuss how they navigated difficult feelings such as shame and fear.
Quinn will also ask the poets how it was to find the words to describe their experiences, and what it’s been like to move from silence to speaking out.
“Whenever we look at our past harm and trauma, and when others are engaging with us, we have to kind of face ourselves,” said Rueb-Castillo.
Those who come to Thursday’s panel presentation, she emphasized, are free to participate or simply observe. Her message: Sit up near the front or in the back; either way, you are welcome here.
The “Freedom Songs” reading is also a chance to learn about the organizations the poets are involved in.
Rueb-Castillo, along with finishing her degree in counseling at the Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, works with Seattle REST, Real Escape from the Sex Trade (iwantREST.com).
Gray is also part of that organization and serves as chairman of the Seattle Human Rights Commission’s Human Trafficking Task Force.
In 2016 he opened a shelter for youth of color; he continues to be a policy champion with the National Survivor Network.
DuPen and Hemphill are mother and daughter, both memoir writers.
They are the team behind Preserving Heritage Books, a family history publisher in Kitsap County. DuPen also works as a palliative care nurse at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in Poulsbo; her home is a yurt in Quilcene.
Together the six are “a stellar panel,” said Quinn.
“I so want to support them. They are really wonderful people.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.