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  • Writer's pictureKatie Hannon

Meet the Facilitators: Kim Cooper

Where are you from? Where do you live now?
I grew up in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, and have spent the last eleven years of my adult life moving around New England. I currently live in Meriden, NH, but will be moving back to Sheffield, MA in June!
What is your educational background?
I grew up in a family of educators, and have remained in that bubble of people my whole life. So, it feels like my educational background is essentially equivalent to any family gathering, holiday, or dinner with my friends. My parents are boarding school educators, so I grew up on boarding school campuses, then–to no one’s surprise–started working in boarding school’s after college. I attended Brewster Academy for high school and St. Lawrence University for college (where I met the brilliant Cait Ward!). I got a MA in Literature from Middlebury’s Bread Loaf School of English, and I am currently working on my MFA in Creative Writing at Bennington College. At my wedding last August, my brother cracked a joke, wondering how many degrees it’s going to take for me before I learn how to write a book. The jury is still out on that one.

How did you get to where you are now?
Oh, man. Where I am now? It’s interesting–where I am now feels both surprising and also inevitable; if someone guessed where I’d be right now when I was twelve, chances are they’d probably name this exact spot where I’m sitting, but to me it still feels like I’m carving new paths. I made the decision to take some time away from teaching to focus on my writing, to try and write this book that I have been writing slowly, so slowly. I had the courage–or perhaps delusions–to make that decision because of the teachers and friends who told me I was allowed to be a writer, because of my wife who gives me the space to take these risks and sees value in my dreams and ambitions. And also, more simply, I love literature & writing–reading it, writing it, scribbling notes in journals, writing letters to yourself–any form that it comes in. It’s been the one constant thing in my life as I’ve evolved in different versions of myself, so it feels right that it is being centered in my life in this way.
How did you become involved with Concussed.?
I’ve had the great fortune of having Cait Ward in my life as a teammate, colleague, and dear, dear friend. We played lacrosse together at St. Lawrence, but after her concussion took her away from the team, we didn’t keep in touch. The universe brought us back together, thank god, when we both started working at Berkshire School in the same year. We became part of a writing group together, and our writing became something mutual between us, an art form that we both relied on for similar and different reasons. So, as Cait started to hatch the idea of Concussed. over those years, she brought me into some of the brainstorming and visions of the organization. She shared with me the role that journaling played in her healing, and it felt necessary to her that it would be part of Concussed. as well. I was so honored and excited when she asked me to be part of the retreats and facilitate the writing portion. Anything that she creates I want to be a part of.
What skills or passions will you bring with you to the Concussed. retreat?
I think what I’m most eager to bring to the Concussed. retreat is my belief that writing–in any form–is a courageous act of healing. When you are forced to reconstruct your identity, like so many people suffering from PCS have to, starting that reconstruction on the page can be incredibly cathartic and powerful. I hope that my work with Concussed. will help folks believe in that too, and by extension, to believe in themselves and their ability to heal. Beyond that, what I love most is holding space for people to share themselves, explore themselves, and learn something new about others. What I love most about teaching is the same thing I love most about facilitating Concussed. retreats: getting people in a room who are eager to learn, and creating space for them to do so. I point to some places that they might go, but ultimately, it’s the participant who takes themselves there.
What was your favorite part of facilitating a retreat with Concussed. last year?
My favorite part of last year’s retreat happened about half way through the first writing session we held. We were terrified that it wasn’t going to land, that the participants would look at the poetry, the essays, the journal prompts, and go, um, what now? But it did land, thanks both to our planning and also the vulnerability and courage of the participants. That was so beautiful and so encouraging. We had planned for a certain amount of time in that session, but we blew through it, talking and writing and processing and feeling. It was so affirming, and gave us the strength that we needed to lead the rest of the retreat with such open hearts.
What are you looking forward to most about facilitating a retreat with Concussed. this year?
I’m excited about so much, but I’ll try to narrow it down. I’m excited for the opportunity to continue building what we started last year: to take what worked and keep refining it, to create new prompts and programming, to find rhythms that we can trust and turn to time and time again. I’m also really excited about expanding the retreats to more people, specifically athletes. I think that we like to put athletes, and male athletes in particular, in boxes that force us to believe that they don’t want to be vulnerable or don’t need emotional connection. I’m so excited about breaking that down, about giving these athletes a chance to journal and feel, and to say to them: you deserve this level of care too.



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