By Jamie Tworkowski and Jeff Goins
Jamie, what’s new at TWLOHA?
Our friend Casey Calvert from (the band) Hawthorne Heights passed away two weeks ago, and it’s something that’s affected a lot of our friends, and thousands more who loved Casey’s music. Casey struggled with depression and was a huge supporter of TWLOHA, so it hits close to home for us. It’s been a difficult season but it’s also been a really significant moment for us to to try to lead, in terms of our response, to be a voice of strength and hope in the middle of a painful moment. The TWLOHA Blog the day after Casey’s death was the most-read blog on all of MySpace that day, and we’ve sold over 3000 “Casey” shirts, with all proceeds going to his family. I’m really proud of those things.
I was in LA last week – we did a two-day campaign at Pepperdine University in Malibu. Renee and I spoke, along with our counselor friend Aaron Moore. It was a really great couple days with the students there and it has us excited to do more along those lines. We spoke at University of Florida the week before. Excited to see more of the college doors open, which it seems they’re starting to…
We are about to redo twloha.com, working on content and design for that. We’ve been adding to our team that manages the MySpace, focusing on getting caught up there. We’re about to dive into Facebook. We’re planning a show at The Social in Orlando for Dec 29 – Bayside’s Anthony Raneri, The Almost’s Aaron Gillespie, Ronnie Winter from The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, and JT Woodruff of Hawthorne Heights will be playing acoustic, so it’s looking like a really special night… planning 2008, events, speaking, writing, trying to make it to Australia by March, UK sometime soon after, as we’ve heard from so many folks in those places… and we’re already looking ahead to Warped Tour next summer, wanting to bring hope and help to that tour in a major way.
You were on the Warped Tour this year, is that right? What was that like?
Warped was amazing. We had no idea what to expect. We didn’t know if anyone would talk to us. It was very much like the first day of school and you’re the new kid… but it was incredible. So many significant conversations, so many new friends. Warped Tour is basically two worlds at once. There’s the thousands of young people who show up for the show, and there’s several hundred folks (bands, crew, staff, catering, etc) who make the tour happen, and we want to do our best to embrace both of those worlds, to be present for those kids we get to spend the day with, and then to really build relationships and be something hopeful and serving for the Tour itself.
You have a ton of fans on myspace, people who love your writing, myself included. Any word on an upcoming book?
It will happen. I think about it every single day. Unfortunately, I don’t write every single day, but I’m working on changing that. Maybe the best illustration is a sprinter looking at running a marathon.
Everything I’ve written has been short (compared to a book) so it’s a whole new world to work on a book… i had planned to work on it earlier in the year but i went through a really painful season and it just wasn’t the right place for me to write from. Actually, I wrote a ton, but it was somewhere between a love letter and a prayer, not a book. All in all, it’s a dream of mine and i feel like I’ve finally gotten to a place where I feel like I have something to say, and now I just have to commit to making it happen. I suppose I have a pretty obvious New Year’s resolution.
Can we get a better picture of “To Write Love…”? What does that look like as an organization? How is it run? What is your part in it? How are you funded, where do the funds go, etc.?
We’re a non-profit organization. We have a board of directors who we look to for guidance, accountability, etc. We meet regularly and invite them into all our key decisions. Our team is three full-time, one part-time, two interns and a bunch of part-time volunteers. We just rented an office in Florida – it’s this really-great 100 year-old house, so it’s exciting to have a home base now.
Our focus is the first step to recovery, as we feel that’s the one so many people never take. We think hope is a huge part of the solution, and the process, so we want every single thing we do to be something that is also hopeful. We’re not the final solution. We’re not counselors and we don’t offer treatment. We want to point people to those places, where there needs can be met. We invest in those things, financially, every single month. We support people and places where needs are being met…
We want to encourage people, let them know it’s okay to talk about these issues (depression, addiction, self-injury, suicide, eating disorders), about pain and questions in general. These are things people don’t talk much about so we want to see that change. We want people to know the facts, that these issues are very treatable. We talk a ton about community, this idea that as people, we were meant to do life with other people. To me, the heart of what we do is the MySpace and opportunities like Warped Tour, where we get to bring this conversation to surprising places. To people in need, we want them to know they’re not alone. To folks who are moved to help, we want to invite them to do that.
How can readers get more involved?
Check out twloha.com and myspace.com/towriteloveonherarms – We’re constantly updating it, letting folks know what’s new, we’re about to add street team, which we’re hugely excited about. Folks can buy shirts there and they can also donate. So much of our support and growth has come from people telling their friends, people using whatever influence and connections they have, to spread the word about TWLOHA, so that’s another way – just getting the word out.
It seems that people are getting more creative with ways to share the compassion of Christ during Christmas. Are you doing anything special, individually or organizationally, for this holiday season?
I was thinking about it yesterday, that I haven’t really clicked into Christmas mode yet. Part of it is being busy and then part of it is that I’ve been in Florida and California lately, and these are not the coldest states (laughs). So I’m hoping to jump into Christmas mode this week, though a cold front would certainly help. As for TWLOHA, we know that the holidays are often difficult days for a lot of people. Father’s Day is not a lot of fun if you don’t have a dad, and in the same way, we know Christmas can be difficult for broken families. So we always do our best to talk about things like that, to acknowledge them. Hopefully, it reminds people that they’re not alone. In America, we’ve sold this idea that Christmas is everyone smiling as they get a bunch of new stuff. But what about broken families? What about people who can’t afford gifts? What about people who feel completely alone? I believe the reality is that we live in a world full of need, and we are all people in need. Christmas is about Jesus and Jesus came to meet needs, our deepest needs. Christ is interested in the broken places in all of us, our fears, our dreams, our families, our forevers.
If you liked this article, check out: To Write Love on Her Arms: An Interview with the Founder
Jamie is the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms, a nonprofit organization. He is also a writer and lover of music. You may learn more about Jamie, tour and donation info, and To Write Love on Her Arms at their website. Visit TWLOHA and Jamie on myspace. You can show your support and buy a TWLOHA shirt here.