The Transfiguration of Recovery and Creativity

by Brianna Johnson

As my degree was conferred, I felt/I understood a quantum shift. The first, or first perceived, of a series of seemingly religious experiences. Saints and colors and relics and snags of bone. I spoke about bravery.

And then, I found myself in a desert. Eight months out of Goddard and three months sober, I was invited to the A Room of Her Own Foundation’s retreat at the Ghost Ranch in New Mexico.

2011-AROHO-Retreat_0298-1024x311AROHO offers a powerful opportunity to fortify creative women. I had heard of it through Goddard faculty and students and attended the retreat with several of my fellow alumni (AROHO was co-founded by Goddard alum Mary Johnson). Immediately, I felt called to give this gift to another woman writer who, like me, found her way out of addiction.This is how the Agua Viva Fellowship began and will bring its first fearless one to New Mexico in August 2015.

Clarice Lispector writes (translated by Stefan Tobler): “No, all this isn’t happening in real facts but in the domain of–of an art? yes, of an artifice through which a most delicate reality arises which comes to exist in me: the transfiguration happened to me.”

To those of us who have experienced the “transfiguration” of recovery, moments in time are now as beautiful as they have been brutally jaded. It is profound when a woman in recovery can, as if for the first time, sense her freedom and her strength. It is profound when she can write about it. For more transformation, please visit

I have since been honored to be invited back as a Waves Discussion Series contributor alongside Maxine Hong Kingston, Ellen McLaughlin, Janet Fitch, and my mentor/Goddard Advisor/friend, Bhanu Kapil. I will be giving a lecture on experimental writing and psychosis and leading a “studio hour” on revision.

Goddard meant more to me than an education. It brought my life into a high definition that ever since has only become more acute, problematic, and lovely. The relationships made there sustain me through winters and deserts and vows of poverty, quite intentional and radical — an umbilical nerve. This is the life I have chosen. The miraculous events began with Goddard.

image1Brianna Johnson is the author of Fire Sale, an experimental prose manifesto detailing the economic decline of love, the body, and America in 18 movements, forthcoming from somewhere. She has been invited to be an inaugural Waves Discussion Series contributor alongside Maxine Hong Kingston, Ellen McLaughlin, and Janet Fitch at the 2015 A Room of Her Own Foundation’s (AROHO) retreat in New Mexico. As a result of her participation in the 2013 AROHO retreat, Brianna founded the Agua Viva Fellowship for a gifted and bold woman writer in recovery from alcohol and/or chemical dependency. She has earned her BFA and MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College where she was mentored by, among others, Rebecca Brown, Douglas Martin, Bhanu Kapil, and Darcey Steinke. Her work has been featured in Tarpaulin Sky Magazine, the HazMat Literary Review, and Spout Magazine. Read an excerpt from Fire Sale here

Important Announcement

The Board of Directors for Goddard College have made the difficult decision to close the college at the end of the 2024 Spring term.  


Current Goddard students will have the opportunity to complete their degrees at the same tuition rate through a teach-out with like-minded institution, Prescott College. Updates and scholarship funds will be available in the coming weeks and months. Information will be posted to

This will close in 0 seconds