Alyson Shelton & the Strange Magic of “Where I’m From”

This week I joyfully participated in Alyson Shelton‘s “Where I’m From” project.” I’d describe the process of filling the blanks of George Ella Lyon’s “Where I’m From” poem as a Mad Lib that jettisons you straight into the heart of your family legacy. I absolutely loved writing the poem and had fun talking about it with Alyson on Instagram Live–a part of Instagram I’d never travelled to before. I interviewed Alyson about the project below and throughout you can find clips from other “Where I’m From” Instagram readings and chats.

Alyson Shelton.

Theo: Could you describe how your Where I’m From project works and how you got started with it?

Alyson: I was first introduced to the “Where I’m From” prompt, inspired by George Ella Lyon’s poem, in a workshop with writer, Jeannine Ouellette. It was deep in the pandemic, so we were on zoom. We went into breakout rooms and I ended up spending most of our time chatting with my partner which left me with nothing to share when we returned to the main zoom room. Instead, I listened. And I was so moved by all of the poems. I wondered if there was a way to expand on that feeling.

Theo: What has surprised you most since you started this project?

Alyson:I think the thing that surprised me the most is how every participant has thanked me for creating the space and welcoming them to it. The desire to be seen and heard is real, an audience of one counts. I feel so privileged that almost 80 different people have joined me so far. I never get tired of listening to the poems. And I have always believed that everyone has a story and I love being proved right week after week.

Theo: How has Where I’m From poem impacted your own writing?

Alyson: I’m starting to accept that I have a story to tell. That my story matters too. And on the technical side, I am definitely better at thinking about and incorporating sensory details. I think I’ve internalized the prompt at this point and when I rewrite, I will refer to it to bring more nuance to my own writing. 

Theo: What piece of your writing means the most to you and why?

Alyson:That’s a really difficult choice, I’ve recently realized that my writing is helping me reclaim parts of myself and so each piece feels significant. I’ll go with my essay for Ms. magazine “The Repercussion of Trauma as a Former Patient of Dr. George Tyndall” because it’s the first personal piece I wrote and I stand by all of the feelings and ideas expressed in my essay. The repercussions of trauma are significant and life-altering. I’m still unpacking them. The suitcase gets lighter but it’s never empty.

Theo: Where can readers find your writing?

Alyson: The best places to find me are my website: and on Instagram and Twitter.

About Theo Pauline Nestor

Author of Writing Is My Drink (Simon & Schuster) and How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed. Learn more about my courses, editing, and coaching at
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2 Responses to Alyson Shelton & the Strange Magic of “Where I’m From”

  1. I love “Where I’m From” poem writing! I did the exercise with my (pre-Covid) writing circle. They all groaned when I introduced it (cuz, poetry) and it was their favorite thing of all that we did. So many ways to do it. One participant did it all in entertainment experiences from her youth.

  2. I’m also drawn to this form poem because my father’s name was George and his mother’s name was Ella. So I am literally from George and Ella. Seeing this has inspired me to get a notebook and write one of this every week. Woohoo! A writing practice! It’s such a great vehicle for legacy writing. (And, I’m waiting to hear if my workshop proposal to the 2023 SWWA Writer’s Conference to teach this poem will be accepted.) Thank you so much for this post, Theo.

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