Whistle Words uses writing to help women in and post cancer treatment  reclaim their sense of self.

It's about regaining our voices and reconnecting with our lives.  Writing is the tool, and not the goal.

It's about building a community of women on parallel paths.

It's about shedding light on all that is too often left unsaid, and sharing that story with the world.

Weekly writing workshops are free and designed for women who have never written and those who have always written.

 A documentary film and anthology will be created from our work.

We hope you'll join us.

Meet Charlotte:  a poet and professor at the University of Virginia who has led writing workshops for over a decade.  

 Betsy's friend spends a quite moment with her daughter,  M  addie , who found strength and comfort in writing during her mom's treatment.

Betsy's friend spends a quite moment with her daughter, Maddie, who found strength and comfort in writing during her mom's treatment.


This is the best I could do

I've been talking about traveling over

glaciers and remembering love.


I want to magnify her warmth, their capabilities.

I want to remember everything.

I'm just trying to make sense of my dreams.


Here I am with no intention of giving it away.

Here I am unaided.


             -Group Poem, Olivet Workshop Group


We will publish a collection of writing generated through the project.   The anthology will be packaged with a facilitator's guide and the documentary, so that Whistle Words can be replicated in any community.

Please visit our growing gallery to read - and listen to - a collection of writing from our workshops.

the story behind whistle words

It all started in 2003...

with one woman's battle against stage 3 breast cancer.  Her name is Charlotte Matthews.

In the passive role of diagnosis and treatment - including a radical bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation - Charlotte felt she had lost all power. When she picked up a pen and started to journal, she began to regain it. 

Reading through her notebooks months later, she realized the power of documenting this life altering experience.  Those free flowing thoughts would become the inspiration for her third book of poetry, Whistle What Can't Be Said, and ultimately the impetus for this project.

In 2016...

one of filmmaker Betsy Cox's oldest and dearest friends was in treatment for breast cancer.  From miles away, Betsy witnessed profound shifts in her friend's life - overwhelming worries for family, emotional and physical fatigue, reordering of priorities - all of which were difficult and exhausting to put into words....especially when the person on the receiving end of that conversation met each revelation with questions of their own. 

Betsy and Charlotte knew each other from years of practicing yoga at the same studio.   So one night, Betsy read Whistle What Can't Be Said cover to cover.   Reading Charlotte's words was intimate, moving, painful and beautiful.  She could feel Charlotte's own release through those words, and felt as a woman and friend that she was being given insight into her friend's struggles and how she might better support her. When she closed the book, she immediately reached out to Charlotte, who had long wanted to offer writing workshops to women impacted by cancer.  In the time it took to text and reply, the two hatched the idea for a larger project - one that could offer writing as a means of expression and empowerment to women with cancer, build a community of support without judgement and share their story through a documentary film.  Whistle Words was born.

It makes me feel heard in a world that does not always listen.
— Elizabeth

Christine, one of our very first workshop participants, talks about the project.


Writing workshops are the heart of Whistle Words. Through weekly on-line workshops as well as on-location workshops all led by Charlotte, we will use writing to reconnect with our lives and hopefully each other in the process.  Cancer is what brings us together, but is not who we are.  Learn more.

We’re not always in tune with our heart, or soul....Charlotte gives you the tools so you can be real. No pretense.
— Jocelyn


A feature-length documentary film, based on the work created through our workshops, will be produced by Red Spark Films.  Think a chorus of women's voices united through shared experience and the written word. (Please know that your participation in workshops does not necessitate your being part of the film.  We will always respect your privacy.)

Watch the trailer.  Then share it.  Join a workshop.  Become a founding friend.  Help us make the documentary a reality.