Member Spotlight by Dodie Cross

Dessa Reed, PSWG’s resident poet, is a lady with a passion.  She was born in Charleston, Illinois, attended the University of Illinois, as well as Eastern Illinois University.  Married to her childhood sweetheart, they traveled with his job to Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, and finally settled in California.  Dessa’s path in life made a drastic change when her husband passed away in his early 50's.  She moved to Palm Springs to “…reinvent myself and start over.”

A near-fatal automobile accident in 1997, again changed Dessa’s life.  During months of recuperation she began to write down some of her feelings and insights which quickly turned into poetry.  She calls her experience:  From wheelchair to full recovery, one poem at a time.

Dessa began attending poetry workshops, joined critique groups, attended the Indiana University Summer Poetry Program, as well as the Maui Writers Conference.  “Poetry is a craft you have to learn,” she told me.  “And there are certain rules you need to knowundefinedbefore you can learn to break them.”  Dessa describes her work as “Self-Help Poetry” because she feels that there is recovery through writing.  “In my first book, my whole purpose was to show the reader they too could write poetry for healing.”  She would encourage them to write a poem and at the end of each chapter she listed ways to accomplish that.

Dessa’s first book: The Butterfly Touch: Recovery Through Poetry was published in 2000, followed by: Seven Bridges: Turning Adversity into Victory, published in 2004. 

Among the many ways Dessa gives back are through her workshops and mentoring. She has sponsored poetry contests at valley high schools, which she funds and also judges.  She has volunteered at numerous schools as a “guest teacher” and last year mentored a student poet from Palm Springs High School as part of their Senior Arts program. 

Dessa taught poetry workshops at Joslyn Center for several years, as well as wrote a monthly column and was Poetry Editor for the Desert Woman Magazine for five years. At this time, she has just finished a small “chap book” that she plans to record on a CD.  “It includes some of my favorite poems with narrative that tells a story.”  Her essays have also appeared a number of times this year under Valley Voices in the Desert Sun.

She tells me she heard about the Guild over ten years ago, and decided she’d join anything that had to do with writing. “I walked in cold turkey, not knowing anyone. I think the guild is so important for a writer, especially those who are just starting out.”

As a speaker, Dessa Reed inspires and motivates others to live their lives with creativity, clarity, and confidence. She has spoken to audiences around the country as well as in Paris, France and given lectures in both Beijing and Shanghai, China. You can visit her website at

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