INSPIRED POETRY AND PROSE BY BERKSHIRE WOMEN WRITERS
FEBRUARY/MARCH 2016 • VOLUME 1 • ISSUE 1
Women of Words
The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
Taking Wing: The Story of the Butterfly Leadership Program
A Conversation with Prolific Author and Renowned Restaurant Critic,
Ruth Reichl Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple Tell Stories Across Generations
The Sixth Annual
B er k s h i r e F e
st iv a l of m e o n Wr iter s W
March 12–20, 2016 See Full Listings Inside
W W W. Q U A L P R I N T. C O M | 1 - 8 0 0 - 5 4 - P R I N T
Welcome to the 2016 Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
t the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, we’re always looking to expand our mission of nourishing the voices and visions of women of all ages and from many walks of life. The magazine you hold in your hands is just such an initiative. Like last year’s Writing Fire anthology, WOW! Women of Words opens up a new space for women writers to share their powerful words and ideas. Why is this important? For the same reason that all the work we do under the Festival banner is so important: because the world needs the creative energy and vision of women now more than ever, and creative women need community to be fully activated and confident in their own work. Browsing through WOW! Women of Words, you’ll find essays, poetry and articles by and about creative women in our community, as well as the full listings of the March 2016 Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, reconceived this year as a 9-day plunge into women’s creativity, with three or more events each day at venues throughout Berkshire County. Each day of the Festival unfolds with new riches, a veritable tapestry of women’s creative expression with a wide variety of free and ticketed workshops, talks, performances and readings. We are especially delighted to welcome you to join us for the Festival’s opening and closing weekends, which will be held for the first time at two of Berkshire County’s finest hotels: March 12 and 13 at Eastover Estate & Retreat in Lenox, and March 19 and 20 at Hotel on North in Pittsfield.
Our new format is ideal for immersing yourself in the Festival for a weekend or even a whole week: let us brighten up your March this year! The weekend sessions include lunch or brunch and feature prominent women writers new to the Festival, such as authors Jane Yolen and Ruth Reichl, as well as local favorites like Sonia Pilcer, returning this year in the company of some very illustrious “women writers of a certain age”; Rachel Siegel performing her new play “Special,” directed by Jayne Atkinson and produced by Kristen Van Ginhoven of WAM Theater; British American comedienne Alison Larkin offering tea and entertainment; and much, much more. We hope that the March Festival inspires you to recognize the value of creative community, and to join us at our year-round events. From our free monthly Lean In writers’ circle for women, to our writing-intensive leadership program for teen girls, to our writing retreats, readings and networking events, we are constantly seeking to nourish and strengthen the voices and visions of women to make our community a more vibrant place for all. See you at the Festival! Jennifer Browdy, PhD, Founding Festival Director
WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers Volume 1 • Issue 1 • February/March 2016 Publisher: Jennifer Browdy Managing Editor: Jennifer Browdy Contributing Writer: Kate Abbott Photo Editor: Lynnette Lucy Najimy
Graphic Design: Anna Myers Sabatini Proofreader: Nancy Macy Advertising Manager: Ellen Croibier Advertising Associate: Alice Myers
Copyright © 2016 by The Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
2016 Festival Sponsors
February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 3
t takes a village to create a community-wide Festival like this one, and we want to thank everyone who contributed to making the 2016 Berkshire Festival of Women Writers the best ever. Profound gratitude to all our sponsors, donors and advertisers, as well as our venue hosts—we could not do it without you! Special thanks to Brian Butterworth, Yingxing Wang, John DiSantis, Rob Weisberger, Anastasia Stanmeyer, Harryet Candee and Jenny Stern. Thanks to our presenters, who give so generously of their time and talents, and to our 2016 Festival organizing team, the hardworking elves behind the scenes who make it all happen: Ellen Croibier (Ad Sales Manager), Lorrin Krouss (Festival Coordinator), Alice Myers (Graphic Design, Web Design), Lynnette Lucy Najimy (Festival Publicity and Documentation), Judith Nardacci (Publicity
and Grant Writing), Anna Myers Sabatini (Webmaster and Graphic Design), Robin Zeamer (FestivalProgram Coordinator); volunteers Melinda Burns, Giselle Burroughs, Sharon Coleman, Joanne Cooney, Pauline Dongala, Safara Fisher, Diana French, Nancy Macy, Joanne Rogovin, Karen Skelton, Geri Stefannaci, Nancy Walters, Harriet Wetstone; interns Asa Cade, Michelle Kalman and Carmen Major. The Berkshire Festival of Women Writers is a program of the Women’s Collaborative for Creativity and Leadership, a non-profit under the interim fiscal sponsorship of the Sandisfield Arts Center. Special thanks to Marcella Smith and the Board of the Sandisfield Arts Center, as well as to Founding WCCL Board members: Amber Chand, Sheela Clary, Anni Crofut, Grace Gao, Carole Murko, Barbara Newman and Diane Rossman.
2016 Sixth Season Festival Donors (Donors as of January 15, 2016; see up-to-date listing on Festival website.) $5,000 and above Anonymous $1,000 - $4,999 Richard and Nadine Atkinson Sherry L. DeCelle, Ameriprise Financial Services John and Felicia Hendrix The Keator Group Diane and Jeff Rossman $500 - $999 Patricia Begrowicz Berkshire Kripalu Community Foundation Joseph and Sue Browdy Jan Seward, Embody Healing Arts Hope Fitzgerald David and Catherine Gelman Eleanor Y. Lord NBT Bank Abbie Von Schlegell
$200 - $499 Alford-Egremont Cultural Council Barbara Bonner Shirley Bresler Christine Hobbie Reba Evenchik Ellen G. Levy Joan Mack Anni Maliki Monterey Cultural Council Mount Washington Cultural Council Pittsfield Cultural Council Washington Cultural Council $100 - $199 Joyce Lapenn Outpost LLC Katherine E. Bouton Barbara Campbell Mary Campbell Rosanna Crocitto Kenny Carolyn Fabricant Georgene Gardner
Mary J. Greene Dona S. Kahn Laurie Lisle Lenox Cultural Council Roger and Barbara Manring Betsey McKearnan Otis Cultural Council Letty Cottin Pogrebin Richmond Cultural Council Vlada Rousseff Anne Serafin Sheffield Cultural Council Maria Sirois Jaqueline Wilder $50 - $99 Jennifer Clark Sharon Coleman Suzanne Fowle Richard Gillerman Heirloom Meals Ellen Meeropol Alice Myers Diane Pearlman
4 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
Norman and Sandy Reisman Signe Schaefer Rosemarie D. Siegel Van Horton Books Margot Welch Suzanne Werner Hilde Weisert $25 - $49 Linda Kaye-Moses Lee Schwartz Roselle Chartock Robin Goldberg Nanette Hucknall Mary J. Philpott Timpane Construction Laurie Winfrey
Your Name Could Be Here! Please give as generously as you can to keep our Festival vibrant all year long!
WOW! Women of Words The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers Volume 1 • Issue 1 • February/March 2016 FEATURES
10 Writing in the Blood: Jane Yolen and
31 “Mud Season”
Heidi Stemple Tell Stories Across Generations BY KATE ABBOTT
15 Soul Food: Ruth Reichl Chronicles
Gourmet’s Closing in Novel and Memoir BY KATE ABBOTT
Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
23 Women Writing Under the Big Sky at AROHO 58 Taking Wing: The Story of the Butterfly Leadership Program BY GRACE ROSSMAN
37 “You Came in January” BY ANNA LOTTO
41 “He Calls It Love”
BY LISKEN VAN PELT DUS
18 Program Listings of the 2016
BY ESTHER COHEN
BY TESS TAYLOR
BY SIGNE SCHAEFER
66 “Rivers of People”
BY REBA EVENCHIK
Cover Photo: Ruth Reichl by Richard Sands
Photo by Sandra Walker February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 5
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6 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
Saluting Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
WOW! Women of Words The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers Volume 1 • Issue 1 • February/March 2016
ESSAYS and STORIES
31 Kelly DuMar
56 Dangling Escape
34 Emma Smith-Stevens
By Robin W. Zeamer
57 Becoming Gaia
BY JENNIFER BROWDY
60 The Mature Heart
BY LORRIN KROUSS
38 Joyce Hayden 39 Letty Cottin Pogrebin 39 Ellen Meeropol 41 Maria Sirois
61 Exploring the Gender Crossroads 43 Jacqueline Sheehan BY LEE SCHWARTZ
62 My Daughter Enters A Room BY JAN SEWARD
45 Veronica Chambers 47 Sonia Pilcer 51 Sheila Weller
SHORT TAKES By Festival Presenters 53 Sheela Clary 19 Suzi Banks Baum 21 Lara Tupper 25 Mary Johnson
54 Laura Didyk 55 Festival Venues List
27 Breena Clarke 29 Thea Iberall
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Photo by L. Najimy February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 7
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8 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
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Writing in the blood Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple tell stories across generations By Kate Abbott Photo by Jason Stemple
ow one day, finally and at last and about time, the queen went to bed and gave birth to a baby girl with a crown of red hair.” Becca Berlin has grown up in the Pioneer Valley, listening to her grandmother’s storytelling. After her grandmother dies, Becca sets out to learn how she came to the U.S. in 1942, with her grandmother’s story to guide her. “Everyone slept: Lords and ladies, teachers and tummlers, dogs and doves, rabbits and rabbitzen and all kinds of citizens.” The fairy tale of thorn hedges and poisoned sleep becomes a contemporary story of the Holocaust in Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose. Among her 350 books for children, teens and adults, Yolen has written fantasies ranging from owls in the woods to young dragons, Merlin, the Scots Highlands, and dinosaurs celebrating holidays. Many of these beloved stories were written with members of her family. Yolen has worked with her sons, Jason, a photographer, and Adam, a musician. Her collaboration with her daughter has taken longer to unfold. “I knew from birth I wanted to be a writer,” Yolen
Photo by Angela DiTerlizzi said. “Heidi writes beautifully, but it was too much like following in her mother’s footsteps.” Heidi Stemple has worked as a probation/parole officer and a private investigator. She interned at a halfway house for boys 14 to 18 and at a center for the family and friends of murder victims. She had just begun to work as a counselor at a shelter for battered women, she said, when she became pregnant. Home and with time to fill, she turned to a project with her mother. Now they have written 20 books together across almost 20 years, and Stemple has written two on her own. One of the early books they worked on together changed their relationship, Yolen said, as thoroughly as Stemple’s having a baby changed it. In Mirror, Mirror they collect folk and fairy tales from around the world— and talk about them. After each group of stories, they exchange thoughts and responses. The conversation ran parallel to their lives, Yolen said, and deepened their relationship. “I would say things I didn’t remember I knew,” Stemple said.
10 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
She recalled dropping off her younger daughter at school and coming home to work, thinking another day of introspection. They looked at those stories from different backgrounds: Yolen as a folklorist and fantasy writer and Stemple from a psychological point of view. “It was seeing her as an adult and not just as her mom,” Yolen said. When they came to “Beauty and the Beast,” Yolen found it powerful. She admires beautiful and complex retellings including Robin McKinley’s Beauty, Rose Daughter and Deerskin. Stemple heard the original story as a primer for an abused wife and found it deeply troubling. For her, it held the clear message: “If you have someone awful and you just love him enough, he will turn into a prince.” And as they read “Rapunzel,” Heidi had become an adoptive parent to her older daughter, Lexi, and the They had just spent a weekend in the car together for “witch” who takes in the baby Rapunzel and cares for her about 25 hours, Yolen said, on a trip through Maine, New became a compassionate and responsible figure. Hampshire and Massachusetts, and to bookstores and “The story takes on incredibly different meanings,” events. On the road, they drifted into talking about books, Yolen said. “thinking in story land,” and came up with an idea for a As the two began to talk for the first time about difnew project. They threw lines back and forth and talked ficult subjects like sex and death and motherhood, they about the shape of the plot, and by the time they got home learned things about each other they hadn’t known. And they had the arc of it. that conversation has carried on. “We have no words on paper yet,” Stemple said. “I only recently learned something about what Heidi “You’re wrong,” Yolen answered, and they laughed did when she was working in probation,” Yolen said. as Heidi said she too had a sheet of paper near her and In a conversation about incarceration, she said, “you had been keeping herself from jotting down ideas as her have never sat in a jail cell with someone who has murmother spoke. dered four people, and I have.” “This gives a glance into how we In working together, Stemple said, I see stories everywhere. work,” Stemple said, “tightening ideas, people bring their own histories, the The world is filled with finding a direction and a tone. knowledge they have gained in the “It feels that way,” Yolen agreed. interstices of their lives. stories, with poems, “Sometimes I get a paragraph down and “I’d like to say I introduced her to with sonatas. If you send it to Heidi and say ‘do you want to the word ‘interstices,’” Yolen said. get up early and hear play?’ Sometimes she says ‘no, that’s your “You taught me to talk,” Stemple book.’ Sometimes she sends me the next shot back warmly. birdsong, it might be a line. Something’s always cooking.” Yolen agreed her daughter cerpicture book or music. Now Yolen is working on another tainly knew some words her mother Holocaust book formed around a fairy You have to be open to had not taught her. tale: “Hansel and Gretel.” The folktale “Most of those I made up,” it, ready to receive it. moves across three places, she said: The Stemple said. children are starving in the cottage, lost —Jane Yolen Today they exchange work reguin the woods and imprisoned in the larly in good-natured close readings. witch’s gingerbread house, where fingers Some stories they write together, and grow thin as bones and people are baked in ovens. Yolen some one will claim as her own. They will often email a story spins her story around a twin brother and sister in the ghetto, or an idea to each other and edit, fiddle and add. They have the forest where groups of partisans live in hiding and the a long practice in editing their own and other people’s work concentration camps where people become skeletal ... and and listening to someone editing their own, Stemple said. bodies burn. “Don’t mistake this for never arguing about each Some people object to the idea of a contemporary other’s point of view,” she said—the argument tempers writer writing her own fairy tales, she said, but all fairy the work and condenses it.
Continued on page 64
February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 11
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14 â€˘ WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
Soul food Ruth Reichl chronicles Gourmet’s closing in novel and memoir By Kate Abbott
Photography by Richard Sands
uth Reichl flew back from Frankfurt, Germany, from a short-notice weekend trip to look for the kind of food only locals know about. Jet-lagged on a raw December day, she came back to the mountains. When she drove up the dirt road to her house in Spencertown, NY, she found her husband, Michael, in the kitchen overlooking the Catskills, making coq au vin. She walked in to the rich aroma of chicken braised in wine. The next morning she got up early and made him a gingered applesauce cake. She has regularly made breakfast for her husband and her son, she said, through her years as editor-in-chief at Gourmet Magazine and restaurant critic for the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. In Reichl’s family, cooking is generous, and it is healing. She held on to it six years ago. In October 2009, without warning, Condé Nast closed Gourmet. Reichl had led the magazine for 10 years. “It was over,” she writes in her newly released memoir and cookbook, My Kitchen Year. “America’s first epicurean magazine had survived for almost seventy years, and it had closed on my watch.”
In short, vivid sketches she relives the first shock at the Gourmet office—people holding onto each other, opening the drinks editor’s wine and coming together at her place in the city, not willing to let go. She resumes a jarring book tour and fills her house with people at Thanksgiving. And then she wakes on the first gray day at home without structure or purpose. In this grieving time, she walks into the kitchen. She begins to cook and to Tweet, and she goes on into the winter and early spring—“Thunder rumbling. Bitter broccoli rabe: sweetened with garlic, softened in olive oil, heaped on crisped bread. Just right.” In April 2010, the new book began. As former Gourmet colleagues reunited at a Chinese restaurant in the city, Bill Sertl, the former travel editor, asked Reichl, “When was the last time you didn’t have an expense account?” She told him: 1978. When he replied that she must miss all those fancy restaurants, she realized she had not thought about them in months. She had taken that much pleasure in cooking at home. She has talked for years about coaxing people back into their own kitchens, she said. The idea for the book came to her as an invitation—the story of that hard year
February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 15
with Tweets like Haiku and recipes like conversations: “Not a shopping list or a prescription; as though we’re standing in the kitchen together.” “I thought of it as a book of hours,” she said, “a book people will take to bed and read at night.” She wanted to draw people in. “I feel like the food media has made you feel, if you can’t cook at chef level, don’t bother,” she said. “For me, cooking is about the journey. We’ve made it a performative act” that has to have an impressive result. “But we learn by mistakes. If it doesn’t work, big deal.” Cooking can be putting blue cheese and pears together on a plate or breathing in the scent of spices. “We’ve made cooking seem like a test,” she said. “It’s an adventure. If you’ve had a good time, you’ve won.” So among recipes for holiday dishes she brings comfort food like bulgogi (Korean grilled beef ) and pancakes and even a sandwich with crunchy natural peanut butter and strawberry jam. PB&J “is one of our greatest inventions,” she said. Cooking is a game, a meditation and a gift: Offering something fresh out of the oven or out of the garden has power. The first issue of Gourmet she put together, she said, had a W. Eugene Smith photograph of a middle-aged French peasant woman with a radiant smile holding out both hands full of truffles. Reichl wanted that woman on the cover. “That is cooking,” she said. “It’s sharing. When everyone’s nerves are jangled, you put on a pot of chicken soup and everyone will feel better. People feel loved when you cook for them. They feel cared for.” In the spring of 2010, Reichl began to write her first novel, Delicious!—following a young woman from Southern California to a food magazine in New York and through the magazine’s closing, and into a chocolatier where the dark chocolate tastes like the air before rain and a cheese shop where the spring parmesan tastes like young grass. She struggled with the novel, she said. Then Michael got sick and went through several operations, and she cared for him. But all that time she thought of the memoir. “It was there,” she said. “When I sat down I just wrote it, and it’s not much edited.” My Kitchen Year has taken time in the making. She thought of it as a simple small book, but her editor insisted on photographs. So Reichl talked with Richard Ferretti, her former creative director at Gourmet, and he recommended photographer Mikkel Vang. Vang agreed with her intimate vision. “He said ‘it will be just you and me,” she said, “no lights, no assistant, no stylist. These are honest recipes, and I want honest photos. You’ll cook, and we’ll take it out of the oven,
and we’ll find a plate from the cupboard and shoot it and eat it.” Her kitchen is an island of counters and copper pots in a long, light-filled living room. Reichl and Vang set plates by the sunny window, and Reichl would hold the NAMA Cookbook to bounce light or block it. Then Vang ranged outside. He had contracted for images of food, she said, and no one had asked him to add the woods or the two chairs at the edge of the lawn. But by the time he walked in on the first day he had taken more than 100 photographs. Images of the country and the city draw the story together in its unique form, memoir and cookbook together. Reichl had already written an early cookbook and four memoirs: Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, Garlic and Sapphires and For You, Mom, Finally. She kept writing deliberately in her time at Gourmet, she said. She didn’t want Condé Nast to think they owned her. Condé Nast “wraps you up in luxury,” she said. “I think Si [Newhouse] wants to make it impossible for people to leave. It’s important to maintain independence. Writing is about being an independent person—self-sufficient.” For her, being an editor has also meant independence and integrity. Reichl brought to Gourmet a constant awareness of eating as an ethical act. She made that decision consciously from the beginning, she said. When she interviewed with Condé Nast, she told then editorial director James Truman that the magazine was missing an opportunity—focusing on luxury and indulgence when the world of food was changing. She remembered his response: “I came here looking for an elegant dinner party, and you’ve convinced me I should be looking for much more.” Reichl has seen sweeping food movements in this country, close up. She was in Berkeley when chef Alice Waters co-founded Chez Panisse in the 1970s, focusing on local, organic food, and in Los Angeles as the food movement grew in California.
made cooking “ We’ve seem like a test. It’s an adventure. If you’ve had a good time, you’ve won.
16 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
Continued on page 64
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The Sixth Annual
Advance Events Unless otherwise indicated, all events are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Complete bios and additional information about the presenters are available on the Festival website, Berkshirewomenwriters.org. Please check the website regularly for late-breaking changes or cancellations due to weather or illness. For registration information, and to purchase tickets, visit the Festival website, Berkshirewomenwriters.org.
Saturday, February 13 Writing Our Lives as Fiction & Memoir: Workshop with Carol Ascher Bushnell-Sage Library, 48 Main Street, Sheffield, 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Free.
This workshop is directed to women who are beginning to write as well as those who have written either fiction or memoir and would like to transition to the other genre. The workshop is designed to help women explore why each of us tends to think in terms of memoir or fiction when we consider writing about our experiences, how we can shift to a different genre, and the benefits and limitations of each. The workshop will include two work sessions, divided by a lunch break, in which we write the same material as fiction and memoir. Using these fairly short pieces, we will end by discussing such issues as narrative voice, pacing, character, and dramatic arc in both memoir and fiction. Bring a laptop or paper notepad, as well as a bag lunch.
Sunday, February 28 Powder Keg Reading with Suzi Banks Baum & Friends No. Six Depot, 6 Depot Street, West Stockbridge, 2 p.m. Free.
The women writers of the Powder Keg Ramsdell Sessions will share new work, including poetry, essays and flash fiction and instructor Suzi Banks Baum will moderate a discussion of the gifts and challenges of a daily writing practice.
SATURDAY, March 5 She Said: A Spoken Word Performance by Ursula Rucker Bard College at Simon’s Rock, Hall Student Union, 8:30 p.m. Free.
Ursula Rucker. Photo by Emmai Alaquiva
Ursula Rucker believes that art and poetry are catalysts for change. Her mission and calling is to heal herself, the planet, and its people through her art. While she sees the world as her community, she pays particular attention to the world of women, indigeneous/diaporic peoples, and sufferers of injustice.
18 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
woman’s story is valuable no matter what she is making: money, kids or dinner. Every day, when I meet the blank page or a new table full of women in a class, I look for what Mary Oliver calls, “The radiant suggestions of the universe” that are right before us. For so long, centuries really, a woman’s ordinary experience was not just mundane, but unmentionable. Silence was an appropriate response from women. I want women to engage with our creative voices and use them to increase the value of the role of women in our society. We are the way-makers here. If we ourselves do not value our lives, then how will we craft a society that does? This is the currency that is born of a woman’s creative power. Individual value paves the way for collective value. When I stand for my own value, the value of my experience and my contributions to our society, I make the space for another woman to do the same and in doing so, we begin to weave a fabric of connection for all women, especially the ones who have no access to creative expression beyond the daily acts of their ordinary lives. u —Suzi Banks Baum
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Suzi Banks Baum creates community wherever she goes. An actress, writer and teacher, she blogs about motherhood, creativity and celebrating the sacred in daily life at LaundryLineDivine.com.
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February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 19
Advance Events continued
Sunday, March 6 Screening of Documentary Film PROFILED
Hosted by the Berkshire Human Rights Speaker Series and the Simon’s Rock Social Justice Committee
Daniel Arts Center, Bard College at Simon’s Rock, 84 Alford Road, Great Barrington, 7 p.m. $5 tickets at the door; students free.
Natasha Duncan, her sister Shantel Davis, killed in 2012. Carol Gray, her son Kimani Gray, killed in 2013.
A screening in honor of International Women’s Day of the compelling new documentary film PROFILED, directed by Kathleen Foster. The film’s topic could not be more relevant as racial profiling has become the center of explosive controversy in media and society. Foster, whose last two films were about Afghan women in war, turns her attention to the “war on women of color” happening right here in the U.S.
Thursday, March 10 Advanced Study Workshop in Non-Traditional Prose
Workshop led by Berkshire Community College faculty Julianna Spallholz and Nell McCabe The Writing Center, Susan B. Anthony Lounge, Rooms A123/124
Berkshire Community College, 1350 West Street, Pittsfield, 3 p.m. Free.
In this advanced writing workshop designed to examine works of non-traditional and cross-genre prose, participants will create and discuss their original work as well as selections from authors such as Lydia Davis, Selah Saterstrom, and Kim Gek Lin Short. Enrollment is limited. Register by email to Julianna Spallholz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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t started on a cruise ship, where nothing was exactly real. The brass railings of the lobby staircase were molded industrial plastic, liberally coated with copper-colored paint. The ship’s largest funnel, visible from up to ten nautical miles, bore the company insignia in gleaming white and blue; it led nowhere, funneled nothing. The pool, deemed “refreshing” in the travel agent brochure, was waist-deep, heavily chlorinated, and too cold even for children. In a pinch, plastic ice sculptures were used for the Midnight Buffet. Stored in freezers and splashed with ice water to simulate melting drips, the statuettes (dolphin, starfish, palm tree) were appropriately cold to the touch. The slot machines were fixed to a timer, the bingo numbers were decided well in advance of the daily call. The rum punch was 80 percent Kool-Aid. And the surly pop duo in the Tally-Ho Lounge played to synthesized backing tracks. At the time of her Boston audition for Dancers Who Sing and Singers Who Move Well, Karla, who considered herself the latter, was three months out of music school
and still living with her college roommate in Somerville, Massachusetts. The summer run of temping and tryouts had been humbling, until the cruise ship auditions began. The cruise reps seemed to care less about Karla’s dance experience and more about her “people skills.” They asked if she’d ever worked in the service industry, and Karla certainly had. Her three summers as Head Waitress at Cabbage Island Clambakes were suddenly three summers well spent. She got it. She would be an Entertainer, according to her contract. She was hired to sing and dance and travel— she was going to be paid for this. She was twenty-two years old. u —Lara Tupper, from A Thousand and One Nights Lara Tupper received her MFA from Warren Wilson College. The author of two novels, she has taught writing at Rutgers University, Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health and other venues. She is currently at work on a memoir.
is good when it springs from necessity. This kind of “ Art origin is the guarantee of its value; there is no other. ” —Angela Carter
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The Sixth Annual
March 12 – 20, 2016 SATURDAY, MARCH 12 All events held at Eastover Estate & Retreat, 430 East Street, Lenox, require tickets. Prices listed will increase after March 1. Tickets: $50 morning session, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., includes lunch at Eastover $50 afternoon sessions, 1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., includes afternoon tea $90 Full Day, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m,, includes lunch and afternoon tea $15 Evening concert For registration information, visit the Festival website, Berkshirewomenwriters.org.
10 a.m. – noon Good Stories: The Deep Red Heart of Life Writing Workshop with Esther Cohen
Good stories are the living breathing unpredictable deep red heart of life. This workshop is for story lovers and story makers who want to make their own stories better. How the world began, all that we know and don’t know, whatever we feel and see and hear– we will look at every part of our lives as rich material for stories, good stories. Our class will be an experiential one: we will tell stories, hear them, read them and write them, using a wide range of sources, from Naguib Mahfouz to The Moth. Esther Cohen is the author of Don’t Mind Me: And Other Jewish Lies with illustrationsby Roz Chast; the novels No Charge for Looking and Book Doctor; and two volumes of poetry, God Is a Tree and prayerbook. A longtime teacher of writing, she divides her time between Manhattan and Cornwallville, NY.
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Women Writing Under the Big Sky at AROHO By Esther Cohen
bout six years ago my friend Amy, who is also my literary agent, asked me if I wanted to go with her to New Mexico to a women’s writer’s retreat called AROHO, named for Virginia Woolf ’s classic book A Room of Her Own. Amy and I are both urban types. We do not hike, or own authentic water bottles. And we began our journey with a generalized urban skepticism. What could this women’s writing retreat be? Amy was invited as the Official Agent. She would answer questions from the 100 or so women writers who had gathered to meet one another at Ghost Ranch, where Georgia O’Keefe painted, in a town with a name that looked unpronounceable: ABIQUIU (it sounds like ahbkew). Amy’s agency, Writer’s House, represented a book by one of the retreat’s founders, Mary Johnson, a gorgeous and compelling nun who’d written an unflinching memoir about her many years of working with Mother Teresa. I went, saw the sky for the first time, more or less, the New Mexican sky that is bigger, certainly, than the New York City sky, more full of clouds and stars. I spent five days, or six, looking up at that sky, and thinking about what words I’d use, if I had the chance. At the retreat, I met a talented author named Breena Clarke, who’d been to AROHO before so she knew enough to bring her own coffee. We all talked to one another, and we wrote some, and each one of us recognized how much we need communities to write. We became that community for one another. Last summer Breena and I talked her sister, the well-known poet Cheryl Clarke, into joining us to teach at AROHO. Cheryl had to be talked into it because, just like Amy and me, she had a certain kind of skepticism that we, in the middle of this absolutely wonderful place, would actually Do Something. But do something we did, with our sentences, and ourselves. We talked, and we didn’t. We looked up at the sky a lot, and came home different enough to want to go back there, and to want to keep writing those sentences we started early in the morning or late at night when it wasn’t too hot for making sentences. u
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Saturday, March 12 continued
1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. An Unquenchable Thirst for Writing
Four readings and a Discussion with Mary Johnson, Breena Clarke, Cheryl Clarke and Esther Cohen Four established writers will read from their latest work at this provocative, inspiring session. A discussion with the audience on the writing life will follow.
Mary Johnson will read from her memoir, An Unquenchable Thirst, named one of 2011’s best by Kirkus Review and winner of the New Hampshire Literary Award for non-fiction. A generous but naive teenager, Mary became a trusted nun with a hidden life. In the end she disappointed her mentor, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, but remained true to herself. Mary’s writing and work have been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, O, The Oprah Magazine, the Huffington Post, Bloomberg View, National Public Radio, CNN and MSNBC. For more than a decade, Mary served as creative director of retreats for A Room of Her Own Foundation. Breena Clarke is the author of three novels, including River, Cross My Heart, an Oprah Book Club selection. She will read from her new novel, Angels Make Their Hope Here, the story of a young girl’s harrowing journey to free herself and the complex, charismatic man who conducts her to Russell’s Knob, a haven for runaways in 19th century New Jersey. Breena serves on the Board of A Room Of Her Own Foundation and on the fiction faculty of Stonecoast MFA Creative Writing program at The University of Southern Maine and is co-founder of The Hobart Book Village Festival of Women Writers. Esther Cohen’s writing spans genres. She is the author of Don’t Mind Me: And Other Jewish Lies with illustrations by Roz Chast; the novels No Charge for Looking and Book Doctor; and two volumes of poetry, God Is a Tree and prayerbook. In 2000, she began Unseen America, an ongoing project in which homecare workers, migrants, nannies and others among the working class tell their life stories through the photographs they take in their daily lives. She will read from her new collection of poems, I’m Getting Older. She is.
Cheryl Clarke is the author of four books of poetry, the critical study, After Mecca: Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement (2005), and her collected works The Days of Good Looks: Prose and Poetry 1980-2005 (2006). After a distinguished career at Rutgers University, she co-founded The Hobart Book Village Festival of Women Writers. She will read from Living as a Lesbian, originally published by Firebrand Books in 1986 and jointly reprinted by A Midsummer Night and Sinister Wisdom Presses in 2014 as the second in the “Sapphic Classic” series. She will also read new poems from her upcoming collection, By My Precise Haircut.
4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Women Writers: Building Sisterhood
Panel discussion with Esther Cohen, Mary Johnson, Breena Clarke, Cheryl Clarke and Jennifer Browdy Five women writers, each of whom reached out for community and found they had to create it for themselves and other women, will discuss how they have found sisterhood essential for their creative health and professional growth as women writers. At retreats and festivals we hear new voices and old favorites, write new work, catch up, take pictures, sell books, give advice, get advice, are inspired, are included. Gathering gives strength and vitality to the usually solitary endeavor of writing. Women on the panel have been instrumental in beginning and sustaining the A Room of Her Own Foundation, the Hobart Book Village Festival of Women Writers and the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers.
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was sitting next to my husband in our neighborhood pub on a spring afternoon, munching on fish and chips. I reached for my beer and looked out the window, and there he was: a 30-something fellow in a scruffy beard. My ex-husband. I felt my breath catch, my heart race. What was he thinking, showing up in my town, the New England city that felt so free because it held no memories of him? As he passed the window, his red robe slipped a little, revealing his collarbone as he lugged a cross down Main Street. Countless times I’d sat at Mother Teresa’s feet and watched her face take on the glow of a woman in love, heard her repeat: “Sisters, no one has ever loved you as Jesus loves you. Never allow anyone to separate you from the love of Christ.” I thought I was over all that—but there it was, a tightness in my throat, a pulling in my chest. Something in me still longed for those years when I worked and prayed and laughed beside my sisters as we made the world a better place. It was Good Friday. How could I have forgotten? During my 20 years as a nun, I would have eaten only a crust of hard bread on Good Friday morning, out of respect for the suffering of my mystical spouse. Though I’d since left the church, I dropped my napkin and stood, simply unable to do otherwise… u
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Saturday, March 12 continued
7:30 p.m. Kate Campbell: How Southern Female Authors Have Influenced My Songwriting A Concert and Lecture in Song, hosted by Barbara and Graham Dean
Some writing is like comfort food—or “comfort language.” For Mississippi s inger- songwriter Kate Campbell, the work of Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor and Harper Lee is like that. They are all from the South and their work has profoundly influenced Kate’s songwriting voice. In this concert, Kate will read and sing and open up further conversations about these writers and the notion of comfort language. Maybe we’ll talk about comfort food as well!
As the daughter of a Baptist preacher from Sledge, Mississippi, Kate Campbell’s formative years were spent in the very core of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and the indelible experiences of those years have shaped her heart, character and convictions ever since. Her clear vocal delivery, eloquent gift for storytelling (which has drawn repeated comparisons to Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty and William Faulkner) and easy command of a full range of American music styles, combine to earn Campbell recognition as a formidable talent by critics, musicians and a discerning public.
“Kate Campbell: How Southern Female Authors Have Influenced My Songwriting” is co-sponsored by Timpane Construction Inc., Lori Levinson, and Crystal Essence.
a limit to genuis. ” “ Neither birth nor sex forms —Charlotte Brontë 26 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
hat you thinkin’ ’bout, Duncan? You’re a-ponderin’?” Mama would say when he was small and thoughtful. Duncan had been a ponderer when he was a young boy. Then when his sister, Hattie, came, his mama forgot to hold off his tormentors. His cousins, a few years older, were cruel boys. They toughened him up and turned him quickly from a ponderer to a plotter, a schemer, a burner, and an eye gouger. It is no doubt that grabbing off this girl from the lowlanders is against some law. Thou shalt not steal off your neighbor’s bond servant, your neighbor’s slave, or your neighbor’s wife. Can you steal off a girl who has already been stolen? Duncan knew he was taking a lot on himself, but surely these lowlanders were holding her by illegal and immoral means. It itched him. It bothered him. u —Breena Clarke, from Angels Make Their Hope Here
been startling and disappointing for “ Itmehadto find out that story books had been
written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass. —Eudora Welty
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February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 27
SUNDAY, MARCH 13 All events held at Eastover Estate & Retreat, 430 East Street, Lenox require tickets. Prices listed will increase after March 1. TICKETS:
$50 morning session, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., includes lunch at Eastover
$50 afternoon sessions, 1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., includes afternoon tea $90 Full Day, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., includes lunch and afternoon tea
For registration information, visit the Festival website, Berkshirewomenwriters.org.
10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Every Woman Has a Story to Tell
Spoken Word Performance with Jan Krause Greene, Cheryl Melody Baskin and Thea Iberall
Jan Krause Greene
Spoken word, musical interpretation and dramatic reading will bring to life the stories and poems in 45Magazine, a new women’s literary journal. These are anonymous works of both experienced and novice writers, exemplifying themes that are common to most women. In some cases, 45Magazine gives a voice to women who had been voiceless, powerless and invisible until they put their experiences in writing. Jan Krause Greene was a high school teacher and newspaper columnist. After retiring, she wrote her first novel, I Call Myself Earth Girl. The host of the Literary Arts Open Mic at Tatnuck Booksellers in Westborough, MA, she is an editor for 45 Magazine and vice president of the Women’s National Book Association, Boston Chapter.
Cheryl Melody Baskin
Cheryl Melody Baskin is an author, playwright, composer, voiceover artist, poet and educator. For 35 years, she has worked as a professional recording artist. recording nine nationally awarded CDs. As a sound healer, she brings her voice for peace to diverse audiences.
Thea Iberall is an award-winning scientist and writer of poetry, plays, scientific texts and a new novel, The Swallow and the Nightingale. Wanting to combine her scientific training with her love of language, Thea developed a new art form called contextual poetry, which integrates the knowledge of multidisciplinary science and history with the insights and language of poetry. Her new book of contextual poems, The Sanctuary of Artemis, explores the roots and origins of Western patriarchal culture through evolution, religion, neuroscience, history, mythology, symbolism and linguistics. Thea has a PhD in Computational Neuroscience (UMass) and an MA in writing from the University of Southern California.
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The Pope came to Washington, and because I’m Jewish I went, too. We moved our Yom Kippur Services to the Lincoln Memorial so that we could support his Encyclical. We fasted and atoned for our sins. Usually, these are for being preoccupied with ourselves. This time, it was different. For the harm, the hurt and the damage we have caused by using dirty fuels, ve-al kulam eloha selichot s’lach lanu m’chal lanu kaper lanu. Usually, in the service, we read from the books of the Prophets. This time, it was different. The Rabbi quoted Martin Luther King who said all life is connected. What affects one, affects all. It breaks my heart to think of the world my grandchildren are inheriting. They don’t know that resource wars have already begun. When they are caught in wild weather and desperate for food, will they ask why didn’t you do more? What will I say? That I was too dazzled by capitalism’s conveniences to join a solidarity economy? That I didn’t stop oil companies from fracking because I had something more important to do? I’ll tell my grandchildren I went to Washington because one Pope can make a difference. I’ll say I wrote a poem and shared it with some people who believe all life is connected. I’ll say I looked into those people’s eyes and asked them to join in so that we can face the future together. Because this time, it is different. u —Thea Iberall, from The Differences
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Sunday, March 13 continued
1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. The Family Business: The Yolen-Stemple Literary World, to the (Owl) Moon and Beyond Reading and discussion with Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple
From Owl Moon to their latest, You Nest Here With Me, authors Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple’s art imitates life— though sometimes accidentally. Join Jane and Heidi for a discussion of what it’s like to live in a family filled with storytellers and how living in such a creative family informs their writing. Heidi Stemple didn’t want to be a writer when she grew up. In fact, after she graduated from college, she became a probation officer in Florida. It wasn’t until she was 28 years old that she gave in and joined the family business, publishing her first short story in a book called Famous Writers and Their Kids Write Spooky Stories. The famous writer was her mom, author Jane Yolen. Since then, she has published twenty books and numerous short stories and poems, mostly for children.
Jane Yolen, often called “the Hans Christian Andersen of America,” is the author of more than 350 books, ranging from picture books and baby board books, through middle grade Heidi Stemple fiction, poetry collections, non-fiction, novels, graphicnovels, Photo by Angela DiTerlizzi story collections and even cookbooks. Her books and stories have won many awards, including two Nebulas, a World Fantasy Award, a Caldecott, the Golden Kite, three Mythopoeic awards, two Christopher Medals, nomination for the National Book Award and Jewish Book Award. She also won the Kerlan Award and the Catholic Library’s Regina Medal. Six colleges and universities have given her honorary doctorates.
Jane Yolen. Photo by Jason Stemple
4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Green Visions: Writing the Environment in Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry & Prose
Reading and discussion with Jennifer Browdy, Jan Krause Greene, Thea Iberall, Tess Taylor and Jane Yolen Five writers will read briefly from their environmental writing and discuss their use of writing, in a variety of genres, as a means of awakening readers to the natural world and the environmental challenges currently facing all of us on Earth today. How is writing a poem, short story, novel, children’s book or personal essay a way of “being the change we want to see?” What choices go into form and content of our writing about nature and environmental concerns? How do we write honestly about catastrophe and yet engender hope rather than despair? Tess Taylor is the author of three books of poetry. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic, Boston Review, Harvard Review, the Times Literary Supplement and the New Yorker. She is currently the on-air poetry reviewer for NPR’s All Things Considered, and was most recently visiting professor of English and creative writing at Whittier College.
Jennifer Browdy teaches environmental literature and writing at Bard College at Simon’s Rock. She writes regularly about social and environmental issues in various fora, including Kosmos Journal, Yes! Magazine and her blog, Transition Times. Her memoir, What I Forgot…and Why I R emembered:A Purposeful Memoir of Personal and Planetary Transformation, is forthcoming in 2016.
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en years ago, I founded a play festival for women playwrights. Not just experienced playwrights, but also inviting women who might never have written anything for the stage before. Since then, Our Voices has grown from an evening of staged readings of Boston area women playwrights to a daylong workshop which has supported nearly a hundred women playwrights to develop plays with actors and directors. Every year, I wake up the day after producing Our Voices and think: it can’t get better than this one. Every year, as they’re saying goodnight, the playwrights tell me I must be super exhausted, but I’m not tired. I’m so filled with energy after this jam-packed twelve-hour day. I didn’t spend energy, I created it. Producing Our Voices lets me spend my day listening to women show and tell their unique stories as creatively as they can in a safe, supportive environment. I love how one participant last year describes her experience in Our Voices: “Writing is my solace and joy, coming to me in bursts of laughter or darkness. I have stories to tell yet, at times, I shrink from sharing, doubting my own voice. Through more workshops and conversation, I hope to strengthen that confidence in my point of view and reinvigorate the process to write the things I don’t yet dare to consider.” We need to relearn how to be playful as adults. My workshops involve unique, playful, surprising ways to evoke storytelling. I believe workshop experiences should be safe places for self- expression where feedback is non-judgmental and encouraging. u
MUD SEASON By Tess Taylor We unstave the winter’s tangle. Sad tomatoes, sullen sky. We unplay the summer’s blight. Rotted on the vine, black fruit swings free of strings that bound it. In the compost, ghost melon; in the fields grotesque extruded peppers. We prod half-thawed mucky things. In the sky, starlings eddying. Tomorrow, snow again, old silence. Today, the creaking icy puller. Last night I woke to wild unfrozen prattle. Rain on the roof—a foreign liquid tongue. u
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RAILROAD STREET - LEE, MASSACHUSETTS 01238 www.SullivanStationRestaurant.com February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 31
MONDAY, MARCH 14 10 a.m. – noon Reading Like a Writer: An Examination of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier Workshop led by Leslie Wheeler
Lee Library Association, 100 Main Street, Lee. Free.
Great novels not only make for enjoyable reading, but also contain important lessons for writers, from beginners to veterans. We’ll examine Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel of suspense, Rebecca, with a view toward determining how the author builds a compelling tale through characterization, setting and plotting. Participants will gain a better understanding of how to write successful fiction, whether mystery, suspense, or mainstream. Read the novel and bring your copy to the workshop, prepared to discuss.
3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Writers in The House
Discussion led by The Mount’s 2016 Writers-in-Residence: Koren Zailckas, Yvonne Puig and Claire McMillan
Edith Wharton’s Drawing Room, The Mount, 2 Plunkett Street, Lenox. Free.
Three of the 2016 Edith Wharton Writers-in-Residence—Koren Zailckas, author of Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood, Yvonne Puig, author of the upcoming A Wife of Noble Character (a modern retelling of The House of Mirth) and Claire McMillan, author of Gilded Age—will discuss their books, their careers, and how Edith Wharton continues to shape and inspire women writers in the 21st century.
7:30 p.m. No, I Don’t Have any Children
Reading hosted by AnnE O’Neil, featuring Pooja Ru Prema, Jane Bernstein, Francine Ciccarelli, Karen Lewis, Bubsy McDonough, Claire Richards and Samantha Cullen First Congregational Church, Parish Room, 251 Main Street, Great Barrington Tickets $10; to register visit Berkshirewomenwriters.org.
Much writing by women celebrates motherhood; far less time is devoted to the blessings and challenges of non-motherhood. This event presents a series of women’s individual stories of not having birthed and raised c hildren. The stories all start with the name, age and statement, “No, I don’t have any children”…then take their own unique approach. The readings include much tenderness, humor, insight, open-heartedness and the unexpected.
AnnE O’Neil, Pooja Ru Prema (photo by Janine Strong), Jane Bernstein, Francine Ciccarelli, Karen Lewis, Bubsy McDonough, Claire Richards,and Samantha Cullen
32 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
Creative Nonfiction “The best creative nonfiction writing is the key not only to authentic self-expression but also to artistic and literary innovation.” LEANNA JAMES BLACKWELL
Accepting Applications for May 2016 GRADUATE.BAYPATH.EDU/MFA
Memoir, personal essay, travel & food writing Tracks in publishing and teaching Faculty Mentors:
FOR A CONSTANTLY CHANGING WORLD February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 33
TUESDAY, MARCH 15 10 a.m. – noon
Getting into Trouble & Getting out of It: Writing a Book-Length Memoir
Reading and Discussion with Laura Didyk, Joyce Hayden and Emma Smith-Stevens Berkshire Community College, 343 Main Street, Room S5, Great Barrington. Free. Once you embark on the writing of a memoir, at some point you will likely find yourself in some trouble—writing trouble, that is. You may have questions about form, structure and personal content. You may begin to doubt your ability, your story and your stamina. The workshop leaders will read from their memoirs-in-progress and discuss how they’ve gotten into trouble, and how they’ve gotten out of it. Note: Reading will include adult subject matter not suitable for children.
1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Telling Truth & Beauty: Writing, Telling and Playing Back Personal Stories Writing and performance workshop led by Kelly DuMar
Berkshire Community College, 343 Main Street, Room S5, Great Barrington. Free.
This lively workshop will get you out of your chair taking risks and discovering gifts as you share your own stories and help other women writers reveal the personal and universal truth and beauty of theirs. Participants will engage in writing and improvisational acting, co-creating spontaneous art in an intimate setting with deep listening and creative response. Jo Salas, in her description of Playback Theatre Kelly DuMar from Improvising Real Life, says effective artistic expression is not the exclusive province of the professional… and all of us are able to reach into ourselves to create a thing of beauty that can touch other hearts. By exploring what Salas calls our undying need for connection through aesthetic ritual, this workshop will give you wonderful tools to develop new writing and structures and the chance to express the wisdom, truth and beauty of your stories.
4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Bulldog Rewriting
A Writing Workshop led by Sheela Clary
Community Room, Mason Library, 231 Main Street, Great Barrington. Free. “I’m not a very good writer. I’m a little bulldog of a rewriter.” —Mary Karr
To produce good writing you have to be a good editor. Using a short essay of her own as an example, Sheela will take participants through its drafts, from the original free association phase through to publication-ready, Sheela Clary inviting the audience into her thought process: why she chose one word over another, deleted entire sections, added in others, etc. The lecture will be followed by a short first draft writing practice and subsequent opportunity to pick out the gold nuggets from it.
ea and I were edging out toward death. I tried to believe it wasn’t a race. But it was— furious and exhausting, Lea always an inch ahead. While I scrawled my anguish into poetry notebooks and spewed it at friends, Lea kept so many secrets. I wanted to get to the place where she hid them. I wanted to dig into her, mine her, hoard every little piece. I wanted to swallow her whole so that she could bloom inside me. u
SAVE THE DATE : JUNE 11, 2016
—Emma Smith-Stevens, from Future Ghost
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7 p.m. IWOWWOW (In Words Out Words Women’s Own Words)
Tuesday, March 15 continued
An Open Mic for Women Writers, hosted by Deb Koffman Deb Koffman’s Artspace, 137 Front Street, Housatonic, Suggested donation $6 at the door.
A Festival favorite returns! This special women’s edition of In Words Out Words (IWOW), a monthly open mic for storytellers, poets, musicians and performers, provides a vibrant, supportive platform for women writers to perform or read their own work: poetry, stories, songs. Reserve your five-minute- maximum slot by emailing Deb Koffman at email@example.com or calling 413-274-1212.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16 10 a.m. – noon Bad Guys We Love to Hate
A Writing Workshop led by Jacqueline Sheehan and Ellen Meeropol Lenox Library, 18 Main Street, Lenox. Free.
The best stories start with trouble, and trouble often takes the form of villains. They help create conflict and tension and they thwart our main character at every turn. This workshop will look at successful examples of the darkest characters, explore methods of Ellen Meeropol developing fictional villains, and offer writing exercises to work on your own bad guy char- Jacqueline Sheehan acters. Jacqueline Sheehan and Ellen Meeropol have worked together for over ten years, giving birth to a collection of seven books in a long-term manuscript group and offering presentations and workshops about the craft of writing. Both writers have created characters that are the personification of the internal demons that are part of the human spirit.
1:30 p.m. – 3 p.m. Being Equal Doesn’t Mean Being the Same: Why Behaving Like a Girl Can Change Your Life and Grow Your Business A Talk by Author Joanna L. Krotz
Lenox Library, 18 Main Street, Lenox. Free.
The rising profile of women executives and business owners means it’s high time we rethink our notion of how women leaders and entrepreneurs walk, talk and think. It’s also time to shine a light on women’s dis- Joanna L. Krotz tinct ways of doing business by offering realistic role models, sharing hands-on advice and raising questions and eyebrows about gender equity. This talk, based on Joanna’s new book, delves into the characteristic ways women manage in the workplace and social settings, outlining an original SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats or Limitations) of women’s leadership traits that can both guide and validate women’s leap into leadership and launching a business.
Butterﬂy Leadership Program for Teen Girls and Young Women
Writing-intensive sessions include public speaking practice on social issues of importance to today’s young women. Leadership circles this spring; weeklong intensive coming this summer. Find out more at Butterﬂyleadership.org 36 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
You Came in January By Anna Lotto The sky is dull marble outside my window, unsculpted clouds. Inside, we are bundled and rocking, one softness. And it is so quiet, save the tiny bubbles of sound that come from somewhere deep inside your little frame. You curl into a question mark in my arms, you little wonder! You are every baby that has come before you, yet... none of them were you. Nothing so perfect (it’s magic, really) as the truth, that you are here now, and once you were not. u Anna Lotto, a Berkshire native, recently returned home after living in Los Angeles for 15 years where she worked as a TV writer. She writes a parenting blog as she parents two young children.
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3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Voice Triumphant
Wednesday, March 16 continued
A Writing Workshop led by Jayne Benjulian
No. Six Depot, 6 Depot Street, West Stockbridge.
Tickets $10; for registration, visit Berkshirewomenwriters.org.
In Voice Triumphant we examine and practice the illusion of the spoken word in poetry, fiction and non- fiction prose. Monologue is an illusion. So is dialogue, for that matter. In both, a writer deploys language to create the illusion of a mind expressing—or struggling to express or hide—ideas and feelings. We say Jayne Benjulian about many poems and stories that there is a “speaker”; however, the speaker, too, is a literary creation. Voices are writer-created and inspired. In what voice (or voices) would you like to write? How might you develop such an illusion? In this workshop, we will hear particular ways of organizing the English language that sound like somebody speaking. We’ll experiment with elements of voice, appropriating tools from the actor’s and poet’s toolbox, scribbling and performing monologue drafts that may become poems, stories, memoir or dramatic scenes. All are welcome: beginners to advanced poets, prose writers and playwrights.
7 p.m. Storytelling in the Sacred Circle: An Evening of Reflection and Connection A Workshop led by Amber Chand and Analesa Berg
First Congregational Church, 4 Main Street, Stockbridge. Free.
In ancient times, people gathered by the fire to share their journeys, dreams and stories. This evening, Women of Spirit invites you to share something that has inspired you on your life journey—whether from your personal reflections, p oetry, song, writing, or that of others. Let us surprise each other with our creative offerings on this special evening. In this sacred circle, through guided reflection and meaningful conversation, we will deepen our connection to ourselves, each other Amber Chand Analesa Berg and our community. Feel free to come and share and/or listen. This program is offered as one of the regular monthly gatherings of Women of Spirit, a vibrant organization that is an oasis for nourishment and wisdom in the B erkshires.Come at 6 p.m. to participate in the optional potluck dinner before the program.
THURSDAY, MARCH 17 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Traveling Mindset
A Writing Workshop with Lara Tupper
The Magic Fluke Company, 292 S. Main Street, Sheffield
Tickets: $30; to register visit Berkshirewomenwriters.org. Class limited to 25.
When traveling to a new place, we tend to notice and appreciate the details of our surroundings. As writer Lara Tupper Alain de Botton says, we gain a “traveling mindset.” We stop to look at street signs and plant life; we send postcards home about what we see. The challenge is to apply this outlook to our everyday lives. In this writing class, we’ll discuss ways to approach familiar settings with fresh eyes and “notice what we have already seen.” No writing experience necessary, just a willingness to observe.
hen your parents pick you up from the babysitter’s, forget that you were floating up on the ceiling and lying on the bed with the big boy, all at once. Forget his hands, your ripped sweater. Find the North Star out the back window of the family Buick. Remember every detail from the sparkling night sky. That velvet drape, with its challenge to connect the dots, is all you’ll remember of any of this for the next twenty years. u —Joyce Hayden, from The Out of Body Girl
38 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
We are pleased to sponsor a special benefit performance
Searching For The Moon: A Heroine’s Journey by Amber Chand
“A Powerful One-Woman Show”
Saturday, april 2, 2016
3:00-5:30pm Tickets: $25 South Berkshire Friends Meeting House 280 State Road, Great Barrington “We are women who gather in sacred community. We offer an oasis of vital nourishment and wisdom for sustained and inspired action in the world.”
n the basement observation room, Tobias studies the new detainee. She stands at the sink, hands splayed over her face, staring at the mirror. You can learn a lot by observing a prisoner. His staff doesn’t understand that. They think he’s lazy, wants to just sit and watch a monitor. But it isn’t that, not at all. Even Henry Ames doesn’t understand the fine points of the surveillance-interrogation continuum. The boss lacks the craving to know every detail that a really top-notch interrogator needs. Like this woman. Henry calls her Dr. Cohen, as if polite address makes any sense here. Tobias prefers the tactic of taking away their names, stripping them of individuality, and assigning them numbers. When Tobias suggested the numbers, Henry wagged his index finger back and forth and reminded him that these are citizens, not enemy combatants. Tobias goes ahead and gives each detainee a number. This one—Cohen—she’s #524. That’s how he labels the surveillance disks and that’s how he thinks of her. That’s how he will address her tomorrow or the next day, when the time is ripe to start the interrogation. Not too soon. You’ve got to make them wait. Make them worry about it until they want the questioning to start, crave it, so they don’t have to wait anymore and because they think reality can’t be worse than their fears. Except, of course, it can be. u —Ellen Meeropol, from On Hurricane Island
acariah Isaac Levy grew up in a family of secrets, of conversations cut short by his entrance into a room, of thick-tongued speech and guttural names and the whisper of weeping. His parents spoke in short, stubby sentences, as if words could be used up, and often in a language they refused to translate. From the grammar of their sighs, he came to understand that Yiddish was reserved for matters unspeakable in English and memoriestoo grim for a child’s ears. Zach’s father had a remarkably light tread for a man of six feet with broad shoulders and rope-thick muscles; however, once you knew that he’d spent the war years disappearing himself in the forests of Poland, his bearing, and everything else about Nathan Levy, made sense. Like most Jews, Nathan revered education and intellect, but he put even more stock in strength, speed and stealth, the attributes responsible for his multiple escapes from the SS. After he and Zach’s mother immigrated to the Bronx, Nathan steadfastly maintained a fitness regimen of extreme rigor so he would be ready to defend himself and his family if—or rather, when—Jews once again became prey. u
Ellen Meeropol is the author of two novels, On Hurricane Island and House Arrest, both published by Red Hen Press. A former nurse practitioner and literary late bloomer, Ellen is fascinated by characters balanced on the fault lines between political turmoil and human connection.
THE VISIONARY JOURNEY™
Living Into Your New Story A unique coaching program for women in transition in their lives and business
with AMBER CHAND visionary coach, business strategist, author firstname.lastname@example.org
—Letty Cottin Pogrebin, from Single Jewish Male Seeking Soul Mate February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 39
3 p.m. – 5 p.m. Crossing the Line / LGBT Memoir
Thursday, March 17 continued
A Writing Workshop led by Lee Schwartz
Mason Library, 231 Main Street, Great Barrington. Free.
Reflect upon your journey as a child, teenager and adult who crossed the line of identity or sexual preference. Or are you the friend, relative or ally of someone who has crossed the line? What were the signs that you were different? When did you know? Who was the first person you told? This is an opportunity for writing and healing in a safe, confidential space. Create a herstory through the lens of identity: your body parts, first crush, hiding places, those who lifted us and those who didn’t. Let’s create a writing community to move us forward and affirm our lives.
7:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. Book Launch: A Short Course in Happiness After Loss (And Other Dark, Difficult Times) Presented by author Maria Sirois, PsyD
Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, 57 Interlaken Road, Stockbridge. Free.
None of us is spared suffering...and all might be open to joy. If we keep our hearts soft and our minds open we come to find that happiness, serenity, meaning are each possible even as we experience great loss or shocking pain. Journey with renowned inspirational speaker and resilience expert, Maria Sirois, as she discusses the return to happiness and the importance of that return for our own well-being and for our world. Through this launch of her new book, A Short Course in Happiness After Loss (And Other Dark, Difficult Moments), Maria offers a powerful intersection of the science of positive psychology and the wisdom necessary to thrive when facing life’s harshest Maria Sirois moments. Learn the template for rising through pain into a steady and resilient heart, one that enables us to use our strains to illuminate something larger; something that enables us to find a way to love our lives.
FRIDAY, MARCH 18 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. The Heirloom Meals Recipe Project A Writing Workshop led by Carole Murko Boulderwood Farm, Stockbridge.
Tickets: $50. Limited to 12 participants. To register email: email@example.com
Have you ever just wished you had asked your mom or grandmother for that special family recipe? Have you been talking about collecting your family recipes together in one place but never do it? Can you recall snippets of your family mealtime? How about your grandmother’s kitchen? The Heirloom Meals Recipe Project will bring your pens and your pots together, combining writing and cooking to give you a taste of getting your food story on the page. The workshop will begin with writing prompts that will connect the participants immediately with the subject: who they are through the lens of their food memories and how food makes them feel. We will then move into the kitchen and Carole will demonstrate how to reverse engineer a family concoction into a recipe, write the recipe and then we can all eat together.
Carole Murko is a culinary artist who learned how to cook by observing her mother and grandmother. A former Wall Street executive and successful interior designer, Carole hosts a weekly radio storytelling show, Heirloom Meals Radio, on NPR affiliate Robin Hood Radio, 91.5 FM in Sharon, CT and appears regularly as a food expert and demo chef on Newschannel 13, Albany.
40 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
ow do we live when all is dark? By finding and holding onto the heaven in the hell. There is a richness that is available to us directly in our suffering; a deep learning that can occur when all that is superficial is stripped away and we are at the essence of things. Mark Matusek, quoting Roethke says this, “ ‘In a dark time, the eye begins to see.’ With our illusions of safety exploded…new abilities do indeed dawn in a person...” Helen Keller, blind and deaf from birth, offers us a direct clarity: “We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.” And I know this: In the time of my brother’s dying I knew heaven. In the instant of that morning, sunlit and springlike, one by one we spoke impossible words. “I love you John. It’s okay. You can go.” Right now writing this, I don’t know how we, those who loved him longest and deepest, did that. To reconstruct the bravery required to do such a thing feels, from a distance, gargantuan. But… when called to offer someone you love the freedom to leave a body bounded by pain, you experience heaven. The heart can literally become so big and so clear and so radiant, so burnished, that it sends you forward, and the mouth opens and a grace rises through you that in no other moment would you ever be able to manifest. “You are free to go. We love you. We will never stop loving you.” u —Maria Sirois, from A Short Course in Happiness After Loss
He Calls It Love By Lisken van Pelt Dus
CELEBRATE THE NEXT GENERATION OF BERKSHIRE WRITERS!
The Edith Wharton Writing Competition Remix Fall 2016 Visit EdithWharton.org for details.
He would defend it, he says: the right of the river to be more than one. The slow one, murmur hushed as the flutter of wings on stones. The evening one, light-gatherer like the first taste of waking from dark sleep, body beside you radiant and surprising. The icy one: unexpected channels of winter moving, and the sound of hard sex behind closed windows. The fast one who knows only how to leave when the rain pours in. He would defend them all, he says, the many ways we love. u Lisken Van Pelt Dus is a poet, teacher and martial artist, living in Pittsfield. She teaches writing and languages at Monument M ountain Regional High School. Her poetry can be found in Conduit, the South Carolina Review, qarrtsiluni, upstreet, and other journals, and in her chapbook, Everywhere at Once (Pudding House Press, 2009).
February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 41
Friday, March 18 continued
1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Peanut Peregrinations and Other Tales of Food Travel A Reading and Slide Lecture by Carol Goodman Kaufman
Shaker Dam Coffeehouse and Stanmeyer Gallery, 2 Main Street, West Stockbridge. Free.
Whether peanuts from South America or grapes from Asia, each food has a tale to tell about how it was discovered and introduced around the world to appear in myriad forms on people’s dinner plates, as well as in their cultures and traditions, in everything from pottery to poetry. Carol will read from and discuss her current book project, which follows the paths various foods have taken around the world. Each chapter in the book is dedicated to the biography of one particular food, and also includes stories, songs, poetry, rituals, artifacts and recipes that extol it.
Carol Goodman Kaufman
3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Ophelia Rising
A Writing & Spoken Word Workshop led by Grace Rossman
West Stockbridge Library, 21 State Line Rd, West Stockbridge. Free.
Young women—have you ever wanted to take the stage and claim the spotlight? Do you have poems, short stories, or other wise words to share? In this focused creative workshop, you will craft your own spoken word piece and perform it for a supportive and enthusiastic audience. Just bring a notebook, a pen and a bit of faith, and discover how easy and exhilarating it can be to find your voice.
7 p.m. Monument Girls Write On
Reading hosted by Lisken Van Pelt Dus and other faculty from Monument Mountain Regional High School West Stockbridge Historical Society, 9 Main Street, West Stockbridge. Free.
This celebratory reading will feature young women writers from Monument Mountain Regional High School, presentingselections from their poetry, short fiction, creative non-fiction and hybrid work. Students have been chosen to participate by MMRHS English department faculty, who will also introduce the writers.
SATURDAY, MARCH 19 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Animals Are Us
A Reading by Poets Jan Conn, Jessica Treat and Kathline Carr The Bookstore, 11 Housatonic Street, Lenox, Free.
“Animals are the core of what we are as creatures, sharing a biological world and inhabiting our inner lives, though most days they feel peripheral—an ankle embrace from a cat or the thrill of spotting a fox trotting Jessica Treat Kathline Carr across the urban campus in Denver,” says poet Alison Hawthorne Dem- Jan Conn ing. This world, everywhere we look, is filled with the shared breath of thousands and thousands of animals. We have coaxed dogs out of the skins of an extinct wolf lineage, cows from the fierce aurochs. What are the consequences of this? How do connections with animals shape our lives? 42 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
ate came to a corner and bumped into four men dressed in alligator-green fatigues and black boots that came just shy of their knees. The boots looked hard, like they could bite. They wore sunglasses and carried guns with ammo slung diagonally across their torsos. One gun touched her, its oiled menace grazing her chest. The militia had carte blanche. They had guns, an inequitable source of power. One of the soldiers smiled. The other three looked like they had stopped smiling long ago. One of the skinny, unsmiling soldiers placed the butt of his gun dead center on her left breast, and used it to push her aside. She wore a thick coat but still, it felt like he had placed his hand on her and she was suddenly naked. Kate stumbled from the broad flat stones of the walkway and tripped into the street. The soldiers had never touched her before. Kate wanted to run back to the hotel and take a shower. u —Jacqueline Sheehan, from The Center of the World
Jacqueline Sheehan, PhD, a fiction writer, essayist and psychologist, is the author of five novels.
Film and Writing Workshops for Spring 2016 Full schedule of workshops, including music, art, languages, and more at berkshirecc.edu/workshops Breakthrough Journaling WKS-1356-C1 * $45 Wed., 5/11 & 5/18, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM Instructor: Millie Calesky Writer’s Block WKS-1358-C1 * $35 Wed., 4/13, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM Instructor: Millie Calesky NEW! Beginning Film Production I WKS-2350-C1 * $275 Wed., 1/20 - 3/9, 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM Instructor: Carrie Owens
Remarkable New England Women of the 18th Century WKS-2421-C1 * $65 Mon, Wed., Fri., 1/25 - 1/29 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM Instructor: Carole Owens OR WKS-2421-C2 * $65 Mon, Wed., Fri., 2/22 - 2/26 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM Instructor: Carole Owens
BCC is a proud supporter of the Berkshire Women's Writers Festival 2016
343 Main Street, Gt. Barrington, MA 01230 To register, visit berkshirecc.edu/workshops or call 413-528-4521.
Ad - SCC Women's Writers Festival Sponsorship .indd 1
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have faithfully made the most of my talent and cultivated the seed that was placed within me until the last small twig has grown.
February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 43
SATURDAY, MARCH 19 All events held at Hotel on North, 297 North Street, Pittsfield, require tickets. Prices listed will increase after March 1. TICKETS:
$50 morning session, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. includes brunch and Ruth Reichl talk at Eat on North $50 afternoon sessions, 1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., includes reception with cash bar All-day rate, 11 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., $90
For registration information, visit Berkshirewomenwriters.org.
11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Living the Food Life: One woman’s journey from cook to critic to novelist—and back Brunch talk with author Ruth Reichl
Ruth Reichl’s first book was a cookbook, published in 1972. Since then she’s been part owner of a restaurant, restaurant critic for both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, and Editor in Chief of Gourmet Magazine. In 2015, she published her first novel and her second cookbook. Her path has paralleled major changes in the way America eats, and here she chronicles the journey.
Ruth Reichl began her career as restaurant critic for New West and California magazines, and went on to be the restaurant critic and food editor of the Los Angeles Times. From 1993-1999 she served as restaurant critic for the New York Times. She was Editor in Chief of Gourmet Magazine from 1999 to 2009. Ruth began writing about food in 1972, when she published Mmmmm: A Feastiary. Since then, she has authored four memoirs, Tender at the Bone; Comfort Me with Apples; Garlic and Sapphires; and For You, Mom, Finally; a novel, Delicious!; and a cookbook, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life. At the moment she is at work on another novel.
Photo by Richard Sands
1:30 p.m. – 3 p.m. Finding Our Voices, Telling Our Stories
Moderated Discussion with Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Veronica Chambers and Anastasia Stanmeyer
Berkshire Magazine editor Anastasia Stanmeyer talks with prolific book authors Veronica Chambers and Letty Cottin Pogrebin about writing, publishing, feminism and activism. This intimate dialogue with two powerhouse writers will focus on how to survive, and even flourish, as a writer in an increasingly impersonal publishing world. They will reminisceabout the projects that have been most meaningful to them—from the creation of Ms. magazine and Free to Be, You and Me for Letty, to Bitch in the House and Mommy Wars for Veronica. Their conversation will also cover how publishing has changed, for better and for worse; how an idea can be developed into a successful article or book; and how to stand out as a commanding voice in a glutted literary marketplace. They will also explore how their feminist ideologies and their respective ethnic identities have informed their work and careers, and will offer candid advice and insight into the world of magazine, newspaper and book publishing. Veronica Chambers is best known for her critically acclaimed memoir Mama’s Girl and Yes, Chef, which she co-authored with Marcus Samuelsson. Born in Panama and raised in Brooklyn, her work often reflects her Afro-Latina heritage. Along with writing more than a dozen books for children and teens, Chambers has contributed to several anthologies, including the best-selling Bitch in the House and Mommy Wars. A graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, she has been the recipient of several awards including the Hodder Fellowship for Emerging Novelists at Princeton University and a National E ndowmentfor the Arts fiction award. She lives with her husband and daughter in Hoboken, New Jersey. 44 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
t’s no secret among my friends and family, that I can’t sing. I have a voice that could peel paint off the walls. For a long time I hid this flaw, embarrassed. I willed myself to silence when a favorite song came on the radio, lip-synched “Happy Birthday” whenever somebody brought out a cake. In church when voices were ablaze with the praise songs I loved, I imagined that some other woman’s sweet soprano was coming out of my mouth. “Getting happy off of someone else’s sound” was what I called it. One Sunday morning I was pressing my lips shut and clapping my hands when the minister sidled up next to me. “Why aren’t you singing?” he asked. “I can’t sing,” I whispered to him, afraid of attracting too much attention. “I have an awful voice.” Then the minister looked at me and said five of the most beautiful words I have ever heard. He said, “Do you think God cares?” Ever since that glorious day, my love for singing has grown exponentially. I sing in the shower and around the house. I sing in the car, at church, and on the dance floor. The DJ who plays Gloria Gaynor is just asking for me to put a hurting on “I Will Survive.” I don’t think I’m alone in my elementary school affinity for show-and-tell. Why learn a piece of music unless it’s to be performed? Why knit a sweater unless it’s to be given to a loved one? We think everything we do has to be up to snuff, and we forget that the pure, uncensored joy of living in our own skin comes when we are not attached, 24-7, to either our fans or our critics. We can paint just for ourselves. We can belt out torch songs in an empty office when everyone else has gone home and tango across the living room solo. No one’s going to stop us from baking soufflés that fall and eating them in the privacy of our own kitchens. Trust me on this one: Chocolate doesn’t have to be beautiful to taste really, really good. The fear of doing something badly can affect more than just our choice of pastimes. My friend Jenny remembers that before she decided to have a child, she was
deeply afraid of being a bad mother. Off-key sonatas will be forgotten, but the mistakes we make with our children threaten to haunt us our entire lives. It was only when she got comfortable with the idea that she would certainly do many, many things wrong as a mother that she was able to go ahead and get pregnant. “The thing about doing things badly is that if you keep doing them, sometimes you get better,” she says, as we walk down a tree-lined street toward the pizza parlor, her daughter screeching happily on Rollerblades ahead of us. Alas, I fear that no amount of practice will improve my singing. “I want to tell you something but I don’t want you to be offended,” my fiancé said several months ago as we washed the dinner dishes and I crooned along to Ella Fitzgerald. “The thing I love about you is that your singing is so wretched but you do it anyway.” His backhanded compliment confirmed not only why I’m marrying him but a truth I had long suspected: The things we do badly set us apart; what we consider our failures have a surprising ability to charm. We think we have to be perfect for other people to love us, when in fact the opposite is true. We are loved for our imperfections—for our funny faces and walks and dances and songs. u —Veronica Chambers, from The Joy of Doing Things Badly
February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 45
Saturday, March 19 continued
Letty Cottin Pogrebin. Photo by Mike Lovett
Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a founding editor of Ms. magazine, is a writer, lecturer, social justice activist and author of eleven books, most recently the novel Single Jewish Male Seeking Soul Mate. She was also the consulting editor on Free to Be, You and Me, Marlo Thomas’s groundbreaking children’s book, record and TV special. Pogrebin, a past president of The Authors Guild, has been published in print and online in the New York Times, Washington Post, Time, Ms., The Nation and the Huffington Post, among other publications. Her honors include a Yale Poynter Fellowship in Journalism and an Emmy for Free to Be You and Me. She lives with her husband in New York City and Stockbridge.
Moderator Anastasia Stanmeyer is editor of Berkshire Magazine, authoring cover features such as profiles on Kim and James Taylor, former Governor Deval Patrick, and other articles. Stanmeyer spent 12 years in Hong Kong and Indonesia, writing and editing for Time, Asiaweek, Newsweek, Stern, Dallas Morning News, Christian Science Monitor and San Francisco Chronicle. She conducted a multi-year investigation on the AIDS epidemic across Asia, met with the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa, reported on the civil war in South Sudan, and traveled to Haiti to write about its social upheaval. She authored the introduction to Island of the Spirits, a book about Balinese spirituality, and currently lives in Otis.
3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Women Writers of a Certain Age
A Reading with Sonia Pilcer, Helen Epstein, Barbara Slate and Karen Schoemer Followed by a cash bar reception at Eat on North
“You have to get old. Don’t cry, don’t clasp your hands in prayer, don’t rebel, you have to get old. Repeat the words to yourself, not as a howl of despair but as the boarding call to a necessary departure.” —Colette
Perhaps the necessary departure, as Colette calls it, is to write as we wish. To not be afraid. Or to be afraid and still write it. We are brave. We are brazen. We are self-reflective. We recall our youth. We contemplate growing old. We are Women Writers of a Certain Age.
Sonia Pilcer created Women Writers of a Certain Age, now in its fifth year, for the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers. Pilcer is the author of six novels, most recently, The Last Hotel. She has been widely anthologized, is a recipient of a New York Foundation of the Arts grant, and former director of the Writing Program at the Chautauqua Institute. Currently, she teaches at Berkshire Community College and in New York City. Helen Epstein is the author of six books of literary non-fiction including the memoirs Children of the Holocaust and Where She Came From: A Daughter’s Search for her Mother’s History—both New York Times Notable Books of the Year. She is also the translator from the Czech of the memoirs Under a Cruel Star and Acting in Terezin; editor of the collection Archivist on a Bicycle; and co-writer of Dr. Paul Ornstein’s psychoanalytic memoir Looking Back. She will read from her latest book, First Love. She and her husband run Plunkett Lake Press, e-publishing classics of non-fiction.
Barbara Slate is a pioneer among women in the comics industry. She has written and drawn hundreds of comic books and graphic novels for DC, Marvel, Archie, Disney: Barbie, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, Archie, Betty and Veronica. She created the graphic novels Angel Love, Yuppies from Hell, Sweet XVI and Getting Married and other Mistakes. Barbara is profiled in A Century of Women Cartoonists. A resident of Hudson, NY, she travels extensively nationwide as a keynote speaker, teacher, moderator and panelist.
Karen Schoemer is a poet, author, performer and bookseller living in Columbia County, NY. Her poetryhas appeared in Chronogram, Up the River, Zephyrs and Red Barn. Her poem “November Sun” won first prize in the 2015 Hudson Valley Writers Guild Poetry Contest. Her book Great Pretenders: My Strange Love Affair With ’50s Pop Music was published by Free Press in 2006 and her music journalism has been widely published in anthologies and outlets such as the New York Times, Newsweek, Rolling Stone and New York Magazine. She was the curator for Arts Walk Literary 2015, sponsored by the Columbia County Council on the Arts, and is the vocalist for the Schoemer Formation, a threepiece band that has been described as “spoken-psych” and “Patti Smith without the piety.” 46 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
ot in her wildest daydreams in Butte, Montana, had Amber ever imagined that her days would be spent in a pouf of gossamer lace, draping straps with pearly swans. So soft, so silky. Black lace bustiers with shimmery satin ribbons, hothouse-hued bikini panties that seemed to have a life of their own, fluttering before her eyes like antic butterflies. This was female heaven. The Intimate Apparel department of Lord & Taylor. She used to work on the Main Floor in Fragrances, ambushing innocent women with showers of Shalimar, sprays of Tabu, My Sin and Madame La Roche. With her flaming auburn tresses and glittering emerald eyes, Amber was empress of the shop. Some customers came especially to see her. They regarded Amber as a sorceress with magic powers and brought her their problems of the heart. She prescribed lingerie and fragrances to fan wandering lovers’ flames. How strange life was when you were all female except in a few, but significant ways. What did it mean to be female? To be a circle with a cross rather than possessing the trajectory of an arrow? Amber was both, had been since she realized she wanted to go to her senior prom as a girl. Now she was Cinderella awaiting The Transformation, but she didn’t have to go to a ball, get kissed by a prince, fit into a shoe. She was doing it herself, for her self. Just being the woman she had always been, though everyone tried to convince, cajole and punish her for this fact of her life. u
W W W. AVA L O N A S T R O L O G Y. N E T
—Sonia Pilcer, from The Last Hotel: A Novel in Suites
February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 47
7:30 p.m. Festival Benefit Performance
Saturday, March 19 continued
SPECIAL, a new play by Rachel Siegel
Written and performed by Rachel Siegel, directed by Jayne Atkinson Co-produced by Rachel Siegel and Kristen van Ginhoven, Artistic Director of WAM Theatre Unicorn Theatre, Stockbridge.
Tickets $20; for reservations contact the BTG Box Office: 413-997-4444
SPECIAL is the story of a mother choosing and raising a child with special needs, and of her journey to confronting her own less visible disabilities. Inspired by personal experience and by interviews with mothers of children with special needs, SPECIAL is a funny, unstinting and ultimately inspiring look into the complexities and possibilities of love. Rachel Siegel has performed widely in the Berkshires, New York and abroad in theatre at venues such as Stageworks (Hudson); Shakespeare & Co.; Williamstown Theatre Festival; and Berkshire Theatre Festival. She trained at RADA in the UK and performed there at The New End Theatre, Birmingham Rep and The Royal Court. Her TV work includes Chappelle’s Show (3 episodes), Wit (HBO) and BBC Drama. Writing credits include Von Trapp Family Inn (premiered Boston Women in Comedy Festival Rachel Siegel 2013); So Sing Already! at the New End, London; I Heart Cory Booker (WAM/ MOPCO 24-hour fest); and Callback. Jayne Atkinson has enjoyed a long and varied career as an actress, wife and mother. She has appeared in regional theatre, off-Broadway and Broadway, and counts two Drama Desk, an Outer Critics Circle and Tony nominations to her name. She is best known on television for her long-running roles in 24, Criminal Minds and the current Netflix original series House of Cards, and on film for her roles in Free Willy, and Free Willy 2. Directing credits include Motherhood Out Loud and Can You Hear Me, Baby?, both for the BFWW. She runs Jadana Productions, which specializes in entertainment development.
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48 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
Berkshire Hills Country Club in Pittsfield, Massachusetts is the only originally designed A.W. Tillinghast golf course in Massachusetts. Our beautifully groomed 18 hole course, our large swimming pool, and spectacular panoramic views in the heart of the Berkshires make BHCC the perfect choice for any individual or family. We also offer year-round dining in our delightful and casual Members Tavern and our first class events space was voted “Best of the Berkshires” for Weddings and Events in the 2015 Berkshire Eagle Readers Poll. • Golf memberships • Swim memberships • Social memberships
Nestled in the panoramic and classic New England setting of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, this is the perfect location for your wedding reception. Our recently renovated, 300-seat banquet room, with its expansive windows, makes the most of the meticulously groomed golf course, majestic trees, and spectacular mountain views. • Spacious hardwood floor • Wrap around deck • Any Event A-Z For Membership questions or planning an event contact Alena Murdock @ Alena.email@example.com or 413.447.9429. February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 49
SUNDAY, MARCH 20 All events held at Hotel on North, 297 North Street, Pittsfield, require tickets. Prices listed will increase after March 1. Tickets:
$50 morning session, includes brunch and Sheila Weller talk at Eat on North
All-day rate, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., $90
$50 afternoon sessions, 1:30 – 5 p.m., includes high tea with Alison Larkin For registration information, visit Berkshirewomenwriters.org.
11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Writing Women’s Lives, Getting the Story, Juggling Compassion with Gossip—and Other Neat Adventures Brunch talk with author Sheila Weller
Sheila Weller will talk about the highlights and lessons of her life and career: The tragic murder within her family that made her an investigative journalist specializing in violence against women; the grade of F from one of America’s greatest novelists that (after she stopped crying) spurred her to write her own published novel; the wife-murder case (of a woman she knew) that taught her everything about book-length journalism; the challenge of covering, solo, the most competitively covered case in America—the O.J. Simpson murders—and coming away with the story no one else had; the ethics, strategies, depression-fighting techniques—and satisfaction—of writing triple biographies of iconic living women.
Sheila Weller is a highly prolific, longtime author and magazine journalist covering the lives of significant women, cultural and social change, and investigative-worthy subjects, from true crime to family drama. Her seven books include the beloved 2008 bestseller Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon—and the Journey of a Generation; 2015’s much-talked about The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour—and the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News; and her highly regarded family memoir, Dancing At Ciro’s: A Family’s Love, Loss and Scandal on the Sunset Strip. She is a regular writer of major features for Vanity Fair, as well as Glamour, More, Marie Claire and many other magazines. She has won seven awards for her magazine journalism.
50 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
am grateful to Carly Simon. When, in 2003, I began researching my triple biography of her, Carole King and Joni Mitchell, Girls Like Us, she left me a phone message saying she was very supportive of the project and wanted her friends to cooperate. She made sure I understood that nothing I might ask people (whether I found them through her or on my own) was off- limits. “I expect to have my feelings hurt,” she wrote in an email. What celebrity does that? A very rare, brave one—respectful of journalists (appropriate for the daughter of the founder of Simon & Schuster), but also one without the filters, caution and protectiveness that are de rigueur in the long-famous. Ms. Simon’s close friends had described her in ways that proved spot-on as I got to know her. “Carly doesn’t bring her defenses forward from one moment to the next; she doesn’t give herself that buffer, that solace,” Mia Farrow told me. Jungian therapist Ellen Questel, her close friend for decades, put it this way: “You have two eyes—one says yes to the world, the other says no. You need to see with both of them. Carly sees more with the eye that says yes and that makes her so vulnerable. She belongs in another century, the era of grand feelings and penned love letters. She would be perfect in a Tolstoy novel.” Well, now, with her best seller Boys In The Trees, Ms. Simon has written her own penned love letter, Tolstoy-eloquent in places and full of those grand feelings. It traces the arc of her life: from being the ugly duckling youngest sister, fruitlessly craving her melancholic father’s love within a sophisticated and slightly
decadent family, to an upscale young folk singer zigzagging from painful rejection by a wry British aristocrat to her default incarnation as an overweight summer camp counselor… to 1971’s It Girl singer-songwriter, wooed by Cat Stevens, Kris Kristofferson, Terrence Malick, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty and Mick Jagger. But of course—the “of course” is for any who know her well—it would be her 11-year-long love affair (and 10-yearlong marriage) to Mr. Taylor, which produced two children: Sally, now 41, and Ben, 38—that is the mused-over focal and resting point of her memoir.... Odd, you might think. Wait. Seen a different way: liberating. If I was grateful to Ms. Simon a dozen years ago for her generosity toward my own book, I’m now grateful to her for another reason: her lesson to older women. Boys in the Trees dares to contest the politically correct, feminist-ically correct and shrink-abetted “rule” (she herself uses this noun) that a mature, accomplished woman should be too proud and evolved to elevate a long-past golden moment in her life (especially one based on her relationship with a man) to special importance—that it is sad or unhealthy or retro, or all three, to relish yesterday instead of embracing the “Life keeps getting better! I keep growing! I am past all that!” mantra, which often seems more like defensive cheerleading than emotional reality. And that it is untoward for a creatively prolific woman to make love, not work, a leitmotif in her memoir. u —Sheila Weller, from The Counterintuitive Wisdom of Carly Simon, the Observer
decided “We that it was no good asking what is the meaning of life, because life isn’t an answer, life is the question, and you, yourself, are the answer.
—Ursula K. LeGuin
February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 51
1:30 p.m. – 3 p.m. Preparing for Print: Pathways to Publication
Sunday, March 20 continued
A Panel Discussion with Jessica Hazelton, Marilyn Oser, Carol Ascher and Jana Laiz If you think writing is lonely—try publishing and promoting your own book! Two writers and two publishers will discuss the process of bringing a manuscript through development into publication and promotion. Jessika Hazelton is the manager of the Troy Book Makers, a full-service self-publishing company based in Troy, NY. She received her BFA in writing and publishing from Emerson College, and has been working at the Troy Book Makers since 2011. Marilyn Oser is the award-winning author of one traditionally published novel, Playing for Keeps, and two indie published novels, Rivka’s War and Even You, as well as the blog Streets of Israel. Carol Ascher’s sixth book, A Call from Spooner Street, was released in October 2015. She has published a memoir, another novel, and several books of non-fiction. Ascher’s stories and essays have appeared widely in literary magazines, as well as in the New York Times, the Hartford Courant, the Nation and Ms. Magazine. She has received literary awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Foundation for the Arts and the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. Jana Laiz is the author of the triple award-winning novel, Weeping Under This Same Moon, as well as The Twelfth Stone, Elephants of the Tsunami, the co-author of A Free Woman On God’s Earth, The True Story of Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, The Slave Who Won Her Freedom optioned to be a feature film, and Simon Says ~ Tails Told By The Red Lion Inn Ambassador. An editor and publisher at Crow Flies Press, and co-publisher at Green Fire Press, Jana has been invited to speak about writing all over the world. She is currently Writer-In-Residence at Herman Melville’s Arrowhead, where she is working on two new novels and a juvenile biography of Herman Melville.
3:30 p.m. – 5 p.m. Alison Larkin Presents... A Festive Tea Party with The English American
Come take tea with brilliant comedienne Alison Larkin in a Festival finale that will leave you laughing and wishing for more! Hailed by The Times as “Hugely entertaining,” Alison Larkin, a talented raconteur, best-selling author of The English American, and award-winningaudiobook narrator, will entertain and share highlights from her narrations of classic audiobooks by beloved British women writers like Jane Austen and Agathie Christie, with additional scenes featuring the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland and Wendy Darling from her upcoming release, Peter Pan. Your ticket for this special event includes tea, sandwiches, cake, conversation and a secret code! Alison Larkin is an author, actress, audiobook narrator, comedienne, singer, voice-over artist, producer, parent, adoption advocate, best known for the humorous, fictionalized account of finding her birth parents in the book The English American, currently being adapted for film.
FIND YOURSELF HERE! Personal Training • Aquatics Center • Early Childhood Education Fitness & Aquatics Classes • Youth Enrichment • Health & Wellness Workshops • Yoga • Tai Chi • And so much more! 15 Crissey Road | Great Barrington, MA | www.berkshiresouth.org | 413.528.2810
If you loved the Festival, you’ll love what’s coming up next! Subscribe to our newsletter at Berkshirewomenwriters.org, and find us on Facebook and Twitter
52 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
n further analyzing the curious creature/dull bore that can be the beginning creative writer, Flannery O’Connor formed a conclusion about me worthy of underlining, italicizing, starring, and dog-earing. Sheela was, she knew, “conscious of problems, not of people, of questions and issues, not of the texture of existence, of case histories and of everything that has a sociological smack, instead of all those concrete details of life that make actual the mystery of our position on earth.” How did she know? How did this hermit fictionist from Georgia, who died before my mother met by father, find out about the active collection of sociological problems from which I draw my ideas for essays in my office in Massachusetts? And here all my life I thought I’d been so restrained in keeping them to myself, or among a small coterie of equally confident confidantes. Feeling both a little shaken up and a little shaken down, I ventured into public with O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners in my shoulder bag, like a garland of garlic worn to ward off your inner vampire. I applied Ms. O’Connor’s searing verdict as I went through my day. There they were, two of my favorite sociological issues, in the grocery store. Our national obesity problem, instead of a heavy lady wearing a red sweatshirt and leaning on her shopping cart. How wealth fosters greed, instead of a well-dressed woman asking for a senior discount at the checkout counter. u —Sheela Clary
Sheela Clary, a mother, teacher and essayist, is working on a memoir.
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February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 53
Spring Events Sunday, April 17 Made in the Berkshires BFWW Benefit Performance
Through the Looking Glass, written and directed by Hilary Somers Deely and Barbara Sims Unicorn Theatre, Stockbridge, 3 p.m.
Tickets: $20. Contact the Berkshire Theatre Group Box Office—413-997-4444 or visit www.berkshiretheatregroup.org.
The Berkshire women writers honored in Through the Looking Glass—Cather- Hilary Somers Deely ine Maria Sedgwick, Francis Anne (Fanny) Kemble, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edith Wharton and Edna St. Vincent Millay—exemplify the diversity of women’s writing in the 19th and 20th centuries. Readings from the journals, letters, diaries and stories of these women, performed by Berkshire actors including Amber Chand, Hilary Somers Deely, Kate Maguire,Corinna May, Mary Mott and Barbara Sims, reveal a thematic thread joining these women to each other and to contemporary women writers: the conflict of self-realization versus self-sacrifice, or in other words, Desire versus Duty. With the “Berkshires and Beyond” as their palette, these women wrote about broad cultural and social issues, as well as issues of particular interest to women. Their individual voices resonate with recognition as we see ourselves in the looking glass of their experience.
Friday, April 22 Earth Day Screening and Discussion of THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING A new documentary film written by environmental activist Naomi Klein
Co-sponsored by 350Mass Berkshire Node and the Unitarian Universalist Meeting of South Berkshire UUMSB Church, 1089 Main Street, Housatonic. 6:30 p.m. Free.
Directed by Avi Lewis, and inspired by Naomi Klein’s international non-fiction best seller, This Changes Everything presents seven powerful portraits of communities on the front lines of climate change, from Montana’s Powder River Basin to the Alberta Tar Sands, from the coast of South India to Beijing and b eyond.Interwoven with these stories of struggle is Klein’s narration, connecting the carbon in the air with the economic system that put it there. Throughout the film, Klein builds to her most controversial and exciting idea: that we can seize the existential crisis of climate change to transform our failed economic system into something radically better. Filmed over 211 shoot days in nine countries and five continents over four years, This Changes Everything is an epic attempt to reimagine the vast challenge of climate change.
n Baltimore, at fifteen years old, there was no Chaparral Road—dry and dusty and home to families of quails. I did not have the hills of Carmel Valley enveloping my family, keeping us together. I did not have my longtime friends with their tie-dyes and Birkenstocks and marijuana. I did not have the Pacific Ocean or the afterschool sit-ins in Carmel’s town park. But I had this: I had the city that rushed in with its exhaust and deep bass and gold jewelry and rung California right out of me. u —Laura Didyk, from The Middle of Everywhere
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Thanks to our 2016 Festival venues: Bard College at Simon’s Rock (3/5, 3/6)
Berkshire Community College, South County Center, Great Barrington (3/15) Berkshire Community College, Pittsfield (3/10) The Bookstore, Lenox (3/19)
Boulderwood Farm, Stockbridge (3/18) Bushnell-Sage Library, Sheffield (2/13)
Deb Koffman’s Artspace, Housatonic (3/15)
Eastover Estate & Retreat, Lenox (3/12, 3/13)
First Congregational Church, Great Barrington (3/14) First Congregational Church, Stockbridge (3/16) Hotel on North, Pittsfield (3/19, 3/20)
Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, Stockbridge (3/17) Lee Library Association (3/14) Lenox Library (3/16)
The Magic Fluke Company, Sheffield (3/17)
Mason Library, Great Barrington (3/15, 3/17) No. Six Depot, West Stockbridge (2/28, 3/16) The Mount, Lenox (3/14)
Sandisfield Arts Center (5/7)
Shaker Dam Coffeehouse and Stanmeyer Gallery, West Stockbridge (3/18) West Stockbridge Historical Society (3/18) West Stockbridge Library (3/18)
Unitarian Universalist Meeting of South Berkshire, Housatonic (4/22) Unicorn Theatre, Stockbridge (3/19, 4/17)
must be taught how “ Children to think, not what to think. ” —Margaret Mead
Ecuador – Art & Yoga in the High Sierras
An Artist's Tour designed for personal practice and exploration designed to inspire writers, visual artists and their friends
February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 55
Spring Events continued
Saturday, May 7 Writing Out Loud: A performance-based revision workshop Led by Courtney Maum and Hallie Goodman
Sandisfield Arts Center, 5 Hammertown Road, Sandisfield, 4 p.m. Tickets $10; to register visit Sandisfieldartscenter.org.
Join local authors/storytellers Courtney Maum and Hallie Goodman for a dynamic performance-based workshop where live reading is used as a revision tool. Reading work out loud is a stupendous way to identify the trouble spots in a piece of writing. With the creative input of other participants, Courtney and Hallie will help fiction and non-fiction writers understand where the work shines and where it can be tightened. Participants are asked to bring one page of writing that they’re prepared to read out loud from and workshop in a group. Along with an open mind!
Dangling Escape By Robin W. Zeamer
he character was ready for change, tired of living on the printed page. The character, who we will sometimes call H (for her), watches herself stream like a ribbon through pages that are her story. H watches the pages turned by numerous readers over time. Sometimes she hangs on to page 132 when the outcome is questionable; the corner of that page is wrinkled and worn by many a reader’s grip. Sometimes the book is put down, flattened out, overturned, spine slightly splayed to sit on a random nightstand or two. Then H is trapped, an open book but invisible to the human eye; she is no longer heard. Sometimes the book is dropped with a slap bang to the floor in mid-sentence; her character having just been read about at page 98. This is always a shock to her and she blacks out. H is really just tired of her story. She wrestles with what to do, planning desperately to escape her saga and be free. Perhaps there is a time of night or day when no one is reading her? Wouldn’t that be the best time to climb off the page? But which page? H is in a quandary over making such a decision.
She begins to wander between the lines, sashaying back and forth and down the aisles between her written life. The words are so close up they begin to look like the symbols they truly are: shapes, jigsaw pieces without partners, a jungle gym of angles and curls. She swings on the hanging tail of a y and rests for a while in the womblike structure of a capital Q. She lies within this initial cap of a burgeoning question, its rooftop, like a canopy, curving all around her. But she cannot sleep. She is so eager to leave the page, the page she has chosen with conviction to be her takeoff point. Surprisingly, H doesn’t feel the least bit wistful nor disloyal by leaving behind the future that further pages would have told to those who did not yet know they would be readers. And now never will! She tumbles through an A and swings over onto the s of the sex word and slides along the later s letters for self and then sacrifice. No point in sentimentality she thinks, nor a wish to hold on to past chapters. She delicately but decisively steps through other words, memories of heightened joys and tumultuous losses. She zigzags her way down the page, preferring the spaces between the words, finally hitting the page’s edge. u Robin Zeamer is program coordinator for the 2016 Berkshire Festival of Women Writers.
Working with you to create a personalized plan for your nutritional health and giving you the tools to achieve it. Most major health insurance accepted. 413-637-8921 • www.debphillips.biz 56 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
Becoming Gaia By Jennifer Browdy
ow do we cope with the constant background noise of violence against which our lives play out in the 21st century? The Boston Marathon bombing…Sandy Hook Elementary School…Virginia Tech… Ferguson…Norway…Paris…San Bernardino…the list goes on and on. How do we avoid reacting with either extreme avoidance—numbing out/tuning out—or becoming overwhelmed with fear and grief ? In order to keep functioning, I need to strike a balance: honoring the victims with appropriate grief and anger at the perpetrators, while maintaining the psychic distance I need to go about my daily business without being blown away by fear and sorrow. Is this really a healthy response, though? Or am I kidding myself here? How can it be healthy and sane to be so compartmentalized that I am able to acknowledge the pain and suffering on one hand, while at the same time going on with my life in an ordinary way? Digging a little further into this, I have to ask: who does it benefit for me to be able to carry on with a stiff upper lip, remaining calm, cool and collected in the face on ongoing tragedy? Does it benefit me, or the status quo of the society I live in, which has generated this endless loop of repetitive tragedy? What would happen if one day we all suddenly started to feel fully empathetic with the victims of violence—and not just gun violence or military violence, but also rape, domestic violence, violence against animals, violence against the forests and the waters of our planet? In the #BlackLivesMatter and #WeAreSenecaLake protests, in the #JeSuisCharlie meme and rallies in Paris, we are seeing a hint of the powerful force that can be unleashed by human compassion. What if I, and other Americans like me, started to actively fight the conditioning that has made us believe that the healthiest, sanest response to ubiquitous violence is to turn our gaze away and keep moving?
What if we began to lean in to the deep wellsprings of compassion and empathy that are our birthright as human beings, and act out of the power we find there? What if instead of accepting the constant static of violence as a given of modern existence, we began to actively tune in to it, in order to serve—each one of us—as antennae capable of picking up the signal and disrupting it, transforming it from cacophony to an entirely different, new form of activist harmony? I believe that Gaia is calling out to those of us who can hear her, pulling us towards an alignment of our personal and political values with her ecological ethos. Gaia believes in abundance. When she is in balance, each living being has its niche and lives out its life in grace, receiving all the sustenance it needs and taking no more than it requires to be healthy and fulfilled. Gaia believes in equality. Every single aspect of the planet, from the needles on the fir tree to the whales in the sea, is essential and valuable. The rocks and the water and the bacteria in the soil are all equally beloved, and equally tended. Gaia believes in synergy. Each element of the planet is seamlessly wound in to the whole, the web of life that functions simply and elegantly, nothing wasted, nothing forgotten, nothing in excess. Gaia believes in communion. She lives in the present moment, eon after eon, entirely immersed in the creative beauty which she expresses in her every pore. She doesn’t live for the future, ambitiously, or dwell in the past, nostalgically. She focuses on the present and knows that in walking a path of balance and harmony now, she is unfurling a solid, loving bridge to the future for all time. How hard could it be to bring ourselves into alignment with the vast, pulsating beauty of Gaia’s planetary model, given the intimate interconnections that bind us to her with every breath we take? I believe, with Arundhati Roy, that another world is possible. On a quiet day, I can reach beyond the labored thumping of my own heavy heart and merge the rise and fall of my breath with the sweet sighs of Gaia herself. u
Jennifer Browdy is associate professor of comparative literature and media studies at Bard College at Simon’sRock. She is the founding director of the annual Berkshire Festival of Women Writers and the new Butterfly Leadership Program for Teen Girls. The co-publisher of Green Fire Press, she is the editor of three anthologies of contemporary women’s writing and writes regularly about social and environmental issues in various fora, including in her blog, Transition Times. February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 57
Taking Wing The Stor y of the Butter f ly Leadership Program By Grace Rossman Photo by L. Najimy
clutch the microphone with shaking hands, holding onto it as if for dear life. A roomful of people look up at me expectantly as the MC announces my name. Terror sets in as I realize it is now time for me to speak. I hesitate just long enough to ask myself the question: Why did I sign up for this again? I realize that lingering onstage in silence any longer would be even more mortifying than performing my poem, and with that, I start to speak. And here—performing my first-ever slam poem at my first-ever poetry slam—a kind of alchemy takes place. I feel the words rising up and out of me, straightening my spine as they go. As I take the deep breaths needed to utter the long strings of syllables in my poem, I feel my flexed belly soften and my clenched shoulders release. By the end of my poem, I have transformed into an elegant, eloquent, poised and powerful poet; this is what speaking one’s own words can do. It was not long after attending my first poetry slam in 2012 that I knew I wanted to share the feeling of empowerment through public speaking with as many
people as possible. I first put this desire into practice when I created a project called The Belly Monologues, inspired by Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. The project started as a collection of stories about bellies from women of all ages. Then I gathered a group of ten fearless young women, who performed a show comprised of pieces they had written about their bellies for a room packed full of awestruck audience members. Every one of the young women involved said they felt they had undergone a transformation in the process of putting on The Belly Monologues. Seeing those young women come to voice over the course of our rehearsals affirmed my sense that there was something important about this act of writing and speaking one’s own words. Jennifer Browdy, professor of comparative literature, gender and media studies at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, could not agree more that writing and speaking out about issues one deeply cares about can be a transformational endeavor. It was in one of her courses that I first had the idea for The Belly Mono-
58 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
Grace at the Richmond Consolidated School Butterfly Leadership Program workshop. Photo by Jennifer Browdy
logues, and it was Jenny who encouraged me to follow the project through to the end. After The Belly Monologues was over, I knew I wanted to help more young women find their voices. It just so happened that Jenny had had the idea to create a leadership program for young women, and that she was looking for assistance to roll out the program. From this resonance of visions came The Butterfly Leadership Program. Our pilot program ran during August 2015. “The Butterfly Effect,” a program offered by The Butterfly Leadership Program, was a weeklong workshop series, which culminated in a performance for parents and community members. When the girls arrived, they struggled to muster up the courage to speak up in group discussions—but they expressed their ideas freely and furiously in their journals in response to writing prompts. Jenny and I nudged the girls to read their work out loud, first from a seated position in a circle, then on their feet. At the end of our week together, the girls each gave a speech of their own on a subject they cared about. I watched from the audience as one girl after the next stood up straight, spoke up clearly and confidently, and delivered her piece with fervor and finesse. It was stunning to witness such a profound transformation in each of the girls, and after only a week’s time. The Butterfly Leadership Program’s title has a double meaning. The first is that one cannot think of butterflies without thinking of transformation and metamorphosis. When a young woman writes about a subject that matters deeply to her, and then speaks her own words out loud for the first time, the result is often indeed a type of metamorphosis.
The second meaning of the program’s title that has to do with the scientific principle that the wind from a butterfly’s wings causes a series of chain reactions that can be felt around the world. We believe empowerment can—and ought to be—a chain reaction. Just as speaking words causes the vocal chords to vibrate, causing the spine to wiggle and lengthen, causing the diaphragm to expand, causing the shoulders to relax, causing a nervous, shaking girl to become a confident and captivating poet, so, too, does feeling powerful lead to acting powerful, which leads to being empowering, leading others to feel powerful, and the cycle repeats. The Butterfly Leadership Program aims to set off this sort of positive momentum. I stand onstage as the applause crashes down, noticing how it feels to inhabit a taller, calmer, stronger body. I realize that not only have I transformed—the microphone in my hands has transformed as well. I am no longer holding a lifeline, but a torch, a beacon of light with which I know I can light the way. The Butterfly Leadership Program offers leadership trainings for girls ages 13–18. We currently offer monthly Leadership Circles, a series of afternoon workshops held at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Pittsfield, MA and the Quaker Meeting House in Great Barrington, MA, as well as a weeklong summer intensive. In addition, we offer workshops in middle and high schools, for just girls or for mixed groups, upon request. Want to learn more? Visit us online at butterflyeffectleadership.org. u Grace Rossman is a recent B.A. graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock and an award-winning spoken word poet.
February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 59
The Mature Heart By Lorrin Krouss
hey had been together for so many years that sometimes no words needed to be spoken. A nod of the head or a subtle smile was all that was required. He thought often about his life and wished he had taken a different path. She seemed content, enjoying their life together in a warm climate. He had thick, white hair, watery blue eyes and a build like a fireplug. She had curly, gray hair and a spine that curved her upper body forward like a question mark. He found her slow gait and foot-dragging embarrassing. She always thought he was handsome. He had little use for friends, so they rarely socialized. She liked to talk to everyone. He would yawn and walk away while she was engaged in a lively conversation. She told him his behavior was rude. They seldom traveled because he said he was afraid to fly. She craved adventure and would have gone anywhere. Once a year, they went on a Caribbean cruise because he loved to eat. She enjoyed dressing up at night and wearing gaudy jewelry. They discontinued the trips when he became diabetic and she needed the assistance of a walker. She feared that the rich food would kill him. He was growing less and less tolerant of her appearance. They had one daughter who would visit and one that did not. They burdened the visiting daughter with all their problems. They never complained to the daughter that called every other week.
Sometimes he would yell obscenities in a voice that did not sound like his own. She said a daily prayer that he would not do this in the supermarket. He told her that he never should have married her. Then he became quick to anger and his outbursts frightened her. She mentioned this to their doctor, who prescribed medication. After that, he talked to her less and less and slept more and more. She felt lonely, but kept this a secret from her daughter. He forgot their anniversary and said it was just another day. She thought about their wedding and the white satin gown that she wore. He said he no longer enjoyed her cooking. She wept because this was all she knew how to do. One day after lunch, he leaned over, kissed her on the check and reached out to hold her hand. She felt a surge of euphoria that, perhaps, he was mellowing. She let out a deep sigh, missing the man he once was. Then one night while they were sleeping, their daughter crept silently into their home. She placed a bouquet of roses, tied with a large pink bow, on the center of the kitchen table, then left through the front door without making a sound. Always hungry, he was the first to awaken in the morning. She followed him, with faltering steps, into their sunny kitchen. He blinked his unclear eyes while trying to recall when he could have bought the flowers. She threw her arms around him and simply said, “You remembered, after all.” u
Lorrin Krouss worked in the publishing industry for fifteen years and was inspired to write after attending the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers. Her first essay appears in An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice. “The Rocky Road to Happiness” was presented at The Mount in 2014 and published in the anthology Writing Fire in 2015. Lorrin lives happily in the Berkshires with her husband.
Dr. Jan Seward and Embody Healing Arts salute the Berkshire Festival of Women's Writers and every woman's creative body, mind and SPIRIT! 60 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
Because your body is a beautiful place to be
Exploring the Gender Crossroads By Lee Schwartz
ith the fanfare of the sexual revolution, the women’s movement and Stonewall in the 1960s, the sexual divide has been narrowing. In dress, jobs, athletics, and social mores, we are discovering that gender is just an illusion: something we hold onto because we think it is meaningful. But with every passing year, men and women have moved toward true liberation. We are not living out of archaic F and M boxes. We are listening our own inner voices, telling us who we are and how we should decide to present ourselves. Freedom is the key: to have the inner freedom to live outside the conventional dynamic duo, Man and Woman. Whether gay or straight, cis-gendered people are anchored to the anatomical body parts they were given at birth. Although some gay women may dress and feel manly, or men may feel girlish, all parties are comfortable in their own skin. For trans people it is different. Trans individuals do not feel comfortable in the gender they were assigned at birth. Before transition, trans people may struggle with gender dysphoria—feeling that they are struck in the wrong body that doesn’t match the way they feel on the inside. They risk all—sanity, family, career, community— to bring their psyche and bodies into a congruent self.
My child is one of these brave, queer souls who dared to come out to be himself. Born as a girl- bodied child, he came to realize that his true body and soul self leaned towards being male. Now in his mid-twenties, he presents as male, uses the male pronouns he, him, his, and is obsessed with men’s shoes. He does not fit into a world that worships binary idols. He does not want to give up the feminine or surrender to the masculine. I am grateful that my child is living post-millennium, at a time when rigid binary boxes are fading and young people see gender as a fluid quality that moves freely and is not necessarily crazy-glued to the self. My child has the same heart, ethics, humor and foibles he had as a girl. I’m not saying I understand it, but I had to learn to accept him, because I love him and want him to be happy and a part of my life. The gay and trans community is asking us not to label people as Male or Female but just as human beings. What does it mean, in 2016, to be Male or Female? Ask Caitlin Jenner. This is the social question of the moment, and the yearning: to have the plasticity to decide which gender signs we want and need to own, regardless of our anatomy. The perception of difference is fading, and that is a good thing for my child and society at large. u
Lee Schwartz is a Berkshire and New York City-based poet. She has an essay in Trans Bodies, Trans Selves (Oxford Press 2014). Her latest poems are found in the anthologies How Poetry Saved My Life and Writing Fire. Lee is a two-time winner of the Allen Ginsberg Literary Prize and has served as Artist in Residence at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. She is currently teaching memoir in the New York library system and the United Federation of Teachers.
Amy Quenneville, owner Penny Rossi Bridgit Keefner Terry Eisenberg February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 61
My Daughter Enters A Room By Jan Seward
y 13-year-old daughter enters a room. Perhaps it is the living room, or the bathroom, perhaps her bedroom. Increasingly, it is the kitchen. Preparing for what is about to happen, I tense. My breathing shortens. I brace for impact. Things begin to move. As if by magic, drawers open, cupboards empty. If in her bedroom, outfits assemble, then re-assemble. Discarded clothing drops to the floor. A hairdryer blasts, then clatters. All is quiet. The iPod reshuffles. My daughter exits, victorious in her sorcery. Her makeup is perfect, the conjured meal delicious, her outfit the just-right mix of nonchalance and technical prowess. The house, along with myself, is a wreck. I pour a glass of wine. When questioned about her methods, she responds with the right amount of obfuscation: “What clothes, where?” or “I DID clean my room, YOU ruined it by throwing all those clothes on my bed!” and “You KNOW I can’t touch those dishes in the sink, they’re gross!” Sometimes she ignores me altogether. Frequently, she gathers all offending items except the dirty dishes and
GETTING TO THE CENTER OF HERE DOES ART IN SCHOOL MATTER?
SHAKERS & MOVERS HUNT FOR GREAT SCULPTURES
JUMPING OFF MT. GREYLOCK WATCHING FRESHGRASS GROW
BIG IDEAS, YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS FOUR TOWNS TURNING 250
BATTER UP, SPORTS FANS BANG ON A CAN—NOW
throws them down the basement stairs to be laundered. I sigh. Honestly, I can’t see how she does this, creating chaos out of order in less time than it takes to say “Hi, honey, how was school?” Like the best magicians, she’s a great distractor, pulling my focus with her disarming charm, relating funny anecdotes while dismantling the refrigerator or annihilating the linen closet in a single deft move. Her sleight of hand makes me dizzy and I’ve given up trying to figure out the trick. I decide instead to simply admire her mastery. I’ve also (mostly) given up admonishing her for her alchemy. It’s too much effort, much easier to become her willing and silent assistant, picking up after her as she works her enchantments. Besides, in much too short a time she’ll have perfected her disappearing act. I will be alone in the room, wondering where she’s gone, and missing the magic. u Jan Seward is a psychologist and writer living in Great Barrington, MA. Her work has appeared in Berkshire Business Quarterly and in various peer-reviewed journals.
TV JOURNALIST LINDA ELLERBEE AN EYE FULL: A PHOTO HISTORY
A GAP YEAR, FOR ADULTS PLACES TO GO, PEOPLE TO SEE
FINDING THE RIGHT FOODS WHAT TO GIVE: PAGE 43
SIPPING: ON THE WHISKEY TRAIL A MAN WITH 1,000 WILD STORIES
JANE IREDALE’S MAGIC TOUCH CODE ORANGE: PUMPKIN WALK
Berkshire Berkshire Berkshire Berkshire Berkshire MAGAZINE
DIY Wedding berkshiremag.com
At Home With Kim and
Day Trip With Chris Noth
Buy it. Read it. Love it. berkshiremag.com 62 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
Words By Signe Schaefer Our words are feathers that fly on our breath. Let them go in a holy direction —Jeanne Lohmann For one whole year my sister and I wrote each day on a chosen word laundry, angel, doorknob, weather, heartache… Mundane or grand, the words would open to our attending reveal surprising chambers. We listened through our different eyes peeked behind sound and sense marveled as the layered meanings grew. This was a writing meditation and then a reading from ourselves by phone before the days of Skype. It was a faithful honored work that bridged our sorrow at her illness and breathed a feathered life into our days.
The Sandisfield Arts Center
is proud to host the annual is proud to host the
BFWW BFWW WritingsOut Mother' Day LoudReading Workshop
Years later I am more aware of how words fly within me. Some land lightly, cushioned by silence others, more raucous, splatter thoughtlessly. Words mark my way of taking note invite my ear and voice and pen allow my yes or no my questions and my giving thanks. Some days words echo from far away downy feathers I could miss. Is my sister calling me still to stay with this hallowed work this offered wording of the world? u
Signe Eklund Schaefer has been a teacher of adults for many decades. Her most recent book is entitled “Why on Earth?—Biography and the Practice of Human Becoming.”
Saturday, May 7th, 2016 4 PM See our website for more details on this event. www.sandisfieldartscenter.org
February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 63
Continued from Writing in the blood, page 11: tales and folktakes began somewhere. King Lear is a rewriting of a folktale—a king asks his three daughters to tell him how much they love him, and the youngest answers “I love you like salt” and is banished. “All writing, whether you finish it or not, whether you publish it or not, is a platform, an armature,” she said. “Journalism, poetry—I believe each time I write something I’m learning something, and I can translate it into later work.” She tells writing students, “you have to keep your eyes open; there are stories all around you—what you bring makes stories live.” “I see stories everywhere,” Yolen said. “The world is filled with stories, with poems, with sonatas. If you get up early and hear birdsong, it might be a picture book or music. You have to be open to it, ready to receive it. You have to go around without blinders and earplugs.” Yolen never overtly taught her children how to write, Stemple said, but she modeled a writing life. The family has run a creative community out of their house, Stemple said, filling it with artists, craftspeople and entrepreneurs. “We saw that it was a way to live,” she said, “and that it was not just about talent. It’s about working hard.” And more, her mother has set an example in her own life and work. “When my brother wrote his first book with her, he called it going to writers’ college,” Stemple said. “She taught us her work ethic: Don’t complain about the writing—get it done. You won’t get a novel written by talking about it.” Stemple has recently taken on Kite for Moon, a book Yolen had begun and put in a drawer. Stemple looked at it and said “it’s too long, and you didn’t get to the point.” “I tore it to bare bones and reworked it on her armature,” she said, “and made it a tight and lovely book about what she wanted it to be—and we sold it. Things come about. Collaboration can never be a straight-line process.” “It’s like soup,” Yolen said. “I want to make a chicken soup and I start cutting, start tasting.” “The only problem with that metaphor,” Stemple said, “is that in a story you can take things out. In a soup you can’t.” Books, Yolen agreed, are made in the rewriting, and she and her daughter are not afraid of doing five or 10 or 15 rewrites, changing, paring down or adding something new. They can always take it out. u Kate Abbott, a freelance writer based in western Massachusetts, writes at btwberkshires.com and for many regional publications. From 2008 to 2015 she served as editor of Berkshires Week and then Berkshires Week & Shires of Vermont magazine, a year-round weekly arts and cultural magazine. She holds an MFA in fiction from the University of New Hampshire and has published poetry in many journals.
Continued from Soul Food, page 15: “Julia Child told us about technique,” she said. “She told us we could cook great food out of the supermarket. My generation said no, it’s all about the ingredients.” As she came to New York, the U.S. began to wake up to farmers markets and the consequences of eating. “I think the next big change was a long leap, beginning to understand our food system was in deep trouble,” she said. “In 2006 or 2007 I gave a speech to newspaper editorial writers begging them to pay attention to food. You couldn’t give that speech now, because everybody does.” Gourmet in her time influenced the national conversation about food, she said, covering small family farms, the scarcity of slaughterhouses, fish farming and the devastation of oceans. She looked back with pride at Barry Estabrook’s March 2009 story on people who worked the tomato fields of Immokalee, Florida, in conditions of slavery—some living in shacks without plumbing, beaten and denied the scant wages they earned. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers had been fighting for attention since 1993 and getting little until Gourmet followed the story. “This was shocking to people,” Reichl said, “that they were eating tomatoes picked by slaves.” David Foster Wallace turned a trip to a Maine lobster festival in 2003 into a close look at the way lobsters feel pain and a serious question: Is it right to boil them alive? “If you’re going to eat animals, you should know how they’re killed,” Reichl said. She faced this question squarely in her second issue, in a profile of chef Thomas Keller, and she agonized over this story as a brand new editor. In that piece Keller decided that if he wanted to serve meat he should know how to kill it, she said, and he tried to butcher a rabbit without knowing how. The scene was graphic, and the rabbit bled and screamed. The publisher tried to stop the story from running, and she fought for it. She said they had to print that scene: Keller had said this was a seminal moment in his life as a chef—he decided this would have to be the most delicious rabbit ever eaten, so that its life would not have been lost in vain. “Food is life itself,” she said. So she took a risk in a magazine that had always been polite. It was her first moment of ‘Oh my God, I’m going to do this,” she said. It was her first revealing time as an editor there. In good magazines, she said, the editor exposes herself in what she chooses to cover. And these revealing moments are getting more rare. Now, in a new place and in the same spirit, she has moved from the loss of the magazine into a novel and a memoir, and she has turned a dark year into a celebration of flavor and sensory detail and deep friendship. Baring that experience did not frighten her. “It felt right,” she said. u
64 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 65
Rivers of People By Reba Evenchik
Sally-Jane Heit with Musical Director Uel Wade
A Beneﬁt Performance for e Mount Champagne and dessert reception to follow performance
ursday May 12, 2016 7:00 pm e Mount 2 Plunkett Street Lenox, Massachusetts www.edithwharton.org (413)551-5111
We are rivers of people. Do you hear our voices riding and sliding with the waves? Crashing and drowning, rising and flowing across continents, like fault lines unleashed we flow beyond boundaries...
Ours is a call from the moving earth to listen with heart, take heed and know that those on the move are ordained to shift a new beginning. Breaking it down, Braking it down
We move in swift raging rapids, large and small life lost Angels hover above the mist.. . gathering lost pieces Until we come together at last, humanity Face to face
And know we are each other on a sacred spinning island. u Reba Evenchik is a participant of the arts from writing to dance. Her experience of the dark and light of humanity, from Sierra Leone to the Soloman Islands, has led her to see the world as interconnected.
are “ Dreams illustrations
from the book your soul is writing about you.
66 • WOW! Women of Words: The Magazine of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
45 Rooms • Restaurant & Bar Art Gallery • Gift Shop • Lounge Meeting & Event Spaces 297 NORTH ST., PITTSFIELD, MA 413.358.4741 - HOTELONNORTH.COM
February/March 2016 • Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Berkshirewomenwriters.org • 67
Published on Feb 7, 2016
February/March 2016 * Volume 1 * Issue 1 A Conversation with Prolific Author and Renowned Critic, Ruth Reichl. Taking Wing: The Story of th...