One image of the novelist or poet is as a solitary figure trussed up in angst and identity and typing feverishly through the night. Most of a novel is written in a writer’s own inspirational cave though, a place with comforts and demons and solitude. But solitude can turn into isolation and isolation is antithetical to the ultimate outcome of writing a novel: readers, audiences, followers. The antidote to isolation is community.
In the fall of 2012, My sister, Cheryl and I began to plan a Festival for Women Writers in a one-of-a-kind village in the western Catskills, Hobart, NY, The Reading Capital of New York State and an authentic Book Village. The Hobart Book Village Festival of Women Writers debuted in Fall 2013. One of the nicest aspects of our Festival’s creation is that we didn’t bring community to Hobart. It already had camaraderie and enthusiasm about books and the arts and six independent book stores. We’ve brought women from the tri-state (NY, NJ & CT) area and across the country with published work in poetry, fiction and non-fiction in all genres to read, offer workshops and sell their books on the weekend following Labor Day. Along the way through three successful annual Festivals and in planning our fourth, we’ve made connections with a dazzling group of women who write.
Link here for a complete list of the outstanding women who will be Participating Writers for Festival of Women Writers 2016
I happy to say that I’ll be attending the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers 2016 for the first time this March. The Berkshire Festival is in its sixth year and like, Hobart Book Village Festival of Women Writers, offers a beautiful highland locale and enthusiastic engagement with the written word.
At 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. Why is this 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.
On March 12, 2016, 1:30p – 3:30p – I will join Cheryl Clarke, Mary Johnson and Esther Cohen for a panel discussion, An Unquenchable Thirst For Writing.
Cheryl Clarke, http://www.cherylclarkepoet.com/about/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 and is author of the upcoming collection, By My Precise Haircut.
Mary Johnson www.maryjohnson.co 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 nonfiction. One of the founders of A Room Of Her Own Foundation, Mary served for more than a decade as Creative Director of Retreats for AROHO.
Esther Cohen, http://esthercohen.com/ 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, 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.
And . . . Breena Clarke www.BreenaClarke.com will read from her 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.
We’re going to be discussing the Sisterhood of Writing and how we built and continue to build our writing communities through organizing Festivals and Retreats and creative opportunities for women writers. We four have had varied careers and write in a variety of genres and styles. There are a lot of gates into the city of writing and we’ve each come through differently.
Why do we need Festivals for Women Writers? Writers are writers, right? And the best of them, whatever gender, will be well-read and successful, right? Sadly, no. Women are underrepresented in Literary magazines, book publishing and prizes. Check out: VIDA COUNT Monthly update
Each year The VIDA Count compiles over 1000 data points from the top tier, or “Tier 1” journals, publications, and press outlets by which the literary community defines and rewards its most valued arts workers, the “feeders” for grants, teaching positions, residencies, fellowships, further publication, and ultimately, propagation of artists’ work within the literary community. about VIDA COUNT
Also at The Berkshire Festival of Women Writers on Saturday, March 12 @10am – 12pm will be the electrifying Esther Cohen and Good Stories: The Deep Red Heart Of Life a workshop for story lovers and story makers who want to make their own stories better.
Writing festivals and retreats offer enrichment opportunities that may have been, in the past, inaccessible for a lot of women who write and who aspire to be published writers. The workshop experience can be especially valuable if you didn’t come through an MFA program or you’ve spent twenty years behind a desk. These annual and bi-annual Festivals are organized geographically, but they’re supported and nurtured by social media and that gives them global possibilities.