Monday, June 23, 2014

Women's Writing, Voices and Visions

This is my fourth year traveling to women's writing conferences. It never gets easier . . . schlepping the bags and laptop onto the train; enduring the gridlock over the George Washington Bridge; finding your room and orienting yourself on large campuses as diverse as Yale University, Drew University, and Skidmore College.

But once you get past that, take a deep breath, and look around, you realize magic surrounds you.

June Gould and Jan Phillips
The alchemy of creativity hums in a collaborative community of writers . . . enhanced by consummately professional and generous writing teachers such as June Gould, who offers women poetry readings followed by "rolling writing prompts" and read arounds; in the unique and original vision of Jan Phillips, founder of Living Kindness, the organization which sponsored this past weekend's conference at Skidmore in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Together you enter the "magic kingdom" of sharing stories, sharing lives, breaking out of a cocoon, emerging from the chrysalis. A butterfly alights on your hand with the wonder of your creative purpose in life revealed.

For me, it is the Women's Writing Circle, and doing what I can to help women find their voices through writing since writing gave that to me and continues to do so.

Fittingly, called Women's Voices, Women's Visions, the three-day event at Skidmore was a combination leadership vision bootcamp and writing workshop. I thank my friend and memoir author Kathy Pooler for encouraging me to attend the debut conference with her.

Thanks also go to Suzi Banks Baum who was instrumental in organizing the conference. Proceeds benefited an educational center for young children in Nigeria.

At the artist's marketplace, Suzi and I traded anthologies we helped produce:  Hers: An Anthology of Babes  . . . and mine, Slants of Light: Stories and Poems from the Women's Writing Circle.  Conferences are a way for authors to network, share visions and validate and reinforce each other's hard work and commitment to the craft of writing and publishing.

For three summers prior to this, I attended conferences of the International Women's Writing Guild. It helps if you set intentions at the beginning of each conference as to what you hope to accomplish.

A sampling of the "gifts" of awareness a women's writing conference offered me and might for you.

  • Out of great loss, comes great abundance.
  • Listen to yourself because if you can't, you can't listen to others.
  • Dig deep into what has been silent.
  • If words are haunting you, here is where you can write them, and read them aloud to listening and supportive ears.
  • Wrestle with the meaning of memory.
  • Be uplifted by the creations of each other.

And this:
  • It is a gift to write because it wasn't that long ago there were (and still are) places where women were not allowed to do so.
  • Have and hold something you are dedicated to, passionate about, whether that be writing, forming a community or a nonprofit reflecting your vision.
  • Become a risk taker.
  • In order to be an artist, humble yourself.
  • Accept what it feels like to stand in a happy place where you are validated and loved.
  • If she can, I can.

Final night concert by Libana

With Kathy Pooler

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