Published on: February 28, 2013
Women writers of all ages and from many different walks of life will be featured in the Third Annual Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, taking place throughout the month of March, Women’s History Month, at venues all over Berkshire County.
The Festival, sponsored by Bard College at Simon’s Rock with the collaboration of many other organizations, includes the participation of more than 150 women writers, at 55 separate events.
Festival director Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez, a professor of comparative literature and gender studies, founded the event to give more women the opportunity to share their writing with local audiences.
“Research has shown that while boys and men tend to over-estimate their own talents and abilities, girls and women tend to second-guess themselves or have such high standards for themselves that they hesitate to speak up or take the limelight,” Browdy de Hernandez said.
The 2013 Festival does feature a few women of national renown, such as the writing guru Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way and many other books, who will be speaking at Kripalu on March 7, and First Lady of Massachusetts Diane Patrick, who will be speaking about women’s empowerment at Bard College at Simon’s Rock on March 16.
“The ethos of this Festival is supportive and inclusive—we’re not so much about big names as about opening up multiple platforms for talented girls and women to share their writing and gain confidence in their own abilities,” Browdy de Hernandez said.
There will also be spaces opened for student writers, older writers, and immigrant writers, many of whom will be sharing their work in public for the first time.
The Berkshire Immigrant Center is sponsoring a special event called “Coming to America,” at Williams College on March 6, which will give four Berkshire immigrant women from different countries a chance to share their written autobiographical stories. There will also be a bilingual panel on March 5 at Bard College at Simon’s Rock entitled Cuatro mujeres, Cuatro generos / Four Women, Four Genres, featuring student presenters reading and discussing the work of four Latin American women writers.
Students from Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington will be sharing their writing at the Guthrie Center on March 11 under the leadership of faculty member Lisken Van Pelt Dus. And the Railroad Street Youth Project will sponsor a poetry workshop for teens led by two teenage women writers on March 14.
Sonia Pilcer will return with her popular panel of older women writers, “Women of a Certain Age,” on March 2 at the Mason Library in Great Barrington. The Mason Library will also host Sondra Zeidenstein, octagenarian poet and publisher of Chicory Blue Press, a press dedicated exclusively to the work of women over 70, for a talk on March 9 on “Women, Creativity and Aging.”
A special feature of the Festival is the International Women’s Day observance, which has been held annually at Bard College at Simon’s Rock since 2002. This year’s IWD event, co-sponsored by the Berkshire Human Rights Speaker series, will offer a screening of the new documentary film SWEET DREAMS, about the partnership between a dynamic women’s drumming ensemble in Rwanda and the founders of the Brooklyn-based Blue Marble Ice Cream, which brought the first ice cream shop ever to Rwanda. A talk-back with filmmaker Rob Fruchtman and Blue Marble founder and film star Jennifer Dundas will follow the screening, and the event will end with an Ice Cream Social featuring Blue Marble Ice Cream.
Other special events include:
- The screening at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on March 15 of several segments of the film HALF THE SKY, based on the book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, with a community discussion to follow led by Caroline Wheeler of Sister for Peace and Kristen Van Ginhoven of WAM Theatre;
- A staged reading of a new, 21st century version of “Women of Troy,” written and directed by Leigh Strimbeck, at Bard College at Simon’s Rock on March 22;
- Out of the Mouths of Babes on March 1, hosted by Suzi Banks Baum and Gina Hyams, focusing on the complex relationship between mothering and creativity, and featuring readings by Baum and Hyams as well as Michelle Gillett, Janet Elsbach, Nichole Dupont, Jenny Laird and Alana Chernila;
- A gala reading at The Mount on March 23 of the winners of the 2013 Festival Essay Contest, coordinated by Michelle Gillett and Nina Ryan, and judged by Katherine Bouton of The New York Times;
- A reading of women poets hosted by Orion Magazine on March 17 at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, and a panel on the relationship between writers and editors hosted by Berkshire Magazine on March 3 at the Triplex.
Complete listings are available on the Festival website at www.berkshirewomenwriters.org. Most events are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis, though tickets are available for advance purchase at the events at Kripalu and the Berkshire Theater Group.
The Festival is made by possible by grants from the Massachusetts Council on the Humanities, the Local Cultural Councils of many Berkshire towns, and generous support from many organizations, businesses and individuals.