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Berkshire Festival of Women Writers Fourth Season Begins!

BFWW-Berkshire-Magazine-ad-2014-FINALWomen writers of all ages and from many different walks of life will be featured in the Fourth Annual Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, runnings from March 1 – 31 at venues all over Berkshire County.

The Festival, which celebrates Women’s History Month, is sponsored by Bard College at Simon’s Rock with the collaboration of many other organizations. Participants include more than 150 women writers, at 58 separate events held at 36 venues around the county.

Complete listings and details of all events are available on the Festival website.  Most events are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis.

This year includes a special “track” within the Festival, entitled Writing the Self, Righting the World: New Visions of Personal and Planetary Health and Healing. Those events specifically use writing to explore the links between personal and planetary health and wellness, prompting inquiry into the intimate interdependence between our individual, social and environmental landscapes.

Festival director Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez, professor of comparative literature,  gender studies and media studies at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, founded the Festival in 2011 to give more women an opportunity to share their writing with local audiences. “Our aim is to create encouraging, supportive platforms where women and girls can share their ideas and perspectives,” says Dr. Browdy de Hernandez. “Men’s voices still dominate in the public sphere, whether in politics, media or the arts. The Festival aims to counter that trend. I am hoping to give more women the tools and encouragement they need to begin to take their own ideas seriously, and step out into the world with them.

“My not-so-secret ambition with all of this is to change the world for the better,” she adds. “If more women’s perspectives were being heard, the discourse would be more about nurturing and less about violence; more about collaboration, less about competition. I’m old-fashioned enough, as a feminist, to be able to say such a thing and mean it.”

  • The 2014 Festival does feature a few women of national renown: Gloria Steinem will present the Spring 2014 Public Policy Lecture at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts on Tuesday, March 4 entitled The Progression of Feminism: Where Are We Going?
  • On Sunday, March 9 Argentinian writer/artist/activists Raquel Partnoy, Alicia Partnoy and Ruth Irupé Sanabria will appear for the special International Women’s Day event On the Side of Justice, co-sponsored by Bard College at Simon’s Rock, the Festival, and the Berkshire Human Rights Speaker Series.
  • Acclaimed folksinger and activist Peggy Seeger will explore traditional Anglo-American songs at the Guthrie Center on Tuesday, March 18
  • Jayne Atkinson, Susan Rose and Kristen van Ginhoven will produce a gala performance of Motherhood Out Loud at the Unicorn Theatre on Saturday, March 29.

Many of the other events feature locally well-known and emerging writers, showcasing the wealth of creative talent in the Berkshires. They will present their own work through performances and readings, as well as leading workshops and other activities open to Berkshires residents and surrounding community. There will be opportunities for student writers, older writers, and immigrant writers, many of whom will be sharing their work in public for the first time.  Those events include:

  • Celebrations of young women writers, including readings and workshops by students from Monument Mountain Regional High School, Miss Hall’s School and Bard College at Simon’s Rock; and a special reading at Shakespeare & Company for teen women writers, preceded by a performance workshop for the group hosted by Shakespeare & Company faculty Carmen-Maria Mandley;
  • A reading at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health entitled “Who Cares? Five Writers Raise the Voices of Women Who Tend To Others,” hosted by Janet Reich Elsbach, with Elsbach, Jenny Laird, Lydia Littlefield, Laura Silverman and Maria Sirois reading from work that explores their personal experience of 
 caring for an aging parent, a dying sibling, a child with a disability, a partner with a chronic illness, or a job in a white coat;
  • A reading and champagne book launch at The Mount with Barbara Bonner discussing her perspective on generosity and philanthropy, based on her new book Inspiring Generosity;
  • A panel discussion 
entitled “Writing that Matters” at the Beacon Theater, hosted by Berkshire Magazine editor Anastasia Stanmeyer, with writers Karen Berger, Clemma Dawson, Kristen Moe, Judith D. Schwartz and Jenn Smith sharing the stories that mean most to them, and how their writing has impacted their world.
  • Meeting on the Bridge, a reading and discussion on the cultural diversity of the Berkshires, hosted by Gwendolyn Hampton VanSant and Berkshire Eagle editor Kate Abbott, with writers for the Multicultural BRIDGE “On the Bridge” column, including Siobhan Connally, Elizabeth Blackshine, and Margot Welch;
  • Writing About Place, a two-part writing workshop considering how place serves as a vehicle for stories and discoveries of a personal nature, and how such awareness may lead to action and a larger environmental awareness, led by Kateri Kosek and Jessica Treat.

…and much, much more!

Complete listings and details of all events are available here. Most events are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The Festival is made by possible by grants from the Wyomissing Foundation, the John A. Sellon Charitable Trust, the Local Cultural Councils of many Berkshire towns, and generous support from many organizations, businesses and individuals.

For more information contact: Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez: 413-528-7224; bfww@simons-rock.edu.