A dozen women writers gathered at the Berkshire Museum on April 28 for the first meeting of the monthly Berkshire Women Writers Lean In Group.  Hosted by Lesley Ann Beck, Director of Communications at the Berkshire Museum, and Festival Director Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez, the meeting was a lively and inspiring start to what we hope will become a terrific resource.

The next meeting will be held on Sunday, May 19, at 3 p.m. at the Berkshire Museum, free and open to all women writers. Please bring a piece of writing to share (500 words or less) so we can appreciate all the wonderful voices in the group. Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez will give a presentation on starting a blog and we will discuss the importance of blogging for writers.  We will meet once more, on June 16 at 3 p.m., before taking a break for the busy summer months.  

At the first meeting, we came up with many ideas for the future.  Here are our notes, as summarized by Lesley Ann Beck.

A monthly gathering can meet the needs of working writers by offering opportunities:

  • To learn and discover new approaches to writing
  • To share our work, both with each other and in more public venues
  • To share our experiences and create community
  • To learn and/or share the business of writing – discipline, marketing, etc.
  • To learn how to create opportunities for ourselves (Straw Dog Writers Guild, Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance are interesting models)
  • To have small, anchored groups evolve from the larger group to focus on specific work
  • To create smaller book groups and reading series

Among the group assembled at the first meeting, most expressed a preference for either Saturday or Sunday as the meeting day, and most preferred late afternoon. We did agree that rotating or changing the time and day of the meeting, as well as the venue, would allow more writers to participate. 

There was a lively discussion of the various topics that could be covered, as well as the format of the gatherings. We agreed that alternating talks and presentations with workshops would be best. Chances for sharing, discussion, Q&A, and engagement will be built into the gatherings that include a presentation. The gatherings that have a workshop format will certainly include exercises, breakout groups, and practice sessions. It was agreed to alternate creative topics with “nuts & bolts” topics that focus on the business of writing. Some of the suggested subjects include the use and benefits of blogging; finding our voices; self-promotion; and turning personal experiences into fiction/ turning personal experiences into non-fiction.

Other ideas include offering open mic sessions at venues such as Starving Artist Café in Lee or the Bookstore in Lenox; creating a library or database of resources and a shared calendar of writer events; and creating a salon for collaborations and experimenting with the unconventional – “sparking new thinking.”

We also discussed the creation of a Festival anthology; building an online Festival bookshelf with information on works by participants; and more opportunities connected to community-building, such as a quarterly curated reading or event series open to the public.

The new monthly Lean In Group is free and open to all women interested in writing.  Come join us and see what creative sparks we can get going together!