As the fall colors come on strong, the 2014 Festival is beginning to take shape.  Our hardy volunteer organizing committee is going through more than 70 proposals for events, working to curate a Festival Program that will delight, inspire and stimulate us throughout the month of March. Notifications will go out by the end of October.

2014 Essay Contest Announced
Hilda Banks Shapiro reading from her winning essay at The Mount, 2013

Hilda Banks Shapiro reading from her winning essay at The Mount, 2013

This year’s Berkshire Festival of Women Writers’ writing contest, curated by Michelle Gillett and Nina Ryan, welcomes personal essays, nonfiction, fiction and poetry on the subject of “weather,” keeping in mind the special focus of this year’s Festival, “Writing the Self, Righting the World: New Visions of Personal and Planetary Health.”Feel free to interpret the topic in any way you like. For example: weather of the heart, weathering the storm, being under the weather, internal weather, climate change, how weather extremes are affecting us personally, politically, socially, culturally, environmentally.

The contest will culminate in a reading and panel discussion of four to six pieces chosen by the organizers and panelists.  We will be looking for pieces that use the subject of “weather” to provoke, examine, and spark new perspectives on the links between personal and planetary wellness, particularly within our own lives and community.

Please limit your submission to three pages or less (double-spaced—750 words). Include a stamped, self-addressed envelope and a short bio, and indicate the genre and title of your piece on your cover page. Mail hard copy to: Nina Ryan, PO 1134, Stockbridge, MA 01262.  Deadline: Jan 15, 2014.

Berkshire Women Writers Lean In Group Begins New Season

Our new monthly Lean In group had a lively first meeting of the season on September 22, with about 15 women writers in attendance.  We shared lots of good ideas about how to use our time together this year to strengthen us as individuals and as a community of women writers.We’ll meet again on October 20, focusing on sharing the quotes and practices we use to overcome our own internal blocks and censors, and get ourselves juiced up for writing. Visit our new Lean In group Facebook page to add your voice to the conversation!All are welcome to this free drop-in group, facilitated by Festival Director Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez and Berkshire Museum Director of Communications Lesley Ann Beck.  Meetings are held from 3-5 p.m. at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield.Mark your calendars for this season’s Sunday afternoon meetings: Oct. 20, Nov. 10, Jan. 12, Feb. 9, April 13.Get involved: New opportunities for business sponsorships and Friends of the Festival You may have noticed that the Festival is a true labor of love.  There are no entry fees for presenters, and all events are either free, or with nominal ticket prices to benefit the Festival or another local woman-focused organization.  Our presenters offer their time and talents pro bono, and most of the work of creating the Festival is performed by a dedicated committee of volunteers.

But a Festival of this scale, with the year-round events we’ve begun to add, does cost money to produce, and that’s where YOU come in! Please consider becoming a Friend of the Festival, joining our Godmother’s Circle, or becoming a business or corporate sponsor.  We can’t do it without you!

Business owners take note: this year we’re offering businesses the opportunity to join the grand community collaboration that is our Berkshire Festival of Women Writers.  Businesses are welcome to sponsor one or more individual events, and in return we’ll help promote your business to the thousands of engaged local and regional women and men who participate in our Festival each year.  See our website for complete details.

We look forward to talking with you about how we can create a mutually rewarding partnership for the benefit of local women and girls.  Contact Festival Director Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez for more information: 413-528-7224;