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September 9, 2013

3-day Festival of Women Writers draws talent to Hobart

By Cheryl Petersen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star

---- — The inaugural Festival of Women Writers drew “an incredible well of talent” to the village of Hobart over the weekend, according to editor Leslie Sharpe of Walton. 

“The response and turnout were fabulous,” agreed Cheryl Clarke, who organized the event with Breena Clarke. “We are encouraged to do it again.”

The three-day festival of workshops began Friday afternoon and continued Saturday and Sunday. Women writers came from near and far to present workshops and give public readings. Food was catered or made available by organizations such as the Hobart Rotary Club.

The three-day event was a collaborative effort. The Clarkes, who own and operate the Hobart bookstore Blenheim Hill Books, began reaching out to supporters in the spring to build on $10,000 in grants and donations already raised for the event. Among the organizations supporting the event locally are the Greater Stamford Area Trust and the Hobart Community Foundation. 

And while the workshops were presented solely by female poets, playwrights, novelists, educators, critics and writers, the festival wasn’t strictly a single-sex event. 

“A man attended my workshop,” observed Sharpe, who teaches at Columbia University and presented “The Emerging Voice: For Beginning Writers” at Blenheim Hill Bookstore. “Although women lead, the festival is open to everyone. All boundaries are crossed.” 

Amy Morris, owner/manager of Papermoon Book Binding in Hobart Village, offered a workshop for children on how to make an O-wire book. 

“I teach how to make a book structure that can be embellished with decoration, and fun to write in,” Morris said. 

In the collaborative spirit, bookstore owners offered up space to one another for the programs. 

“There was more room in the newly refurbished Liberty Rock Books, so the bigger classes were moved to that site,” Morris noted.

At the International Bookport, poets and performing artists Evie Shockley and Elana Bell led a workshop about writing on the side of advocacy and activism. 

“When writing about activist topics, writers must take into account ethics,” said Evie Shockley. “Writers need to shine the flashlight internally instead of only pointing fingers.”

Public readings and the “author bookstore” were held at the Hobart Community Center. All authors brought copies of their books for new customers to browse and purchase.

Lynn Domina, a poet who teaches at the State University College of Technology at Delhi, led a workshop discussing the many options for getting work published. One of her books was published through a contest for poetry submissions.

“Writer’s conferences, like this Women Writers Festival, are useful,” said Domina. “Writers acquire new images, whether by interacting with others or visiting a new place, and the images improve their writing.”

“The synergy and energy at Hobart Village has been tremendous. The quality of ideas here are terrific,” said Sharpe. “Writers work in a vacuum, and festival opportunities are valuable for networking and expression.”