December 1, 2015

For Your Consideration:
A Panel of Editors

Guest Blogger: Samantha Wooddt.common.streams.StreamServer

This article appeared in The Recorder online edition, Wednesday, November 25, 2015, and in print the following day. Straw Dog Writers Guild is grateful for the author’s permission to republish it here.


If you are a writer who aims to get published, then it is likely you know what it feels like to work up the courage to send out a piece of fiction, an essay or poem to a journal in the hopes that it will be selected. And it is likely you have asked yourself: what are the editors looking for?

The Straw Dog Writers Guild recently put on an event at the Lilly Library in Florence that gets to the heart of this question. On a Saturday morning this fall, the guild gathered editors from four well-known journals published in western Massachusetts. The editors shared their insights and anecdotes on what they are looking for and what it is like to put out a journal.

The editors were Diana Babineau, managing editor of The Common; Emily Wojcik, managing editor of The Massachusetts Review; Elizabeth MacDuffie, editor of Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, and Lori Desrosiers, managing editor and publisher of Naugatuck River Review.

The room was packed to capacity.

The most important piece of advice, repeated by each editor with emphasis, is to read the journals you are thinking of sending your work. Become familiar with what they choose to publish, the style, tone, subject matter.

“Reading an issue is crucial,” said Wojcik. She said The Massachusetts Review, which has been publishing since 1959, is committed to publishing emerging writers next to established writers. She said the journal is looking for pieces of writing that have “real interest in the world beyond the self.”

MacDuffie said Meat for Tea is about to turn 10 and that it was founded with something of a punk-rock sensibility, while setting the bar high for quality. The journal, published quarterly, is not academically affiliated. “Art that offends no one … that’s not worth a damn,” said MacDuffie. She said the journal likes to feature artists and writers in the Pioneer Valley, but publishes work from around the world, from emerging and well-known artists.

Babineau described The Common as a print and online literary magazine, publishing high quality literature examining ideas of place. It was founded in 2010 and makes its home at Amherst College. The magazine also considers “global histories and works in translation.” The Common publishes in print twice a year, in the fall and spring, and publishes new work online four times per week.

Desrosiers started Naugatuck River Review “on a whim” and said it is a journal of “compressed narrative, strong emotion … and great quality” poetry. The journal is published twice a year. She is also an editor for Word Peace, an online literary journal devoted to social justice. According to its website,, Word Peace is looking for “… work that asks for positive change and is forward thinking. We publish writing that takes a stand against corruption and greed, brutality, genocide, and oligarchy.”

Reading the journals themselves is the best way to get a sense of the sort of writing editors are choosing to publish. Along with this basic idea of acquainting yourself with the journal, Desrosiers adds, “For goodness sake, read the (submission) guidelines on any journal.” These vary. Some publications accept submissions electronically only, while a few still accept hard copies in the mail. But don’t get this wrong because it will likely mean that your submission will never get read.

On the topic of what they are looking for, MacDuffie, whose journal accepts work in many genres, including visual art and recipes, almost begs the audience “ send me more essays … give me a well-crafted essay, please.”

Wojcik of the Mass Review seconds that, “we have a dearth of nonfiction; we’re always looking for nonfiction …”

Desrosiers, nodding, adds, “Word Peace is looking for nonfiction, especially essays.”

When asked how important the cover letter is, the editors agreed that it isn’t all that important. Don’t send in your resume, they add, but do mention if the journal has published your work previously.

On the topic of feedback, there is a range of interaction between writers and editors, depending on the journal. According to Babineau, The Common editors will sometimes work with a writer when they think a piece is nearly ready for publication, but could be improved, while Meat for Tea does not alter work. MacDuffie said she either accepts the work or rejects it.

Another way to get to know the work published in local journals is to attend public events they host. Each of these journals hosts readings to celebrate their publications. The Common also records podcasts available on its website. The Naugatuck River Review hosts a contest every year and holds public readings. Meat for Tea hosts quarterly cirques to mark the launch of each issue. These are multi-artform evenings including short films, a gallery of visual art, spoken word and music at Sonelab in Easthampton. The Massachusetts Review publishes a blog and videos and is accepting submission of longer form fiction and nonfiction for its Working Titles ebook project.

All of the journals have Facebook pages.

November 1, 2015

Join us for 30 Poems in November!

Guest Blogger: Jean Blakeman

Now in its 7th year, 30 Poems in November! is an important and inspiring fundraiser for Center for New Americans. Center for New Americans, headquartered in Northampton, Massachusetts, provides free English classes, citizenship assistance, and other services to the immigrant and refugee population of western Massachusetts.  It is a great organization with an offering of remarkable classes and programs.

This project depends on poets! Poets sign up to write one poem a day in November, and ask friends and families to sponsor them. The donations support the work of Center for New Americans. While poets have complete autonomy in terms of topic and form, the theme of immigration underlies the entire project. Some participating poets are immigrants who write in their native language. Some students, in the free English classes at Center for New Americans, participate and write poems in English and other languages. Some poets focus their poems on the immigrant experience, either in their own family or related to news of immigration crises around the world.

What I love about 30 Poems in November:

  • It works for the participating poets, as a structure for the writing life. Writing one poem every day for a month is daunting, challenging, inspiring.
  • It works for Center for New Americans, which depends on the generosity of donors to ensure that its programs continue to meet the needs of immigrants.
  • It works for donors, who can support the poet in their life (even if the donors don’t like poetry) while contributing to the larger community.

As 2015 chair of this fundraiser, I have talked to many poets who are concerned not about writing one poem a day (challenging as that may be), but about asking friends, family and colleagues to support their efforts. I share, from experience, that many donors appreciate the opportunity to support the cause of literacy, and celebrate the essential role of immigration in the daily life of our nation .Please join us in support of this amazing event and come to the reading on December 8, 2015. To register, visit the Facebook page, 30 Poems in November at and click the Sign Up button.

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Jean Blakeman is a volunteer at Center for New Americans. She lives and writes in Williamsburg, MA.

October 1, 2015

Mini Craft Lesson

Missy Wick, Blog Editor

Last month I had the pleasure of attending the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference and working with Bread Loaf Fellow Brando Skyhorse, author of the novel The Madonnas of Echo Park and memoir Take This Man. In his memoir Skyhorse describes his unusual family history:

When he was three years old, Brando Kelly Ulloa was abandoned by his Mexican father. His mother, Maria, dreaming of a more exciting life, saw no reason for her son to live his life as a Mexican just because he started out as one. The life of “Brando Skyhorse,” the American Indian son of an incarcerated political activist, was about to begin.

Skyhorse also worked in publishing and he graciously shared his editorial wisdom with our workshop. One topic of discussion was the well-worn adage “show don’t tell.” What does this admonishment really mean? Consider this five-point checklist:

1. There is Action: something must happen, usually at the beginning of the scene.

2. There is Dialog: it should help us understand the character or advance the plot.

3. We see Inner Point Of View: When a protagonist gets new information or experiences a new event s/he must:

– React

– Reflect

– Reply

4. Specific intimate details: These are concrete details that you (the author) and you alone are capable of revealing.

5. There is a definitive starting and stopping point.

Do you have any great scenes that illustrate the use of these five points? If so, please share them with us in your comments!
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Missy Wick is a writer, psychologist, and Lecturer in the Psychology Department at Smith College.



September 1, 2015

Inside The Young Writer’s Nest

Youth in Creative Writing Workshops – Part 2


Guest Blogger:  Lynn Bowmaster

unnamed-3It’s 4:10 on a Wednesday and I’m preparing to host Woven Word Young Writers. One by one the writers arrive, drop their backpacks at the door and head into my kitchen. S. takes over the air popper so I can pull the brownies out of the oven. E. and C. swing onto stools and start to dress the three bowls of popcorn. There’s one bowl for “the works“– (nutritional yeast, olive oil and salt), one for salt and oil, and one for just salt. C. plucks a kernel from the big bowl and tries it. “It needs more yeast,” she says. E. nods and sprinkles more over the bowl.

Over the years members of Woven Word Young Writers have gently hijacked snack preparation and delivery. Now they cut the brownies and divide the loot according to their own rules.. They developed this smorgasbord of bowls and toppings. Now when a new member joins they can explain it all in detail as they welcome them into their small gang of writers.

They like these traditions and I do too. I want writers to feel safe, to approach writing as adventure, to let some things work and others fail. Here in the kitchen over bowls of popcorn I watch them build the social space they need to take risks in their writing.


Now It’s 4:15. B. trucks in with her long legs forward and her head cast down. She’s ticked off about her school day and everyone immediately joins in. Homework assignments are bad mouthed and E. does a snide imitation of a lunch monitor as they bark, “10 second hug!” This makes M’s eyes pop. “What? At our school even teachers hug students!” E. shrugs.   It’s her school; that’s just how it is. With ten writers from eight schools there’s plenty to compare


It’s 4:25. I go to the front room where the writing circle waits. I fuss with my program materials stacked up on my old yellow chair. As prepared as I am I have a big job ahead. It’s up to me to connect but not invade, inspire but not require, corral but not suppress.

Like a real nest this workshop is a circle of support, and it’s carefully woven. Through a delicate balance of freedom and suggested instruction I help each writer believe in their own fledgling voice. They need this faith to keep testing its awesome capacity for flight.

Each week we start with a prompt set up to allow writers to improve a skill or try a new perspective or form.   Today our first writing period will focus on odes, followed immediately by “free write” when members continue work from weeks before or start new pieces. At the start of the second period I will offer new material such as photos, objects or line prompts read out loud. Even though many work on continuing pieces they may use these prompts to add plot. Others may start a new piece in this period as well.


4:30: Above the chatter lines I call the writers to our task. People flow into the front room, get their notebooks and settle down. I welcome them to workshop and to our opening reading. As the year goes by I vary the material we read as much as possible — Shel Silverstein, W.S. Merwin, Lucille Clifton, Wislawa Szymborska, Ruth Ozeki, Dav Pilkey, Terry Pratchett and many others. I want them to feel they belong to a circle that loves the written word in all its glorious color.

However, today there’s only so much time. I begin with Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to the Hummingbird”. I love sharing the luxury of his language with them. After Neruda I read “Ode to Bacon”, a poem by J. P. G written here in this room when J. was eight. It oozes humor and includes the line “bacon – that greasy, slimy, food of the ages!” When I finish everyone is laughing.   In my heart I feel both of these poems are perfect. Hopefully now the prompt will be inspiring but also accessible.

I sit back and smile at them. Then I invite the writers to gorge on odes, their delicious invitation to celebrate life. I ask them to write in adoring words about one thing that they love. Soon most of them are bent down, scribbling out lines. There’s no time to waste. We have only two hours together and we know our time will fly.

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unnamed-4Lynn Bowmaster is a writer, mother, and Director of Woven Word Young Writers, a creative writing workshop program that meets at her home, on her houseboat, and in school classrooms. Her workshops grew out of her background in community organizing, her training with Amherst Writers & Artists, her passion for literature, and her delight in the work of young writers. For more information contact Lynn Bowmaster here.


Note: this essay is reposted with permission of The Public Humanist.

July 15, 2015

Zine Radio

Guest Blogger: Margaret Crocker, Smith College

Recently, NPR’s This American Life did a story, called “Freedom Fries,” on women’s voices on the radio — and how This American Life receives correspondence criticizing young female contributors.

According to critics, women’s voices suffer from “vocal fry,” a guttural sound that a voice can make when holding a tone too long. While It’s simply a way of pausing that we have learned, studies show that people who hear vocal fry consider the speaker to be less competent. My response roughly matched that of the criticizers: irritated, and a little upset. At the same time, I am aware that this annoyed response is a problem.

So I brought it up with a friend of mine. She graduated from Smith College, identifies as a feminist, and yet she expressed the same sentiment as those who wrote in to NPR. “Yeah, but it’s super annoying,” she said. I’ll add that she said this casually, with vocal fry, and, as the critics would say, without authority.

In a way she’s right, but only in that she has been conditioned to understand the female voice, and more specifically the young female voice (her own voice) as un-academic, casual, and thus unable to speak with authority, even on something she is versed in. This friend is an avid podcast listener. Moreover, what does she have more authority on than her own opinion? Even if I disagree with what she has to say, I believe she should be taken seriously when she says it, no matter how she says it.

I created Zine Radio to show that girls, no matter how they talk, can speak with authority, even in a casual setting. I put young women in conversation with professors, mentors and individuals who are well regarded in their fields to show that even with vocal quirks, these young women have something to say. The podcast teaches listeners about various art forms from performance art to dance to many kinds of writing. Most of my interviews sound more like conversations, and involve passing the microphone back and forth in the studio. For my first episode, I interviewed another student about the process of writing a screenplay. She also reads a piece of her own fiction. I like podcasting because it gives writers – artists who don’t normally have a means of performing – a place to read their work.

Much of what young women are doing in the arts, sciences and academic fields is good, concentrated work and, in my experience, it is somehow rooted in their personal identities. Recorded interviews convey a sense of personal attachment and urgency that gets lost in even the best secondary sources. There is strength and a resonance in hearing one’s story in one’s own voice.

My work with this podcast is no exception. While I don’t love my voice, and I listen to it a lot as I edit the podcast, the point of the podcast isn’t that I sound like the perfect radio correspondent; it’s to hear what I, and the women I interview, are saying. And we’re saying some pretty great things. Listen for yourself here.

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Margaret Crocker is a writer, studies art history and English at Smith College and lives in Northampton. She has worked with Red Oak Writing in her hometown, Milwaukee. She edits the podcast Zine Radio and her writing has been published in Labrys, Smith’s literary magazine.

June 15, 2015

Changing the World, One Writer at a Time:

Community Outreach in Holyoke MA

Guest Blogger: Kathy Dunn


Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 10.31.19 PMFor the first half of the twentieth century, Holyoke was one of the wealthiest and most arts-rich cities in the nation. Today, its citizens have the lowest average income and the lowest literacy rates in the state. Since the spring of 2013, I’ve been leading writing projects with children ages 9-13 in Holyoke’s public schools and community agencies. I’m not sure who has benefitted more.

Creative writing is both an art and a tool for change. What makes this medium even more compelling is the connection between writing and literacy. And literacy skills impact learning in all arenas, across all ages and stages.

My work in Holyoke began with a small workshop for girls at the Holyoke Boys & Girls Club, using Amherst Writers & Artists methods.  “My” girls want to know all about the world around them, and they have something to say about everything. I can’t think of a better set of qualities for a writer – or a better way to develop strong voices in preparation for middle school.

In the spring of 2014, I led a writing workshop for fourth graders in a neighborhood public school. Twice weekly, families delivered their sons and daughters to school early – to write, share, and respond to each other’s stories. We made a lot of noise, and gained a lot of confidence. At the end of the year when it came time to measure reading levels – one indicator of literacy – these students had progressed at three times the rate of their classmates.

This year, I lead five writing groups, both before and during the school day. I’m often at a loss to articulate how hard, and at the same time how rewarding, this work is. My students live with uncertainty about things I take for granted. Poverty impacts their lives in every way – and caring about students means carrying small heart breaks every day. 

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.35.22 AMStill, every child comes to school wanting to learn. Their teachers and administrators are some of the most resourceful and dedicated professionals I’ve ever met. And for two years now, Holyoke’s schools, agencies, and community partners have worked together to build a citywide Literacy Initiative. Their goal: to identify, align, and orchestrate literacy efforts wherever children spend time across the day. This includes a large effort to engage parents and families in literacy learning, as well.

The city’s efforts have won national recognition, and even as the State begins a controversial receivership of the public schools, officials recognize, and express commitment to building upon, the city’s ongoing efforts.

Learning is at stake for some of our most vulnerable children, and there are no simple answers.  So I write. I journal, ponder, and consider. Then I plan for the next day’s groups. Writing helps me balance the complexity of forces that impact my work with children on a daily basis.  What I can say for certain is that my days are more challenging, my skills are deeper, and my world is far bigger and richer.


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KathyKathy Dunn is Founder and Director of Main Street Writers, offering creative writing workshops and daylong retreats for adults in the Pioneer Valley.  Her work has been published in literary journals, anthologies and magazines; she has also received numerous grants for her work with children and teens. Kathy is currently writing reams about her work with children and literacy in Holyoke.


May 15, 2015

Take Your Poet To Work Day

Coloring Book

Guest Blogger: Missy Wick

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Looking for the perfect birthday present for your poetic partner? Check out tweatspeak’s “Take Your Poet to Work Day” Coloring Book. The annual celebration of poetic genius has passed, but the fun continues. Just download the free book (below), cut out your poet of choice, color – in the lines or out – and adhere him or her to a stick. Now your poet – Emily Dickinson, Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, John Keats, or one of a host of others – is ready to accompany you wherever you go.

The folks at tweetspeak suggest you could:

– Print one for all your coworkers.

– Leave coloring pages on the cafeteria table.

– Give them to your customers.

You can also park your poet by your keyboard, near the shower (you might want to laminate), or next to the door, ready to grab when you go moor striding for inspiration.

You can download the coloring book here. Take stick poet selfies, and send them to us here; we’ll post them on the blog and share the literary fun.


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April 15, 2015

The Freedom to Play with Words:

Youth in Creative Writing Workshops

Guest Blogger: Lynn Bowmaster

unnamed-3On any given day or night living rooms across the Pioneer Valley are filled with adults in writing workshops, curled up with their notebooks and laptops. Like plants coaxed in a greenhouse, stories and poetry unfold in these circles, fragile and beautiful. There is something stunning about the experience itself. The atmosphere almost shimmers with the power of creation.

For most adults who attend workshops they’re not just mild amusement; they are one of the anchors of their week. New things are discovered about oneself in a writing workshop, new perspectives on life.

Meanwhile our children do most of their writing in school. Inside the classroom writing begins with instruction on how to hold a pencil, form letters, write on a line, spell words, and organize them into grammatically correct sentences.   This is a complicated obstacle course of tasks. It’s easy for both students and teachers to feel overwhelmed. In the midst of efforts to clear each hurdle “to get it right” it’s hard to marry the imagination with the process. In fact there are so many ways to get writing “wrong” that children who struggle with any part of the process may conclude “I’m just not a writer”.

Our best language arts teachers are motivated by a desire to awaken the student’s essential self through literature and writing. Yet state and national curriculum do not emphasize creative writing. As a result most writing curriculum is designed to guide the student toward the five paragraph essay, the research paper, and the college entrance essay.

If you think about it, many young students might be surprised to hear their school writing efforts have anything to do with the ideas in their heads as they bounce along the sidewalk, or the random rhyme that belongs to them, or the biggest stories in their lives. How sad. These stories, laugh lines, and whispers of poetry are important. They are parts of their identities and possibly some of the best material to motivate young writers.

In 2000, when my son was in 3rd grade, I began my first writing workshop for children to provide an inviting space for their creative expression. On one Friday afternoon the Hadley school bus suddenly began to spit out not just one boy but a riotous pile of boys and girls who exploded onto our driveway and ran up the steps where another parent, Kathy Wicks, and I herded them in.

I started with my favorite poems about the beauty of nature or the longing of the human heart.   They read back stories filled with fart jokes, silly brothers, car chases, and terrible deaths that everyone seemed to adore.   Writers climbed all over each other (literally) to read their pieces to the group, stories like “Worm Wars”, “The Quest of Hecereny” and “The Final Hours of Barney the Dinosaur”.   I saw that these workshops mattered to these kids, most of them boys. Many of them came on Fridays for another nine years.

Soon I had a second workshop and this group of girls also fell in love with their creative nest. They met on Tuesdays, lying across one another like wayward scarves.   They freaked out about spiders and fire alarms, wrote beautiful poetry and haunting stories.

Today there is a small beehive of workshops here in my home. Across the week forty writers from 3rd – 12th grade pour into the writing room with its couches, chairs, bookshelves, wall quilts and a reigning poster of Harry Potter. (There is one lazy boy recliner but you have to arrive early.)

They come because writing, listening, and being together as a “writers clan” is both relaxing and exciting. Prompts are designed to leave product-oriented assignments behind and open the imagination.

After fifteen years I know what to do. The writers in the room are at the height of their creative power. Oh, there are things they don’t know — exactly how to get to an end point, how to cut and shape, to buff and polish the edges of stories. And there are stories they have not yet lived. But! Their palette is so wide, the agility of their creativity so obvious. I often feel as though I have to stop and pinch myself as the workshop takes hold of a prompt. It’s like the start of a roller coaster ride – you leave the gate in a swoop and you’re guaranteed twisted turns and a bit of breathlessness. It’s the kind of a place where you’re wide awake and you know you are alive. And that’s a good thing.


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unnamed-4Lynn Bowmaster is a writer, mother, and Director of Woven Word Young Writers, a creative writing workshop program that meets at her home, on her houseboat, and in school classrooms. Her workshops grew out of her background in community organizing, her training with Amherst Writers & Artists, her passion for literature, and her delight in the work of young writers. For more information contact Lynn Bowmaster here.


Note: this essay is reposted with permission of The Public Humanist.



March 1, 2015

An Artist’s Tools

Guest Blogger: Jenny Sechler

I have been picky about pens all my life. I prefer roller balls with a medium or fine tip – extra fine is too scratchy. Felt tips are an acceptable substitute; ballpoints are out of the question. My current writing implement, in place for at least 10 years, is a Uni-Ball Vision rollerball pen.

When I was in high school, I collected pens in an array of colors. With time, I became increasingly insistent on black ink – and I now feel uncomfortable writing in any other color …even if it’s just a grocery list. Writing with black ink suits my personality in several ways. I like to become lost in the crowd, and hate drawing attention to myself. In this way, I imagine writing with bright colors is akin to wearing a hot pink dress.

Every writer has his or her reasons for choosing one writing tool over another. Virginia Woolf biographer Katherine Dalsimer writes of Woolf’s feelings about writing instruments as “playful,” noting: “the very implements of writing are endowed with spirit, with animation.”  Who is to say what these choices convey about a writer’s temperament, history , political convictions, social conditions, or identity?  According to an article in The Atlantic, my preference for a roller ball means: “You have aspirations.”  I suppose I do have aspirations, but then again, thats a pretty safe assumption, since most folks do.

If I have nothing else in common with great writers across the decades, my insistence on certain writing tools puts me squarely in their illustrious company. A list from Flavorwire reveals a preference for fountain pens among writers as diverse as Neil Gaiman, Simone DeBeauvior, and Stephen King. Other writers, including Truman Capote, John Steinbeck, and Henry David Thoreau, preferred pencil – a format I personally see as risky, given the impermanence implied in the very existence of the eraser.

Neil Gaiman describes his preference for fountain pens, which started in 1994 while he was writing Stardust, like this:

“I found myself enjoying writing more slowly and liked the way I had to think through sentences differently. I discovered I loved the fact that handwriting forces you to do a second draft, rather than just tidying up and deleting bits on a computer. I also discovered I enjoy the tactile buzz of the ritual involved in filling the pens with ink.”

Gaiman’s reflections on how the pen shapes the process of writing are not unusual among writers. My first drafts always start on paper; I then transfer them to the computer, read it over, and begin revising. Pen on paper also serves well for longer stretches of revision. I feel more connected to my words through the process of moving my hand across the page. The ink and paper allow my words to take a physical form. The computer screen is a weak substitute.

Which leads me to wonder how writers’ relationships with their instruments have changed with the advent of the personal computer. As a Gen-exer who grew up with typewriters (albeit electric ones), approaching a large writing project with my hands on a keyboard seems laborious and inefficient. Still, I see many people my age and older bringing laptops to writing workshops – out of which they produce beautiful, spontaneous pieces.

Ultimately, no matter how good the pen feels, words are what really excite us with their “spirit and animation.” If there were no roller balls or fountain pens or pencils we will still find ways to write.


Jenny Miller Sechler is a writer living in Leeds.

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How about you: what tools do you turn to for writing…? Do you have favorites?

…Does the medium influence the message?

February 1, 2015

Sisterhood is Still Powerful

Guest Blogger: Ellen Meeropol

Sisters are great, for people and for nonprofits. Sisters share the ups and downs of life. They share friends and values (well, not always), and clothes (okay, so nonprofits don’t wear clothes). For a nonprofit organization like Straw Dog Writers Guild, relying entirely on volunteer labor, sister organizations are especially precious. So we are lucky to share family ties with the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, celebrating their fifth anniversary next month.

Every March, our Berkshire sisters celebrate Women’s History Month with an amazing calendar of events dedicated to the creative force of women writers. The Berkshire Festival of Women Writers hosts events – at least one every day of the month, and most of them are free – in more than 30 venues across Berkshire County. They include writing workshops and lectures, readings and performances aimed at all writers – from beginners to professionals, from teens to seniors.


The range of topics offered is impressive. Here are a few that sound particularly interesting:

  • From Zero to One: First Books and What We Wish We’d Known, panel discussion
  • Out of the Mouths of Babes, An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others
  • Risky Business, reading and discussion about confronting one’s own truth as a writer and the perils of taking on difficult, sometimes forbidden, material.
  • The Permission to Write, keynote speaker Dani Shapiro
  • Anatomy of an Indie Novel: Moving from Concept to Publication
  • Learning to Speak Our Capital-T Truth: Women of Color on Self-Discovery
  • Words Aloud, workshop on reading your work in public.
  • Border Crossings: Writing About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Workshop
  • Writing Our Lives as Fiction and Memoir, workshop aimed at women who are beginning to write as well as those who have written either fiction or memoir and would like to transition to the other genre
  • Poetry from the Ground Up, workshop incorporating both physical and verbal centering exercises, interweaving approaches from martial arts and writing practices.
  • My Life in Comics: exhibition and gallery talk


The Berkshire Festival of Women Writers Book Expo is a new event this year, scheduled for Sunday afternoon, March 29, in Pittsfield. The Expo offers an opportunity to mingle and talk with authors, publishing companies, writing programs, and booksellers in the Berkshire region, along with other related businesses and vendors. Also: readings, children’s activities, raffles, and lots of great books! Straw Dog will be there, with a table of our members’ work, supporting our sister.

I plan to attend as many of the Berkshire Festival events as possible and hope to see you there. Check out the full schedule of events hereand support your sisters.

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Elli.2Ellen Meeropol is the author of two novels, House Arrest and On Hurricane Island. A former nurse practitioner, part-time bookseller, and literary late bloomer, Ellen’s short fiction and essay publications include Bridges, DoveTales, Pedestal, Rumpus, Portland Magazine, Beyond the Margins, The Drum, and The Writers Chronicle. Her website is