Perhaps the date was a coincidence, but there we were: four women writers from Athens and Hocking counties, in various states of relatively well-concealed nervousness, reading our work in the open space outside Baker Center’s Multicultural Gallery.
Inside the gallery, the artwork of a diverse group of Appalachian women artists glowed. As we read, escalators hummed, and people gliding up or down peered and maybe caught a line or two. Some passersby stopped and listened for a moment, some stayed. The chairs lined up before us filled. A web of connection drew us all close, even in that huge echo-y space — such is the power of deeply felt, bravely articulated language.
I felt honored to be a part of this event that was bringing so many creative women together with a warm and eager audience. That was the beginning of what has become an ongoing series, sponsored by Women of Appalachia, the brainchild of artist Kari Gunter-Seymour. This fall the Multicultural Gallery is once again hosting a show by local and regional women artists, including Gunter-Seymour.
I met Kari in March, 2009, at that first “Women Speak” reading, and have enjoyed catching sparks off her pinwheel creativity ever since. A photographer and writer herself, she bursts with the desire to encourage other Appalachian women to discover their voices and share their stories, whatever their “language” (poetry, song, paint, fabric.). She knows how empowering it is to speak up and be heard.
In September, 2010, when the Women Speak reading was held at ARTS/West, it was interrupted by the tornado that ripped through Athens County that night. Led by the unflappable Emily Prince and her able crew, everyone filed to the basement, where chairs were set up and a microphone found, and the reading continued. Not even a tornado could stop these women’s voices, or keep their audience from listening to them!
On March 15, 2013, ARTS/West will host the next Women Speak event. I, along with other members of the WOA advisory forum, invite you women writers out there to throw open the doors to your writing closets and share your work with us, your community. Poets, fiction writers, essayists, songwriters - we need to hear from all of you!
We invite women 15 and older who are currently living in Athens and surrounding counties to send in work. (An application can be found at the Women of Appalachia website http://womenofappalachiaevents.com/.) There is great joy in speaking up and speaking out. Someone is listening. Someone needs to hear your story. Come tell it. We’ll all be glad you did.