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2017-09-13 / Front Page

Hobart’s Festival of Women Writers, Another Shining Success

By Rosie Cunningham


Poet Rachel Eliza Griffiths read on the last day of the Festival of Women Writers in Hobart. 
Rosie Cunningham/The Reporter Poet Rachel Eliza Griffiths read on the last day of the Festival of Women Writers in Hobart. Rosie Cunningham/The Reporter HOBART - It was a weekend of creativity, friendship and quite a but of fun in the village of Hobart for the Festival of Women Writers (FWW) which kicked off Friday, Sept. 8, and ran through Sunday, Sept. 10.

The annual event has become highly anticipated, unique among cultural happenings in the Catskill Region, especially in Delaware County. The Festival celebrated its fifth year in the Hobart Book Village, “the reading capital of New York state.”

Hobart hosted a diversity of working women writers, and Main Street was busy with workshops, readings and other writing activities. Novelists, short story and young adult fiction writers, memoirists, poets and bloggers were all represented.

Over the past four years, the Festival brought fifty-two published writers, who presented seventy-three workshops and forty-one author readings. They also attracted an estimated three-hundred plus attendees to Hobart, a town of 400 residents.


The public readings by talented authors of the Festival of Women Writers were well attended. 
Rosie Cunningham/The Reporter The public readings by talented authors of the Festival of Women Writers were well attended. Rosie Cunningham/The Reporter This year, the featured writers included Sandra Rodriguez Barron, Elana Bell, Nancy K. Bereano, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, Breena Clarke, Cheryl Clarke, Blanche Wiesen Cook, Esther Cohen, Julie Enszer, Margot Farrington, Jewelle Gomez, Sonya Huber, Mary Johnson, Marianela Medrano, Kamilah Aisha Moon, Stephanie Nikolopoulos, Elisabeth Nonas, Sophfronia Scott, Elizabeth Searle, Martha Southgate.

In addition to the above mentioned authors, on Sunday, poet Rachel Eliza Griffiths “Lighting the Shadow,” read, as well as Kathy Engel “Ruth’s Skirts” and Alexis Pauline Gumbs “Spill.”

Seven additional authors read aloud to the public and there were flash readings on Saturday and a panel discussion regarding arts and politics on Friday.


Alexis Pauline Gumb provided wit and humor at the FWW on Sunday at the Hobart Community Center. 
Rosie Cunningham/The Reporter Alexis Pauline Gumb provided wit and humor at the FWW on Sunday at the Hobart Community Center. Rosie Cunningham/The Reporter Griffiths was a shining standout, moving many in the audience with her clear and personal pieces - many which touch upon the topic of death or an instance of loss. She shared works old and new, but always moving - particularly in regards to the poems about the death of her mother.

“Seeing the Body,” is a poem by Griffiths about her mother’s death. A piece from the poem reads:

“Last night they dragged me howling from her body in the room. The room had a name, number 3315, in the cardiac wing. In the room

I saw her winged shape leave, rise, forgive the vessel that fled her. Now mine or ours, I stare in the mirror while everyone sleeps the aggrieved sleep of the living. Behind my eyes a dead woman looks back at me with no trace of recognition. I say ‘Mother’

& my own feral mouth opens. Closes without any light.”

Engel, world-renowned poet and social activist, teacher at New York University, read aloud her works which were laced with politics, strength, anger and social justice. The educator and activist wrote a new work called “What Are You For?” in reference to her political beliefs.

The last reader of the FWW was Alexis Pauline Gumbs, a poet, independent scholar, and activist who uses humor in her pieces - even when the topic is not. She read exerts from her book “Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity” as well as new works.

“This festival has been a life changing experience,” said Gumbs.

According to Cheryl Clark, who founded the Festival of Women Writers with Barbara Balliet, she was encouraged to create the event by her sister, Breena Clarke, organizer of the festival and author of the novels “River, Cross My Heart” and “Stand the Storm.”

“She attended an event out west and asked me why we didn’t have one here,” said Clarke. “I had a network of truly talented writers in this area and over time, we raised money and I reached out to writers who I knew would add to the festival. The first year, we had about 70 individuals attend. It was immediately a hit.”

Hobart is home to six unique, independently-owned bookstores and Clarke believes it is the perfect venue for talented women writers to bring their talent and sisterhood to light.

“Knowing I have an audience for my work has helped me continue to write. Working on the Festival since 2013 has been a way to continue connecting with new audiences— and a new community of writers.” stated Clarke on the FWW Facebook page.

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