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Women’s Words
May07

Women’s Words

A series of programs featuring literature by women. The Women’s Words series kicks off with a lecture by Lynn Rosen: “Women’s Words: Feminist Literary Highlights from the 18th Century to Today.” This talk will start with a look at our very first women authors and novelists and move through important works over the centuries. You’ll find familiar names as well as hopefully some news ones, from Mary Wollstonecraft to Virginia Woolf to Gloria Steinem to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. After the kick-off lecture, there will be three separate book discussion classes, each examining an important work of feminist fiction. For these classes, participants will be asked to read the work ahead of time to participate in class discussion. Womens’ Words LectureDATE: Tuesday, June 9thTIME: 7pm – 8:30pmWho are our feminist literary foremothers? You may be surprised to know that their work dates back as far as the 11th century, and that even in eras dominated by male writers, they were busily “scribbling” out important works of literature. This lecture is an overview of some significant feminist literature over the past centuries. Sign up HERE CLASS #1DATE: Wednesday, May 27TIME: 7pm – 8:30pmKate Chopin’s The Awakening centers on Edna Pontellier and her struggle between her increasingly unorthodox views on femininity and motherhood and the prevailing social attitudes of the turn-of-the-century American South. We’ll examine this imporant work and also look at several other contemporary 19th century American women writers: Margaret Fuller, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and E.D.E.N. Southworth.Participants will need to read The Awakening for this class. Sign up HERE CLASS #2DATE: Monday, June 15TIME: 7pm – 8:30pmEdith Wharton’s The House of Mirth was published in 1905 and tells the story of Lily Bart, a well-born but impoverished woman belonging to New York City’s high society. Lily’s plight still rings fresh today, and we’ll discuss this classic novel, and also examine new evidence that sheds light on the author’s intentions for Lily. Sign up HERE CLASS #3DATE: Tuesday, July 7TIME: 7pm – 8:30pmVirginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, published in 1925, is a great book to return to as a reader of Woolf, and a perfect way to begin if you haven’t yet read Woolf. Either way, the story and the beauty of the language have not lessened in impact in the nearly 100 years since the book’s publication. Sign up HERE COST: Per class: $30Sign up for the series: $110 Sign up...

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Kids Write!
May07

Kids Write!

A new session in our popular online writing program for kids begins in late May! We want to encourage young writers, especially during these days when schools are closed, by giving them some new concrete skills that will help them become better writers and feel good about what they are accomplishing as young writers. Our classes combine instruction about craft and writing exercises, all at an age appropriate level. Classes are led by Lynn Rosen, owner of Open Book Productions and English, writing, and publishing instructor. (For more about Lynn see HERE.) What people are saying about Kids Write: Praise from a former student:“I really liked this writing class. I’m still enjoying writing the rest of the story I started during the class. We were given time and help to be creative and write what we wanted.” Praise from the parents of previous students: “We want to thank you for your fine work in teaching creative writing.  We appreciate your careful preparation for each lesson, your clear way of explaining things, and above all your warm encouragement of all the students.  This has been a very positive experience for our daughter and we thank you! “My kids had an excellent experience in the class.”  “Very positive, fun, educational.”  “He looked forward to the classes and enjoyed the assignments.” “The different exercises were fun. He liked the writing challenges. It helped her think about writing in new ways.” “My daughter, who is in 7th grade, took a class with Lynn in the fall. It was a great experience on so many levels. I knew my daughter was a talented writer but didnt know how to foster this talent without nagging! Lynn got the middle schoolers comfortable with her and each other right away so they could give each other feedback. The fiction piece my daughter ended up writing blew me away. The characters had serious depth and I wanted to read more! I know she is a better writer from this class! I highly recommend Kids Write for teens and tweens!” Class Details Class will meet virtually; details are below. The class is 4 weeks long, includes 4 meetings, and each meeting is an hour and 15 minutes.Cost per class is $85 Register HERE. KIDS WRITE! Storyboarding DATE: Thursday, May 28, June 4, 11, 18TIME: 11AM – 12:15PM LOCATION: via ZoomThis class takes a storytelling approach with a focus on plot development. In each class, we will create new plots and stories and then map them out fully, storyboard style. We’ll explore a variety of genres including realistic fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, graphic novels, and playwriting....

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Sitting at Emily’s Desk
May07

Sitting at Emily’s Desk

Martha Ackmann taught a seminar on Emily Dickinson for nearly two decades at Mt. Holyoke College. The seminar took place in the poet’s home, The Homestead, located in near the college in Amherst, Massachusetts. As Ackmann describes it, the class took place on the 2nd floor of the house in a bedroom across the hall from Emily’s own bedroom, around a smallish table that could only accommodate ten students at a time. What an experience to study the poet’s work in the place where she wrote it! And not only that, they had the run of the house during the class, while the house was closed to visitors. Ackmann says the class was easy to to teach: “The walls did everything.” She describes teaching one particular poem – “There’s a certain Slant of light” – and timing it to have the students read it on a November day when she knew the angle of light in the poet’s bedroom would be as she described it in the poem. Ackmann is very familiar with The Homestead, having taught there for 20 years and having lived in the area for 40. She talked about her experience when she joined us on the evening of May 6 for a talk about her new book, These Fevered Days: Ten Pivotal Moments in the Making of Emily Dickinson.  She told a story about how she was there when they were renovating Dickinson’s bedroom and, when they removed the molding around a door, they discovered layers of wallpaper underneath. Experts were called in and they got down to the oldest layer and dated it around 1880, during Dickinson’s final years. They then replicated the pattern and repapered the room. Amazing, isn’t it? That wallpaper is the design used on the cover of Ackmann’s book and it can also be seen in the photo above. She told us how the previous wallpaper was more monochromatic, which went along with the myth that Dickinson was sterile and austere. The walls are now much more vibrant and reflect the poet’s energy! These Fevered Days tells, in ten chapters, of ten pivotal days in the life of Emily Dickinson. Ackmann told attendees at our event about how she asked friends and Dickinson scholars what their top ten moments would be, and then chose her own, including a day in Dickinson’s youth when she wrote that “all things are ready,” the time in her 20s when she decided she wanted to be distinguished in her life, and all the way through to the day of her death. Ackmann worked hard and did tremendous research to make the town and the...

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Hermione is their hero
May04

Hermione is their hero

Teaching a writing class for grades 3-5 recently, I asked the students to answer the following question: If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be and why? The most popular answer (from the mostly female class): Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter books. And of course. Why wouldn’t they admire and wish to meet this smart, confident, unflappable girl? She’s proud of her intelligence, often using it to save them from dangerous situations, she’s comfortable with herself, she’s unafraid of the unknown and loves a good adventure… what could be better? She’s a great role model! Recently I was doing research for a talk on Louisa May Alcott, and I came across a similar sentiment among women of a different generation for the fictional Jo March of Little Women. She too is smart, fearless, bold, and unafraid of being judged by others. And she also had, and has, a huge influence on readers. A large number of writers, including Barbara Kingsolver, Simone de Beauvoir, Ursula K. Le Guin, Cynthia Ozick, Anne Quindlen, and – look at that! – J.K. Rowling, have said they became writers because of Jo March. How about you? If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be and...

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Actress by Anne Enright
May01

Actress by Anne Enright

Eavan Boland, the revered Irish poet who taught at Stanford University for decades, died recently. In a country where male authors often dominate the literary landscape, she was noted as one of the premier Irish women writers. Several years ago, when she appeared at the Free Library of Philadelphia, I covered the event for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and I had the opportunity to interview her (you can read my Inquirer article HERE). She was kind, thoughtful articulate, and insightful. And when I asked who her favorite contemporary Irish writers were, without hesitation she said Edna O’Brien and Anne Enright. I say all of this first of all, as a tribute to Boland’s life and work, and also as a lead-in to writing about Enright’s new novel, Actress. Anne Enright’s method of telling a story will never take you on an easy path from point A to point B. As Ron Charles says in his review in The Washington Post, “The chronology would appear no more ordered than the flow of anecdotes around a dinner table, but there’s always a design to Enright’s novels, a gradual coalescing of insight.” We gather information as we go along and, in some ways, the reader is left to figure it all out once they finish the book. Her writing gives us a slow accrual of brilliant insight. Norah’s mother was the famous Irish actress Katherine O’Dell, she of the glorious hazel eyes and red hair (and whose secret, that Norah guarded, was that she was actually born in England), a star of many years of stage and screen. But no, not a star… “We did not use the word star,” Norah tells us. Stars are made; actresses are born. Norah grew up in a household in Dublin with her mother and a longtime housekeeper. She did not know who her father was, and she had a loving, if tumultuous, relationship with her mother. And while Norah was able to have a somewhat ordinary upbringing, for her mother: “… she walked out the door and was famous all day.” We learn early on that Katherine is no longer alive. In fact, Norah is now the age that Katherine was when she died: 58. Norah, unlike her mother, is in a longterm loving marriage; Enright makes a point of exploring the ups and downs inherent in such a relationship, the emotional aspects as well as the physical intimacy of it. In part, Enright has said, this book is not just an exploration of a mother/daughter relationship but also a “conversation about marriage,” and she hopes to “reclaim ideas of agency in desire.” As the person...

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