A meat cutter, a yoga teacher, a pilot, a musician and a university chancellor, among others, got together Sept. 23 for a reading. They were part of 10 Alaska women who read from their published work during YWCA’s annual Alaska Women Writers at the Anchorage Museum of History and Art.
As a non-profit organization, the YWCA’s mission is to eliminate racism and empower women. This fundraiser supports YWCA’s many programs that foster leadership qualities and enable women to become their own advocates for economic and social equality. After 13 years of readings, the fundraiser has evolved from choral readings of a script relating to Alaska to a celebration of Alaska’s women writers.
“It speaks to the idea of diversity, not just race, but diversity in age, background, career, all forms,” said Debbie LaFleiche, an Alaska Women Writers committee member.
Ten women, Arlitia Jones, Andromeda Romano-Lax, Monica Devine, Marybeth Holleman, Elaine Maimon, Olena Kalytiak Davis, Ellen Paneok, Linda Schandelmeier, Laurel A. Bill and Janet Martin, read or sang from their writings. Their publications amass to books about travel, children, writing, poetry, novels, newspaper columns and songs.
“An event like this empowers women and goes beyond to empower the audience,” LaFleiche said. “Every year people leave the theater inspired to write.”
The audience of more than 100, mostly women of all ages, listened to snippets of stories and poems about dogs, housekeeping, flying, music, travels to the North Slope, Prince William Sound, daughters, mothers, husbands, lovers and warts. The authors read from the heart, with conviction, sentiment, pride and humor. A songwriter sang from her songs a cappella.
“I really enjoyed the fact they included a musical artist as well as prose and poetry,” said Karen Benning, a graduate fine arts student at the University of Alaska Anchorage. “More of the community could benefit from this (event). It applies not just to writers, but anyone who enjoys reading and music.”
Several of the speakers had connections to UAA, such as Laurel A. Bill, who is an UAA alumna, Marybeth Holleman and Arlitia Jones, who are creative writing professors, and UAA Chancellor Elaine Maimon.
After 22 years in telecommunications, Bill went back to college. In 2003, she graduated from UAA with a degree in journalism. She found her gift of writing and now writes two columns, “Aunt Phil’s Trunk” and “Wacky Alaskan,” for the Anchorage Chronicle.
Bill had the audience rolling with a humorous story about her family’s vacation to Mexico and a whimsical horseback riding excursion.
Maimon is the co-author four books. One of her publications, “A Writer’s Resource: A Handbook for Writers and Researchers,” provides students with a resource for learning, writing, researching and editing. As a champion for writing, she introduced her piece, an essay about her family connection to teaching and writing.
“We are all writers,” Maimon said.