women writersPoet Julie Bruck, journalist/novelist Vanessa Hua and fifteen Bay Area writers “amazed and moved” an appreciative crowd of 75 women and men Saturday, March 25 at WOW! Voices Now, Skyline College’s annual spring literary event celebrating the achievements of women writers.

Featured authors Bruck and Hua read from their recent books, Monkey Ranch and Deceit and Other Possibilities, and responded to a variety of audience questions related to creative process, genre crossing, literary ethics, and other issues of concern to writers. They warmly greeted attendees individually, signed books, and offered encouragement and advice.

Professor Katharine Harer presented awards to two outstanding creative writing students, Justine Alano and Beatrice Choi. Justine received the ISA Award, honoring writer and longtime WOW presenter Isabelle Maynard. Beatrice received the Joyce Unger Award, in honor of a beloved and influential Skyline College professor who died in December. Founder of Skyline College’s Women in Transition (WIT) program and organizer for the local unit of American Federation of Teachers, Joyce Unger mentored thousands of students and activists. Her husband Richard Unger and her colleague Rich Yurman attended the event to congratulate Beatrice personally.

Justine Alano, a second year student at Skyline and spoken word artist, is a psychology major who plans to transfer to UC Davis to continue her studies.  Selected for the award by her current creative writing instructor, Professor Rob Williams, she stunned the crowd with the powerful reading of her poem confronting cancer in her family.

Beatrice Choi, an outstanding student in Kathleen McClung’s fall semester creative writing class, works as clinical director in ambulatory care at the Fort Miley VA Medical Center in San Francisco. Beatrice uses her writing to give voice to “many struggling and wandering immigrant youth and adults suffering loneliness in the process of finding a sense of belonging in this country.”

During the Open Mic portion of the program, writers from throughout the Bay Area read poems and prose that honored strong and beautiful roots in the Philippines, Romania, Lebanon, Ireland, and Portugal as well as the pawnshops, shoe closets, and gardens of California. There was song, laughter, tears, and deep listening.

One student in the audience wrote of the event: “Community support, amazing writers this morning, filled with beauty, words of wisdom, and elevation, carrying powerful messages, to make us think, reflect, and embrace our world. I left with a sense of renewal and inspiration.”

Adjunct Professor Kathleen McClung directed WOW! Voices Now for the eighth year. The 2017 advisory team included Dean of Language Arts Mary Gutiérrez, Professor Katharine Harer, and WOW founder Marijane Datson. Bookstore Manager Kevin Chak, aided by students Josh Doctor and Samantha Nguyen, provided bookselling and catering services.  WOW Ambassadors Lisa Suguitan Melnick and Tom McAninley greeted and oriented attendees.

Article by Kathleen McKlung | Photos by Tom McAninley