WOW women on writingWriters and readers from all over the Bay Area gathered at Skyline College Saturday, March 3 for WOW! Voices Now: A Morning of Readings and Refreshments, an annual celebration of creativity during women’s history month. The appreciative audience of seventy women and men savored literary work crafted by a wide variety of writers.

Event coordinator Kathleen McClung welcomed the two featured speakers, award-winning authors Lori Ostlund and Maw Shein Win. Both read from their books and spoke warmly and candidly about their dedication to writing over the years. Maw Shein Win referred to her six-month recovery from surgery as “a blessing in disguise” as she turned inward to write poetry during her recuperation.

During the lively question and answer part of the program, both authors spoke in depth about their writing process. Each writer talked about how traveling and working overseas has enriched their work. Lori Ostlund said a highlight of her writing career was a 2017 co-Visiting Writer fellowship in Tianjin, China with her wife, author Anne Raeff.

After a break for book signing, networking, and continental breakfast, WOW! founder Marijane Datson presented awards and gift bags to two outstanding Skyline College creative writing students, Brynn Allen and Gwyneth Ochsner who read their original poetry with poise and passion. The awards memorialize two multi-talented, influential women from the WOW! community, Isabelle Maynard (1929-2007) and Joyce Unger (1942-2016).

Eighteen writers from the community shared their poetry and prose during the Open Reading hosted by Professor McClung. The writers explored families, cultures, sexual harassment, racism, war, nature, and other themes. Skyline students Yilin Zhang and Clayborne Go were among the Open Readers.

“It’s so important for writers to come together for creative nourishment,” said Skyline English professor and author Kathleen McClung. “The WOW! community spans all ages, interests, and backgrounds. The common ingredients are encouragement and support.” The WOW! conference was founded fifteen years ago by Marijane Datson in collaboration with Skyline faculty, staff and community members.

One student in the audience said afterward, “Once I walked into the room I felt so many positive and calm vibes. I felt comfortable and welcome. I loved how everyone there was friends. Everyone seemed to get along. I would participate again without there being an extra credit piece. It gave me a glimpse of a different type of life than I’m used to and let me step out of my comfort zone. Maybe one day I’ll try to write some poetry of my own.”

Thanks to Kevin Chak, manager of the Skyline College Bookstore and World Cup Cafe, Mary Gutiérrez, dean of Language Arts and Learning Resources, English/creative writing professors Rob Williams and Katharine Harer, and WOW! ambassadors Lisa Suguitan Melnick, Ellen Woods, and Tom McAninley.

Article by Kathleen McClung   Photos by Tom McAninley

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