Writers and readers from all over the Bay Area gathered at Skyline College Saturday, March 15, 2014 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.

2014-03-15 10.26.51-Kirsten (2)Event coordinator Kathleen McClung welcomed the two featured speakers, award-winning authors Kirstin Valdez Quade and Caroline Goodwin, both former Stegner Fellows at Stanford University and current Stanford creative writing instructors. Kirstin Valdez Quade read an excerpt from her short story, “Nemecia,” which won the 2013 Narrative Prize and is included in The Best American Short Stories 2013. Caroline Goodwin, recently named the first Poet Laureate of San Mateo County, read poems from her book Trapline and new work.

During the lively question and answer part of the program, both authors spoke candidly about their writing process and the challenge of preserving quiet time for writing in busy lives. Caroline Goodwin encouraged writers to start each day reading poems rather than checking Facebook. Kirstin Valdez Quade spoke of keeping a writing journal to help maintain focus on the slow, solitary work of crafting fiction. Both writers talked about the patience necessary to continue working on creative projects over many months and years.

2014-03-15 10.41.22-Caroline (2)After a break for book signing, networking, and continental breakfast, Skyline College English and creative writing professor Katharine Harer presented ISA Scholar Awards to two outstanding creative writing students, Haley Holmes and Frania Ramos-Arce, who each read their original poems with passion and poise, and received enthusiastic applause and WOW! gift bags filled with books, journals, art, a certificate of merit, and a Skyline College Bookstore gift card.

Ten writers from the community shared their poetry and prose during the Open Reading hosted by Professor Harer. The writers explored families, cultures, peace, war, nature, and other themes, and their tones ranged from light and humorous to mournful and meditative. Jessica Powers, a Skyline College English professor and novelist, and Avital Pelman, a Skyline College student and Learning Center tutor, were among the ten Open Readers.

“It’s so important for writers to come together for creative nourishment,” said Skyline College 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 over ten years ago by Marijane Datson in collaboration with Skyline faculty, staff and community members.

Thanks to Kevin Chak, manager of the Skyline College Bookstore, Mary Gutiérrez, dean of Language Arts and Learning Resources, and WOW! ambassadors Valerie Malliett, Priscilla Schwartz, Ellen Woods, Raluca Ioanid, Lisa Melnick, and Tom McAninley.

Local business owners provided catering services and flowers for the event. Thanks to John Alvergue of John’s Bayhill Café and Cindy Gyrgyk of Pacifica Pavilion of Flowers.

Article by Kathleen McClung   Photos by Emily Jiang and Tom McAninley