Women's National Book Association | NYC Chapter http://wnba-nyc.org Connecting, educating, advocating, and leading since 1917 Thu, 08 Mar 2018 15:56:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://i2.wp.com/wnba-nyc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/wnbaNewYorkCity.jpg?fit=32%2C32 Women's National Book Association | NYC Chapter http://wnba-nyc.org 32 32 57957015 Members Write Now: J.L. Regen http://wnba-nyc.org/members-write-now-joan-ramirez/ http://wnba-nyc.org/members-write-now-joan-ramirez/#respond Thu, 08 Mar 2018 15:00:34 +0000 http://wnba-nyc.org/?p=9421 "I don't know how much longer I can live at home. Mama is working twice as hard since Jerry was laid off from his job at the newspaper." - J.L. Regen shares an excerpt of her novel Secret Desires.

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This month’s Members Write Now features an excerpt from WNBA member J.L. Regen’s novel Secret Desires, which is now available in paperback.

Nothing in Margo Simmons’s life comes easy. She can’t claim the inheritance from her uncle until she is gainfully employed for a year. She meets the man of her dreams but he is still emotionally tied to his deceased wife. She becomes the guardian to a recently orphaned child. Margo must evolve to become a woman determined to fulfill the secret desires locked in her heart.

Secret Desires

Chapter 1

Margo Simmons gripped the edges of the leather chair. Devastated after receiving a letter about her Uncle Harry’s death, she didn’t know what to expect from Mr. Steinberg. Her only other encounter with lawyers had been during theJ.L. Ramirez reading of her father’s will. Though she was only five at the time, she remembered her mother’s anguish over losing her husband and being a single parent.

An older gentleman clothed in pinstripes walked into the office as she reflected on the past.

“I’m sorry your mother couldn’t be here for the reading,” the family lawyer said. “You’ve grown into a lovely young woman.”

Margo blinked back tears at memories of good times shared with Uncle Harry. “Not so young. I’m twenty-three.”

The portly man squeezed himself into a swivel chair and peered at her over wire-rimmed bifocals.

Margo gripped her knees to steady her nerves. “They’re downsizing at her dress shop. She was afraid to leave early. My stepfather is furious because Uncle Harry didn’t leave him any money.”

Mr. Steinberg nodded in sympathy at the pained expression on the young woman’s face.

“It saddens me to hear Jerry hasn’t changed. However, since you’re the only one present to hear your uncle’s will, I’ll get to the point. Harry has left you his Riverside Drive condominium and the sum of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.”

Margo jumped up from the chair and hugged the man. “This is a miracle. I can’t wait to tell my Mom. She’s wanted me to get out on my own. Now I can.”

The attorney pushed bifocals up his fleshy nose. “In today’s market, two hundred and fifty thousand dollars won’t last long unless invested wisely.”

The only thing Margo new about investments was she didn’t have enough money to make any.

“Mr. Steinberg, do you know of someone who can advise me so I can make wise investments?”

He raised his hand. “Not so fast my dear. Your Uncle stipulated that you be gainfully employed for a year before you can claim your inheritance. The last time your mother and I spoke, you were studying to be a French teacher.”

Margo stared at the vibrant red dragon design on an Oriental rug and thought of the threadbare one under her rickety dining room table. Her eyes darted from his monogrammed attaché case to her worn shoulder strap bag. She had to find a way to tell him of her predicament.

“I’ve been looking for a teaching job for two years, but I am on the substitute list and have a part-time job at a dry cleaner so I’m employed. I know it’s not a professional job, but it’s respectable work.”

Mr. Steinberg made notes in her uncle’s folder. “I’m afraid that won’t do, my dear. Harry loved you but was very clear on the type of employment.”

A tear rolled down Margo’s cheek. “I don’t know how much longer I can live at home. Mama is working twice as hard since Jerry was laid off from his job at the newspaper. He couldn’t get the hang of technology. He’s been on disability from an old back injury. Could I at least speak to an investment counsellor to get an idea of what to do with my inheritance? It would give me something to dream about.”

J.L. Regen’s book was inspired by a real life story of lovers who join hearts against many odds. She lives in the New York metropolitan area, is a published photojournalist, has short suspense stories online, and has taught English as a Second Language to students around the globe. This is her first contemporary romance. She has also published three nonfiction books and is crafting a historical suspense set in World War II. Visit her website at Joansbookshelf.com.

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Bookish Events: March Edition http://wnba-nyc.org/bookish-events-march-edition/ http://wnba-nyc.org/bookish-events-march-edition/#comments Tue, 06 Mar 2018 15:00:23 +0000 http://wnba-nyc.org/?p=9409 Literary events throughout March include a Time's Up Panel hosted by the WNBA, an autobiographical play about growing up in a library, and a panel about how feminists changed New York.

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Throughout March, bookish events around NYC include the WNBA’s Time’s Up Panel, a play about libraries (and dragons), and writing workshops.


Live from the Library

See the WNBA’s own Diana Altman (featured in February’s Members Write Now) and other writers read their work at the beautiful New York Society Library.

New York Society Library
6 PM
Tickets: $15


Time’s Up Panel

MarchOn International Women’s Day, the WNBA is hosting an incredible panel of women who will focus on empowering victims and witnesses of sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace. Panelists Sunu Chandy (Legal Director of the National Women’s Law Center), Paige McInerney (VP of Human Resources at Penguin Random House), and Collier Meyerson (Knobler Fellow at the Nation Institute and investigative fellow at Reveal) will be moderated by Rachel Deahl (columnist and news director at Publisher’s Weekly).

Random House Auditorium
6 PM
Members: FREE
Non-members: $10

MARCH 10th

Write Now! NY Writer’s Coalition

Find some inspiration or motivation at a drop-in writing workshop for writers of any genre, background, and experience.

Queens Library, Broadway Location
2 PM, March 10th and 24th

MARCH 13th

BELONGING: Authors writing about immigration

Authors Susan Muaddi Darraj (A Curious Land and The Inheritance of Exile), Marguerite Bouvard (Social Justice and the Power of Compassion, Revolutionizing Motherhood, and Invisible Wounds of War), and Katie Kitamura (A Separation, Gone to the Forest, and The Longshot) will read their work and discuss writing about immigration in a conversation moderated by poet Sarah Gambito (Delivered and Matadora).

Andaz Wall Street
7 PM
Free with RSVP

MARCH 16th

Nuyorican Poets Café Open Mic Monday

Image courtesy of Nuyorican Poets Cafe

Come to perform (first come, first on the list!) or to listen to 25 short works at this open mic night.

Nuyorican Poets Café
9 PM
Tickets: $8

MARCH 18th

Bloom Readings

Poets Martha Rhodes (The Thin Wall and The Beds) and Reginald Flood (Coffle) will read their work.

The Lounge at Hudson View Gardens
5 PM
Suggested donation: $7 (includes wine and light fare)

MARCH 19th

P(l)athography: Sylvia Plath and Her Biographers

Sylvia Plath in Paris, 1956. Photo taken by Gordon Lameyer. Image courtesy of Lilly Library, Indiana University

The 2018 Dorothy O. Helly Works-in-Progress Lecture by Heather Clark focuses on the role Plath biographies have held in creating the conversations surrounding Sylvia Plath’s life and works.

The Center for the Study of Women and Society and Women Writing Women’s Lives – The Graduate Center CUNY
4 PM

MARCH 21st

Feeding the Dragon

Actress Sharon Washington grew up the St. Agnes Branch of the New York Public Library. Now, she shares her experience and her love of the written word in an autobiographical solo show called Feeding the Dragon.

Cherry Lane Theater
Opens March 21st
Tickets: $72

MARCH 25th

A City Made by Women: New Perspectives and Feminist Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon

Protesters during the Women’s March who used images from Julie Scelfo’s 2016 book “The Women Who Made New York” on their posters. Photo by Dean Love. Image courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York.

The Museum of the City of New York is honoring Women’s History Month with events throughout the month, but March 25th has two back-to-back events to accompany the exhibit Beyond Suffrage: A Century of New York Women in Politics. First, a symposium (with keynote speaker Samhita Mukhopadhyay, co-editor of Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance and Revolution in Trump’s America) will discuss feminists in New York history. Then, stick around to add to and update Wikipedia’s sadly lacking information on feminism.

Museum of the City of New York

1 PM
Tickets: $20 (includes museum admission)

3 PM
Tickets: Free (includes museum admission)

Bring your own laptop!

MARCH 27th

Eat, Drink, and Be Literary

BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) is hosting Valeria Luiselli (author of Faces in the Crowd, The Story of My Teeth, Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions, and the upcoming Lost Children Archives) in discussion with Deborah Treisman (fiction editor at The New Yorker) as part of the Eat, Drink, and Be Literary dinner and talk series.

Peter Jay Sharp Building BAMcafé
6:30 PM
Tickets: $65 (includes dinner)

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Tips for Social Media: Make the Most Out of Instagram http://wnba-nyc.org/tips-for-social-media-make-the-most-out-of-instagram/ http://wnba-nyc.org/tips-for-social-media-make-the-most-out-of-instagram/#respond Wed, 28 Feb 2018 15:30:45 +0000 http://wnba-nyc.org/?p=9395 Books are pretty. Plenty of people like to look at them. Fortunately, there's a platform for that: Instagram. Whether you're getting started or sprucing up your page, here are some tips!

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InstagramThe last Tips for Social Media post focused on making the most of your Facebook. Now that you’ve had a chance to work on that, tackle another social media account: Instagram. While books are (often) a text-based form, never doubt that photo-based Instagram is a great way to build a brand and to get your name out in the book world. If you do have doubts, spend a few minutes reading this Huffington Post article about #Bookstagrams to allay them.


The reasons why should be obvious. If you use Instagram primarily to connect with family and friends and to show them what you’ve been up to, then keep your account private. But if you want to use Instagram to build a brand and build awareness about you/your books/your bookish habits, then you should make your account public, so it’s discoverable.

Courtesy of Nnedi Okorafor on Instagram


Once you’re public, create a profile. It seems simple, but your profile really matters. If someone sees and likes your photo, they’ll click your profile. Same thing if you like their photo. Make sure you have a good name (preferably representative of your brand), profile photo, and description. Your description can link to your website, but people will want a blurb on Instagram to, even if it’s just “Writer in New York,” “Writer, Dog Lover, Adventurer,” or “Avid reader and bookstagrammer.” Make sure it’s clear to potential followers what they’ll see if they follow you. Then stick with it.

Courtesy of Dhonielle Clayton on Instagram


Speaking of sticking with your brand, curate what you post both in content and in appearance. Instagram has all sorts of editing tools, from filters to saturation changes. If you don’t know what I mean, don’t worry! Basically, just take time to play with your photos. Don’t automatically post your original. Work on it until you have the most aesthetically pleasing photo you think you can.

Courtesy of Ayobami Adebayo on Instagram


A quick way to figure out what’s aesthetically pleasing in Instagram photos is to follow pros and influencers, so you can see what people respond to. If you want to be known for book photos, follow people on Instagram who have tons of followers, and figure out what people like about their pictures. All for research, of course.

And did you know there’s an Instagram blog that has photo skill tips?

Courtesy of Tayari Jones on Instagram


Of course, pros use tools not available on Instagram. You can too. Layout lets you make a collage with multiple photos, Boomerang creates a video going backward and forward, Sprout Social allows you to do some analytics, Pic Monkey lets you do in-depth photo edits, and tons more apps let your pictures—and you account—stand out.

Courtesy of Roxane Gay on Instagram



Pay attention to when you post. If your followers are NYC-based and you exclusively post at 2 am on Wednesdays, your posts won’t be seen. Post when your followers are checking your feeds. Photos on Instagram only “live” for four hours, so make sure those four hours are when people will see your pictures. Recent posts go to the top of feeds, so post when your audience has downtime (like during commutes).

Courtesy of Zinzi Clemmons on Instagram



Hashtags are how you get discovered. If don’t add hashtags (or the location) to a photo, the only people who see it will be your followers. When you hashtag something, it appears in that hashtag’s feed, so new people see your pictures. If they like it, it gets bumped up. Enough likes and your photo will get to the most popular posts section of the hashtag.

But don’t overdo it. Use only the best hashtags for your purpose (a quick way to discover hashtags: start typing one in for Instagram to offer recommendations with the number of times that hashtag has been used). Hashtag or at-mention organizations, because if they like your photo, their followers will see that. Or they might regram, with credit—which will drive their followers to you.


Courtesy of Zadie Smith on Instagram



As with Facebook, engagement with followers is key. Respond to your followers or regram people who take a picture you like. While you’re at it, keep asking questions or use Instagram to run giveaways with a link in your profile/caption or by asking them to comment (and, to get more followers, ask them to mention a friend—the friend will see the post too).

Courtesy of Angie Thomas on Instagram



When you post your photo to Instagram, you can also share it to other sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc). Remember, people like photos on Facebook—so publicize your already-edited photo. Do this in moderation, because you want followers not to get bored. Give unique content on each platform.

Courtesy of Jacqueline Woodson on Instagram



Instagram has evolved. You can post to your story, you can post a single stationary photo, you can post a group/album of photos under one post, or you can post a video. Play around.

Stories: Last 24 hours before automatic deletion; they have urgency: watch now or never. Stories, which can be pictures or video, are where many Instagram users start.

Photos: Stick around forever but get buried quickly.

Albums: Post multiple photos on the same topic/from the same event without spamming your followers, because your followers choose whether to scroll through.

Videos: Stick around forever, like the photos, but (of course) move; they follow the same lifespan as photos (four hours).

Courtesy of Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie on Instagram



10 Tricks to Make Yourself an Instagram Master

11 Secrets to Taking Better Instagram Photos

14 Tips for Getting More Followers and Likes on Instagram

29 Instagram Hacks From People Who Take Really Good Photos

6 Instagram Hacks for Better Instagram Stories

I Read More Than 20 Instagram Studies so You Don’t Have to. Here’s What I Found.

For people new to Instagram, here’s a guide to getting started: Instagram Tips and Tricks



People like pictures of books, writing spaces, and cats.

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The Reader’s View: Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry http://wnba-nyc.org/the-readers-view-lisa-halliday/ Mon, 26 Feb 2018 15:30:39 +0000 http://wnba-nyc.org/?p=9383 Make some time to curl up with a new book as February comes to a close: Lisa Halliday's novel Asymmetry is a gorgeous quick read that will keep you thinking for days.

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In her mesmerizing debut novel Asymmetry, Lisa Halliday constructs two separate worlds in which the respective protagonists contend with starkly different challenges that span both geography and genre.

In the first section, which Halliday titles “Folly,” she opens on a familiar figure, a young Alice, reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, who encounters her own white rabbit in the form of famous author Ezra Blazer. The love affair between the young, energetic editorial assistant and the venerable, aging writer is inevitable, if not predictable, but the delicately woven vignettes that reveal their romance, as well as the whimsical, poignant voice of the narrator, prevent the story from feeling stale.

There is a profusion of words in this narrative and comparatively, very little action. The characters’ own staccato conversations, both in person and over the phone, litter the vignettes, sometimes comprising entire scenes, and are Raymond Carver-like in their minimalism. Ezra also gives Alice stacks of classic novels, including Huckleberry Finn, Tender is the Night, and The Thief’s Journal, passages from which appear frequently in her narration. Often, reading is the dominant action in a scene, with a collection of passages from these and other novels appearing, collage-like, on the page.

In the second section, titled “Madness,” Amar Ala Jaafari is an Iraqi-American man who, while traveling to visit his brother in Iraq, is detained by immigration officers at Heathrow. Set against the tumultuous and violent backdrop of the Iraq War and the country’s post-liberation poverty, this section weaves between Amar’s present-day conflict and his past memories of Iraq and his childhood home in Brooklyn. As the stakes of both narratives rise, Amar is forced to contend with the stark differences between American and Iraqi culture as well as his own conflicted identity.

Like “Folly,” Amar’s story is also interlaced with extra-textual material though, in his case, it is music rather than literature. Amar recalls the precise composers, artists, and soundtracks that play at crucial moments of his childhood and young adulthood. This preoccupation with music begins early in the narrative, when Amar, who doesn’t play music himself, envies his older brother’s “love affair” with the piano, which he plays purely for his own enjoyment. Amar, who is continually anxious about the future, yearns for the same ability to live entirely in the beauty of the present moment.

Alice’s and Amar’s narratives are, on the surface, profoundly different, first illustrating the challenges of a tremendous age difference between partners and then the unique struggle of a first-generation immigrant attempting to reconcile his two cultures. The inherent imbalance in both narratives, first between people and then entire cultures, is striking. However, it isn’t until the final section that Halliday begins to weave these two seemingly disparate narratives together, hinting at connections but never quite wrapping the story into a neat conclusion. Instead, the reader is left to forge their own meaning, unearth patterns, and wonder at the myriad reflections, dissonances, and asymmetries between these two compelling narratives.

Looking for more to read? Check out last month’s The Reader’s View on Roxane Gay’s Hunger.

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Ladies Who Brunch Discuss Salt Houses and A Long Time Gone http://wnba-nyc.org/9360-2/ http://wnba-nyc.org/9360-2/#comments Fri, 16 Feb 2018 15:00:40 +0000 http://wnba-nyc.org/?p=9360 When the Ladies Who Brunch discussed Salt Houses and A Long Time Gone, generational struggles and social pressure on women were two of the topics the groups focused on.

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Many people dream about coming to America to start a new life and then, after a while, want to bring more family over. Because of the nature of Salt Houses by Hala Alyan and A Long Time Gone by Karen White, much of the Ladies Who Brunch discussion on the books was spent swapping stories about home countries, which included Israel, Palestine, Poland, and Lebanon. With this in mind, two themes among these books were generational conflict and peer pressure.

Generational conflict is the difference of opinion that happens between generations regarding beliefs and values. It is sad to see that, as the Ladies Who Brunch discussed, this happens a little too often in the workplace. Each of these two novels focused on mothers and daughters as primary characters. The novels incorporated a constant power struggle to either keep the family’s traditions or to break off from them. Too commonly, this created tension within the books’ families.

Salt Houses

Alicja Wesolowska, Jill Wisoff, and Rachel Slaiman

Similarly, peer pressure played a big role among the characters. Social pressure today focuses on getting a well-paying job and having children. Salt Houses spans decades from the 1960s to the present, while A Long Time Gone straddles the 1920s and the contemporary. When the novels’ historical portions took place, peer pressure influenced – among other things – body image and marriage based on insecurity. Women, sometimes without choice, had to do the “norm.”

Alicja Weolowska and Jill Wisoff

In both books, women take the fall in power struggles. The next book the group will read, Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, offers the other side of the generational gap and shows that women can overcome biases to achieve something greater. In the last Ladies Who Brunch, Dinitia Smith’s The Honeymoon showed the life of a woman who defied expectations: George Eliot.

Rachel SlaimanRachel Slaiman is a published freelance writer of several articles in both print and online as well an editor and copy editor of aspiring author’s manuscripts. She is currently the co-recording secretary for the WNBA and co-chair for the Brooklyn Book Festival. Rachel holds a B.A. in Communications and a M.S. from Pace University. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and writing short stories.

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Bookmark This! Valentine’s Day http://wnba-nyc.org/bookmark-this-valentines-day/ Wed, 14 Feb 2018 15:02:00 +0000 http://wnba-nyc.org/?p=9369 In this edition of Bookmark This! we revisit Valentine's Day with libraries you'll love, woke ways to celebrate Valentine's Day, and the reemergence of the rom-com as a new type of story.

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In this edition of Bookmark This! we revisit Valentine’s Day with libraries you’ll love, woke ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and the reemergence of the rom-com as a new type of story.

Fall in love…

With one of these libraries. Hint: you can get to two of them on the 6 train.

Abbey Library of St. Gallen, Switzerland
Image Courtesy of Mental Floss


Pop Sonnets

To read your favorite contemporary(ish) love songs as the Bard would have versified them, check out Pop Sonnets. Unfortunately, no new pop sonnets have been released lately. But, in good news – you can check out the book or test out an online sonnet generator to make your own.

Courtesy of Pop Sonnets



Rom-coms, skewed

Ever wonder why you haven’t seen any movies lately starring a quirky and adorable Meg Ryan look-alike falling desperately in love with a debonair business mogul, single parent, and/or inspired artist? This article would argue that they’re still coming out but they’re turning conventions on their head, this article explains that they’ve been financially driven to longform on the small screen, and this article explores some recent romcoms whose diversity lets the films tell a narrative that goes beyond the cotton candy fluff of bygone romcoms.


Pick-up lines never quite right?

One of these literary lines might have more success.

Courtesy of BookBub


And on a romantic note…

If those pick-up lines didn’t work, you could go with one of the most romantic lines from literature instead.

Courtesy of Hitched


Write what you know

These authors met, fell in love, and continued to be authors whether their relationships with each other became legend or tragedy. Or find more literary power couples here: seems there’s something to be said about authors whose partners are other authors.

Nick Laird and Zadie Smith
Courtesy of the Huffington Post


Fairy tale tropes

When Disney princesses collide in the rap battle below, the conventions behind their fairy tales come to light.


Woke Valentine’s

The arguments against Valentine’s day are numerous: it’s a commercial holiday, it’s inherently sexist, it’s exclusionary, and more. So if you’re going to celebrate, be woke! Whether you go see a performance of The Vagina Monologues or give a socially aware gift (the first is a bit ridiculous, but reasonable suggestions follow) to your significant other, you can celebrate Valentine’s Day in a way that makes you feel good about yourself (even if you’re against it as a holiday, broadly speaking). Or you can make it your own by getting someone a bookish Valentine that will last.

Courtesy of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh


Swoons ahead

Valentine’s Day is a day for romance. You’re in luck: there are plenty of romance novels to choose from. You could start with this list of the best romance books from 2017. Or, if you’re a seasoned romance novel reader, you can think about where romance will go from here.


No matter what you do, have a great day today!

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Bookish Events: February Edition http://wnba-nyc.org/bookish-events-february-edition/ Mon, 12 Feb 2018 05:00:23 +0000 http://wnba-nyc.org/?p=9349 If you’re not too busy working on your submission for the WNBA Writing Contest (don’t forget, entries are due March 1st), break up the tedium of February with bookish events around the city!

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If you’re not too busy working on your submission for the WNBA Writing Contest (don’t forget, entries are due March 1st), break up the tedium of February with bookish events around the city!


February events

Image Courtesy of BRIC Brooklyn Poetry Slam


7:00 PM

First, listen to the poets of the Brooklyn Poetry Slam. Then sign up for the Open Mic after the slam (or just come to listen and appreciate)!



Image Courtesy of Caveat


7:00 PM

Grab a drink and prove your spelling chops at the New York City Spelling Bee (for adults). You can enter as a speller or sit back and watch.

Spellers: $15
Viewers: $7


Image Courtesy of NYPL


12:30 – 2:30 PM
Jefferson Market Library, Willa Cather Room

The American Book Producers Association is hosting a brown bag lunch about “Making and Marketing Kits for Adults.” The three panelists have extensive experience in book publishing as well as in creating and selling kits.

ABPA Members: Free
Non-members: $20
RSVP at office@abpaonline.org


Image Courtesy of JCAL


7:00 PM
Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning

Part of an ongoing effort to introduce US audiences with writers from the Caribbean diaspora, this staged reading in the Caribbean Reading Series features young playwrights and actors.



Image Courtesy of Women of Letters


Doors: 6:00 PM

A panel of women celebrate letter-writing, with this month’s letters dedicated to the writers’ secret powers. One of the letter-writers this month is Margo Jefferson, author of Negroland, who you may remember seeing at the WNBA Centennial back in October.

Tickets: $20-40




7:00 – 8:00 PM
Astoria Bookshop

Join the Astoria Bookshop’s Feminist Book Club for a discussion of Mary Beard’s manifesto Women & Power, which traces how women throughout history have been denied positions of power and discusses concepts of power itself.




6:00 – 7:30 PM
Brooklyn Public Library, Central Library

This screening of the documentary Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth will follow Alice Walker’s life from her origins in Georgia to her recognition as the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Color Purple.




7:00 PM
WORD Brooklyn

Anca Szilágyi presents her debut novel Daughters of the Air, which follows Pluta as she navigates Brooklyn alone in the 1980s after her father disappears as a result of Argentina’s Dirty War and her mother sends her away.

Ticket: $5 toward anything in the store

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Publishing and the #MeToo Movement http://wnba-nyc.org/publishing-and-the-metoo-movement/ Fri, 09 Feb 2018 16:00:41 +0000 http://wnba-nyc.org/?p=9340 Last week, WNBA president Jane Kinney-Denning posted an article calling for individuals to speak out for the publishing industry to change in light of the #MeToo movement. Here are some of the conversations that are - and aren't - being had.

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National President Jane Kinney-Denning at the WNBA Centennial
Photo Credit Celine Keating

Last week, Women’s National Book Association president Jane Kinney-Denning wrote an article on Publishers Weekly that called for the #MeToo movement to come to book publishing.

Her article (which you can read on Publishers Weekly) calls for members of the publishing community to lend their voices. “Don’t let your weariness keep you down: participate, speak up, speak out, support, and volunteer,” she says. In this call to action, she shares her hope that the industry can progress and set an example.


The WNBA was founded on the ideals that books hold tremendous power and that book creators grow stronger when united. The #MeToo movement came from a similar idea: that by joining our voices, we will be heard.

Tweets from the Me Too Movement
Courtesy of Me Too on Twitter

While the “Me Too” movement was created by Tarana Burke ten years ago to give assistance to sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities, it became a viral hashtag last year when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted a suggestion that anyone who has been sexually harassed or assaulted reply “me too” so we could see the magnitude of the problem.

The movement has been incorporated into larger conversations. It’s been particularly visible in media, with Weinstein, Rose, and Lauer as some of the most visible perpetrators.

But what are books if not media?


Many of those outside of publishing see only the finished product—the book—with the author’s name, imagining that the author wrote and published the book in a void.

J.K. Rowling
Courtesy of jkrowling.com

Those of us closer to the publishing industry know how wrong that assumption is. Harry Potter—arguably today’s most well-known series—has “J.K. Rowling” as the author. Rowling revealed that she went by gender-neutral “J.K.” because her publisher told her that “Joanne” would alienate male readers—then admitted that she would have probably published as “Rupert” if her publishers had told her to.


Yes, that was twenty years ago.


The Atlantic VIDA Count
Infographic courtesy of VIDA

But the 2016 VIDA Count shows that, while some progress has been made in the voices of reviewers and the books being reviewed, we’re still not there. And that says nothing about the hidden workings of the publishing industry itself. In October, Publisher’s Weekly released an article exposing some publishing professionals’ #MeToo stories and discussing the disparity in roles people hold in publishing—though approximately 80% of the publishing workforce is formed by women, 51% of managers are men.


Within literary fields, the predominantly white male canon has long been a topic of discussion, because adhering to the canon necessarily means suppressing other voices. While this article suggests ways to work around some of the canon’s limitations, a 2016 petition by Yale Students requested a more diverse curriculum and sparked conversations and responses that varied from (not direct quotes) “yes, the canon is horrible—read it anyway” to “yes, we need to rethink the canon to be more inclusive.”


These three conversations (only a few of the many) are seemingly separate: what publishers believe readers want, sexual harassment and discrimination in the publishing workplace, and the lacking inclusivity of voices in the canon. Ultimately, though, these come together into a broader conversation about abuse of power and suppression of voices. Let’s lend our voices as we heed Jane’s call by speaking up and out.

P.S.: the newly-created Staunch Book Prize will only consider thrillers that don’t resort to violence against women.

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Members Write Now: Diana Altman http://wnba-nyc.org/members-write-now-diana-altman/ http://wnba-nyc.org/members-write-now-diana-altman/#comments Wed, 07 Feb 2018 15:00:02 +0000 http://wnba-nyc.org/?p=9332 “You are in the wrong skin, at the wrong time, in the wrong place.” - This month's Members Write Now features an excerpt from Diana Altman's story "In the Wrong Skin," which will publish in The Notre Dame Review this spring.

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In March, longtime WNBA member Diana Altman will read from her work at the New York Society Library. Her story A Night at the BSS was recently published on Trampset and her story In the Wrong Skin will appear in the Notre Dame Review in the spring. Read on for an excerpt from In the Wrong Skin.


Toward the end of my training I was assigned to a rural dermatology clinic. The farmers and townsfolk were curious and hopeful about the new doctor so they crowded in to see me on my first day. At least eighty people, one after another, came to ask for help. By the end of the day I was so exhausted that I was not myself. The nurse came in and said there was one last patient. He would not go home. She tried but he would not. In he came, a big, strong man with the skin of a reptile on his scalp, face, neck, and hands.

“There is nothing that I can do for you,” I said after examining those raw patches of scales.

“Then tell me, Doctor,” he said, “Why has this happened to me?”

Out of my mouth came these words: “You are in the wrong skin, at the wrong time, in the wrong place.”

Upon hearing what I’d said, I was ashamed and could only sit motionless as the man left my office without another word. I called his family doctor, admitted that I had told a patient that his condition was hopeless and apologized. I never expected to see that patient again so was surprised several months later when the door to my office opened and there he was. His skin was clear. Not a trace remained of his former affliction. He said that far from saying the wrong thing to him, I said exactly the right thing.

He told me his story. When he was seventeen, it was taken for granted that he would enter the family butcher business as his father willingly did before him. It was a successful business started by his grandfather but the boy disliked it. He never wanted to be a butcher. Nonetheless, he took his place as heir and worked hard. He married, had children, and eventually owned several lucrative butcher shops.

After his visit to the clinic, he remembered that his skin problems started when he was seventeen and became a butcher. Those words I said to him that evening when I was drugged from fatigue rang down to the bottom of his soul. He sold all his butcher shops and bought a farm. “Now,” he said, “I won’t have to kill young animals but can raise them.”

This was the case of a man who, for thirty years, had been trying to shed his skin. He wanted to move on, to grow. It was that patient who made me realize that the skin, one organ from head to toe, is a mirror of the psyche.

Years later I was asked to take charge of the dermatology unit of a city hospital. One day a madman was deposited in my office by psychiatrists who had given up on him. He was compelled to tear off his skin. There I was alone with him. He said nothing, just tore the skin off his legs and sat there in a pool of blood, oblivious to my scrutiny.

Diana Altman has written two books including Hollywood East: Louis B. Mayer and the origins of the studio system (Carol Publishing, ’92), a nonfiction book still quoted in movie star biographies and books of film history. As the author, she was a guest on TV’s Entertainment Tonight. Her award-winning novel In Theda Bara’s Tent (Tapley Cove Press, 2010) has more than a million reads on Wattpad and was described as “sophisticated storytelling” by Library Journal. Her short story A Night at the BSS is published by the journal Trampset and is currently available online. Her story In The Wrong Skin has been accepted for publication by The Notre Dame Review. She has been published in the New York Times, Yankee, Boston Herald, Forbes, StoryQuarterly, Moment, and elsewhere. Diana has been a member of the WNBA for more than twenty years and was past president of the Boston Chapter. She plays squash at the Harvard Club and sings with the 92nd Street Y chorus.

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Women in the Literary Landscape: Challenges and Opportunities http://wnba-nyc.org/women-in-the-literary-landscape-challenges-and-opportunities/ Mon, 05 Feb 2018 15:00:39 +0000 http://wnba-nyc.org/?p=9325 "Women really moved the book world forward. And that's an undertold story." - and other highlights from the panel Women in the Literary Landscape: Challenges and Opportunities, which celebrated the launch of the WNBA's book: WOMEN IN THE LITERARY LANDSCAPE.

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Kessler-Harris, Wilson, Cook, Blackwood, and Reisner

To celebrate the release of its much-anticipated book Women in the Literary Landscape, the Women’s National Book Association and Pace University hosted a high-energy panel of female writers and publishers to discuss the challenges that women face in the book industry.

challengesThe panel, titled “Women in the Literary Landscape: Challenges and Opportunities,” featured Columbia University professor Alice Kessler-Harris, John Jay College and CUNY Graduate Center professor Blanche Wiesen Cook, Pace professor and co-founder of Avidly Sarah Blackwood, and executive director and publisher of Feminist Press Jamia Wilson. Rosalind Reisner, editor and contributing author of Women in the Literary Landscape, moderated the panel.

Women in the Literary Landscape, co-edited by Rosalind Reisner and Valerie Tomaselli, is a history of the WNBA and a celebration of the work that women have performed in the book industry since its inception. Chronicling the stories of women across the industry – including librarians, editors, writers, and publishers — Reisner and Tomaselli explore the history of publishing in the context of the WNBA and the pursuit of women’s rights.

“We wanted to include the full range of women’s experiences in this book,” Reisner said. “We wanted to tell the story of women who paved the way – and continue to pave the way – and to show in what ways the literary landscape has changed. Or not.”

Kessler-Harris, Wilson, and Cook

For Tomaselli, the most surprising revelation of their research was the intimate connection between the founding of the WNBA in 1917 and the women’s suffrage movement. In the book, Tomaselli and Reisner discuss research that places the founders of the WNBA at the 1917 New York State protest marches for women’s suffrage, events that took place three years before the passing of the 19th Amendment.

“Our founders marched in those protests, and that was just weeks before the founding of the WNBA,” Tomaselli said. “It surely enthused them to form an organization to support each other.”

Psychotherapist and playwright Clare Coss attended the panel in support of her friends on the panel Alice Kessler-Harris and Jamia Wilson and her partner Blanche Wiesen Cook. She stated that the challenges of women in the publishing industry are ongoing, a fact demonstrated by the panelists, who are from two different generations and a variety of backgrounds. According to Closs, the WNBA’s new book Women in the Literary Landscape captures the history of the struggle.

Wilson, Cook, and Blackwood

“It’s something that we really need,” Closs said. “We don’t think about women getting access to platforms for their ideas. [The book] is an amazing collection of what we’ve been doing since the very beginning in 1917.”

For Reisner and Tomaselli, the goal of the book is to show how integral women have always been to the publishing world and to inspire deeper research into the subject.

“Women really moved the book world forward,” Tomaselli said. “And that’s an undertold story.”

For more information on the Women’s Suffrage Movement, check out our previous post on the hundredth anniversary of women’s suffrage in New York State.

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