Gifted Voices, Open Ears: WNBA Members Step Up and Read at Open Mic Night

When asked about the importance of an event like the WNBA-NYC chapter’s Open Mic Night, co-organizer Rhona Whitty said this: “It is very simple: No writers, no books; no books, no WNBA.”

Filled to capacity, a backroom at the Cornelia Street Café paid homage to a wildly talented list of women writers in this year’s reading. Sharing fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, each reader presented a part of her published or unpublished self, exploring ideas beyond the framework of their genre and offering something very new.

Organized by Whitty and Harriet Shenkman, both accomplished writers themselves, the event was a thoughtful showcase dedicated not only to sharing talent but empowering women’s voices from all walks of life.

 

Open Mic Night - Harriet Shenkman

Harriet Shenkman. Photo credit: Hannah Bennett

“The revival of the Open Mic event demonstrates WNBA’s support of the creative writing endeavors of both published and aspiring authors,” said Shenkman. “We welcome writers as well as people in the publishing industry and hope to grow our membership in that area.”

 

“It is time-consuming putting together an event like Open Mic,” said Whitty, “but when you finally get to the readings and hear the breadth of talent in our chapter, it makes it so worthwhile.

“You want to drag people in off the street and say, ‘This is what the Women’s National Book Association is all about!’”

Each writer brought a fresh element to the table. Among others, Esther Krivda brought a YA novel that broke the fourth wall—several times over. Sherring Dartiguenave shared heartfelt memories about her mother in a powerful essay on food. Linda Rosen shocked the audience with a piece under a thousand words. Bracha Nechama Bomze read from her gut-wrenching poetry surrounding the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911. And who could forget Jean Ende’s piece, Sex for Seniors?

Open Mic Night - Sherring Dartiguenave

Sherring Dartiguenave. Photo credit: Hannah Bennett

“As a listener, the reading was very intimate,” said Andrea Baron. She wasn’t alone: there wasn’t an audience member that wasn’t engrossed in the work.

The reading also served as the first event for incoming chapter president Hannah Bennett. Giving praise to Whitty and Shenkman for their work as well as commending the power of the writers’ voices, Bennett made her commitment to the organization very clear.

“The Open Mic is one of our best events for members,” said Bennett, “a chance to celebrate the talents of our membership and support authors in our community.”

Open Mic night - Hannah Bennett

Hannah Bennett. Photo credit: Alex Grover

A few years prior, Bennett herself was a WNBA reader in the Open Mic at the KGB Bar. It’s no wonder that she was inspired by this evening. “All I wanted to do afterwards was run home and write!”

 

The Writers:

Jane Murphy – The House of Many Stories (novel)

Esther Krivda – Where the What if Roams and the Moon is Louis Armstrong (YA crossover)

Marilyn Berkman – Tall Order (linked stories)

Joan Ramirez – The Scent of Danger (romantic suspense)

Sherring Dartiguenave – “A Photograph is Not Just a Picture” (personal essay)

Nancy Newman – Fox Valley Savages (novel-in-progress)

Bracha Nechama Bomze – Love Justice (poetry book)

Linda Rosen – “Dry Bandages” (flash fiction)

Jacquie Hertz – Circumstance of Silence (novel)

Adrienne Wenner – Treble & Rest (contemporary YA)

Diana Altman – Queen of the Alone People (novel-in-progress)

Jean Ende – Sex for Seniors (creative non-fiction)

Christine Reilly – Sunday’s on the Phone to Monday (novel)

Harriet Shenkman – “We Women” (poetry)

 

Ziva Bakman Flamhaft, Carol Rial, and Selene Castrovilla also read very excellent pieces.

 

Below are more pictures from the event.

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About Alex Grover

Alex Grover is a digital production associate at Penguin Random House. Alex plans on becoming an expert in all things e-books.

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