March in the Berkshires may be best known for maple syrup, as the sap starts flowing in our beautiful forests, but there are other kinds of juices rising in the Berkshire hills in March, creative juices. March is Women’s History Month and it’s celebrated in the Berkshires with an outpouring of women’s creative voices and visions, thanks to the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, now in its sixth year.
Headliners at this year’s nine-day festival include restaurant critic and author, Ruth Reichl, mother-daughter writing team, Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, and internationally renowned positive psychology teacher and author, Maria Sirois. This year’s festival (March 12 – 20) features dozens of nationally renowned local women writers; who will present workshops, lead discussions, give readings, present performances, and offer talks.
“This year we are offering a cohesive, conference-style experience where people can come to spend a few days or more in the Berkshires, partaking in the festival and other winter activities,” says Founding Director Jennifer Browdy, a professor of comparative literature at Bard College at Simon’s Rock.
The opening weekend will take place at Eastover Retreat Center in Lenox on March 12 & 13. The Festival will close at Hotel on North in Pittsfield March 19 & 20. Each weekend will offer half and full day event options, including meals. Both hotels offer exquisite accommodations, making it convenient and accessible to those traveling from outside the region.
Weekday events, most of them free, will take place at various locations throughout the county including Kripalu, Berkshire Community College, The Mount, and the BTG Unicorn Theater—22 different venues in all spread across the Berkshire in towns from Pittsfield to Great Barrington.
Acclaimed authors Cheryl Clarke and Breena Clarke (sister founders of the Hobart Book Village Festival of Women Writers), memoirist Mary Johnson (founder of A Room of One’s Own Foundation for women writers), and Esther Cohen (founder of the Unseen America Project) will present together in two sessions on March 12 at Eastover. On March 13, Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple will discuss their prolific writing careers; Yolen will also join a panel later that day called “Green Visions,” featuring environmental writing in several genres, including poetry.
Celebrated food writer Ruth Reichl will give a talk over brunch on March 19 at Hotel on North. Following that is a conversation with Letty Cottin Pogrebin, founding editor of Ms. Magazine, and award-winning Afro-Latina author Veronica Chambers and it will be moderated by Anastasia Stanmeyer, editor of Berkshire Magazine. On the same day, author Sonia Pilcer will read the popular “Women Writers of a Certain Age” text, featuring award-winning authors Helen Epstein, Barbara Slate, and Karen Schoemer.
March 20 will open with a brunch talk at Hotel on North by journalist Sheila Weller, author of the bestselling biographies Girls Like Us (on Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon) and The News Sorority (on Christiane Amanpour, Katie Couric, and Diane Sawyer). The day will close with local author and performer Alison Larkin offering a “Festive British Tea Party with the English American.”
It is our mission to nourish the voices and visions of women of all ages and from many walks of life. The world needs the creative energy and vision of women now more than ever, and creative women need a community to be fully active and confident in their own work. Browse through the calendar of events and prepare yourself to take a nine-day plunge into women’s creativity!