Saturday, March 27, 2010

February 1983 Seattle Women Writers Festival

I've been going through boxes of old papers, notes, & ephemera saved & then just packed away (i.e., pack-rat stuff) in order to excavate the oldest versions of the Marq'ssan Cycle & the notes used in writing it, so that I can send all of it to the institution that will be maintaining an archive of materials related to my work. The day I began doing this I made a wildly surprising discovery, coming upon the traces of writing that had vanished from my memory: an aborted attempt at writing a short story called "The Night Patrol," meant to have been set in 2004, that I worked on for a few weeks almost exactly a year before I began the Marq'ssan Cycle. The details in my notes gesture at several elements built into the world of the Marq'ssan Cycle. (I haven't yet actually found any of the mss pages for this unfinished story-- which would have been typewritten, since I worked on it while we were seeking a loan to buy our first "word processor" (as they were called, before the notion of "personal computers" emerged), but I expect I will, since I seem to have kept all sorts of other previous failed attempts to write science fiction.

The stuff I've been wading through include flyers for events I attended. One of them that caught my eye is for the Seattle Women Writers Festival, held February 23-26, 1983, which I vividly recall attending from start to finish (excepting the two poetry workshops and one of the poetry readings), and which had, I believe, a major impact on me. A highlight of the conference was seeing-- in the flesh-- Joanna Russ and Vonda McIntyre. Other highlights include Maya Angelou's electrifying reading/performance, Carolyn Forche's poetry and comments about what she had witnessed in El Salvador (including her description of sitting at a colonel's dinner table and having a paper sack of ears emptied before her, as his gesture of defiance and contempt for her concern about human rights), and a panel discussion that featured both Joanna Russ and Toni Cade Bambara.

I don't suppose the schedule will give you much of an idea what it was like, spending three days soaking in so much concentrated (non-male!) talent. But I'll offer it to you, anyway:

Wednesday 7:30 p.m. Fiction & Poetry reading: Barbara Wilson and Judy Grahn

Thursday 12:30 p.m. Science Fiction Reading: Joanna Russ and Vonda McIntyre
Thursday 2:00 p.m. Fiction Panel moderated by Irene Wanner: Lois Hudson, Colleen McElroy, Vonda McIntyre
Thursday 7:30 p.m. Poetry Reading: Linda Bierds and Carolyn Forche

Friday 9:30 a.m. Poetry Workshop: Carolyn Forche
Friday 12: 30 p.m. Poetry Reading: Cladys Cardiff and Ai
Friday 2:00 p.m. Poetry Panel moderated by Julianne Seeman: Ai, Carolyn Forche, Jody Grahn, Denise Levertov
Friday 7:30 p.m. Poetry Reading: Beth Bentley, Denise Levertov

Saturday 9:30 a.m. Poetry Workshops: Denise Levertov and Toni Cade Bambara
Saturday 12:30 p.m. Fiction Reading: Colleen McElroy and Tony Cade Bambara
Saturday 2:00 p.m. Panel Discussion moderated by Sibyl James: Tony Cade Bambara, Beth Bentley, Joanna Russ, Emily Warn
Saturday 4:00 p.m. Poetry Reading Audrey Wright
Saturday 7:30 p.m. Reading: Maya Angelou


Nicola Griffith said...

Now I know what I'd dial up on my time machine...

Unknown said...

Wow, did I miss out (due to being only thirteen).

Colleen McElroy was one of my professors in the MFA program at the University of Washington, and she introduced me to a whole bunch of these other writers, for which I am grateful.

Joel said...

nicola, you should write that story!

Belinda said...

I was trying to remember the year of this conference. Thanks for letting me know it was 1983. A group of us were sitting in discussion when a beautiful voice behind us caused many to gasp and turn back to see Maya Angelou. I didn't know her by name then (hard to imagine), but I recognized a great spirit immediately. What a great memory. Thanks for sharing.