Use Your Words: Berkshire Festival of Women Writers New Media Night

I was finishing off a cup of chowder at my favorite pub when my iPhone dinged me out of my creamy reverie.

In a move apropo of the request, I had received a text message asking if I might be interested in speaking as part of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, more specifically at their New Media Night. I followed a supplied link, replied quickly with a more professional version of ‘Hell, yes!’, and moved on to Tweet the news of my inclusion.

New Media Night was hosted at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, and focused on how the production, publishing, and marketing of writers’ work is evolving. To cover as many bases as possible, a panel of five speakers representing various types of writing and strengths at different stops in the publishing process was formed.

The event was organized and hosted by Courtney Maum , an author, short-story-writer, and wunderkind, among other things. Her collection of short stories Small Things in Big Places is available here.

Courtney emceed and began with her thoughts on using new media to find a community of colleagues, and in turn to practice her craft as well as promote her work. Dubbing it ‘Operation Literary Community,’ she presented an alliterative four-pronged plan: Spend (i.e money and time, with literary magazine subscriptions, books from bookshops, etc.); Stalk (follow your favorite writers & publications on social networks); Socialize (online or on terra firma, such as through writers’ workshops), and Share (your work, through online writers’ workshops, readings, and self-publishing).

Using Courtney’s base as our jumping-off point, my fellow panelists and I were off to the races, discussing our various areas of focus and how new media — any combination of traditional media with emerging technology — affects our lives, professions, and final product.

The panel:

Eugenie Sills, publisher of The Women’s Times, a print publication that has just published its last issue. Eugenie is moving full force into the new media realm, calling the transition “bittersweet, but more sweet than bitter.”

David Lamb, owner of Vantage Press, the oldest vanity publisher in the U.S. David’s experience in media runs the gamut from media banking to overseeing the sale of some of the most recognizable tabloids in the country, and now he’s spearheading a new imprint at Vantage that will act much like a traditional publishing house on a more intimate scale.

Alana Chernila , an author, mother, and selectman who submitted her final manuscript for a cookbook speckled with personal stories the day before our presentation. Alana started her publishing journey as a foodie blogger and progressed into a bidding war over her soon-to-be-released book.

…and me. I hang out here.

After taking our turns at the mic, we fielded questions from the audience, which ranged in topic from facebook privacy concerns to Google bombing as a tactic of Guerilla Poets (check out Poncho Peligroso for more on this phenomenon).

The common bond binding everyone in the room together was the written word, but I was also surprised to hear more than once during the evening sentiments like “I’ve never identified as a writer, but…”. Surprised, because of the breadth of talent in the room, but also because even though I am as far removed from ‘traditional writing’ as I have ever been in my career, my identity as a writer has never faltered.

For writers, perhaps owning this identity is a piece of our personal growth. For some it’s ingrained, for others it blossoms. I hope our conversations during New Media Night helped fertiize some budding ideas.


Katy‘ left this comment on 7 Apr 11
Ugh, this took multiple password attempts, two Firefox relaunches and a Safari switch just so I could leave a comment that says….Woohoo!!! Way to go! Speaking is awesome and speaking on a panel is a huge accomplishment. Very impressive Jax!

A visitor‘ left this comment on 7 Apr 11
Oh my God, Jax that’s so freakin’ awesome. I love being able to speak to groups (must be the former teacher in me), but a panel would be crazy. Way to go!!

Grr! It’s been so long since I’ve left a comment here that my password isn’t working…had to give it up after 5 attempts

Suzi Banks Baum‘ left this comment on 24 Mar 11
Well captured Jaclyn. I loved hearing you at SRC and the whole panel. The photos are really good. It was a very inspiring night. Pancho will be assisting me in setting up my Twitter account. I am super motivated to connect with other writers in my area and continue the conversations. And to write. Today is a perfectly wintry spring day, which, like writing, started out cold but is warming up fast. I look forward to reading more by you! Love and thanks, Suzi

A visitor‘ left this comment on 23 Mar 11
Brava, Writerjax! For those interested in further discussing how writers can use social media to advance their career and build a literary community, ask to join the Facebook group “Berkshire Writers Web.”

In other news …

“Sir; I’m a Lady.”

“I feel very adventurous. There are so many doors to be opened, and I’m not afraid to look behind them.” ~Elizabeth Taylor, 1932 – 2011


London, National Portrait Gallery, 2000


Annual Oscar Party, 2004

Published: Wednesday, 23 March 2011

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