By Leslie D. Rose
As Sunday afternoons go, Feb. 22 could be your average week starter, or it could be the day you bask in women-writer greatness at The Written Words of Women.
Hosted by The Red Shoes – a center founded to influence the personal and spiritual growth of women – selections will be read round-robin style from a variety of genres, including essays, poems and short stories.
Wendy Herschman, executive director of The Red Shoes, said she got the idea to put together the showcase through her admiration of women writer’s events that occur during annual Women’s Week in Baton Rouge. She then called on Mary Jacob, a member of The Red Shoes’ program committee, to assemble a group of women Herschman said she couldn’t be more excited to showcase.
“They’re women who know each other, who support each other’s writings and give each other a lot of feedback, and so they like working together and they’ll give a wonderful showcase because they really do support each other,” Herschman said.
Herschman continued that many of the women on Sunday’s show have held book releases/signings, read or taught workshops at The Red Shoes in the past – Louisiana Poet Laureate Ava Leavell Haymon is among them.
She will be reading from her most recent book, Eldest Daughter, a product she calls her life’s work.
“Since we’ll be at the Red Shoes, where I know people are truth-loving and not avoidant, I’ll read poems I might not read in other places,” Haymon said.
“Eldest Daughter” is a poetry collection about being a preacher’s daughter.
“It is informed by a walloping knowledge of theology, philosophy of religion and the King James Bible,” Haymon explained. “That calls up a wild vocabulary, not much used in poems. It’s also a book drawn from the experience of pedophilia, clergy abuse, incest and memory recovery.”
Most important to Haymon, however is the space in which she will be reading and the impact she hopes to achieve with the collection overall.
“The poems offer an access to healing, I’ve been told that by many people, and I want the book to be used that way,” Haymon said. “My hope is that the book be used by survivors and by art therapists.”
Haymon, whose Poet Laureate term is nearing its end, said she has future plans to teach poetry writing workshops designed to foster the clarity and the healing she’s found through her own writing.
“The Red Shoes has been a safe harbor for me for years,” Haymon said. “I have read my poems there often. It’s a wonderful place to teach poem making. Miraculous things happen in the work of writers, all writers, when they feel safe and when they know there’s no repression to fear and no role stereotypes to maintain.”
Then there’s Laurie Lynn Drummond.
Drummond is a retired Baton Rouge police officer whose latest work Losing My Gun explores her experiences as such. She will read an essay from the budding memoir.
“I always hope that I can help the audience see the human behind the badge and the gun,” Drummond said. “Another goal is to convey the particularities of being a female police officer, way beyond the unfortunate stereotypes in films and on TV.”
While she said she plans to convey women’s empowerment and stereotype defrayment, Drummond continued that she hopes patrons of the event will seek out more the stories, above the coming together of women writers.
“We are who we are, and we’ve got some beautiful, powerful, funny, assertive, wise and poignant words to share,” she said.
That’s also a message that Herschman emphasizes.
“It’s a wonderful setting to really hear the voices and wonderful spirits – I think the community is fortunate to have so much talent,” Herschman said. “And men are totally invited.”
Other confirmed writers are Renée Bacher, Claire Boudreaux Bateman and Dorothy Early Davis. A full list has yet to be released.