Book review: 'Writing Fire' is inspirational, empowering

"Writing Fire," edited by Jennifer Browdy, Jana Laiz and Sahra Bateson Brubeck, is a dynamic collection of women's writing where, in the words of the editors, the "energy of all four elements (wind, fire, earth, water) are represented within the pages."

With over 75 contributors, the anthology is thematically divided into six parts: Part One: "Hearts Wide Open"; Part Two: "Questions for Our Mothers"; Part Three: "Looking for Love"; Part Four: "Falling Into Family"; Part Five: "Courage, Resilience and Strength"; and Part Six: "Strong Shoulders."

Much of the work in the form of poetry, memoir, personal narrative, essay, humor and short fiction, is inspired by life in the Berkshires. The book grew out of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, many, if not all, of the contributors had participated in the festival over the years. It began as an anthology to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the festival. Every piece of writing is unique in style, personality and message. All of the writing addresses a spectrum of issues, including family, parenting, origins, sexuality, sexual identity and gender, and relationships at different life stages and ages. It also tackles ancestors, nature and spirituality, adventure, trauma, grief, and being a woman in direct, authentic, open and generous sharing of experience. Every voice brings to life intimate messages that support greater understanding of women's issues and lives.

The fresh voice with each section adds to the page-turning quality of this collection. The unique perspectives and diverse writings and voices moving through the anthology create a literary festival.

Every piece is generally short and powerful in thoughtful message and deep emotional impact. For this reason, this anthology is ideal for sampling one reading at a time to reflect on the beautiful personal message of sharing, such as "Where Is Your Husband?" by Kuukua Dzigbordi Yomekpe, about crossing cultural and sexual boundaries of identity to find greater liberation and happiness. Reading ahead to find the wonderful poem, "Kind Thoughts" by Rosemary Starace, reflecting on daughters in a most dreamy and ethereal way, is a coming together in a mastery of language control, where we are lifted in ineffable reverie. A few works ahead in that section ("Falling Into Family") where the reader encounters "Fudgsicles" by Martha C. Beattie, a memoir of sharing a treat for the first time with her twins, will have you laughing out loud. While it is ambitious in length and wide-ranging in diversity, "Writing Fire" succeeds entirely in gathering all we can hold by and about women and children, and the men in their lives.

Every piece is vibrant with energy and every one is an inspiration to find yourself in every way and find greater celebration of life through open, honest and empowering writing that is true, but not often brought to print in this way. "Writing Fire" is a great opportunity and, hopefully, the start of a series that will continue to showcase women's voices in print.

The Lenox Library Association and The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar celebrate International Women's Day with a special "Writing Fire" book event with editors Browdy, Laiz and Brubeck, and anthology authors, including Jayne Benjulian, Browdy, Amber Chand, Anni Crofut, Barbara Dean, Lisken Van Pelt Dus, Hope Fitzgerald, Maggie Dillon Katz, Lorrin Krouss, Jana Laiz, Lydia Littlefield, Barbara Newman and Lara Tupper sharing 5-minute excerpts from their writing at 7 p.m. Friday, March 9.

Colin Harrington is the events manager at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox. He welcomes reader comments at


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