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Marcia_IvansMARCIA S. IVANS is a poet and an active member of Women Who Write.  In addition to publishing two poetry collections, she has an online presence linked through womenwhowrite.org. Marcia’s life has taught her that there is happiness beyond any negative times. Like a “yellow forsythia lying dormant for too long…she brings light from darkness…growing and alive again.”

Your Poetry & Pastries program is now beginning its tenth year. How did you come up with the idea? What was your goal and have you achieved it?

Having coffee with a poet friend in Chatham’s Café Beethoven, we both observed that this would be a lovely place to hold readings. I presented the idea to Andrew Copp of Café Beethoven, and so it began. I started with five women that first night. Now, our regular bimonthly meetings average 20-35 participants per night: women and men; beginners and long timers; readers and listeners. I wanted to give poets a warm, non-threatening space to read their work, with only positive feedback. Poets can sell their books or put out flyers for upcoming events. The $10 fee covers unlimited coffee, tea, delicious pastries and wonderful poetry.

When and why did you start writing creatively?

Thirty years ago I wrote a brief poem to a friend, and she pushed me to keep writing. I found that the process helped me to get out many hidden feelings. It was as if my thoughts were imprisoned in a balloon on top of my head, and the pen was a pinprick that helped to release them.

Do you have a main theme?

The theme that seems to be a mainstay is that despite adversities there is always a brighter tomorrow. In my two books, I share the sad events in my life, but end on the positive; even formatting the poem titles in my book Over Easy upwards, indicating the positive.

Please tell us about your publications.

My first publication grew out of the poem I wrote for my friend. Once I had collected a few, I stapled them together and sold them at a friend’s boutique. I thought that my feelings were unique, but many readers have told me that I have helped them express their own feelings. My growing self-confidence and the acceptance of my own unadorned writing style freed me to explore and relate more of my feelings on paper. A dozen years ago I published the first issue of Yesterday, A Collection of Thoughts, with a black-and-white cover. For the 2003 reprint, I chose pastels to reflect my happier mood. Encouraged by the positive response from bookstores and public readings, in 2007 I published my second book, Over Easy, with a clear concept to make the cover bright and upbeat. My poems have appeared in Goldfinch and in many newspapers and anthologies.

What do you like about writing?

I like the freedom of allowing myself to express all feelings. The different styles depend on the tenor of my mood, but I like to keep it honest and direct.

How did you hear about Women Who Write? Why did you join and stay?

About eight years ago, a small newspaper announcement led me to join the Poet’s Corner group started by Maureen Lanagan Haggerty. I enjoyed the diversity of members and the camaraderie, and found their supportive critiques to be so helpful. I soon became active and served on the Board for seven years as secretary, membership director and currently as the liaison to WWW’s webmaster.

What are you plans for the future?

I am working on a poetry chapbook and I’d like to write a memoir. I’m also in discussion with Bobby’s News & Gifts in Boonton to do open readings, hoping to bring poetry to an expanded area.

Would you like to convey anything else to our writing community?

Enjoy your writing, find and believe in your own style, and feel free enough to share your words.

By: Mira Peck

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Photo of Julie Maloney

JULIE MALONEY, a member of Women Who Write for six years, is celebrating the 10th anniversary of her organization, Women Reading Aloud (WRA) (www.womenreadingaloud.org).  WRA offers a supportive community for writers with several different programs including writing workshops, conferences, writing and yoga, an author series and retreats. Julie is currently working on a novel and has published a poetry book entitled, “Private Landscape.”  In this interview, Julie reflects on the evolution of WRA over the past ten years and her own journey as a writer.

Why did you start Women Reading Aloud?  How has your business evolved over its 10-year history?

I believed that women writers needed a forum where they could be supported and feel heard.  I began with a half-day program with a focus on the equal value of the writer, the reader and the listener.  No one wanted to leave, so I made the next event a full day program with lunch and we invited a guest speaker.  Still, no one wanted to leave. Women writers crave connection; with support, we can soar, as with anything in life.  This is what Women Reading Aloud does—we support the writer completely by offering a non-threatening environment.  We offer freedom to explore the writer’s authentic voice within a structured program.

Five years ago, I started organizing retreats at The Beacon House, a charming Victorian inn in Sea Girt, NJ. Every year, we take over the inn’s 20 rooms.  We achieve a nice balance between community and solitude with our writing.  For the past three years, I’ve also run a retreat on a beautiful Greek island called Alonnisos.  Also, I run a series of writing workshops to help women generate new work using prompts.

WRA is a place where women can come and feel supported no matter their goal for their individual writing life.

Your website states that you use the Amherst Writers and Artists Method.  What is that?

I discovered the Amherst Writers and Artists Method on a personal retreat that I attended in Scotland.  I found that it was in harmony with the Women Reading Aloud philosophy — that the writer, reader and listener are all equally important.  I went through their certification program and learned fresh ideas on helping people discover their authentic voice and feel supported as a writer and a reader.

When did you begin writing? Please tell me about your personal writing journey.

I have always loved reading and writing and the arts in general.  I began dancing at the age of eight and knew then that I wanted to follow a creative life.  I was a modern dancer and choreographer and had my own company in New York City for 13 years.  At age 38, I stopped dancing as a professional to devote more time to my three young children. It was a difficult time. Dancing was a huge part of my life and I needed to fill the gap in my creative journey, so I entered the world of photography.  As I began shooting, I began writing in my head about what I saw through the lens.  That’s when I reconnected to my early love of writing.  Writing has actually brought me to a much deeper place as a creative person than dance.

I began writing memoir and then moved to poetry and fiction.  I’m currently revising a novel that I’ve worked on for years.  I have a wonderful NYC literary agent and I’m working on a final revision that will be sent to publishers.  Writing this novel has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done as a creative writer.

WRA is having an Annual Fundraiser in September.  Please tell me about that.

I conduct writing workshops, “Writing to Heal,” at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center in Morristown and this is the second year that I’ve organized an event to raise money for a full scholarship given to a woman writer living with cancer to attend the WRA retreat in Sea Girt.  This year, we will be naming the scholarship after a woman at the Cancer Center who fell in love with writing.  She read her work at last year’s fundraiser when she knew she was dying, and it was very emotional.   I hope that WWW members will support the event on Sunday, September 29 at 2 pm at Skylands Unitarian Fellowship in Mansfield, NJ. Everyone is invited!

By:  Ellen Resnick

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