I have wanted to visit the Women and Children First Bookstore, located in Andersonville, for many years. The store has had a strong presence in the Chicago area, and a piece about their history on the store's website states that, “In 2014, our co-founders, Ann Christophersen and Linda Bubon, sold the bookstore to two of their staffers, Lynn Mooney and Sarah Hollenbeck. The change in ownership kept the store 'in the family' and renewed the strength and vitality of our mission to promote the writing of women and other marginalized voices. “
A recent presentation by two authors from the East Coast, New Jersey and New York, was the strong motivation that finally propelled me to visit the store. These two authors, Donna Baier Stein and Ronna Wineberg, met at a Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in Middlebury, Vermont. They became fast friends and interestingly, their writing careers have paralleled one another. Both have written novels and short story collections, have won prizes, and have an involvement with journals that publish the works of upcoming writers. The day before this presentation, Ronna Wineberg learned that the recent novel she had written, “On Bittersweet Place “won a contest for best indie book, 2016, shelf unbound contest!
Molly Marz of Women and Children First introduced the speakers, sharing their impressive stories. Donna and Ronna had their most recent works published by the same publisher, Serving House Books. In their presentation they talked about their books, read a selection from each and then shared how they handle their writing- write each day, edit the works of others, and so on.
Donna’s book is “The Silver Baron’s Wife” which is an historical novel that takes place in the silver mines in Colorado. Ronna’s book is “Nine Facts That Can Change Your Life”, which is a collection of fifteen short stories taking place in various locations, each telling a powerful story of relationships. While Donna’s book leads the reader into the life of an historical figure trying to understand what it must have been like, Ronna’s book stirs feelings that most readers have experienced.
Donna’s bio: Donna Baier Stein is the author of The Silver Baron's Wife (PEN/New England Discovery Award), Sympathetic People (Iowa Fiction Award Finalist), and Sometimes You Sense the Difference. She founded and publishes Tiferet Journal. She has received a Scholarship from Bread Loaf, a Fellowship from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars, three Pushcart nominations, and prizes from the Allen Ginsberg Awards and elsewhere. Her writing has appeared in Writer’s Digest, Virginia Quarterly Review, New York Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, and many other journals and anthologies. She is currently completing a new collection of stories based on Thomas Hart Benton lithographs. Donna's website
Some nice reviews include:
An artistic, sympathetic imagining of the life of a 19th-century woman who made headlines for all the wrong reasons. -- KIRKUS REVIEWS
A unique portrait of a time and place populated by fearless people, this reimagination of an uncommon woman is powerful. - FOREWORD REVIEWS, 5 stars
Ronna’s bio: Ronna Wineberg is the author of the new story collection, Nine Facts That Can Change Your Life, as well as On Bittersweet Place, her first novel, and a debut collection, Second Language, which won the New Rivers Press Many Voices Project Literary Competition and was the runner-up for the 2006 Reform Judaism Prize for Jewish Fiction. Her stories have appeared in American Way, Colorado Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, South Dakota Review and elsewhere, and been broadcast on National Public Radio. She is the recipient of a scholarship in fiction to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and residencies to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Ragdale Foundation. She has been awarded a fellowship in fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts. She is the founding fiction editor of the Bellevue Literary Review, and lives in New York. Currently, Wineberg is completing a new novel about a female public defender. Ronna's website
Some nice reviews include:
"Wineberg (Second Language, 2005) follows up her novel with this emotional short story collection...There's still more to each story after the author is finished with her characters, and that's what makes this collection so satisfying." –– Kirkus Reviews
"Ronna Wineberg focuses on the constant state of flux between lovers, friends, and families in her new collection of stories. Nine Facts That Can Change Your Life features fifteen vignettes about emotional mutability and the small, silent decisions that precipitate big changes..." –– Village Voice
Photos: B. Keer unless otherwise noted.