Mightier than the sword: Local writers plan pre-inauguration resistance event

Post-election, many writers and artists have been doing a lot of thinking about how best to move forward in what feels like a strange new world.

“Like most other people I know, I was in kind of a state of shock in mid-November, going around in depressed disbelief,” says Nina Shengold, Chronogram books editor and founder of Word Café, a gathering place for Hudson Valley writers and readers. “What is the writer’s role in an administration that you don’t agree with? That you may be frightened by? And how do we support each other, and how do we support people who are at risk?”

“Hudson Valley Writers Resist: Louder Together for Free Expression” will bring a collective of writers and musicians to the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock on Sunday, January 15 – the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., a few days before the inauguration – to celebrate the power of words, compassion, equal rights, free speech, social justice and environmental issues. There will be three hour-long sets of words and music beginning at 2 p.m., with attendees welcome to come for one set or all three.

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Admission is free, but goodwill donations will be gratefully accepted by the three organizations designated as beneficiaries for the day: Riverkeeper, Planned Parenthood of the Mid-Hudson Valley and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU). Each will have tables in the lobby staffed by representatives. The NYCLU will also receive the proceeds raised through the sale of signed books donated by local authors and Woodstock’s Golden Notebook. Additional funds for the organizations will also be donated from portraits done in the theater lobby by photographer Franco Vogt and illustrator Will Lytle.

Nina Shengold will host one set, with the others led by Ida Hakkila of The Heavy Light Show on Radio Woodstock and Kate Hymes of Wallkill Valley Writers. Each set will be dedicated to one of the beneficiary organizations and include a combination of individual readers, a group presentation and live music, according to Shengold, one of the event organizers. “I’ve organized a lot of author events over the years, and this is the first time everybody I asked to participate said yes, and said yes immediately,” she says. “There’s clearly an urge to get together and speak out.”

The event came together fast, Shengold notes, and is one of at least 60 similar events being held internationally on the same day. “As I understand it, the idea of doing something as a collective raising of voices started out as a national initiative, and then some American writers living abroad and people concerned in Europe and elsewhere, who felt that they wanted to become part of the fabric, got involved. And certainly, the way America will be changing will affect people all over the world.”

Featured writers include Emily Barton, Jon Bowermaster, Cheryl Clarke, Cornelius Eady, Amitava Kumar, Elizabeth Lesser, Gretchen Primack, Edwin Sanchez, Sparrow, Abigail Thomas, Mark Wunderlich and Sunil Yapa. “The writers who are coming are amazing,” says Shengold. “They’re poets, they’re nonfiction writers, they’re novelists…they’re all people who are good readers as well as good writers.” Group presentations will be offered by writers from the TMI Project, Woodstock Bookfest and TheWeeklings.com. There will also be performances by Connor Kennedy, Mikhail Horowitz & Gilles Malkine, Simi Stone & David Baron and Robert Burke Warren.

The bar will be open in the lobby of the Bearsville Theater, and refreshments in some form will likely be available. The theater donated the space for the event, which is co-sponsored by PEN America.

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