Dec 21 2010

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Ten Copies of This Book
Will Be Given Away



With the help of our generous supporters last week, WomenArts has raised $2,400 towards our challenge grant goal of $5,000! Hurray! Thanks so much to all of you who have helped!

If you have not given yet, please consider a gift of $5, $10, $25, or more to help us raise the remaining $2,600. You can give by clicking any Donate button on the WomenArts website or through the WomenArts Cause page on Facebook.

BONUS RAFFLE ADDED: We are collaborating with Paris Press to add a new bonus. Everyone who gives to our challenge grant campaign (including people who gave last week) will automatically be entered in a raffle where we will give away ten copies of “Sisters: An Anthology,” edited by Jan Freeman, Emily Wojcik, and Deborah Bull.

This is a beautiful book of essays, poems and stories by and about sisters, and as we explain below, you can use it to create a unique holiday celebration or a  Support Women Artists Now Day event!

Please help us if you can. Remember that if you act now – whatever you give will be doubled by our challenge grant donor.

Thanks to all of you for persevering with your art in these challenging times. Happy Holidays!

Martha Richards, Executive Director


WomenArts is always on the lookout for easy-to-produce SWAN Day suggestions that we can share with our readers.  We heard a great idea last week from Jan Freeman, the Founder and Director of Paris Press. She has been organizing “Sisters Celebrations” around the country that sound like a lot of fun.

Paris Press recently published “Sisters: An Anthology,” a wonderful collection of stories, memoirs, and poems about the “unique, complicated, humorous, difficult, loving world of sisters.” Many of the contributing writers are old favorites like Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Simone de Beauvoir, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Muriel Rukeyser, and Barbara Kingsolver. Some of the other writers have less familiar names, but as in every Paris Press book I have seen, the writing is consistently excellent.

“Sisters Celebrations” are events where women read aloud excerpts from the anthology and then share stories about their own sisters or sisters they have known. These events have been so popular that Freeman has created a short “Guide to Sisters Celebrations,” which we have published below.

The guide offers lots of great ideas for creating memorable and meaningful Sisters Celebrations, and we hope they will inspire you to create an event of your own for SWAN Day, the holidays, your birthday, or any other day when you want to enjoy some wonderful women writers.

You can enter a raffle to win a copy of Sisters: An Anthology by making a donation of any size to WomenArts this month. You can also find the book in a library or buy it directly from Paris Press or from other local and online booksellers.

The next SWAN Day/Support Women Artists Now Day celebrations will be in March 2011.

If you have SWAN Day ideas you would like to share, please contact WomenArts>>


WHAT: A Sisters Celebration is a gathering of three or more people who read selections from “Sisters: An Anthology.”

WHY: It’s a great way for friends, relatives, and strangers to discover extraordinary stories and poems by well-known and emerging women writers, while exploring the unique, complicated, humorous, difficult, loving world of sisters.

WHO: Invite friends, your book group, neighbors, strangers, colleagues, and even your sister (if you are still speaking to each other). For large gatherings, ask each person you invite to bring two or more people. Paris Press is happy to send you a sample press release that you can use.

AGE: Anyone fourteen or older can join in.

WHERE: Sisters Celebrations can take place in a living room, around a kitchen table, in a library, a community center, a bookstore, a synagogue or church, in a café, or in an auditorium or theater.

HOW: Generally, keep readings to 5 – 7 minutes per person (3 – 5 pages), and limit the number of readers to five. Unless you decide to have a Sisters Marathon, in which case you should have several 10 minute breaks with tea, wine, and snacks!

Select the readers/participants and the poems and stories you would like them to read. For Sister Celebrations that will include people outside your intimate circle of pals, invite one or two women to read who are high-profile individuals in your community (any field is fine), especially people with sisters and daughters.

Before assigning stories and poems, ask readers if they have favorite pieces they would like to read from Sisters. For best results, mix emotional tones, poetry, and prose. And always include one funny story or poem.

The Sisters’ Table of Contents offers one example of the order in which pieces can be read. The three sections of the book progress from childhood to old age, and include many kinds of relationships between sisters (loving, competitive, supportive, cruel). Several stories and poems address the illness of a sister and the grief after the death of a sister.

THE READINGS: The host and the participants should briefly introduce themselves before reading their piece. Do they have sisters? Are they the oldest? Youngest? Middle? Additional thoughts about poems and stories tend to work best in the second part of the event, the post-reading discussions.

AFTER THE READINGS: Paris Press encourages audience members and readers to ask each other questions and discuss their reactions to the stories and poems. Readers or the host might prepare an anecdote from their own lives to kick things off. This often leads to discussions with the audience: What did audience members relate to from the reading? What is unfamiliar? How do people who don’t have sisters respond – does the reading make them wish they had sisters or are they grateful they don’t? And remember, Sister Celebrations are not therapy sessions; they are opportunities to listen to and read great writing, and think about how the literature in the anthology connects to each person’s life and the lives of people they know.

EXTRAS: After the readings, enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of wine. While the core part of the Celebration is reading a sampling of prose and poetry from the anthology, other activities can be included to make this a memorable experience.

Before and after the Sisters reading, singing or listening to songs about sisters can be moving and fun (see list below). Ask one participant to sing or hand out song sheets (for a one-time use only!) and get your group bellowing. Piano or guitar can make this particularly lively.

To encourage some good sister-storytelling, ask everyone to tell their funniest sister memory. Describe one favorite sister outfit (silliest or most elegant). List movies about sisters, novels about sisters, infamous sisters who you’d like to know more about. Or less about! Describe the closest sisters you know. The angriest sisters you know. Which sisters swapped boyfriends, girlfriends, were most alike, most different, wore matching outfits, wanted to be twins, moved far away from each other, live in the same neighborhood, talk every day, never talk.

ENDING A CELEBRATION: Many Sister Celebrations last 1½ – 2 hours. If it is time to wrap-up a gathering, suggest that a pre-appointed person read Joan Baez’s excerpt from DAYBREAK on page xvii.

A FEW SISTER SONGS (Please let us know if you find other great sister songs): “Sisters” – Rosemary Clooney; “Two Sisters” (an Irish folk song); “We Are Family” – Sister Sledge; “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” – Eurythmics; “Side by Side” – McGuire Sisters; “Sister’s Coming Home” – Emmylou Harris; “Little Sister” – Elvis Presley; “Wind Beneath My Wings” – Bette Midler.

MORE INFORMATION: Please check out the “recipes” for a perfect Sisters Celebration on the Paris Press blog at, and join Paris Press on Facebook for updates  about Sisters events, celebrations, reviews, and news! You can also watch Jan Freeman talk about Sisters Celebrations on NBC Channel 22 at:

SEND US YOUR FEEDBACK: Paris Press LOVES to receive feedback about Sisters Celebrations. Send your descriptions, high points, low points, and suggestions to or contact WomenArts at Contact Us>>


WomenArts is supported by generous grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Meyer Levy Charitable Foundation, Anonymous Fund 2 of the Peace Development Fund, the Gratitude Fund of the East Bay Community Foundation, and by gifts of time, energy and money from artists and arts supporters around the world.


WomenArts is a community of artists and allies dedicated to celebrating and supporting art by and about women. For an overview of our programs and services, please see the About Us section of our web site at