Campus event showcases women writers


Will Nacouzi/The Skyline View

Ethel Rohan, one of two featured authors at the annual “Women in Writing” event, reading one of her works at this year event. March 14, 2016.

Imagine going to your grandmother’s house. You’re in the kitchen where it’s still warm from the heat of the oven and sunlight beams through floral window curtains. Before you is a table laid out with fresh baked goods, muffins, donuts and coffee cake. Your stomach rumbles just from the sweet smell.

She lets you take your pick and then sits you down and reads to you aloud from her favorite book. This is how it felt to be apart of the Women on Writing event that took place on campus this past Saturday, where the speakers shared their writing and creative processes and aspiring writers had the opportunity to read their work to the crowd.

There were ruminations on mosquitoes, Berkeley, and what it’s like moving to a new place. Speakers Danusha Lemeris and Ethel Rohan come from different backgrounds, but share a love for writing. Lemeris grew up in Mill Valley, and her family moved to Half Moon Bay some time later.

Rohan meanwhile, was raised an Irish-Catholic, in a family of eight, in Dublin, Ireland. Both women have a laundry list of journals and magazines that they have contributed to, and both enriched the lives of everyone there by sharing their stories.

Lemeris read her poems like she had been born to do it. Her clear, soft voice drawing on the crowd’s emotions, building them up to great heights and then gently laying them back down. And the crowd, as if caught in the pull of the tide, let themselves be drawn in.

A breathless “wow” could be heard from the back of the crowd as Lemeris, reading a poem about a watch, ended with “how odd the way the watch keeps going after the heart has stopped”.

For her part, Rohan earned aww’s of sympathy and understanding when speaking about a childhood talent show in which she didn’t have the opportunity to be heard. But, writing became her passion because it was a means of escape.

And the greatest escape was her move from Ireland to San Francisco when she was only 22 years old. She recalls the lung X-ray, denoting she was free of tuberculosis, that was required of her in order to gain entry to the United States, and how she could “still see [her] ghostly lungs after [she] closed her eyes.”

She gave a lot of insight into what it is to struggle with the “rules” of writing and how it’s impossible to be truly objective, since so much of a person’s life colors their tone and their characters.

Two Skyline students, Jacqueline Espino and April Yee, were recognized for their work in creative writing when they received an ISA Scholar award after they were chosen by a group of professors for their outstanding work.

The tone of the event was very supportive among the female writers, and founder Marijane Datson had set it up just so.

“I really wanted to take the opportunity to have a party and to hear the women who had been coming to the conferences,” Datson said of her decision to include an open reading at the event.

Speakers Lemeris and Rohan had some advice to share with the women writers out there. Lemeris’ advice for women looking to be published is to resubmit your work soon after.

“A woman writer is more likely to get that literary rejection and go, ‘Oh I didn’t get the piece’ and not try again or wait a long time and we don’t want to do that,” said Lemeris.

Rohan believes there is magic in being a writer. “You’re living the life of a writer and it’s such a joy and such a reward, but yeah, it’s about whatever magic happens and it’s magical.”