We survived another fund drive!

November 12, 2005

Three cheers for the annual fund drive — and for making it through Mailing Day!

Inkberry’s annual appeal is always a major endeavor. Once a year we send out 1400 letters — the product of eight or nine different mail-merges — to everyone in our database, seeking renewed support from those who’ve graciously donated in the past, and hoping that some of those who haven’t will choose to do so this year.

Writing the letter gets easier every year. Back in 2000, before Inkberry had put on its first program, convincing people to give us money was a tricky thing; though we still work hard on crafting the letter, these days it’s a lot easier to make ourselves look like a real organization that does real things because, well, we are and we do. 🙂

So we wrote the letter, and ordered new letterhead, and printed up reply slips, and stamped our return address on a few thousand small reply envelopes. In the days leading up to today, Jill and Cassie (and Emily and our board member Linda) stuffed envelopes with reply slips; we printed mailing labels; we wrangled with new toner cartridges and sailed through technical difficulties. Today was the final push — Mailing Day.

We gathered a team of fabulous volunteers who folded, stuffed, labeled, sealed, sorted, and stickered the entire mailing in just under five hours. Millegrazie to Emily, Daniel, Cassie, Jill, Amy, Chris, Enid, and Vern for their help in getting the mailing together!

Jill will haul the flats of letters to the post office in the coming week; hopefully, by Thanksgiving, donations and memberships will start rolling in. We do our best to operate on a shoestring, but running an organization requires funds; the annual appeal is one of the best ways we know to raise those funds. So if you’ve been considering donating, please do! Even a small amount helps — and knowing that you support us (emotionally) enough to support us (financially) makes all of the work worthwhile.

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November 5, 2005: Poet Jack Gilbert comes to town

November 5, 2005

I got to spend my Saturday with Jack Gilbert, thanks to the NEA and the Williams College Chaplains’ Office: how cool is that? Today Inkberry’s “sense of place/community renewal” program intersected with the Chaplains’ Office’s “reimagining sacred space” program; together we brought Jack Gilbert to town, and over the course of his two events we explored the place where our two foci intersect: sense of place and sacred space; the writing life, the life of the community, and the life of the spirit.

This afternoon at four, about 25 people gathered in Williams College’s Stetson Faculty Lounge for Jack’s Q-and-A. I’d forgotten what a beautiful room it is; great bookshelves, high windows, ornate ceiling, a dozen different kinds of comfortable chair. We sat in a circle, our attention on Jack, and had a fascinating conversation.

My first question for him was about the places that have been significant to him and how they’ve impacted his writing. In response he talked about how the places that matter most to him aren’t the pretty ones, necessarily, but the ones that show him something about himself he hadn’t previously known. He talked about living in Japan, for instance: it was beautiful and he loved it, but it didn’t shape his work beacuse it was so polished and formal and nothing in him arose to match that.

The conversation was pretty freewheeling: the nature of space, Jack’s time in Java, what it means to be scared, the importance (for poets) of cultivating a kind of discontent, the need to write poems that reflect who one is becoming instead of who one already is. He didn’t want to lecture, so he lobbed questions back at the audience pretty often: about place, about fear, about whether it’s possible for someone over fifty to truly fall in love, about the nature of old mens’ dreams.

After the Q-and-A session, nine of us wound up trekking to nearby bistro Mezze for dinner, including Gary Metras (of Adastra Press), Barry Sternlieb (of Mad River Press) and Julio Granda (who illustrates poetry broadsides). I had the pleasure of chatting some with Jack about the time I got lost in the town of Madaba in Jordan, and about the work I’m doing now.

And then came the evening’s reading! We gathered a sizeable crowd in Thompson Memorial Chapel. Chaplain Rick Spalding had some lovely remarks about the chapel’s centennial and their project entitled “reimagining sacred space.” He mentioned that it made perfect sense for his office to conspire with Inkberry, and riffed briefly on what it means to conspire, to breathe together. Then he introduced me, I introduced Jack, and we all sat rapt while Jack read his poems.

He read slowly, painstakingly; that he sometimes stumbled over his words gave the poems an added level of poignancy. Afterwards, he signed books in the back of the chapel. One student (a senior biology major) thanked me for the event, and another (a bearded young man whose year and major I never learned) quizzed me about the Q-and-A he was sorry to have missed. Folks milled around, bought books, and talked about the event as it wound down

The day was a pleasure. As usual, you can see photos in our inkberry photoset. Our deep thanks to Jack Gilbert for coming and to his friend Henry Lyman for facilitating the visit, to Rick Spalding for conspiring with us, and to the NEA for the funding — and, of course, to all of you, for being there and being here and being a part of Inkberry!


An evening with Jane Yolen (Guest post from Emily Banner)

November 2, 2005

It’s always been a major perk of working with Inkberry that I get to meet and spend time with the fabulous authors we lure to town. October was no exception. A mere two days after having a delightful dinner with Phillip Lopate and his family, I got to escort Jane Yolen and her husband through her afternoon talk and evening reading on the 17th.

Co-presented with Words Are Wonderful, as part of our series of “Writing and Community Renewal” events funded by the NEA, Jane’s talk and reading took place in the auditorium of the Williamstown Elementary School. In the afternoon, Jane spoke to a group of teachers and librarians about the role of landscape in creative writing, sharing examples from her own work and others’ of descriptive passages in which landscapes came alive on the page, and advising the audience on how young writers might create that same sense in their stories. In the evening, she read to an audience of children and parents from several of her books, starting with works for the littlest kids and working her way up to material for young adults. Though the crowd was a bit squirmier than what one ordinarily sees at an Inkberry event (also noticeably shorter), they were clearly entranced, as evidenced by the stampede to the book table when Jane was finished and the books went on sale. Witnessing that stampede, in fact, may have been my favorite moment of the day; it’s not often I get to see a crowd of kids who are so excited about books that they just HAVE to get them RIGHT NOW!

Between the two events, I got to have dinner with Jane and David, her husband. Conversation flowed from the history of Inkberry (and whether Jane might teach with us one day!), and Jane and David’s travels, to folklore, the Bible, oral traditions, midrash, and the many ways we tell stories. Have I mentioned that I love the wining-and-dining-brilliant-authors part of my job?

I have high hopes that we might get Jane to teach a master class at Inkberry at some point in the future. But meanwhile, you can learn far more about her and her 200+ books at her website, www.janeyolen.com.