The Sisterhood of the Summer Conference
Most of my adult life has been spent working with, for, or in the service of other women, using my words both spoken and written to aid, comfort, and empower.
I wish I had found The Guild at the beginning of that journey. I am grateful to have found them when I did.
I can’t remember the exact circumstance; it may have been an article or advertisement in a writer’s magazine that told me the International Women’s Writing Guild, an organization I had not heard of, was holding their Summer Conference at Yale University. The year was 2011.
For nine years previously I had been writing as a freelance, contract columnist for Tribune Publishing, home of the Chicago Tribune and the L.A. Times and other lesser known regional papers like my home paper, The Morning Call, when the downsizing of the industry came my way.
Losing my column wasn’t devastating to my financial circumstances, I had other freelance writing and speaking assignments, but it was devastating to my state of mind. I felt like I had lost my loudest voice. I needed support and understanding; most of all I needed to redefine and reinvent my writing.
I’ll never forget standing at the podium in that lecture hall at Yale, reading a very personal essay about a very personal experience, and looking out at the faces of other women writers and seeing the encouraging nods and smiles.
My writing life has never been the same.
Three years ago, the Summer Conference found a new home at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The beautiful, peaceful campus with its towering trees, rolling lawns, and fabulous food, gives off the perfect vibe for a gathering of sister-writers.
Once you experience the IWWG Summer Conference, you will, as I have, wish you had known about it sooner.
You will find ways to stretch your writing beyond your preconceived boundaries of ability and genre. The energy in the air is so contagious that you will catch the disease of “anything is possible”.
You will laugh, and smile, and make new friends who will stay with you through all the successes and failures that being a writer, brings.
And you will learn new things about yourself and about how to express who you are, and that whoever that is, is okay.
Anne Rice famously said, “To write something, you have to risk making a fool of yourself”. When you are surrounded by your Guild sisters, you need never worry about such things, because after taking a risk, they will hug you, laugh with you, put a feather boa around your neck, and tell you they want to hear the re-write as soon as you’re finished.
The International Women’s Writing Guild Summer Conference is a gift to women, by women, for women. I am honored to have become a teacher at the conference. I am equally honored to be a student there.
Please come join us.
Writer / Speaker / Women’s Advocate
Pamela Varkony is a non-fiction writer and a former columnist for Tribune Publishing. Her work appears in newspapers, magazines and in PBS and NPR on-air commentaries. Her poetry has been published in the New York Times.
Recognized by the Pennsylvania Women’s Press Association with an “Excellence in Journalism” award, Pamela often uses her communication skills to advocate for women’s rights and empowerment both at home and abroad. She has twice traveled to Afghanistan on a fact-finding mission and as an embedded journalist.
Pamela was named the 2017 Pearl S. Buck International Woman of Influence for her humanitarian work. She is also a recipient of the Business Council for Peace, VERA Award for her work in Afghanistan, the Chamber of Commerce Athena Award for business achievement; the American Association of University Women’s “Gateway Award” for leadership in women’s issues; a “Woman of Distinction” award from the Girl Scouts, and the Nike Award for championing women’s causes presented to her by Business & Professional Women.
Pamela was born and raised in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where she and her husband, Zsolt, maintain a summer home, along with two very spoiled cats.