Using their words to resist

Local literary talents unite as part of international writing movement to assert commitment to ‘equality, free speech, and the fundamental ideals of democracy’

BRATTLEBORO — With a hum of voices of children, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, members of the local literary community came together on Sunday to support one another and affirm their commitment to democracy.

Regional literary talents united at the Brattleboro Literary Festival's Writers Resist event - part of an international movement - on Sunday, Jan. 15, the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., at a time of political transition.

Editor and writer Bob Parks began with an introduction, describing Writers Resist as “a 're-inauguration' of our shared commitment to the spirit of compassion, equality, free speech, and the fundamental ideals of democracy.”

Parks joined a back-to-back queue of writers - of poetry, short stories, novels, and fantasy - to read their own or selected excerpts from other authors before an audience of about 40 people, issuing a message of resistance and hope.

Contributing writers included Joe Mazur, Tim Mayo, Robin MacArthur, Brian Staveley, Andrea Lawlor, Heather Wells Peterson, Chard deNiord, Aaron Thier, Stephanie Greene, Brian Mooney, Richard Michelson, Vincent Panella, and Tim Weed. A few of the chosen authors read aloud by these participants were Seamus Heaney, Mary Oliver, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison.

In the back of the auditorium, a young girl skipped and strolled across the floor while wearing a cape with a print of a large butterfly.

Reaffirming the role of writers in political resistance

The afternoon was part of an international movement, Writers Resist. More than Writers Resist chapters have organized in vast numbers, reaching 33 states in the U.S. and Washington, D.C., as well British Columbia, Hong Kong, Berlin, Singapore, London, Zurich.

Sandy Rouse, director of the Brattleboro Literary Festival, organized the event, along with Peterson. Rouse has been organizing events similar to Writers Resist within the Literary Festival since its inception in 2002.

“The point of events like these is to create a flame that people can return to when they need re-lighting,” Rouse said.

Peterson stated that “the guiding principle [for the event] is to reaffirm the role of writers in political resistance and progress.” She emphasized that the effort is not supposed to incite negativity, but positive change.

Rouse said that the role of the writer in public political discourse is, simply, “to write.”

“Write about op-ed pieces, poetry, songs - anything to make people aware of what is going on,” she said.

“Reading in general creates empathy,” Peterson added. “It is a way of giving attention or focus to [lesser-known writers and issues], allow[ing] them to enter our minds and give them full lives.”

Write to communicate

Many individuals want to write, but may be hesitant, lack confidence, or feel that they lack the formal education in order to create visible, meaningful work.

Peterson's response? Just write.

“[T]he main reason to write is to communicate,” she said. “So on whatever platform you choose to communicate, if you choose for it to be about change, then write about change in whatever way you can.”

“Share it with your friends, share it with your family,” she added. “We don't need to have a large audience of 1,000 people to make a difference ... and [the act of writing itself] can help us to become better, more reflective, and aware people.”

Rouse added with enthusiasm: “And don't be afraid. Be brave.”

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