President’s Report on two memorable events

October 7, 2018

Dear all,

It’s been a whirlwind two weeks of great WNBA-NOLA programming!  A belated thank you to all who attended our very successful Banned Books Week event at my house last Saturday, September 29.  Despite the rain, we had a good turnout, enjoyed great food catered by Chez Nous, and connected with new and old friends at this, our first meeting of the year.  I was thrilled to see some new members and first-time guests.  Equally important is that we all shared some very special moments.  The highlight of the evening was sitting around the living room reading aloud passages from favorite books that have been banned through history.  But it was guest of honor and incomparable interviewer Gwen Thompkins who turned the conversation through and past the books and authors at hand and into unexpected territories to discuss our personal experiences reading banned books and whether we had ever wished a book were banned.  The result was a very intense, engaging and often hilarious discussion that I won’t soon forget.  It was one more example of why I love being a part of this extraordinary group of accomplished women.  As if that weren’t enough, we had a lot of fun with a silent auction that included a pair of banned book socks (yes, socks) and even a personal voicemail message recorded by Gwen with her inimitable voice, in addition to many other fantastic items.  We even raised a bit of funds for WNBA-NOLA programming in the process!  Many thanks to all who helped with set up and clean-up, to the generous donors who provided such great items for the auction, and to Pam Ebel and Serena Jones for donating champagne and prosecco which were thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated—and consumed.  I have only one regret from that evening:  I would have wished that every single member of WNBA-NOLA had been there to share in this truly memorable night.  It was truly special.  We missed you.

Then last night, we held the Diana Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction award ceremony at The George and Joyce Wein Jazz and Heritage Center.  This year, author Ellen Hart was awarded the prize for Distinguished Body of Work, and Marcie Rendon won for best Debut Novel.  Jean Redmann presented the prize to Ellen Hart, emphasizing the political importance of her work in paving the way for recognition of LGBTQ writers within mainstream publishing and by broader audiences.  Ellen Hart was not able to attend in person, but she spoke eloquently via Skype of her trajectory as a writer as well as her appreciation for this recognition.  Alison Fensterstock presented the award to Marcie Rendon and led a lively conversation with the author and the audience on matters that ranged from readers’ perceptions of her characters to her experiences as a Native American writer focusing on indigenous communities in the United States.  The program was bittersweet.  We not only celebrated the joys of writing with the two authors, but also paid tribute to the work of the late Sue Grafton, as commemorated by John Pope.  We were also honored to have with us the benefactors of the Pinckley Prizes, Anne and Bill Newton, who flew in from Atlanta as they do every year.  Anne had fond words for her lifelong friend, Diana Pinckley, and announced that she and Bill would endow the Pinckley Prizes.  This is a most generous gesture ensuring that the legacy of Diana Pinckley will live on in the form of these prestigious national awards for decades to come.  There was not a dry eye in the room.  Another special evening via WNBA-NOLA, this time spearheaded by Susan Larson.  Another testament to the collaborative and creative spirit that is our organization.

Nina Calvo, President


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