TopThe New York Bookwoman

November 2013



Promoting the Community of the Book Since 1917

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In This Issue. . .
:: Giving Back to the Literary World
Table of Contents

Kids Research Center

Pannell Award

Giving Back

Interview with Bernice McFadden

United Nations Corner

Note from the Editors

Closing Quotation


Executive Board  


Jane Kinney-Denning


VP Programming 

Rosalind Reisner



Pauline Hsia


Co-Recording Secretaries
Rachel Weiss-Feldman
Sheila Lewis


Corresponding Secretary

Jennifer Cunningham-Lozano 


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Holiday party

December 5  


 (address provided 

when you RSVP)


The annual chapter holiday get-together is a great time to relax and enjoy good food and conversation.  Meet up with old friends and make some new ones! Find out about all the interesting things chapter members are doing. We'll  have some great giveaways, too!




Children's Book Drive


This fall, WNBA-NYC is partnering with the  Kids Research Center (KRC), a NYC non-profit focused on children's literacy. We are collecting new and gently-used books for children. 

Please bring your book donations to any of our chapter events this fall.

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President's Letter
Jane Denning

 Dear WNBA Community,


What a pleasure it is to write this letter for our chapter's winter newsletter.  Since this is the season of giving, the focus of this issue is on some of the things that the Women's National Book Association does in terms of "giving back" to the community we support.  I would also like to remind everyone about our holiday party on December 5th.


This fall, we hosted a number of wonderful events, such as the In Conversation event with Ruth Ozeki and Carole Desanti, the stellar National Reading Group Month panel, and the thought-provoking panel on Women Writing Women's Lives which took place just last week.  The participants in all of these panels generously shared with us their stories, ideas, advice and wisdom and impacted the lives of all who had the privilege to listen to their stories. 


In addition, our chapter successfully launched a book drive to support the Kids Research Center, a non-profit focused on children's literacy in NYC. The support and generosity of our members has been tremendous and we are well on our way to exceeding our goal of collecting 250 children's books. Charitable acts have long been a part of the WNBA. It is wonderful to be working to fulfill this important mission once again--something that could not have been accomplished without the generous donation of time by our members.  In particular, Marlene Veloso, Tresa Chambers and Polly Francini have worked to coordinate the many book collections. Thank you!


We also continue to fulfill our role as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO).  The WNBA has been a member of the United Nations since 1959 and it is our responsibility to support the United Nations in its goals and to win support for those goals among the wider community within which we work; WNBA members are essentially ambassadors for the U.N. Our  activities include supporting WNBA's informal partnership with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF as well as fostering individual membership projects related to the mission of the U.N. Our Chief Representative, Jill Tardiff, also works closely with our Youth Representatives, guiding them as they fulfill their obligations.  The WNBA's relationship with the U.N. is something for us all to be proud of and yet another example of how we work to connect with the world for the greater good of all.


Lastly, and one of the things that I am continually amazed and inspired by, is the generosity of our members-especially to those who serve on the board or committee positions and who are dedicated to the success  of our chapter.  It is not easy for women as busy as we all are, to give up hours of our daily lives to make sure that every aspect of our programming is complete, our finances are in good shape, our membership healthy, databases organized, websites up to date (and beautiful!), newsletters and blogs published and current.  I can only speak for myself but the rewards for giving to the WNBA are beyond anything I could have imagined: friendships, partnerships, thought provoking conversations, and so many other things that are enriching to my life.  I have a feeling that it is the same for many of you. To borrow the words of the great Simone de Beauvoir, "That's what I consider true generosity: You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing."


In closing, I would like to wish you all a wonderful holiday season filled with blessings and light and giving.


Jane Kinney-Denning

President WNBA-NYC


Jane has just finished reading a number of remarkable books. A few that stand out and are lingering with her are Louise Erdrich's The Round House,  Jim Crace's Harvest,  and Roxanna Robinson's, Sparta. She just started reading Alice Munro's newest collection of short stories, Dear Life,  and is marveling at the beauty and power of the stories.



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MNBernice McFadden
National Reading Group Month Panel

BerniceAuthor Bernice McFadden joined our National Reading Group panel at the Strand this October, and regaled us all with her unique perspectives on writing and reading. For a full review of the event, check out this 

blog post. A special thanks to all of our panelists! Bernice is currently vacationing in Hawaii, and enjoying the sun and good weather, but graciously agreed to answer our interview questions. 



How did you enjoy our panel at the Strand? If you had to co-write a book with one of the other authors on the panel, who would it be and why?


I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I'm always intrigued by the creative process of my fellow writers. We are all so unique. I think that it would be great fun to pen a book with Elizabeth Nunez or John Searles.


For those who may be unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe your style in one or two sentences?

 Visual and lyrical.


Of the books that you've written, which is your favorite and what makes it your favorite? Which one would you recommend to a first-time reader of your work?


It's hard to pick a favorite and it changes every time the question is asked. So today my favorite book would be Nowhere is a Place because it came directly out of my personal genealogy research. I would recommend my first novel: Sugar


When did you know you were destined to become a writer? What turned it from a dream to a reality for you?


I've known that I was destined to become a writer from the age of nine. After nearly a decade of querying agents and editors, I finally got a break in 1999 when an agent rescued my manuscript (SUGAR) from the slush pile. And that was, as they say, literary history.


At the Strand you mentioned that Toni Morrison was one of your greatest inspirations. Who else inspired you to become a writer? 


I used to read a lot of Stephen King, Jackie Collins and Harold Robbins and so those writers were very early influences. Later, Alice Walker, Terry McMillan, Marita Golden, and J. California Cooper.


You and your books have been awarded so many great honors, including being nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and BCALA Literary Award in Fiction, among others. Which has been the most meaningful to you and why?


I appreciate and am humbled by every single award and accolade, because I know how competitive this business is and how lucky I am just to be recognized.


Can you speak about the experience of being a woman of color in a white, male dominated industry?


I'm well aware that if I was white and female or white and MALE - my resume would fling open a multitude of doors. But I am black, female and self-taught and so the golden opportunities, fellowships, awards, grants and sought after residencies, go to my white brothers and sisters in the world because the publishing industry and its off-shoots are run by the dominant culture and the dominant culture takes care of their own. Unfortunately and ashamedly that is the nature of this beast. It used to really irritate me and I used to be very vocal about it...and angry. But I found that it was affecting my spirit and I didn't like that. So I decided to just concentrate on this gift the universe has blessed me with and forget about "man's" glory and focus my energy on God's glory.


At the Strand panel, I loved when you said that when you write you are largely writing characters from your own life and your own street. Could you talk about this process, and how you came to write what you know?


I draw from my imagination and from real life. Because I believe in "spirit," the term "write what you know" means something very different for me. I believe your soul is infinite--only material is finite. So your soul has had a multitude of lives. So really, you don't know, what you REALLY know until you start peeling back the layers of your soul to discover those stories that are deep within you. We know plenty--we just have to learn how to access the knowledge.


At the panel, you mentioned that you have a writing season. What are the conditions of the writing season and how does it encourage you to create?


Autumn through spring. I start when the things are beginning to go to sleep. It's my birthday season and I am celebrating being born. So life, not death is on my mind. It is the perfect time to start to bring forth stories that have been incubating in my mind for months or years.


If you weren't a writer what would you be doing?


Something that involved traveling the world!


What are you reading now? How does being on a beach vacation affect what you might read?


I'm re-reading the memory: Every Good-Bye Ain't Gone by Itabari Njeri. We share the same life experiences, even though she's about 20 years older than I am. I just love this book.


What's the best thing an editor has done for you, or helped you do?


The best thing an editor has done for me is to NOT strangle my voice. They've all been good in that aspect.

Kids Research Center
New York Philanthropy


How was KRC founded? How did you come up with the idea, and how did you take your first steps?


I was working as a literacy specialist in Washington Heights and saw a need for literacy programs that provide a wide range of reading materials to children, that incorporate parents into the curriculum, and create an environment where reading is valued, encouraged, and fun. The first step to creating KRC was putting together a board that shared a passion for literacy.


What have some of your proudest moments working with KRC been?


Seeing how excited children are about books and reading. When we set-up our reading rooms, children are literally peeking through the windows. When we open the doors, they run over to the bookshelves, eager to see what titles we've stocked. They really love reading and they love books!


What was the hardest thing about founding a non-profit? What were the biggest hurdles to cross?


Managing time and resources is one of the more challenging parts of the job. Everyone has great ideas and we receive a lot of invitations to participate in different events and programs. Asking ourselves where we can make the biggest impact has helped us stay focused on our mission and goals.


Congratulations on being invited to join Scholastic's Global Literacy Campaign! Could you talk a little bit about what that means and what the organization does?


It was a great honor to be recognized by Scholastic as a leader in literacy. Through the campaign, we are promoting children reading every day so they can be successful in school and in life.


What other organizations have you partnered with? How does working with other non-profits or corporations benefit you?


We've partnered with a long list of organizations: NYC Housing Authority, NY Cares, Moody's Corporation, Chubb Insurance, and many more. We have found that partnering with other non-profits and local corporations makes it easier for us to reach a larger audience, cut costs, and focus on our programs.


What makes a book ideal for a KRC Reading Room? What do you look for when you have the opportunity to shop for books for KRC?


We are always on the lookout for children's resource books, such as dictionaries, thesauruses, atlases, and encyclopedias. We want to make sure that children have resources to do their homework as well as explore topics of interest. On the fiction side, we look for stories that children can relate to, that address important themes in their lives.


What's your favorite children's book?


I have so many, but right now I'm really enjoying reading "Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes" by Mem Fox to my daughter, Holland. Though Holland's favorite books are the Happy Healthy Baby Series from Free Spirit Publishing. She loves the rhymes in the books and black and white photos of babies. 


How can WNBAers contribute time and resources to your organization, and more generally to children's literacy?


WNBA members can donate new or gently used children's books to KRC. We also collect donations on the KRC website.  All monetary donations collected will be used to purchase bookshelves, bean bags, art work, and books for our next reading room. More generally, all of us can talk to children about books and stories. Ask them what they are reading and what they enjoy reading. Discuss the plot of a movie. Recommend a book or newspaper article. It's really that easy to promote literacy.



Pannell Award
Giving Back!
Charities and Volunteer Opportunities


Below is a list of volunteer organizations, charities, and opportunities to promote our goals of literacy and women's empowerment. As Thanksgiving and winter holidays approach, take advantage of the opportunity to think about those who are less fortunate or could use a bit of help. Check out what these great organizations are doing!


Literacy New York- LNY is a hub of volunt

eer organizations for tutoring on literacy and English. Visit their site to learn more about getting involved with a campaign or organization near you.



Book Aid International - Book Aid International increases access to books and supports literacy, education and development in sub-Saharan Africa. They provided 548,018 new books to over 2,000 libraries last year alone and have sent more than 30 million books to partner libraries since 1954.


Literacy for Incarcerated Teens - This organization supports the libraries in New York City's juvenile justice detention centers. A noble and worthy cause, they also bring authors in to speak with children in the system. Also check out Books Through Bars, a similar program for adults.


Girls Educational Mentoring Services - This group provides services for victims of commercial sexual exploitation, and they would love your donations of books, clothing, or money.


Reach out and Read - This organization works with pediatricians to prescribe books to promote education and family unity. They train doctors to help needy families achieve better education.


ReLIT NYC - ReLIT hands out free books to commuters in order to promote reading for adults. Their platform is one of recycling and reusing, in addition to the promotion of books in general.


United Way - The United Way can help you become a tutor, mentor, or reader for needy children and adults.


New York Public Library -You can volunteer at many locations of the NYPL to tutor children and adults. You must complete a training course, but you do not need other qualifications.


UThe UN Corner 
What's an NGO anyway?

A Non-Governmental Organization is defined by as:


"A non-governmental organization (NGO) is any non-profit, voluntary citizens' group which is organized on a local, national or international level. Task-oriented and driven by people with a common interest, NGOs perform a variety of service and humanitarian functions, bring citizen concerns to Governments, advocate and monitor policies and encourage political participation through provision of information. Some are organized around specific issues, such as human rights, environment or health. They provide analysis and expertise, serve as early warning mechanisms and help monitor and implement international agreements. Their relationship with offices and agencies of the United Nations system differs depending on their goals, their venue and the mandate of a particular institution."


Why should we care? Because the WNBA is an NGO! The WNBA helps the United Nations Department of Information disseminate facts and agendas related to their goals. As an NGO, the WNBA has a responsibility to give back to the community and share our expertise with others in order to promote our missions of literacy and woman's empowerment. The WNBA was formed in 1917 when women booksellers were excluded from the all-male Booksellers League. There is still a real need for women's professional empowerment today, and the WNBA helps women across the country promote education and employment. Here in New York we partner with organizations such as the Kids Research Center and Unicef to create a better world.


New Youth Rep!


We are proud to announce that Dena Mekawi is joining Jenna Vaccaro as one of our UN Youth Representatives! Dena is in the MS in Publishing program at Pace University. She was also recently a contestant in the Miss Arab World pageant. She is excited to get more involved with international affairs. Dena and Jenna attended their first UN Youth Representative briefing this month, a panel of youth discussing educational initiatives and public-private partnerships. Watch for a full review of the event in the February issue


Editor's Note
And finally, a brief word from the editors. . .e

This issue of The New York Bookwoman was a blast to put together! We are so thankful for the opportunity to share news of literacy philanthropy in New York, and have hopes that our readers get inspired this holiday season to spend time volunteering or donating to needy causes. We wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving and winter holiday season! See you next in February with an issue dedicated to love and romance, just in time for Valentine's Day! Please send us a note if you have story ideas for the next issue or would like to get otherwise involved in producing The New York Bookwoman

Jenna Vaccaro and Linda Epstein

Jenna has been on a Neil Gaiman kick recently and just finished getting lost in the fantastic underworlds of American Gods and Neverwhere. She's excited to start This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. Linda just finished reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and is currently reading Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and Emma Newman's The Split Worlds: All is Fair.
Closing Quotation

 "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

Winston Churchill