Photo by Rachael Rose
Mary Holscher (and left to right) Athena Blanton, Leon Finley, Laurie Holscher, Tasha Cummings and Niko Blanton

At Large In Ballard: Writing from the margins, and the streets

By Peggy Sturdivant

In January 1990 the “It’s About Time Writers’ Reading Series” was created by Esther Altshul Helfgott in Seattle. It was dedicated, then and now, “to an end of racism, homophobia, antisemitism, homelessness & war.” Unfortunately there has been no end to racism, homophobia, antisemetism, homelessness or war. As recently profiled on HistoryLink.org it’s the longest continuously running program of its kind in Seattle.

I curate programs for this 6 p.m. every second Thursday of the month series, and I’m proud of its ongoing ability to respond to current events. The readings are in the meeting room of the Ballard Branch of the Seattle Public Library; the only thing that cancels the reading is an emergency library closure. There are times when readers and audience gather while still in shock, as after a school shooting, or another type of local or international tragedy.

There are also times when a presenter, although scheduled for months in advance, becomes the most appropriate person imaginable to share their work, whether as a teacher, poet, playwright, or just plain writer. Thursday, February 9, 2017 the It’s About Time Writers’ Reading Series #327 presents Ballardite Marc Barrington on starting a new press for writers who have been marginalized. Meanwhile a high school student will share her writing from the just released national anthology, “Dear Mr. President: Teen Voices Across the Country,” from the Out Loud Team led by Ballard’s Ingrid Ricks.

Marc Barrington’s talk on Pathways to Publishing has been in the works since last July. By sheer coincidence the late addition to the reading line-up, the high school student reading her piece, “Take It To The Streets!” is his daughter, Marlowe Barrington. The other featured readers are Thomas Schabarum, poet and novelist, and Mary Holscher, recently retired psychotherapist and essayist.

If written even a few weeks ago this column would have focused on Barrington’s (the elder) Gabalfa Press, which he formed in order to be able to publish those he says are, “writing from the margins of society.” As a former volunteer teacher in a men’s prison he started the press to publish a specific manuscript, “Zek: An American Prison Story” by Arthur Longworth. The story of that manuscript’s journey will have to wait. Fortunately the novel is available throughout the state’s public libraries, but not the prison library of the facility where Longworth is serving life without parole.

But with so many citizens taking to the streets recently the opportunity to include Marlowe Barrington’s piece seems to pull together the essence of the series. It’s creating the opportunity for many voices to be heard by others, whether someone is a citizen or not, an immigrant, gay, lesbian, transgender, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, eligible to vote, or ineligible because of age or incarceration. We all need to be able share our stories, and listen to one another.

Marlowe Barrington isn’t old enough to register to vote but along with five other Washington teens and 35 others she’s able to make her voice heard through the anthology, just as her father as brought Longworth’s novel out to the public. The ability to self-publish, along with free speech is increasingly important as we continue the series, mercifully housed at SPL’s Ballard Branch. We don’t have to agree but we need to listen, and on a Thursday night in Ballard we get to hear from gay, bi-racial, Welsh, retired and teenage. And it’s still about time.

Reading #328. Thursday, February 9, 2017 @ Ballard Library, 6 p.m. Three minute open mic sign-up. On Facebook at It’s About Time Writers’ Reading Series Group.

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