Our newest social media site

November 14th, 2014 by Cathleen Miller

Cuff: Dress Up by Allison Cooke Brown (2007)

This afternoon, we had a great meeting with UNE’s social media strategist about managing all of our outlets. I thought I’d walk away with some ideas for enhancing what we do now; I didn’t think I would add another place to post.
But we remain flexible as things transform around us, so I’m pleased to introduce our new tumblr account.
Please check us out there: http://mewomenwriters.tumblr.com/

And if you’re not already following us on twitter, we’re @MEWomenwriters.
Oh, and we’re on facebook too.
And we’re trying out instagram.

The Last 2014 Writing Class at MWWC

November 5th, 2014 by Ann Morrissey

Maine Women Writers Collection just finished its last writing class for the calendar year of 2014.  David Kuchta taught a full class of 16 registered students in his Gathering of Writers.  That is the maximum number of students that we can handle in the May Sarton Room of the Portland campus where the classes are held.

David is an old hand at this and has taught many a class for MWWC.  His classes are so popular that fully half of this class was students who have attended a prior class.  His repeat students are always glad to see familiar faces and to catch up on each others’ writing.  David is wonderfully flexible about whatever his students want to write about and his only class rule is that what you read must have been written in that night’s class.  A typical class has a topic, he brings examples, and then has some prompts for our writing.

People write about the darndest things, — a detective story in progress, a memoir, young adult novels about teenage worlds of terror, sexual passages in the straight and gay worlds.  And of course, some students follow the weekly prompts.  I’ll tell you honestly that the writing is wonderful.  We are very forgiving because we know that each work read is a first draft.  As writers we know that the major element of a first daft is to catch the ideas that will remain in the story.  And what ideas people have!  Sometimes the class erupts in laughter, or simply smiles in appreciation — or very often — thinks how they could use a similar method in their own work.  My own opinion is that David doesn’t push people into the pond but makes it safe for them to jump in!

David’s students are quite appreciative of A Gathering of Writers:

  • Molly Elmali: “I like it very much.  My writing got better, and I liked his prompts.”
  • Laurie Hause: “It was a great experience, an excellent value, and a surprising source of strong new friendships.”
  • Unnamed Student: “We feel like a community that creates a safe place in which we share new work.”

David has only one rule for writing.  “Don’t lose the reader.”  So every week we try our best to not lose the reader no matter what our topic.

We are sorry that class has ended.  “Can you believe it has been 8 weeks?   It has gone so fast.”  One student wondered “But what do we do in November and December?”  David will organize a new Gathering of Writers right after the new year.  Please join us!  Whether or not you have taken the class before, you will learn and be supported.

What is the saying–You never step in the same river twice?  A Gathering of Writers will bring you David Kuchta — as good as ever!  And you will bring a different you to the class, a self even more capable of doing your best work in the community of writers that MWWC has developed.



Portland Food: The Culinary Capital of Maine

October 16th, 2014 by Laura Taylor

I’m excited to share with you that Kate McCarty will be at the Maine Women Writers Collection on Tuesday, October 21 at noon to talk to us about her new book Portland Food: The Culinary Capital of Maine. I love reading about food, whether it’s a new cookbook we’ve acquired or a book more like this one that talks about food – the restaurants, farms and chefs behind it all.

I think we can all agree that Portland has a tremendously popular food scene. It’s been mentioned everywhere from The New York Times to The Boston Globe. This brief, yet comprehensive, book discusses the history behind it and the current players, leaving me wishing I had more time and money to explore all the delicious dining options in our fair city.

McCarty’s book starts out with a quick overview of the Portland food scene, before moving on to talk about local chefs, farming, cheesemaking, and seafood. A recurring theme is the ever-changing issue of sustainable local food, which is something food producers and consumers think a lot about here. And with good reason – you don’t produce 90% of the world’s lobster supply by practicing unsustainable fishing!

McCarty then goes on to discuss our fantastic local farmers’ markets, food trucks, pop up dining events and co-ops. There are so many ways to acquire food in the Portland area, whether you’re in the market for raw ingredients to cook at home, need a quick bite while out on the town, or want to eat at one of Portland’s fantastic and varied restaurants. There’s even a chapter on food insecurity and the work that local organizations are doing to try to get food to our fellow Mainers in need.

Finally, the book finishes up, as all good meals do, with sweets and coffee. Portland has some delicious options for baked treats and chocolates and amazing, locally roasted coffee. Perhaps read this book while lounging in a coffee shop and snacking on a sweet treat?

I would.

Or come by the Maine Women Writers Collection next Tuesday, the 21st, at noon and meet the author!

Ruth Moore and the art of the letter

October 10th, 2014 by Cathleen Miller

Dear Readers,
I’ve been struggling to find the time to write a blog post for a month, and then once I found a subject, I couldn’t get my words to flow in a neat and orderly fashion. Each sentence I typed felt like a false start, a diversion from what I really wanted to say. I started paragraph after paragraph and then deleted each one in turn. It’s so easy now to erase your thoughts, to soft-pedal and not make what you say count. So here I am today, back at the keyboard, faced with a challenge that Ruth Moore posed to her friend Mary in a letter from 1948, “Well, maybe this one will get a peep out of [her].”

When I went looking for correspondence to highlight in a blog post, I settled on Ruth Moore because it is LGBTQ history month, and I wanted to expose some of our queer content.

In the letter above, Ruth Moore writes to her old friend Mary, a sorority sister from college, to catch up after over a decade. In that time, Moore met writer Eleanor Mayo; they moved to California together and then back to Maine, where they bought 18 acres of land and built a house. Here Moore describes Eleanor Mayo as her “friend,” but they lived together as companions until Mayo’s death in 1980.

Most of the materials we hold as part of the Ruth Moore papers are manuscripts for books, but there are a few folders of correspondence that offer a good view into Moore’s life and relationships. The first few letters I read made me laugh out loud–Moore’s sharp wit and clarity endeared her to me. If you want to read a great collection of her letters, check out Sanford Phippen’s High Clouds Soaring Storms Driving Low: the Letters of Ruth Moore.

The book contains a good selection of Moore’s letters, but the correspondence we hold is not included, so you’ll have to come here to read more gems like this one:

Mary Kamenoff’s responses are quite hilarious in their own right. The two carried on a lengthy correspondence (1948-1989) that covered subjects from literature to family life; one series of letters worth reading is a critique of Mary Ellen Chase’s review of Ruth Moore in the Saturday Evening Post.

One of my favorite openings to one of Mary’s letters mirrors my own state lately: “You will please understand that a failure to express my scintillating thoughts with freshness and vigor is due solely to the inhibitions impressed on me by the machine age.” (July 7, 1962)

Access: it’s our business!

August 29th, 2014 by Cathleen Miller

One of the exciting (and sometimes frustrating) parts of my position as curator is the opportunity to think through our policies and procedures so that we are providing the best service to patrons and offering the broadest access to our collections possible given our small staff.

As we begin to think broadly about digital preservation (not just digitization), I am starting to look at all of our policies with an eye to access. All of our collecting is done with a two-fold goal: preservation and access, and our digital initiatives are taking a similar form. Because travel to Maine is not always possible, I hope to make more of our collections available online in the coming years, but to do that we have to implement appropriate preservation strategies for our digital objects. That is what has been occupying my mind for the past year, and will continue to be my major project in the year to come. We are beginning to identify our digital preservation needs and will then design an appropriate system to handle our data (both born-digital and digitized materials). It’s a big job, but it’s crucial to being able to make our digital materials accessible to researchers anywhere.

As I’ve begun to think through everything involved in creating a digital preservation program, I am following a lot of other threads related to archival policies and procedures. Lately this thread has been weaving through my mind: our own digitization procedures have historically been connected to access requests and there has been little that is systematic in our approach. As we digitize more material for use purposes, it is apparent that we need clear policies and procedures to govern file naming conventions, metadata, and storage. Then there is the whole question of copyright, which has been dropping into my consciousness through many channels. Essentially, we really don’t own the copyright to much of anything that we have in the collection, so we need to focus on digitizing material in the public domain to start and then move to more contemporary materials.

This past week, I got two articles delivered to my inbox on copyright and libraries/archives. The first was published on Library Journal called “Asserting Rights We Don’t Have,” which discusses the question of how researchers may cite/publish material they find in an archive or library and how many archives ask patrons to get permission to use materials when it is not our place to give permission. The second is a response by Nancy Sims called “Contracts & Copyright,” which goes into more detail about the questions Rick Anderson raised in his post. Both of these are worth reading if you are at all interested in copyright issues.

As a new archival administrator a few years ago, I worried that we should have some clear policy regarding publication of materials that came from our collection. I personally feel passionately that archives have a responsibility to provide unrestricted access whenever possible (i.e., not restricted by the donor or some other legal agreement to confidentiality), so when I was looking around at other institutions’ policies, I found myself unable to settle on something that felt okay to me. In the end, we just charge a nominal fee for our scanning and copying services and offer mostly unrestricted access to our collections, asking only that people who publish material they found here cite the collection as being in our holdings.

One of the other policies that I’ve been thinking a lot about is a digital camera policy for our reading room. This summer, I came across the OCLC report “Capture and Release,” which discusses cameras in the reading room and suggested best practices. I have happily allowed researchers to take photos during their visits primarily because it saves staff time and it is easier on the materials than scanning. I witnessed the relief experienced by researchers when they realized that they could capture much of the material they needed to review later when they were back at their home base.

I look forward to working on comprehensive policies and procedures for our digital collections and our digital surrogates while considering how these procedures and policies affect researchers’ ability to access our materials. I’m sure there will be much more to say on this matter soon.