SAVE THE DATE: GRLHOOD READING ONE with Tameka Cage Conley, Melissa Dias-Mandoly, Ellen McGrath Smith, and Michelle Lin

redefining the I // here I am

Thursday, 4/16
7:30 PM @ Most Wanted Fine Art


In the spirit of the mission of Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG)–a non-profit organization supporting positive mentoring relationships between women and girls in underserved local communities–we aspire towards an open conversation about girlhood, engaging the imaginations and talents of adolescent and mature women writers. Our goal over the course of this year is to produce a collaborative body of work—spanning various generations, genres, forms, identities, and ideas—that will be accessible to all in an online format. Please find more details about this project at the bottom of this event description.

Please be aware that this very first kickoff event is 18+. (Future events will be open to all ages. Details regarding these events, including a workshop and reading day for girls, are forthcoming.)

Cover: $5; greater donations welcome.

There will also be snacks (free) and drinks (at small charge).

*All money raised during this event will be donated to Strong Women, Strong Girls.*




Tameka Cage Conley, PhD, is a literary artist who writes poetry, fiction, and plays. She received the doctoral degree in English in 2006 from Louisiana State University, where she was a recipient of the Huel Perkins Doctoral Fellowship. In 2010, she received the August Wilson Center Fellowship in literary arts. Her first play, Testimony, was produced at the Center in May 2011. An excerpt of the play is published in the anthology 24 Gun Control Plays and has been performed in Los Angeles and the Darlinghurst Theatre Company in Sydney, Australia. Her poems are published in Callaloo, The Portable Boog Reader, African American Review, Huizache: The Magazine of Latino Literature, and a special online feature of the Southeast Review in response to the Ferguson protests that spread across the nation. An excerpt of her novel-in-progress, This Far, By Grace, is also published in Huizache. She has received writing fellowships from Cave Canem, the Vermont Studio Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Squaw Valley Writers Conference and Workshops. In October 2013, she received the Eben Demarest Trust grant, awarded annually to an artist or archaeologist, to support the completion of her novel-in-progress. Last month, her poem “Losing” was chosen by the Pennsylvania Center for the Book as one of four featured poems for the Public Poetry Project in 2015.


Melissa Dias-Mandoly lives in Pittsburgh with her cat, Catrick Bateman. She has two degrees in poetry and film studies, but nowhere to hang them. She currently works for the University of Pittsburgh Press, which is a book publisher, NOT a newspaper. Her work has previously appeared in PANK, Storm Cellar, Broad!, and more.


Michelle Lin is a poet from Southern California. She studied creative writing at UC Riverside, where she served as editor for the journal Mosaic. As a former Gluck fellow, she held open mics and writing workshops. She was awarded the William Henry Willis and Birk Hinderaker Poetry Awards. Her community art project “Read Me. Thank You.” received the Chancellor’s Award for Undergraduate Excellence and Creative Work. A former poetry teacher for the LEAPs Summer Program and Young Writer’s Institute, she currently teaches at the University of Pittsburgh, where she is an MFA student. Her latest work can be found in Phoebe and The Journal.


Ellen McGrath Smith teaches at the University of Pittsburgh and in the Carlow University Madwomen in the Attic program. Her writing has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Los Angeles Review, Quiddity, Cimarron, and other journals, and in several anthologies, including Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability. Smith has been the recipient of an Orlando Prize, an Academy of American Poets award, a Rainmaker Award from Zone 3 magazine, and a 2007 Individual Artist grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Her second chapbook, Scatter, Feed, was published by Seven Kitchens Press in the fall of 2014, and her book, Spear to Sphere, will be published this year by the West End Press.



The New Media Age seems to have facilitated more frequent and open conversations regarding the equal worth and capabilities of women in relation to men, as well as necessary criticisms of feminism’s various efforts to achieve gender parity (i.e. across different communities of color and sexuality). Yet young girls’ visibility in these conversations is often minimal. Neither mainstream media nor academic scholarship truly permits girls to actively participate in the discourse that attempts to define them within social and economic contexts. Even in spaces dedicated specifically to women’s studies are we commonly faced with a marginalization of young girls’ sexuality and gender, more so with respect to girls of color; the field of “girl studies” has only recently emerged as one warranting the same attention and energy as women’s studies.

We recognize girls as our peers in these conversations. “grlhood” aims to empower girl writers–to encourage them to share work that often gets lost or remains hidden in private diaries and notes–and allow them to witness their writing in the world, as something that demands to be heard and demands a response.

We aspire towards an open conversation about girlhood, engaging the imaginations and talents of adolescent and mature women writers.

In Spring 2015, a kickoff reading will showcase the work of women writers across genres, as well as garner interest in our project and raise further community awareness of SWSG’s mission. This event will commence a period (lasting until early Summer 2015) during which girls will submit writing that reflects their own personal concept of girlhood, including: how she may define girlhood, how her girlhood may define (or not define) her, her reflections on her social position as a girl, and her connections or disassociation with female communities. During Summer 2015, we will share these pieces with women writers and artists, who will respond with writing of their own. We will also invite participating girls and women to take part in a workshop and discussion of girlhood and writing. Our goal over the course of this year is to produce a collaborative body of work—spanning various generations, genres, forms, identities, and ideas—that will be accessible to all in an online format.

Facebook Event Page HERE.


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