Written by Elise Frances Miller
Though we had shared the pages of the anthology, Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the ’60s and ’70s (She Writes Press), my fellow memoirists and I met for the first time at the San Mateo County Fair Literary Stage on Wednesday night, June 11. We were offering Fairgoers a program about the ’60s and ’70s through our panel discussion, readings, and an evening of ’60s music. Darlene Frank and I conceived of and organized the program, and our friend Sue Barizon, 2013 Writer of the Year from SF/Peninsula Writers (California Writers Club), who also writes about the ’60s, joined us. But meeting Marianne Goldsmith from Oakland and Lynn Sunday from Half Moon Bay was a special treat.
The event provided a boost for the anthology, the only one of its kind, edited by Kate Farrell, Linda Joy Myers, and Amber Lea Starfire. Interest in our era grows as boomers look back through TV series like CNNs “The Sixties.” As our Fair audience grew in both numbers and age range, we realized that our kids and grandkids have become interested in finding out more, and comparing their own familiar social, artistic, spiritual and political times.
San Mateo County has the only Fair in the nation with a “Literary Stage.” Bardi Rosman Koodrin, whose husband is the Director of the Fine Arts Galleria, figured that if the Fair had fine arts, why not literature? The Fair’s Literary Arts Division has story, essay and poetry contests, a publication of local authors, an Author Day for book sales, and a week of workshops and readings, enhanced by evening music programs.
At about 5:30 pm, the fun began with the ’60s repertoire of Rita Beach and John Green, who perform at Max’s Opera Café in Burlingame, inspiring some of us to “rock out” and others to sing along and grow nostalgic. Then I took the mic to describe the anthology and read from my anthology story, “My People’s Park.” I talked about the upcoming panel discussion and introduced Sue Barizon, who read from her award-winning story “Off Guard,” published in Fault Zone: Shift.
At 7:00 pm, all five of us were on stage, and I began by asking “Who were you in the ’60s? What were the ’60s like for you?” We found–just like in the anthology–that we had a diverse group. Both in the panel and during audience Q & A, a picture began to emerge of a very different world, not only one of different tastes and styles, but a pre-social media world where there was lots to object to, especially for women, that today we take for granted. We spoke of having to re-fight the battles we fought then in the arenas of social justice, women’s rights, peace and human rights–and how differently the struggles are being carried on today. It was a poignant conversation.
Darlene read from her story, “The Assertive Woman,” Marianne read from “Marching with Kay Boyle,” and Lynn read “The Day I Met the Suffragette,” which reminded us all that other women have put themselves on the line before us to earn the rights we enjoy today. Through the years, gaining the confidence to speak out at home, in the workplace, and in public protest has encouraged us to do so through the written word, which is, after all, what our panel members have spent a lifetime doing.