A Reading of Her Own

An evening dedicated to Women’s Voices will take place Thursday, Oct. 19 at MoAV Coffee (2501 Montana Avenue), hosted by Billings Area Literary Arts (BALA) and presented in conjunction with the High Plains Bookfest, which kicks off in Billings on Thursday afternoon.

When BALA was formed, it was done so in the nature of inclusion to provide a platform for literary arts and for access to the growing variety of voices in our community.

We decided to begin hosting a reading event modeled after the work our sister organization (Helena Area Literary Arts) is doing in Helena dedicated to women because it is humbling, grounding, and unifying when women speak their truth in a shared environment.

Playing off of Virgina Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, A Reading of Her Own brings nonfiction stories from women writers and challenges the audience to connect to their experiences. These stories are often impassioned because they are so personal. Stories are not curated, but each woman who participates is given mentorship and community in which to create her work, if she needs.

I am proud of the work BALA is doing to create a space for female writers to express the things that they may not feel comfortable expressing in other settings. It is rare to attend a reading of only women writers, and that’s why we host these events.

This event is open to the public, and is pay what you will, with a suggested donation of $5 – $20 going to support Free Verse Writing Project, bringing creative writing to Montana’s Youth Detention Centers.

Get to know the women sharing their stories:

Laura Bailey is a storyteller with more than 18 years experience in journalism and freelance writing. She’s a regular contributor to numerous regional publications, and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs share their stories online. Laura’s curiosity and compassion fuels her writing process, and she’s known for her thoughtful, in-depth personal profiles. She lives in Red Lodge, where she shares her everyday adventures with her husband, three-year-old daughter, and two dogs.

Cara Chamberlain is the author of three books of poetry, Hidden Things, The Divine Botany, and Lament of the Antichrist in a Secular World and Other Poems. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Nimrod, Boston Review, Passages North, Crab Orchard Review, and The Southern Review. She has received four Pushcart Prize nominations and has been a finalist in the Ashland Poetry Press, Lo-Fi Novella and Blue Light Book Award contests. She lives in Billings, Montana, and works as a freelance copy editor.

Born and raised in Montana, Ellen Kuntz spent her formative years in Billings, MT. After being gifted a camera for her 17th Birthday, Ellen developed her style of vulnerable and melancholic self-portraits. Currently, Ellen uses many mediums to make art including video, textiles, and photography. Ellen resides in Billings, MT with her two Shih Tzus’ Birdie and Frankie.

Amelia Danielle Marquez has always been an advocate for the arts. She was born and raised in Billings, and throughout her youth, Amelia enjoyed assisting theatre classes and productions at Venture Theatre. After graduating from Montana State University Billings with a degree in Communication, Amelia has shifted her primary focus of her life to politics. She now sits as the Vice Chair of the Yellowstone County Democrats, a candidate for House District 52 in Billings, and plans to continue to dedicate her extra time to the arts. Finally, her overall mission is to give a voice to trans youth all over Montana.

Molly Ouellette is a senior at MSUB studying Elementary Education and Reading. She has participated in several poetry slams and took second place at the Grand Slam held in conjunction with the High Plains Book Fest last year. Some of her hobbies include writing and performing poetry, reading, identifying different kinds of birds with an app, taking Buzzfeed personality quizzes, and trying super hard to not to hook trees while fly fishing. She aspires to be a crusader for social justice and a beekeeper. One last thing: she is a Sagittarius with a Leo Moon and a Capricorn Ascendant.

Kate Restad is a freelance writer and graphic designer hailing from Billings, Montana. Her published works, which span the realms of poetry, journalism, and academia, have appeared in Noise & Color Magazine, the Billings Gazette, the Oval Literary Magazine, the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, and others. In her free time, Kate enjoys acting, and can be seen in the upcoming production of The Whale, produced by Sacrifice Cliff Theatre Company.

Penny Ronning’s commitment to the arts, social justice, and protecting wildlife habitat is reflected in her more than 30 years of professional and volunteer service. As a business owner in Livingston, MT, she successfully served as the president of the Livingston Downtown Association and has served on the Board of Advisors of the Missoula, MT based Vital Ground Foundation since 2005. Penny created and co-founded HATCH, a non-profit organization based in Bozeman, MT. She is a co-founder of the Yellowstone County Area Human Trafficking Task Force, serves as CASA, and in 2013, founded Operation: Billings Child. Penny is a filmmaker and nature photographer. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Film, a Master’s degree in Business Administration, and enjoyed law school.

Ashley K. Warren began her artistic career as a ballerina and musician. She attended Concordia College on a music scholarship but graduated with an English degree, and went on to receive her MFA in creative writing from University of Southern Maine. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Typehouse, The Examined Life, Easy Street, and in the anthology Poems Across the Big Sky II among other places. She teaches writing at Montana State University-Billings, the Big Sky Writing Workshops, in Billings public schools through the nonprofit organization Arts Without Boundaries, and in juvenile detention centers through the organization Free Verse. In 2016, she co-founded Billings Area Literary Arts out of desire to create more opportunities for writers in the community.

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