Posted by: jeannineatkins | May 31, 2015

Celebration at Forbes Library

I’m lucky to live near several wonderful libraries, including Forbes Library in Northampton, MA, with its elegant stairway and the Coolidge Room, which is used not just to house presidential paraphernalia, but as a place for readings and talks. This afternoon dozens of people gathered there to see Susan Stinson presented with the Gertrude P. Smith Trustees Award for service above and beyond as Forbes valued writer-in-residence. Susan was honored for many things, all with an origin in her passion for writing and libraries. Lisa Downing, assistant director, welcomed us with poetry about an old dictionary of angels with cracked spine and crumbling pages, evoking a spirit of old and new writing that Forbes shelters and fosters. She praised Susan Stinson for her writing skills, her gift of friendship, and the way she organized many readings – often matching four authors around a theme — and asked thoughtful and provocative questions, a talent she also brings to her writing, Lisa noted.

Making time in a busy life of writing fiction, poetry, and nonfiction and speaking and teaching at many colleges and conferences, Susan opened a writing room in the library to ease the solitary nature of our profession. Appreciation for the ways she builds community was evident in the happy crowd. It was a treat to hear Susan read from her novel SPIDER IN A TREE, rich with detail from back when Jonathan Edwards was a Massachusetts preacher. It includes the voices of two slaves who were part of his household.


Susan had invited the Diana Gordon, the writer in residence before her, and Naila Moreira, who will serve next, to read, too. Like Susan, both are also wonderful writers and generous teachers. Diana Gordon has published FOURTH WORLD and NIGHTLY, AT THE INSTITUTE OF THE POSSIBLE. She edits poetry, is a writing consultant, and just finished a novel which she read an evocative bit from. Naila also writes in diverse forms, including fiction for children and science journalism. She just published a poetry collection that she read from called GORGEOUS INFIDELITIES, and is working on a novel for adults. I can’t wait to see how she makes her own mark at Forbes Library in the next two years!



  1. Sounds like such a rich an wonderful time, Jeannine, in the company of gifted (and productive!) writers. I will always love Northampton – perhaps a granddaughter will attend Smith some day and bring us back to the place where our Elizabeth spent four happy years.

    • It was great to be in a room full of writers, cheering each other on partly just by being together. Yes, so much to love about Northampton. Naila teaches at Smith. We’ll have to find a less hypothetical way to get you back, and one that doesn’t mean a wait of 20 years at best!

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