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Story of the Week

STORY OF THE WEEK: Hillary Clinton Powers Inaugural Lead On Conference for Women

Stacey Gualandi/Lead On Conference/Photo: Lifescript.com

Stacey Gualandi at the Lead On Conference/Photo: lifescript.com

By Stacey Gualandi (@staceygualandi)/April 1, 2015

I’m going to need more than one day. That was the first thing I thought the minute I, and over 5,000 others, walked into the Santa Clara Convention Center for the inaugural Lead On Conference for Women in February.

Waiting for me in the heart of the Silicon Valley was an outstanding lineup of one hundred+ speakers, brought together to “promote leadership, professional development and personal growth,” thanks to the forward-thinking females at Watermark Institute.

Stacey Gualandi at Lead On Conference/lifescript.com

The list included tech industry leaders, best-selling authors, innovators and entrepreneurs—women like fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, Stella & Dot founder Jessica Herrin, former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, Intel’s Rosalind L. Hudnell, research professor Dr. Brené Brown, and Before I Die Project creator Candy Chang—and that was all before former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s luncheon keynote address!

I covered the one-day event for lifescript.com and I was certainly in good company. With this many high-profile overachievers under one roof, and the possibility that Secretary Clinton might announce her 2016 Presidential run, everyone from CNN to the Huffington Post to the New York Times was front and center.

Hillary Clinton and Kara Swisher at Lead on Conference Silicon Valley, Feb. 24, 2015--Getty Photo

Hillary Clinton with interviewer Kara Swisher at Lead On Conference/Getty Images

During her highly anticipated speech, the former First Lady emphasized how women need to do more to help all women lead on and succeed, but left the crowd hanging when she jokingly teased, “What you do doesn’t have to be big and dramatic…you don’t have to run for office!”

While Revere Digital co-CEO and well-respected tech journo Kara Swisher masterfully led a Q&A with the Secretary, getting her to discuss “partisan bunkers”, Edward Snowden and whether she uses a fitbit (she doesn’t). But she only got an “all in good time” response regarding a run for the White House.

What she lacked in a formal announcement, Mrs. Clinton made up for in her assertion that historically, there has never been a better time to be a woman than right now, but “we have an obligation to set an example for people across the globe.”

She also added, “I believe talent is universal, but opportunity is not. I think ‘leading on’ means, in large measure, how we expand that circle of opportunity.”

At the end of the day, by having leaders like Secretary Clinton speak, Watermark’s take-home strategy gave the audience “insights and practical advice” for their careers, life and relationships. There was no shortage of either.

Dr. Brené Brown, best-selling author of Daring Greatly, told the crowd that on the subject of failure, being brave means being uncomfortable, adding, “There is no greater threat in the world to the cynics, critics and fear mongers than a woman who is willing to fall because she has learned to stand back up.”

Artist and designer Candy Chang, who sold out hundreds of copies of her book Before I Die at the conference, showed all of us through her community art projects how to “share our ideas, memories,  anxieties and aspirations.”

Diane von Furstenberg’s Keynote Address/WeAreWatermark

And Diane von Furstenberg, wrap-dress icon and “comeback kid” at age 50, said, “to be a woman is a privilege. Women should have an identity outside of the home.” She also said don’t waste any time because your present is all about building on your past.

In between keynote speakers, there were networking breaks, author signings, meet-ups, social media roundtables, expert exchanges, and breakout sessions. (Now do you get why I wanted another day?) There were even several TWE radio guests serving as panelists including Gloria Feldt and Victoria Pynchon.

As the hours quickly ticked on, several hot-button issues and themes emerged: Lean in or lean out? Where are the childcare solutions? Why no equal pay? How do I deal with gender inequality? Can I find balance? Many of the sessions tried to tackle these questions.

Former Wall Street equity investor-turned-Akoya Power CEO Vanessa Loder led a panel called “Breaking Through: How to Overcome Fears, Inertia, Gender Bias and Other Obstacles.” She said events like this allow her to inspire other women and show, by example, how to move through fear.

Stacey Gualandi with Katrina Alcorn, author "Maxed Out"

Author Katrina Alcorn and Stacey Gualandi

Loder said, “It’s our inner fears that hold us back much more than the outer obstacles. [This session] was to help people look within and start to question what it is that’s been holding them back. I also wanted to give practical tools so that they could take action on it. I’m really focused on helping people create lasting change.”

“My message to women is: It’s not your fault and you’re not alone,” said Maxed Out: American Moms On The Brink author Katrina Alcorn. She joined a panel, alongside Daring and Passages author Gail Sheehy and POPSUGAR founder Lisa Sugar, called “Life Balance Survival Strategies in a ‘Lean In’ World.”

Her point was simple: “We’ve made great strides but we are far behind other developed countries when it comes to support for working women and families—no paid maternity leaves, guaranteed paid sick days—things like that make such an enormous difference in people’s lives and can set us back in our abilities to lean in.”

Sugar told me she was fortunate to be able to create her own unique path with the POPSUGAR web brand; Lead On let her teach others how to do the same. “We all have our passion. We just need to be able to find it and follow what works best for us,” said Sugar.

Gail Sheehy interviewed by Stacey Gualandi/lifescript.com

During my Lifescript interview with Gail Sheehy, she said she is no stranger to conferences like these, but the energy and professionalism at Lead On is the best she’s experienced. The irony, however, is that it took place in Silicon Valley, “where the last dark hole for women exists. I just wrote a story on this: ‘Straight White Men Don’t Have All the Great Ideas.'”

My takeaway from her successful journalism career? It pays to be daring.

“Every time I feared I would dare, I would take a risk. And that would make me feel stronger that I actually turned anxiety into action. Of course, often I would stumble or fail but it would make me stronger because of having taken the attempt and something good would always come out of it,” says Sheehy.

When the conference began, I was asked, “Name one woman, past or present, who has inspired me and why.” Well, not only did I need more than a day to see and hear everyone, I needed to name more than just one. But after Lead On, it was refreshing to know there are so many women to choose from.

And while I still don’t know if Hillary Clinton wants to lead the country, one thing I do know: I’m that much closer to leading a more inspired life.

Lead on Conference Logo



STORY OF THE WEEK: An Empowering Luncheon with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth McGregor at YWCA Luncheon 1/13/15, Phoenix

Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth V. McGregor at the Arizona YWCA Empowerment Luncheon

By Pamela Burke/February 16, 2015

“Work hard. Stay involved in your community. You can make a difference.” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, January 13, 2015

Two truly out-of-the-ordinary events happened in Phoenix recently. It rained, not a soft rain, but a sudden midday drenching. But much more memorable than the unexpected downpour, I got to meet retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female justice in the 191-year history of the U.S. Supreme Court!

What a treat and thrill it was to attend an Arizona YWCA Women’s Empowerment Series event with two outstanding guests—Justice O’Connor and Justice Ruth V. McGregor, who served on the Arizona Supreme Court from 1998 until 2009 and was the second female Chief Justice in Arizona’s history.

Justices Sandra Day o'Connor and Ruth McGregor at Empowerment Luncheon 1/13/15 Phoenix YWCA/Photo: P. Burke

Justices O’Connor and McGregor during their discussion/Photo: P. Burke

Justice McGregor handled the duty of chief questioner at this special luncheon in downtown Phoenix’s Irish Cultural Center. Their beautiful McClelland Library is currently housing an extraordinary exhibit of  O’Connor’s photos, ranch artifacts and documents, even a robe like one she would have worn during judicial duties.

Sign outside McClelland Library/Phoenix announcing O'Connor exhibit

Entitled “The Cowgirl Who Became a Justice: Sandra Day O’Connor,” this collection connects her early years being raised on a 200,000 acre ranch bordering Arizona and New Mexico to her days on the Court in Washington.

Everything from her retirement letter dated July 1, 2005 to a branding iron with the letter B is on display–a treasure trove of fascinating items.

The walls display a variety of letters, from President Reagan’s historic nomination to one voicing disgust and disappointment that a woman would be mentioned for such a high position, and another from a “Senior Citizen” who wrote, “Back to your kitchen!”

A video of the confirmation hearing in September, 1981, plays in the background where you can see her interrogated by the committee. One volunteer at the library  said that he couldn’t believe how tough they were during the questioning although the vote by the Senate to confirm her turned out to be a unanimous 99-0.

We take our female justices a bit more for granted now, but hearing Justice O’Connor reminisce with Justice McGregor brought back the era when a woman on the Supreme Court seemed an impossibility. These two friends, who have known each other for more than 40 years, shared memories of the tough days dealing with the pressures of living in the fishbowl created by that monumental announcement.

Display items at Sandra Day O'Connor exhibit/McClelland Hall Phoenix/Photo: Cowgirl Museum and hall of Fame

A wall of historical photos which includes a judicial robe
Courtesy: The Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame

Justice O’Connor learned of her nomination in the summer of 1981 when, while working at the state capital in Phoenix, she was told that the White House was calling. “I was amazed that a cowgirl from where I grew up would even be considered,” she said.

McGregor remembered hearing the news of  President Reagan’s choice on the radio. She couldn’t wait to learn who the nominee was and was overwhelmed when it turned out to be her friend. “I started crying; it makes me cry even now,” she said.  At the time she thought about what a huge difference the appointment would make in America, especially in the lives of women.

Sandra Day O'Connor book, Lazy B

Justice O’Connor’s book about growing up on the Lazy B Ranch written with her brother

Taking the Justice through her early years, McGregor asked about her days growing up on the Lazy B Ranch, where water was at a premium and two huge windmills, with fans 20 feet in diameter, were a lifeline.

O’Connor remembered how she loved being isolated on the huge spread of land, the endless pumping of water and the sounds of the windmills turning. It was tough going to school in such a remote location so she ended up attending Miss Bradford’s School for Girls in El Paso, Texas.

One indelible memory was seeing Eleanor Roosevelt arriving at her school one day. She recalled putting on her best clothes and not telling her parents about it. Her dad, she said, would have yanked her out of Miss Bradford’s because he felt that the Roosevelts were the worst people ever.

She will never forget watching Mrs. Roosevelt get out of a long black car. Judge MacGregor added that young girls now have that same feeling when they see Justice O’Connor.

Asked why she chose the legal profession, she said she was always interested in why things were the way they were and thought that the legal system was responsible for most of it. She graduated from high school at 16 and from Stanford Law School at 22 in the top of her class.

“I expected to have trouble getting a job. They didn’t say no, but they just weren’t interested.”

Those were not the days when legal firms were excited to get resumes from female lawyers. “I expected to have trouble getting a job,” Justice O’Connor said. “They didn’t say no, but they just weren’t interested.”

Anxious to be employed, she took unpaid work in the hopes of finding a position that paid a salary. She was thrilled to finally get a job as Deputy County Attorney in Redwood City, California, where she remembered being happy sharing office space with a secretary.

Despite her many outstanding achievements, she recalled the tremendous pressure of rising to the level of  the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court. She was frightened during the first year that it might be the end of women in the court if she didn’t do her job well and did not want to set things back.

Sandra Day O'Connor travelling exhibit by the Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame with permission to TWE

Photos r. to l. of Justice O’Connor with young school friends on the ranch, riding a favorite horse and with her mother/Courtesy: The Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame

She and McGregor, who was her law clerk then, remembered the basketfuls of letters they received, up to 5,000 a month and more than any other justice in history. With little staff,  they couldn’t deal with them all.

When asked how she looked back on those days, the Justice replied, “I don’t want to look back too hard.” Being surrounded by press who were looking through her windows and wanting to know the food that she ate  was not pleasant.

McGregor reminded her that no one has done more to empower women than she has and that she opened endless doors for them. With great humility, O’Connor said, “I don’t know about that. If I goofed up, the door might have slammed shut.”

Justices O'Connor and McGregor at Empowerment Luncheon YWCA Phoenix 1/13/15--Photo;: YWCA

Justice McGregor, Catherine Scrivano–YWCA Board of Director’s President, Justice O’Connor/Courtesy: Arizona YWCA

Everyone was anxious to hear her words of advice to the women of today. “Work hard,” she said. “Stay involved in your community. You can make a difference. Participate in meaningful ways and go into areas you are involved in where you can make a real contribution.”

After all those years serving on the Court, does any case weigh heavily on her mind? Her answer was brief and to the point. “No, nothing keeps me awake at night.”

What does keep her busy is the O’Connor House, an adobe home she lived in with her family for 25 years, which was disassembled and moved to a park on the Arizona Historical Society Museum campus in Tempe, Arizona.

The O’Connor House

Its mission is to be a center that brings together groups with divergent views for problem-solving. With pride she mentioned another great passion of hers, iCivics, a program she founded to prepare the next generation to be engaged citizens.

This special guest, once deemed the most powerful woman in America, left the event to view the Phoenix exhibit for the first time. One woman echoed the feeling of those in attendance as the Justice headed towards the McClelland Libary next door. “I could have stood and applauded at everything,” she said.

Kudos to the YWCA AZ for putting on this program and to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, Fort Worth, Texas and Diana Vela who organized the exhibit. It will be in Phoenix until May 23, 2015, then return to its home in Fort Worth, Texas.

Photos from The Cowgirl Museum: Dr. Eleanor Green







Elizabeth Smart Spreads Message of Hope to Sexual Abuse Victims

Elizabeth Smart at Signs of Hope 40th Anniv Dinner for Rape Crisis Center, Las Vegas, Oct. 2014--Photo: Rape Crisis Center

Elizabeth Smart speaks at the “Signs of Hope”
40th Anniversary Dinner for the Rape Crisis Center Las Vegas.

By Stacey Gualandi/ January 16, 2015

TWITTER: @ElizSmart

When 27-year-old Elizabeth Smart took to the microphone at the “Signs of Hope” 40th Anniversary Dinner for the Rape Crisis Center Las Vegas recently, she was poised, polished and in total command.

It’s hard to believe considering that in 2002, at 14-years-old, Elizabeth was abducted from her Salt Lake City bedroom, then sexually assaulted repeatedly, until her miraculous rescue nine months later. Her story captured the nation’s attention.

But as harrowing as her ordeal must have been, it did shape the woman Elizabeth would become. In the years that have followed, she made a choice to speak out for those who can’t.

Press conference video from 40th Anniversary Dinner/10-29, 2014

“I know what it feels like to be kidnapped, raped and to almost lose all hope. Yet, I was so blessed to have been rescued and to have a loving and supportive family who’s there for me every step of the way. How could I not?” said Smart at a press conference prior to the event.

I’ve always wanted to meet Elizabeth. As a correspondent for the television newsmagazine Inside Edition, I spent several weeks in Utah covering her kidnapping and the massive search for her. After she was rescued, I wondered how she would ever recover and live a “normal” life.

Years later, I am in awe that she has reclaimed her life after such severe emotional and sexual abuse. When I heard she would be the keynote speaker for the Rape Crisis Center event, I knew I had to attend.

During the press conference, Smart cited Center for Disease Control statistics that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be raped before they turn 18.

“I remember thinking that cannot be right…Every speech I’ve given, I’ve had someone come up to me and tell me how they were raped, abused as a child, or kidnapped. Having all these faces matching all of these numbers, it was overwhelming,” Smart told the media attending.

Smart says organizations and events like this give her hope to continue her tireless work raising awareness and advocating for victims through her Elizabeth Smart Foundation. She believes communication is a “huge factor in helping to keep your daughters safe.”

For four decades, the Rape Crisis Center Las Vegas has steadily built education around communication and awareness. It created education programs at the elementary, middle and high school levels, and now Executive Director Danielle Dreitzer says their emphasis moving forward will be on “true prevention.”

At Rape Crisis Center in Las Vegas Signs of Hope 40th Anniversary Dinner, Oct. 2014

Radio host Mercedes Martinez, Honoree Marcy Humm, Honoree Nina Radetich,
RCC Executive Director Danielle Dreitzer

She says last year, they brought on their first teen interns. They held a “teen summit” in August to recruit empowered youths and then launched Hollaback! Las Vegas in December, a program to end street harassment.

“We are trying to get out there with messages that can really change how the community… views the issue of sexual violence,” says Dreitzer.

Elizabeth Smart book, "My Story"Having Elizabeth speak, Dreitzer says, is a gift. “Elizabeth provides us with a voice for all of those kids who may have told somebody and were not believed or didn’t say anything because they were so afraid.”

Over 300 people attended the dinner to raise money and to honor Congresswoman Dina Titus with the Legislative Hero award; RCC Board member Marcy Humm with the Commitment to Success award; and new media entrepreneur Nina Radetich with the Commitment to Sustainability award.

The bestselling author says what happened to her over a decade ago doesn’t haunt her every day. She learned to cope with the trauma, she says, through the tremendous support of her family and friends.

“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all in the healing process,” she says. “What worked for me might not work for anybody else.”

She says many women have ongoing guilt feelings that they were to blame or that they could have prevented the abuse. But Smart adds, “All of those feelings are wrong. It’s so important for women to know that rape is never their fault.”

While changes have been made in laws and the way organizations and advocacy centers treat victims, Smart admits there is a long way to go. And that includes continuing to spread her message of hope any way she can.

“Seeing so many people coming together inspires me and helps me realize that there are so many more people out there who are good and who want to do good things.”

Since visiting Las Vegas, Smart has turned her attention to the fight against human trafficking. In November, she spoke about the sex slave trade at the United Nations and has teamed up with Operation Underground Railroad, a group that sets up stings with local law enforcement to free children.


Photos Courtesy Rape Crisis Center Las Vegas


Celebrating Kathi Kamen Goldmark’s Life and ‘Her Wild Oats’

Sam Barry and the late Kathi Kamen Goldmark-2009 |

Sam Barry and the late Kathi Kamen Goldmark at their book launch for
Write That Book Already! -2009 | Photo: Book Passage

By Laurie McAndish King/August 31, 2014


“In the end, getting Kathi’s work published was the best possible way to honor this woman who so loved books, authors, bookstores and libraries.” Sam Barry, husband of Kathi Kamen Goldmark

There was off-key group singing involved—call and response. Blues harmonica and pedal-steel guitar from two members of the Los Train Wreck band featured prominently. A harmonica-playing widower in a woman’s bright red wig sang something affectionately known as “The Slut Song.”

Noted author Amy Tan was on stage, with her dry sense of humor, a beautiful purple jacket gifted to her by a ghost, and her little dog Bobo. No doubt about it; this was the craziest fun I’ve ever had at an author event. But the author wasn’t there.

Sam Barry and author Amy Tan | Photo: Jim Shubin

Sam Barry and author Amy Tan | Photo: Jim Shubin

Kathi Kamen Goldmark succumbed to cancer in 2012 after having written, but not yet published, the novel Her Wild Oats, the story of a wise and generous young woman, a honky-tonk band on tour, and a 13-year-old genius harmonica player.

We were at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California—along with the late author’s husband Sam Barry, and her friends, writers Susanne Pari and Amy Tan—to celebrate the book’s publication. We ended up celebrating Kathi’s life. Again. I didn’t know Kathi, but she was clearly someone who inspired many celebrations.

Kathi Kamen Goldmark's book, "Her Wild Oats"Sam explains, “After the memorial a group of us were discussing how to honor Kathi’s life. We talked about dedicating one of those lovely benches in San Francisco, but this didn’t seem appropriate, as she basically never sat down. A steering wheel on the wall of a nightclub or bookstore would have been more appropriate. In the end, getting Kathi’s work published was the best possible way to honor this woman who so loved books, authors, bookstores and libraries.”

Kathi and books go back a long way. In addition to being a radio and music producer, songwriter, and musician, Kathi was an author, columnist, publishing consultant, and media escort. In the early 80s, she founded a company that worked with authors on book tours. They loved being with Kathi, whose wide circle of friends, intimate knowledge of San Francisco’s best hot spots, and effervescent personality provided entertainment for the entertainers.

Tim Cahill, adventurer, author, and founding editor of Outside magazine, remembers those early days when Kathi helped authors visiting San Francisco: “Kathy brightened the drudgery of a book tour and she was never ever shy about telling you which currently touring authors were acting badly (that is, worse than me.)”

In fact, Kathi ended up befriending so many authors that she easily convinced a dozen or so to form a band called the Rock Bottom Remainders, a “hard listening” rock ‘n’ roll group made up of best-selling authors with dubious musical abilities. Kathi founded the band intending it to be a one-night fundraiser, but her personality kept it going.

Hard Listening: The Greatest Rock Band (of Authors) Tell All book coverOver the course of twenty years they raised nearly two million dollars for non-profits supporting literacy programs. The group’s slogan? Over 350M books sold. Forty New York Times #1 Bestsellers. One lousy band.

Last year the Rock Bottom Remainders celebrated Kathi’s life by publishing an interactive e-book in which they shared “the behind-the-scenes, uncensored story of their two decades of friendship, love, writing, and the redemptive power of rock ‘n’ roll.”

It’s called Hard Listening: The Greatest Rock Band Ever (of Authors) Tells All by Stephen King, Scott Turow, Mitch Albom, Amy Tan, Matt Groening, Dave Barry, Roy Blount Jr., James McBride, Ridley Pearson, Greg Iles, Sam Barry, and Roger McGuinn. (McGuinn was lead singer and lead guitarist for many of The Byrds’ songs; the band did have some musical chops!) The authors are donating all their proceeds towards payment of Kathi’s medical bills—that’s the kind of loyalty she inspired.

Sam Barry wearing a red wig to honor Kathi's red hair | Photo: Jim Shubin

Sam Barry | Photo: Jim Shubin

Where did the widower in a red wig come in? That was Kathi’s husband Sam, singing her trademark song, “Older Than Him, aka The Slut Song.” The bright red wig was a tribute to Kathi’s red hair; the song’s clever lyrics provided a glimpse of Kathi’s whacky sense of humor.

And what of Amy Tan’s ghostly garb? Amy told us the story of losing one of her favorite jackets—the sultry purple one she often wears for special events (she’s wearing it in the photo below). The jacket had been missing for a long time. Amy had searched everywhere for it and was sadly resigned to the fact that she’d never see it again.

How was the jacket a sign? Well, it appeared—from nowhere, just after Amy had asked the universe for a sign from Kathi—in Amy’s closet. The jacket materialized in a rumpled ball, which was reminiscent of Kathi’s style. (Everything in Amy’s closet is always in perfect order.) Amy is wise; she knew immediately that Kathi had delivered the jacket.

Author Amy Tan (l), Elaine Petrocelli, President of Book Passage, author Susanne Pari and Sam Barry, husband of Kathi Kamen Goldmark

From Left: Author Amy Tan, Elaine Petrocelli, President of Book Passage,
author Susanne Pari and Sam Barry | Photo: Book Passage

For those of us who don’t have such direct access to Kathi, Her Wild Oats is an exuberant connection. Susanne Pari read from the first chapter, introducing the protagonist, Arizona Rosenblatt, her cheating husband-with-a-hand-gun, missing money, a bizarre threat, and an omen delivered by a singing teddy bear.

The story, like Kathi’s own life, is filled with quirky characters who touch one another in meaningful ways. Reading Her Wild Oats made me wish I’d known Kathi. She will certainly inspire many more celebrations.



By Laurie McAndish King/Aug. 31, 2014–We gathered for the launching of Her Wild Oats, but we ended up celebrating Kathy Kamen Goldmark‘s life. This beloved, creative whirlwind succumbed to…More

“Pie Lady” Beth Howard and Her Merry Bakers on the Fourth of July

Beth Howard, Ms. American Pie/Home & Family Photo, Hallmark

Beth Howard, Home & Family Show/Hallmark

UPDATE 7/24/15: Beth’s World Piece Tour: Making Pie Around the World to Promote Cultural Tolerance, Summer 2015

By Pamela Burke/July 5, 2014

Photos and Video: Daniel Broten

Beth’s Twitter: @worldneedspie


Ms American Pie book by Beth HowardWe met Beth Howard, AKA the “Pie Lady,” on The Women’s Eye Radio Show earlier this summer.  She authored the wonderful cookbook, Ms. American Pie, to raise pie consciousness, share terrific recipes and show how pies can be healing agents.

We like Beth’s approach to cooking and, thanks to her good advice, have been making pies ever since reading the book. When she told us she might be having her last Pitchfork Pie Stand gathering this weekend in Eldon, Iowa, we wanted to take you readers there for this special event.

It’s been a glorious tradition in that part of the world, so to help give it its place in pie history, we are sharing this video and the photos furnished by Beth below taken at her home in the famous American Gothic House.

Video shot by Daniel Broten in one hour of pie-making

It takes a lot of planning and an army to make the 200 pies Beth sells at her pie stand on the weekends, especially for this big holiday. There’s a lot of produce to buy…

Beth Howard shopping for pie produce/Photo: Daniel Broten

strawberries to get ready with volunteers helping…

Beth Howard's Fourth of July piemaking with volunteers, Eldon, Iowa/Photo: Daniel Broten

and the preparation of dough.

Beth Howard rolling dough for 4th of July pies/Photo: Daniel Broten

See how fabulous they look coming out of the oven…

Beth Howard, Pie Lady, pies for 4th of July, 204/Photo: Daniel Broten

and then onto the tables.

Beth Howard pies for 7/4/14/Photo: Daniel Broten

Thanks to all the volunteers and neighbors, the pies were almost all gone in 90 minutes. Luckily there are a few ingredients left to make more to get through the weekend. Beth reports you can still get Apple, Apple Crumble and Cheese. LATE BREAKINGS NEWS: The last piece of pie has been sold!

Beth Howard's Merry Bakers/7-4-14/PHoto: Daniel Broten

The Pitchfork Pie Stand is officially closed now. Thanks to Beth Howard and her Merry Bakers for sharing their pie-making magic!

Strawberry pies by Beth Howard, Eldon, Iowa 7/4/14/Photo: Daniel Broten

Remember the strawberries? Here they are bubbling in their pie tins. Don’t expect to get one, though. They sold out as fast as they came out of the oven! We can almost taste them!


Essay: Elizabeth Warren Believes All We Need is a Fighting Chance

Elizabeth Warren at Book Passage Event/Photo: Frankie Frost

Sen. Elizabeth Warren at Book Passage-Dominican University Event 5-10-14
Photo: Frankie Frost

UPDATE 1/6/19: Elizabeth Warren Announces Iowa Trip as She Starts Running for President in 2020

UPDATE 6/9/16: “I’m ready”: Elizabeth Warren explains to Rachel Maddow why she’s finally endorsing Hillary Clinton.

By Toni Piccinini/July 1, 2014
Photos Below: Courtesy Elizabeth Warren

 “I believe in us. I believe in what we can do together, in what we will do together. All we need is a fighting chance.”  Elizabeth Warren

Women of a certain age chatted and waited politely in the golden light of a late May afternoon. The line to enter Angelico Hall at Dominican University in San Rafael, California snaked down the wide steps and onto the lawn. I took an unscientific polling of the eager attendees and with certainty can report that the women outnumbered the men by at least a factor of four.

Elizaeth Warren book, A Fighting Chance

Senator Warren’s new book

Perhaps because it was the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend and tickets to hear Elizabeth Warren, the first female senator from Massachusetts, speak about her book, A Fighting Chance (Metropolitan Books), made for a lovely date with Mom. Or because we women like these kinds of things—sitting and listening to an author talk about her book.

But most likely the sold-out crowd came to hear Senator Warren because her reputation preceded her. In political speak she is surely a rising star.

I had a general, non-specific, idea of who she was. Something to do with the Obama administration, finances…I knew she had won a tight race in November 2012, and thus became the people’s unlikely outsider representative. But it’s not like she worked in a diner.

Prior to the Senate she was a Harvard Law School professor and the chief designer of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Still, the first elected office she ran for and was elected to was the senatorial seat from the storied Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She legitimately owns the “not a career politico” mantle.

I registered to vote—ferociously Democrat—in 1971, the year I turned eighteen. That was the year that the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series, Sofia Coppola was born, and Coco Chanel died. It was, also, when the Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was passed, which changed the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen.

Elizabeth Warren and daughter Amelia/ from "A Fighting Chance"/Courtesy: Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth and her daughter Amelia

It was a big deal to vote, a surprise gift given to me three years early. A gift that came with earnest responsibility. For forty plus years I voted in every election. That is until the last one. Fool me once, fool me twice, but fool me dozens of times? Nope. I’ve reached the age of acquired wisdom.

I know politicians say anything to get elected. Put on country clothes and practice some country talk to get that middle of the country vote. Well, I’m done with seduction. My disappointment has led me to a silent protest and a bumper sticker: Don’t Vote—It Just Encourages The ********.

But Lo and Behold, miracles do happen and here I am to testify. I am born again. Senator Warren (@SenWarren) had me at “Here’s the deal,” a get-to-the-bottom-line phrase that resonates with this country girl. She must have said it half a dozen times during her talk. This phrase—Here’s the deal—comes to her naturally because she knows what’s wrong and how to fix it. If FDR was the New Deal, Elizabeth Warren is the Real Deal.

Elizabeth Warren graduating with her daughter in tow/ from "A Fighting Chance"/Elizabeth Warren Photo

Graduating, pregnant and with daughter in tow

She strode onto the stage at 4:23 and promptly engaged the back balcony rows with “Don’t think you back there will get away with anything. There will be a quiz after the talk.” She told us about her teaching years and that she, a daughter of a maintenance man, grew up to become a United States Senator.

She grew up in an “America that was investing in its kids.” And her main concern is that she doubts the America of today can support the mobility she enjoyed because the America we love is broken.

She reminded us of our financial history particularly The Great Depression and how we (led by FDR and the Democrats) dug ourselves out of it. During those challenging years, “We didn’t know what the next great thing would be, but we figured it would need to plug in, so we improved the electrical grid.”

Elizabeth Warren hanging out her law shingle/from book "A Fighting Chance"/Photo: Elizabeth Warren

After Alex was born, hanging out her shingle and practicing law from her living room

In a conversational voice, that felt as if she were talking to us over a glass of lemonade on a covered porch, she continued to retell the facts of history. Even though Washington didn’t know where the next ingenious American invention would come from, the administration knew the product would need to go from Point A to Point B, so we improved the nation’s infrastructure.

We put people to work and we strengthened the country from the inside out. After the 1929 crash America did another important thing—got to work in Congress. Laws were passed to create and enforce strong financial rules, allocate funds for roads, bridges, and dams, and earmark monies for research. All of these pointed to securing our future and the future generations of Americans.

Elizabeth Warren with 2 small children from her book, A Fighting Chance--Photo: Elizabeth Warren from publisher

Still in braces, taking care of Amelia and baby Alex and eventually getting a job teaching law school

I know the America she comes from. I am the first of my family to go to college. I couldn’t have done that without a scholarship. My parents (my Dad an Italian immigrant) could not have built and owned their home—the quintessential American dream—without the help from a local bank and a loan that made sense.

How could this MacBook (the instrument I use to write and share my stories) exist without the inherent American opportunities and innate optimism afforded to a poor young visionary named Steve?

Senator Warren spoke for only thirty-one minutes. Her talk was focused, concise, and no-nonsense. A Fighting Chance is part memoir, part history, and part economic thesis. Her greatest fear is that as the economic divide grows in our country America will fundamentally change and that shift will fundamentally change what it means to be an American. She doesn’t believe that has to happen.

Elizabeth Warren with husband after her Senate victory

Elizabeth makes history and becomes Senator with hugs from husband Bruce.

From the last page of her book: “I believe in us. I believe in what we can do together, in what we will do together. All we need is a fighting chance.”  I believe in Senator Warren. And now I, too, have some work to do. I have some bumper stickers to recycle and a voter registration to update.

Senator Warren’s Talk at Dominican University/Courtesy Book Passage


*** About the Author: Toni Piccinini, writer, author "The Goodbye Year"Toni Piccinini’s writing path has meandered from the scholarly examination (or scary horror story) of antibiotic use in The Journal of Clinical Pathology to her personal essay “House Affair” which was a Narrative magazine Story of the Week.

Along the way she opened a San Francisco “Top 100” restaurant and published recipes and cookbook reviews in local and national newspapers, magazines and cookbooks. The Goodbye Year (Seal Press 2013) is her first book.


STORY OF THE WEEK: Jane Goodall, Champion of Chimpanzees, on Seeds of Hope

Jane Goodall at Dominican University/Book Passage Event

Jane Goodall speaks at Dominican University/4-4-14

By Laurie McAndish King/April 18, 2014
Photos: Courtesy Dominican University

Twitter: @JaneGoodallInst

“In the early days, the chimps ran away every time they saw me—they had never seen a white ape before. ” Jane Goodall 

Dr. Jane Goodall—who in her twenties left the comforts of her home in England to live in Africa and study wild animals—was one of my childhood heroes. I leapt at the opportunity to hear her speak about her new book, Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants, as part of Dominican’s Leadership Lecture Series with Book Passage.

Jane Goodall's Seeds of Hope bookJane spoke to a packed house about the early days of her now-famous chimpanzee research in TanzaniaAfter moving to Africa in 1957, with little more than an ardent desire to live and work among the animals there, she began what would become her 45-year study of wild chimpanzees.

She discovered that non-human animals make and use tools, which forced scientists to redefine the relationship between humans and other animals. And she has become a preeminent and persuasive force for improving animal welfare around the world.

So I was surprised to hear that Goodall was lending her impassioned voice to the cause of saving plants, and further, that she did not advocate the widely-accepted adage to “think globally; act locally.” “If you think globally,” Goodall advised, “you don’t have enough energy left to act.”

“Every single one of us makes a difference, every single day.”

She should know. Goodall has visited a lot of the globe, traveling to countries as diverse as Argentina, China, France, and even North Korea with her urgent message about the importance of conservation.

Around the world, and especially in Africa, she has seen far too many of what she describes as the devastating aftereffects of colonialism, including habitat destruction, plundering of resources, and (she says it almost under her breath) slavery. “Some multinationals today are pretty much the same,” Goodall observes.

Traveling in Africa, Goodall met youth who were apathetic and depressed, or angry and violent. When she asked about their attitudes, they told her the truth: “We feel you have compromised our future, and there is nothing we can do about it.”

She knew they were right; the youngest generation had a good reason to feel hopeless. But Goodall had grown up in an atmosphere of hope and hard work, and she had a vision.

Jane Goodall: A Retrospective, National Geographic

So in 1991, along with twelve Tanzanian high-school students, Goodall founded Roots & Shoots, a “youth-led community action and learning program” aiming to create positive change. Each local group works on three service projects of their choice: one for people, one for animals, and one for the environment, with an emphasis on determining what projects will be most helpful locally.

Today, Roots & Shoots engages more than 150,000 members in 136 countries, with projects ranging from preserving monarch butterfly habitat to baking homemade pumpkin pies for people who are hungry at Thanksgiving. And every project reinforces Goodall’s hopeful message: “Every single one of us makes a difference, every single day.”

At 80, Jane Goodall is still making a difference. Her recent birthday wish was to move 100 chimps from the Tchimpounga Rehabilitation Center to three pristine, forested islands where they would be able to live nearly wild.

Many of the rescued chimps had been orphaned as youngsters; their mothers had apparently been killed for bush meat. The Wildlife Conservation Network decided to host a birthday party for Jane to raise the needed funds, and Jane’s friend Dave Matthews joined in to serenade Jane and her birthday revelers.

Together, they raised $1.25 million that evening—enough money to move the rescued chimps and allow them to live in freedom on the islands, but still have access to medical care if needed.

A Chimpanzee Hugs Dr. Goodall after being released into the wild.

As the video above shows, Jane not only cares deeply about the chimps—she also communicates with them. Although she was not the primary caretaker for the chimp shown in the video, it is Jane who receives a heartwarming hug from the primate, after she speaks a quiet “word” or two as the chimp sits atop its cage.

These days, Jane she sees herself primarily as a communicator.In response to a comment from an audience member about her being a world teacher, she emphasizes, “I love writing. I seem to be able to have an impact. I try to develop the gifts that I have. You say teaching; I say communicating, sharing, telling stories.”

 “One of the most important things is to work with the people living in the area. We have become partners with them. That is the only way to get conservation to work anywhere.”

Jane also understands that the only way to save chimps—and the many other species that are endangered—is by saving their habitat. That is one reason why the latest book from this champion of chimps is about plants: their beauty, their healing properties, their adaptability and most of all, the essential role plants play in supporting life on earth.

Seeds of Hope (Grand Central Publishing) is a joyous paean to plants, and it’s fun to read. Jane shares her enthusiasm about plants’ awe-inspiring diversity: “Some seeds germinate only when there’s a fire. This is really interesting—it took people a long time to realize that … certain plants only grow if there’s rain coming through the smoke of a fire. That’s part of the beauty of this book; it makes us rethink.”

Jane Goodall/Photo: Pam Burke

Jane and “Mr. H.”/Photo: P. Burke

Seeds of Hope also encourages us to rethink other subjects Jane Goodall feels passionately about: the use of genetically modified plants, for example, and the importance of growing our own food rather than banking on a future dictated by corporate mega-farming, bioengineering companies, and big pharmaceuticals.

“Medicinal plants are being patented! I’ve always been utterly shocked that you can patent life. That actually can be done. Somebody went to court the other day—they wanted to patent a chimp. The proponents will always talk like this [bioengineering] is a very precise science; but it isn’t,” Jane explains.

What is her best suggestion for decreasing the environmental impact of food production? At this question from the audience, this passionate vegetarian pulls her diminutive frame to its full height. Her shoulders have a distinctive slope—which one might expect from a scientist who has spent decades hunkering down as she observed wild primates.

Her voice is clear and strong, almost a shout.

“It’s easy. Stop eating meat! We have the gut of an herbivore—a very long gut to maximize [the ability to absorb nutrients]. Carnivores have very short guts, so they can get rid of the meat quickly before it starts rotting.”

In fact, Jane insists that the health benefits she gains from being a vegetarian are the only way she can keep up her rigorous schedule of traveling 300 days a year, giving lectures, sharing her stories, and advocating for a more harmonious and sustainable world.

She introduces us to her traveling companion of the last 26 years, named “Mr. H.” It’s a stuffed animal that is meant to be a chimp (except that it has a tail, which chimps do not) and was a gift from admirer Gary Horn. Although Mr. Horn (the man) is blind, he has followed his dream to become a master illusionist, entertaining and inspiring children around the world.

He inspires Jane, too, reminding her to “Never give up. There’s always a way forward.” Mr. H (the chimp-with-a-tail) works his own kind of magic: “When you touch him, the inspiration rubs off,” Jane says.

Jane Goodall/Dominican University-Book Passage Event 4/4/14

Jane receives her birthday cake with “Mr. H” by her side.

At the end of Jane’s lecture, our host brings out a surprise birthday cake to celebrate her 80th birthday. The full house sings an enthusiastic “Happy Birthday” and Jane blows out the candles. Then the beloved primatologist—ever the communicator—rewards us with a very particular rendition: She imitates the excitable call a chimp would make for “Cake!”

We give her a standing ovation.

To see the entire event, click here.


TWE Story: Author Kelly Corrigan on the ‘Glitter and Glue’ of Motherhood

Kelly Corrigan, author,Glitter and Glue

UPDATE 2/20/15; Paperback edition of Glitter and Glue is out!

By Laurie McAndish King (@LaurieKing)/March 18, 2014

Twitter: @corrigankelly

“The coolest thing about the coolest people I knew was that they had made great families. Families with inside jokes and nicknames and dance moves. And that’s the shore I set out for.” Kelly Corrigan

Let me put Kelly Corrigan up on a pedestal for you. She’s on one for me. Kelly survived breast cancer and chemo and an ominous ovarian growth, and braved it through her beloved father’s cancer and her young daughter’s meningitis.

She has a page on Wikipedia and is, in her own somewhat surprised words, a “YouTube sensation”—a video of Kelly reading her essay about women’s friendships over time, Transcending, went viral with nearly five million hits.

Kelly’s “Transcending” video

Kelly co-founded Notes & Words, a charitable organization that features bestselling authors and top recording artists on-stage together, and has raised more than $4,000,000 dollars for Oakland’s Children’s Hospital and Research Center.

Oh, and she has written three New York Times bestselling memoirs. Three memoirs—and she isn’t even fifty yet! I loved Kelly’s coming-of-middle-age story called The Middle Place, so I attended Dominican University’s Leadership Lecture Series with Book Passage recently to hear her speak about her latest book.

The first time I heard Kelly speak it was at this same venue where I covered her interview with another bestselling author, Elizabeth Gilbert, just a few months ago for TWE. Their discussion ranged from science to shoes to spirit, so I was eager to learn what Kelly would choose as a subject.

Kelly Corrigan's Glitter and GlueThe evening began with a video of Kelly saying a few words about her new book, Glitter and Glue, A Memoir (@randomhouse), which explores the emotional intricacies of parenthood and the bond between mothers and daughters. I was surprised to learn that such an accomplished woman was fascinated with the minutia of family life.

“Your father’s the glitter, but I’m the glue,” Kelly’s mother told her years ago, summarizing their roles: father as a fun friend, mother as tactician and disciplinarian. Glitter and Glue is ostensibly about that difference—between adventure and life experience, fathers and mothers, fun and responsibility.

But the truth is that Kelly has reconciled the two with her understanding that everyday family life is the greatest adventure of all.

“The coolest thing about the coolest people I knew,” Kelly said, “was that they had made great families. Families with inside jokes and nicknames and dance moves. And that’s the shore I set out for.” It took Kelly less than five minutes to elevate domesticity to an existential art form.

“This abstract performance art called family life is our one run at the ultimate improv, our chance to be great for someone. It’s happening right now, whether we attend to it or not. This is it. This is the great adventure.”

At the end of the video the audience erupted in applause, and Kelly—not yet officially on-stage—peeked around the curtain, grinned, and waved like an over-eager five-year-old at her first school play.

The audience is immediately captivated with Kelly’s we’re-just-a-bunch-of-girlfriends brand of charm. She shows up in a simple navy blouse and skinny jeans—very skinny jeans—telling us she’s been on tour for twenty-eight days, and is so glad to be back home in the Bay Area, which she swears has the best food, the best people, the best clothes.

Then Kelly starts dishing on her mom.“My mother’s a little like the Maggie Smith character on ‘Downton Abbey.’ She has what my friend Betsy calls a BRF—a Bitchy Resting Face—and she’s fiercely devoted to her family.” Kelly puts on a bitchy resting face, so we can see what she means. A little later: “Mom loves sauerkraut, anchovies, and pearl onions—pearl onions! If you were writing a villain, wouldn’t you have her love them?”

But this is just to set the stage. In the same way that Kelly has reconciled her one-time longing for “a huge odyssey” with a deep appreciation of the grand adventure that is domestic life, she has also reconciled with the mother who battled her for years over blow-dryers and spending money and curfews, over political views and making wedding plans and baptizing babies.

Kelly Corrigan and her mom--Photo: Kelly Corrigan

Kelly and Mary, her mother/Photo: Kelly Corrigan

Most of Glitter and Glue is a flashback to the five months in 1992 when Kelly worked as a nanny. As a twenty-four-year-old she had gone off on a backpacking adventure, a global odyssey that would surely make her an Interesting Person.

But finding herself in need of money, Kelly took a job in a suburb of Sydney, Australia, looking after two young children whose mother had recently passed away. The experience of caring for children—for the first time in her life—brought an appreciation of her mother’s expansive skills and mighty competence.

What about her own family, now? Is Kelly the glitter or the glue? Although she wouldn’t mind glittering, it turns out Kelly is the glue, just as her mother was. She is the one who supervises homework, keeps a watchful eye out when the girls are on the ski slopes, and manages “the unsettling situations that often bubble up right around bedtime.”

“I’m the CEO,” Kelly says. “Edward [her husband] is like the chairman of the board. He only comes in for board meetings, and he gives me some tips, like, ‘I just came up with a few things when I was flying across the country first-class, some ideas that might help.’”

But it’s her mother that Kelly calls on when she needs “tips,” advice, perspective, or encouragement. “I have come to admire [my mother] so much for so many things… She had so much stamina. She had so much fortitude and grit, to stand the constant negotiation.”

“Now,” Kelly says, “give me almost any situation—termites, refinancing, or back pain, allowance, mean girls or sibling rivalry, a child’s despair, a husband’s inattention, or my own spikes of rage and regret—and watch how fast I dial her number.”

Kelly may still be dialing her mom, but she has come into her own as an author, a philanthropist, and an inspiring figure for anyone attending to the Great Adventure.

Photos of Kelly Corrigan courtesy of Betsy Barnes