March 3 2010 12:00 AM

HerStories series recognizes unsung heroines and stories


Although Grammy winner and Detroit native Sippie Wallace had one of the dominant voices in blues, she was nearly lost to history until Virginia Law Burns of Laingsburg included Wallace in her young adult book, “Bold Women in Michigan History.”

Now, Law Burns is one of the authors, storytellers and poets who will help pass the torch to other women yearning to tell their own stories and the stories of others. For four Saturday afternoons in March, the HerStories project will celebrate Women’s History Month with readings, writing workshops and storytelling sessions at Everybody Reads, 2019 Michigan Ave. Events begin at 1 p.m. every Saturday.

HerStories was put together by Lansing poet Melissa Dey Hasbrook, who has a penchant for organizing events revolving around writing. She said her focus is to bring together words and the community.

“It is great for me to see work in print,” she said, “but I find more fulfillment in taking words to people directly.”

Dey Hasbrook has published several works of poetry and will release a new collection this spring.

Law Burns will join several other authors from the community in doing readings and conducting writer workshops. Law Burns, who was first published nearly 60 years ago, began her career writing short features for newspapers; at one time, she had a weekly column in the Lansing State Journal about her experiences as a young mother in the “wilderness” of northern Michigan.

She later wrote young-adult biographies of the frontier doctor William Beaumont and Michigan’s “Boy Governor” Lewis Cass, among others. After she wrote “Tall Annie,” the biography of Upper Peninsula labor organizer Annie Clemenc, Law Burns decided to focus on what she calls “my journey” to write women back into history. In 2006, she published “Bold Women of Michigan,” and she is now finishing a similar book on unsung heroines of the past.

Joining Law Burns on the workshop schedule are Andrea King Collier (“Still with Me: A Daughter’s Journey of Love and Loss”) and Marilyn Mayer Culpepper (“Never Will We Forget: Oral Histories of World War II”). Several other poets and storytellers will also present programs.

Serendipity brought Law Burns and Dey Hasbrook together. Law Burns said her granddaughter, a Lansing Community College student, told her Lansing’s Gone Wired Café is a cool place. When Law Burns saw a notice about a writer’s meeting there, she showed up and met Dey Hasbrook, who was organizing HerStories.

“Back in my glory days, I used to get $200 an hour (for doing writer workshops),” Law Burns said. “But now, in this economy, giving back is much more joy. I’m 84 now and (writing) is what keeps me going. When it comes to putting women in history, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

“I just wish when I was younger I had had mentors and opportunities like this.”

HerStories culminates on 4 p.m. March 27 with an openmike for authors and poets; all donations will go to the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing.

For more information and to register for events, visit Dey Hasbrook’s Web site


1 p.m. Saturday, March 6: "Storytelling for All Ages," featuring Jean Bolley and Lynette Brown

2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 6: "Journaling for Change," workshop by Holly Makimaa

1 p.m. Saturday, March 13: "Storytelling for All Ages," featuring Charles Thornton and Ena Baker

2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 13: "There’s Sense in Our Poetry: Using the
Senses to Enter Poetic Spiritual Space," workshop by Mary Catherine
Harper 3:45 p.m. Saturday, March 13: "On Becoming a Fish: Birthing
Characters & Finding Voice Through Fiction," workshop by Dawn Comer

1 p.m. Saturday, March 20: Reading by Andrea King Collier

2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 20: "Writing About Women," workshop by Marilyn Mayer Culpepper

3:45 p.m. Saturday, March 20: "Making Your Creative Nonfiction Sizzle," workshop by Virginia Law Burns

4 p.m. Saturday, March 27: Benefit show and open-mike for Women’s Center of Greater Lansing

Everybody Reads, 2019 E. Michigan Ave.

All events are free. E-mail or visit to register.