Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ten Poets & Writers For Avery Doninger At Free Speech Festival With Five Live Bands; Wally Lamb Tops Bill


The Bistro East, Litchfield Inn
1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14, 2007

Novelist Wally Lamb will be among 10 poets and writers reading from their works in a celebration honoring free speech freedom fighter Avery Doninger Sunday, Oct. 14, 2007 at the Litchfield Inn's Bistro East Ballroom. Also, other special guests might show up at the last moment.

The event begins at 1 p.m. and includes live music by four high school bands.
Hors d'oeuvres, cheese and fruit will be served and there will be a cash bar.

Doninger, a senior at Lewis S. Mills High School in Burlington, has civil rights actions pending in the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City and U.S. District Court in New Haven. She and her mother, Lauren Doninger, sued Principal Karissa Niehoff and Superintendent Paula Schwartz after they removed Avery from the ballot for Class of 2008 secretary.

Avery Doninger was among a group of four students who lobbied the community for support of an annual battle of the bands sponsored by the Student Council. Schwartz became very upset after taxpayers called her and she cancelled the event known as Jamfest. Doninger subsequently referred to administrators in a live journal blog as central office douchebags, and Schwartz's son found the posting a couple weeks later. While Avery Doninger was banned from school office, another student who called Schwartz a dirty whore was given an award and lauded for citizenship.

School officials suppressed the write-in vote in which Doninger was elected by a plurality. Schwartz refused to accept Doninger's apology for her choice of words. During an assembly, Niehoff banned free-speech and Team Avery t-shirts and seized at least one shirt.

The Doningers are seeking -- among other remedies -- an apology for civil rights violations, recognition of the write-in victory and sharing of the secretary position with the administration-backed candidate.

U.S. District Judge Mark Kravitz denied a motion for a preliminary injunction and his ruling is being appealed to the Second Circuit.

Joining Lamb on the Oct. 14 program are poets and writers Ravi Shankar, Amy Ma, Franz Douskey, Rand Cooper, Jon Andersen, Ron Winter, Margot Schilpp, Oscar De Los Santos and Louis "The Coin" Colavecchio. Short bios follow. Bands set to perform include My Day As A Bear, Adrenaline, Young Vick, Accolade and The Positive Downside.

Suggested donation is $25 or more for adults; $10 or more for students. Checks can be made out to:

Atty. Jon L. Schoenhorn IOLTA Account
with "Avery Doninger appeal" written on the reference line.

Jon L. Schoenhorn &Associates, LLC
108 Oak Street
Hartford, Connecticut 06106-1514

Among those helping to subsidize expenses for the Oct 14 event are: Marilyn Nelson, the former Connecticut Poet Laureate; Howard Zinn, author of books including "A People's History of the United States" and "A Power Governments Cannot Suppress;" poet and poetry slam coach Elizabeth Thomas; Ray Baysden, a corporate executive in Virginia; poet and writer Susanne Davis; and Raj Patel, owner of The Business Center in Litchfield.

Book vendor for this event will be The Hickory Stick Bookshop of Washington Depot.
Special thanks to Fran Keilty.

For more information, contact Andy Thibault at or 860-690-0211. Thibault is serving with Doninger as Co-Secretary and Co-Master of Ceremonies for the event.

Click here to view the Event Flyer

Poets & Writers For Avery [short bios]

Jon Andersen is the author of Stomp and Sing (Curbstone2005), a book of image-studded lyrics of work, love, family, and class struggle. His poems have appeared in numerous publications, including The Cafe Review, Connecticut Review, The Progressive, and Rattle. He teaches, along with his wife and fellow writer Denise Abercrombie, at E.O. Smith High School in Storrs.

Louis Colavecchio, known to many as Louis The Coin, began a life of entrepreneurial adventure as a youngster. Along the way he got to know many characters on all sides of the law, throughout the United States and Europe. His father had arrived in Providence from Italy in1903. As an established businessman, Benedict Colavacchio and his wife Theorora encouraged young Louis to gain an education. While working fulltime, Louis Colavecchio earned a degree in business administration from Providence College. Colavecchio's talents as a jeweler, manufacturer and man of romance are part of the historical record - as seen on The History Channel and The BBC. It might be an understatement to say Colavecchio changed the face of casino gambling forever. Now, he applies all those talents and his imagination in a new venue: storyteller. His work in progress: "You Thought It Was More: The Real Providence Brought To Life."

Rand Richards Cooper is the author of a novel, The Last to Go (Harcourt Brace), and a story collection, Big As Life (The Dial Press).A film critic for Commonweal and a contributing editor for Bon Appetit Magazine, Cooper wrote about the Orwellian implications of American governmental policies in an essay titled "The Big Brother Test," which appeared in Northeast Magazine in September 2003. He writes a column about fatherhood, "Dad on a Lark," for

Oscar De Los Santos is chair of the Department of Writing at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. His stories and essays have appeared in Extrapolation, Connecticut Review and Saranac Review. He is the author of Hardboiled Egg (short stories) and Spirits of Texas and New England (folklore stories). He co-authored Infinite Wonderlands (short stories, with David G. Mead) and Questions of Science, Answers to Life (essays, with JJ Sargent). Reel Rebels, an edited collection of film essays, will be published in fall 2007.

Franz Douskey, a poet and writer, is President Emeritus of of IMPAC University, Punta Gorda, FL. He teaches creative writing at Gateway Community College in New Haven. Douskey has been published in more than 150 journals and magazines including the New Yorker, Rolling Stone and Yankee. A featured guest at New Haven's Festival of Arts & Ideas, Douskey's books include "Rowing Across The Dark" and "Indecent Exposure." He is a founding board member of the IMPAC-Connecticut State University Young Writers Trust and has served as a judge every year of the competition. Douskey is also the author of the forthcoming biography,"The Unknown Sinatra."

Wally Lamb's two novels, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, were both number one New York Times bestsellers and selections of Oprah Winfrey's Book Club. He was the editor of Couldn't Keep It to Myself, a previous volume of essays from students in his writing workshop at York Correctional Institution. A volunteer facilitator at York for the past eight years, Lamb is currently at work on his third novel. He lives in Connecticut with his family. Now Lamb returns with I'll Fly Away, a new volume of intimate, searching pieces from the York workshop. Here, twenty women -- eighteen inmates and two of Lamb's co-facilitators -- share the experiences that shaped them from childhood and that haunt and inspire them to this day. These portraits, vignettes, and stories depict with soul-baring honesty how and why women land in prison-and what happens once they get there. The stories are as varied as the individuals who wrote them, but each testifies to the same core truth: the universal value of knowing oneself and changing one's life through the power of the written word.

Amy Ma, a graduate of West Hartford's Conard High School, went on to major in English at Wesleyan University. There, she completed a short story collection while mentored by the writer Kit Reed. Currently, she is working to obtain her Connecticut teaching certification at Central Connecticut State University. "I am making an interesting living as a makeup artist and counter manager for Nordstrom cosmetics," Ma said. "The game plan is to teach high school English, attend law school, open a rock-and-roll-themed makeup boutique with my best friend, and sooner or later run away to New York to adventure and write. I remain enslaved by poetry and accept my fate as such." Ma will be certified in fall of 2008 to teach English at a public middle- or high-school in Connecticut. Her current projects include singing backup for a blues-rock band and performing at/attending open-mic nights with a group of young people in Hartford. "I love music, the written and spoken word, and keeping busy," Ma said. "Being in a New Britain middle school regularly has only increased my belief that kids have much to say and fresh viewpoints that need to be encouraged, so I hope as a teacher I can help them get interested in both reading and getting their ideas out."

Margot Schilpp's books are The World's Last Night (2001) and Laws of My Nature (2005), both from Carnegie Mellon University Press. Her poems have appeared in Chelsea, The Southern Review, Gettysburg Review, Shenandoah, Denver Quarterly, Hotel Amerika and elsewhere. She has been granted residencies at Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Fundacion Valparaiso (Spain) and is the recipient this year of a Connecticut Artists Grant from the Connecticut Council on Culture and Tourism. She is an editor for Tupelo Press, an independent literary publisher. She earned her M.F.A. from the University of Utah, and lives in New Haven with her husband and their two daughters.

Ravi Shankar is poet-in-residence and assistant professor of English at Central Connecticut State University. Shankar is the author of Instrumentality, a collection of poems published by Cherry Grove Collections in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is a founding editor of the online journal of the arts "Drunken Boat"( Among many awards won by Shankar are the Gulf Coast Poetry Prize and the Bennett Prize for Poetry at Columbia University. His critical work has appeared in Poets &Writers, Time Out New York, The Iowa Review, and The AWP Writer's Chronicle.

Ron Winter is the author of Masters of the Art. The book is a frank and accurate look at Marine operations in northern I Corps in 1968 at such battle sites as Khe Sanh, The Demilitarized Zone and the A Shau Valley. Masters of the Art is true to the Marine tradition of Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful. Winter, a descendant of Scottish Highlanders, grew up in the farming country of upstate New York. He gave up an academic scholarship at SUNY Albany in 1966 to join the marines and fight in Vietnam, where he served as a helicopter machine gunner, flying 300 missions, and earning numerous decorations, including 15 Air Medals, Combat Aircrew Wings, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. After Vietnam he returned to his studies earning undergraduate degrees in Electrical Engineering and English Literature. In a two-decade journalism career that included stints as investigative reporter, supervising editor, and columnist, Winter received several prestigious awards and a Pulitzer nomination. He currently works as a writer specializing in media relations and is a fierce advocate of veterans' rights. Winter speaks regularly to school and community groups on the history of the Vietnam.

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