Photography by Sarah Oden | Makeup by Bridget Baltimore with Barbara Jean | Dress & Jewelry from Barbara Jean | Featured with her dog Sumo
Erin Wood admits she’s curious and fascinated by personal discovery. She believes that the powerful feminine circle is made stronger by the collective force of nature that each individual’s experience contributes. In her new book Women Make Arkansas, Erin captures the spirit + inspiration of 50 remarkable women and celebrates their journeys that enrich the lives of all Arkansans.
Janis Kearney – who’s featured in the book – agrees, “The world would be a better place if we can hear each other’s stories.” In 2014, she established the Celebrate! Maya Project to continue the legacy of Maya Angleou by promoting education, the arts and civil + human rights: creating initiatives to help students realize their dreams.
Many more bold women, like Stacey Bowers – whose engraved metal Bang-Up Betty jewelry is coveted by local + national celebrities – share a philosophy that strong words evoke action. Each magical creation, in it’s owns special shape and size, is intended to cultivate personal discovery.
Et Alia Press publishes books that celebrate wellness, local histories and the arts community. Erin shares insight and a unique perspective that brought this “small press for big voices” to Central Arkansas.
I went to college at Duke University and studied English with a creative writing focus. Maya Angelou was the commencement speaker during my freshman year – it was great to start college with a little taste of home – and Toni Morrison did a reading on campus. I was fortunate to study with acclaimed fiction writer Amy Hempel and novelist Elizabeth Cox. Through close and distant contact with these women, I came to understand what the life of a working writer might look like. I wanted that life, but I didn’t particularly want to be an academic. I was quite inspired my Shakespeare professor who had combined her English major and law degree to inform her specialty in Renaissance law. Her path helped me understand that if I followed my interests, I might be able to fashion a career that didn’t fit into an obvious and available box, but would involve forging my own way. I attended Georgia State University College of Law and practiced at a boutique construction law firm. Brief writing became my favorite part of practicing, but overall, I questioned whether it would fit for a lifetime. That dream of being a writer still called me and I’d never stopped writing snippits and parts of stories. In 2006, I moved back to Arkansas and graduated with a Master of Professional and Technical Writing from UA Little Rock in 2009.
LIFE AS A WRITER + PUBLISHER?
For years, I felt like I was all over the map, but I realize now that I was gaining the skills I’d need to run my own businesses as a publisher, editor, and writer. Now I recognize that when a puzzle has more pieces, it just takes longer to put together. I use my law degree often to draft book contracts, photo releases, and any other necessary agreements for Et Alia. Because I am one myself, I understand the emotional processes writers go through so my writing serves me as an editor and publisher.
WOMEN MAKE ARKANSAS?
Originally, I envisioned the book as being about both female and male makers in Arkansas. Then, it hit me – a more necessary book was one sharing the stories of women creatives. Plus, it sounded like an important learning experience for me – not to mention fun! There is a hunger and need for more women’s stories right now, especially when women are empowered to tell their stories in their own words and with their own unique perspectives. I wanted to be part of beholding women as they shared their struggles and triumphs in this way.
It’s infectious inspiration, I think in large part because these women have been so brave and vulnerable in sharing not only their work and their creative processes, but many parts of their lives that have driven them to do what they do. These are not just “maker stories,” but life stories, and these women share how they’ve walked through the loss of a child, rape, divorce, and discrimination, because all of these circumstances shape who they are as well as why and what they create.