May WordFest features stories of women finding their inner strength

WordFest will feature true stories of women discovering the fortitude to overcome enormous challenges at our next event on Tuesday, May 9, 6:00-8:00 pm, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 1428 22nd Avenue in Longview.

Women’s history author Marianne Monson will read from The Opera Sisters, a historical novel based on the true story of the Cook sisters who smuggled valuables out of 1930s Nazi Germany to finance a daring operation to help Jews escape to England. 

British sisters Ida and Louise Cook were enjoying quiet, unassuming lives in south London when Hitler came to power in 1933 and began persecuting German Jews. Jewish members of the opera community approached the sisters for help. The two sisters devised a plan to personally escort Jewish refugees out of Germany, smuggling jewelry and furs beneath the watchful eyes of SS soldiers, before the country’s borders were closed. The Opera Sisters is a riveting and inspiring novel of two unlikely heroines whose courage and compassion helped many to escape Nazi persecution.

Marianne received her MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of twelve books. Her 2016 novel, Frontier Grit, was nominated for an American Library Association Amelia Bloomer Award, and her 2018 Women of the Blue and Gray was awarded a silver medal in the military category by Foreword Reviews. She has taught English and Creative Writing at several community colleges and universities and is founder and President of The Writer’s Guild, a literary nonprofit based in Astoria, Oregon. Find more information  at:

Award winning author Ashley Bugge knows tragedy and triumph. Her debut memoir, Always Coming Back Home, detailing the 2018 tragic scuba diving accident that claimed her young husband’s life, has won multiple awards. Her new book, The Ocean is Calling, is the story of her life’s greatest love and loss: the death of her spouse followed by giving birth to her child alone. Bugge takes readers through a journey, from a bitter dark night with a bottle of sleeping pills in her hand to an expedition through eight countries with her three young children in tow.

The Ocean is Calling is a journey of heartache, exploration, discovery, travel, and family, with the trust that whatever happens in life, there can be hope and joy ahead. 

Ashley also co-authored with her three young children, A Hui Hou: Until We Meet Again, a book for young boys and girls processing grief after losing a loved one. She is a Master Scuba Diver and polar explorer who enjoys traveling with her all-female expedition team researching how climate change is affecting our world’s oceans. You can learn more about her here: and on Instagram: @ashley.bugge.

A WordFest favorite, retired judge Ed Putka will be reading a new story about growing up in his Polish neighborhood in Cleveland. This tale is about Mr. Wojcik who kept racing pigeons. When a new renter moves next door, he is taken by the pigeons and an adventure ensues. Ed is enjoying his retirement, serving on the Legal Aid Board and traveling within the country and abroad with his wife, Mary.

An open mic will follow the presentations.

The monthly gathering of readers and writers meets the second Tuesday of each month, 6:00-8:00 PM, in the fellowship hall of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. The events are free and open to the public.