Maine’s literati brought out the sparkle Thursday night for the inaugural Glitterati literary ball, which raised $28,000 for The Telling Room.

Every one of the more than 300 guests in attendance at Port City Music Hall in Portland sported sequins, iridescent fabric, jewels or a sprinkling of glitter. In fact, I can’t recall ever seeing a crowd so spot-on with a party theme.

“We have a lot of longtime supporters here,” said Heather Davis, The Telling Room’s development director. “There are some people here who want to mingle with literary types. And there’s a whole other subset of people who are here to see (singer/songwriter) Emilia Dahlin perform.”

While the fashion was fabulous and the people were beautiful, what the guests were really enthusiastic about was the cause. Founded five years ago, the nonprofit Telling Room maintains a writing center on Commercial Street in Portland, and hosts free weekly storytelling programs for students ages 6 to 18.

In the past year, the organization has worked with more than 2,000 children. Each year, the organization publishes an anthology of student work.

It’s an endeavor that attracts a steady stream of volunteers. Executive director Gibson Fay-LeBlanc told me they’ve never had to seek out volunteers because so many people approach The Telling Room wondering how they can help.

“What’s allowed us to do so many programs is the volunteer base,” Fay-LeBlanc said. “People just flock to it.”

Board member and Telling Room lead teacher Patty Hagge of Portland explained why:

“If you’re interested in literature, you seem to get involved in The Telling Room,” she said. “What’s crazy to me is how much good literature is coming out of Maine.”

The party itself came together as a result of the work of more than 40 volunteers.

There were many authors at the party, including Lily King, Monica Wood, Debra Spark and board member Melissa Coleman, whose new memoir is receiving lots of national attention, including a review in the New York Times the day of the party.

Other well-known faces in the crowd included fashion designer and board member Jill McGowan, former gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler and his wife, Melanie Cutler, Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance executive director Joshua Bodwell, and artist Pandora LaCasse, who donated a few of her signature lighted sculptures to be displayed at the party.

“There’s this amazing community that floats around The Telling Room,” organization co-founder Michael Paterniti told me. “I didn’t realize the community was so deep and broad” before they started the nonprofit.

Paterniti, who is a best-selling author and freelance contributor to a number of high-profile magazines, founded the organization with his wife, Sara Corbett, who is an author and contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine, and Susan Conley, who has authored a memoir and freelances for numerous national publications.

While Paterniti and Corbett were there for the entire event, Conley didn’t show up until much later because she was being honored at the Great Women of Maine awards ceremony hosted by MaineToday Media, which publishes The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta and the Morning Sentinel in Waterville.

“It used to be six of us sitting in a room, and we used to have to beg students to show up,” Corbett told me. “Now they come” without any arm twisting.

“It fills a real necessary void and is still somewhat unknown,” said board member Maggie Robinson of Falmouth.

Every Wednesday, Robinson brings her twins to the center’s Open Writing Hours, where they receive individual tutoring and help with specific pieces of writing.

“At first, they were like, ‘I don’t know if I want to go,’ ” Robinson said. “Now they can’t wait.”

Former journalist Michael Bourque of Portland also brings his son to The Telling Room every week.

“Talk about something that turns boys onto writing early on,” Bourque said. “Next week, they’re doing a sportswriting workshop. He’s very pumped up.”

In addition to an opportunity to socialize with members of Maine’s literary scene, the party served up a silent auction, a live auction with auctioneer Mike Carey, music from Dahlin and a spoken-word performance by Telling Room student Munye Mohamed.

Mohamed’s rhythmic and dramatic poetry reading was well received by the crowd.

“We are all unique whether you like it or not,” Mohamed recited. “So don’t put me in a box, because I will just break the locks.”

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

[email protected]

Follow her on Twitter at:

Twitter.com/AveryYaleKamila

 


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