Arts and Entertainment

WOW! Stories returns with talks, performances from Whidbey Island’s most inspirational women

WOW! Stories features the inspirational women pictured on the event poster at an all-day event March 9. Each woman will give an inspirational talk interspersed with activities like EFT tapping, singing and more. -
WOW! Stories features the inspirational women pictured on the event poster at an all-day event March 9. Each woman will give an inspirational talk interspersed with activities like EFT tapping, singing and more.
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Last year the audience at the very first WOW! Stories gathering heard from an underwater photographer, an unschooled teen building her own house, the founder of The Giraffe Project, a physician, a police detective, two writers, an electrician, the queen of the simple-living movement and more.

They did yoga, shook their hips with the Zumba Goddess, were entertained with honky-tonk and R&B tunes, and sang together in harmony to end a day full of fascinating stories about the lives of some seemingly ordinary women of Whidbey. It turned out to be true that, as WOW! founder Diana Lindsay said, “Within every Whidbey woman there’s a TED talk.”

And for those who missed it the first time, WOW! Stories 2013 will come to the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts March 9.

Lindsay explained the origin of WOW! Stories.

“One afternoon, while watching the women’s TED conference on my computer, I realized that the women I most wanted to hear from lived right here on Whidbey,” she said.

“I ran the idea of a sort of TED talks featuring women of Whidbey (WOW) by three friends, and within two hours Rene Neff, Lynn Willeford and Debora Valis had signed on to help make WOW! Stories happen. And of course, it wouldn’t be South Whidbey if we didn’t make it a fundraiser, so WICA and Whidbey Island Nourishes (W.I.N.) were on board by the second day. We operate with a budget of zero and all donate our time because we wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t fun.”

Heather Racicot, now a member of the producing team that puts on WOW! Stories, was in the audience that first year.

“The talks and performances were filled with inspiration, deep reflection, passion and even momentary sadness and hilarity,” she said. “I was literally moved to tears by the end of the first WOW! Stories gathering as the audience commenced in song, and usually, I’m not one to sing. The entire experience was so meaningful that I felt compelled to help ensure WOW! Stories becomes a tradition for the Whidbey community in years to come.”

Moving experience

The people in the audience weren’t the only ones moved and inspired by the WOW! experience. Therapist Sarri Gilman was one of the 2012 speakers.

“Something extraordinary happened at the first WOW! event to all of us — audience, presenters and producers. Our connection to each other profoundly deepened. My phone rang non-stop for months following this event, the WOW! experience opening stories to be told, stories to be heard, continuing for months and months. It still continues now.”

Other speakers and performers expressed similar feelings. Each speaker worked with a member of the producing team to create the deepest and most inspiring and entertaining story to tell. In several cases, the very process of thinking through, writing and presenting their talks led to positive changes in their personal or professional lives.

Since WOW! Stories left the audience begging for more, the show’s producer Seriously Fun Productions — Lindsay, Neff, Willeford, Valis, Mary Fisher and now Racicot — decided to make it an annual tradition. WOW! Stories 2013 will take place Saturday, March 9 at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.

Once again it will be a benefit and “friend-raiser” for WICA and Whidbey Island Nourishes.

The day will begin with a coffee and social time at 9:30 a.m., followed by a fascinating mix of speakers and performers from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a break in the middle for lunch.

Gourmet sack lunches provided by Whidbey Island Nourishes, which was founded by Fisher and friends, are included in the ticket price of $27.

The day will end with a no-host wine reception. WOW! Stories makes a great mother-daughter or girlfriend event, and though the house will be full of women, men are also warmly welcomed.

“Attending WOW! Stories makes you feel like you’ve just spent an incredible day with your best friends sharing ideas, experiences and advice about the most meaningful and simple things in life,” Racicot said.

Speakers at this year’s WOW! Stories range in age from 16 to 90, and include Dana Moffett, Gwen Jones, Elise Miller, Vivienne Hull, Gloria Ferry-Brennan, Sherryl Christie-Bierschenk, Joey Shapiro Key, Christina Parker, Mully Mullally, Alicia Lomne, Kelly Henriot, Gene White, Rene Neff, Ginny Green, Susie Richards, Wendi Barker, Leslie Cotter and Rose Woods.

Among the presenters are teachers, adventurers, scientists, artists, athletes, mothers of disabled children, karate masters, playwrights and founders of nonprofits. They will be talking about their passions in life — and they won’t always be what you expect.

Stories and more

The individual WOW! talks are from 5 to 15 minutes in length, and are broken up by both short performances and brief group activities.

Among the performers this year will be the m’bira group Sarungano founded by Dana Moffett, singer/musician Eleanor Fye, young fiddlers Gabby and Livy Barlow, and actress Shelly Hartle.

Alina Frank will provide a demonstration of EFT tapping, and Sommer Albertsen will lead the group in some full-body Nya. Once again the day will close with song and a reception.

Though the WOW! Stories concept was new last year, the event nearly sold out, so those hoping to score tickets this year can get them from WICA at or 221-8268 sooner rather than later.

More information about WOW! Stories 2013 and its presenters and performers can be found at WOW! Stories on Facebook or at the event’s website,

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