Fire Heart Circle
Board of Directors
Darlene Chandler Bassett, President and Founder
Darlene Chandler Bassett spent two decades as a corporate executive with famed entrepreneur and arts patron, Eli Broad. Concurrent with her corporate management positions, Bassett was also Board Chair of The California Abortion Rights Action League-South, from 1984 to 1991. Through the founding of AROHO, Bassett has contributed her unique combination of corporate and non-profit management experience towards defining a new artistic legacy for women writers and artists. She is passionate about eradicating the isolation of creative women and ending the marketplace inequality of women in the arts. Bassett graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara in Classics, and was a guest lecturer at the UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Business.
“But I maintain that she would come if we worked for her,” Virginia sounded the call. I am a woman whose instinct to seek purpose is irresistible. My life has been transformed by a dream that there is an army of creative women who believe there is a better way. You are that army. Your presence humbles me. Your presence emboldens me. What you taught me is that the gift given becomes the treasure received. My gift to you is my call: How can we find each other?–Darlene Chandler Bassett
Tanya Ko Hong, Director
Tanya (Hyonhye) Ko Hong is a poet, translator, and cultural-curator. Born and raised in Suk Su Dong, South Korea, Tanya immigrated to the US at eighteen. She holds an MFA from Antioch University in Los Angeles, CA. She is a Ph.D candidate in Mythological Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Tanya is the author of Mother to Myself: A collection of poems in Korean (Prunsasang Press, 2015) Yellow Flowers on a Rainy Day (Oma Books, 2003), Mother’s Diary of Generation (Qumran, 2002), and Generation One Point Five (Esprit 1993). Tanya’s work appears in Rattle, Beloit Poetry Journal, Entropy, Cultural Weekly, The Feminist Press, Lunch Ticket, Great Weather for Media, Califragile, Choson Iibo, Korea Times, Korea Central Daily News, the Aeolian Harp Series Anthology and more. She received an honorable mention in 2015 from the Women’s National Book Association. In 2018, Tanya won the Yun Doon-ju Korean-American Literature Award, was a finalist in Frontier’s Chapbook Contest, and was Pushcart nominee. In 2015 and 2018, Tanya translated to Arthur Sze’s poems, becoming the first person to translate and publish his poems into Korean. She champions bilingual poetry and poets. Tanya lives in Palos Verdes with her husband and three children.
My art is a border, a threshold between English and Korean, voice and voiceless, secrets and truth, dark and light. I came from South Korea, where as a woman I was taught to be submissive, silent. Poetry was forbidden, but absolutely essential. Living in Los Angeles, I’ve learned what it means to use my voice. My work engages creatively and critically with the role of women and diaspora. My works says, I am here and won’t be silent. My warm hands melt the walls of marginalization. I stand at the shoreline, collect the shells of our untold stories. I am here to bring our sisters to the lighthouse. We will support and create our art in freedom.–Tanya Ko Hong (고현혜)
Cassandra Lane, Director
Cassandra Lane is Managing Editor of L.A. Parent magazine. She received an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. Her stories have appeared in a variety of newspapers, magazines, anthologies and storytelling venues, including The Times-Picayune, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Writer’s Resist, Ms. Aligned, Raising Mothers, Expressing Motherhood and the New York Times’ “Conception” series. Her book-length project explores the impact of her great-grandfather’s lynching and her “late” entry into motherhood. A Louisiana native, she lives with her family in Los Angeles.
I’m fascinated by old railroads, bridges and roads, and love to discover some long-forgotten mode of connecting people from one place to another. I live in a fast city—L.A.—but grew up in a tiny Louisiana town in a house that once had a dirt road running alongside it. I can still hear the dirt beneath our feet. Inside our house, women and girls connected all day long—through prayer, the preparation of food, the caring of children, through music and stories. It taught me the power of community, which I aim to carry wherever I am in the world.–Cassandra Lane
Karina Puente, Director
Karina Puente is a Mexican American creative strategist who uses art as a vehicle for solution-oriented thinking; satisfaction as a conduit for productivity. Her art studio specializes in working across industry connecting people to the joy of making, giving, and living with art. Karina’s work has been exhibited at the Studios MASS MOCA, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Museum of International Folk Art Santa Fe, the Corcoran National Gallery, Columbia University, the Colored Girls Museum, the Library of Congress, and the Women’s International Study Center. Karina Puente is proud to join AROHO’s 2019 Board of Directors.
I am a visual artist specializing in a light touch. My art is for galleries, museums, freedom-seeking women, and the home. Celebration and ceremony are part of everything I do because it keeps me connected to spirit. To the part of myself -ourselves- with overview; a continuous stream of support and inspiration. We feel it when we are lit up. I’m an artist to make that feeling tangible. Then I multiply it, make a movement with it, collaborate, and forge a new path with it. Find me T(Here) in spirit.–Karina Puente
Ramona Reeves, Vice President
Ramona Reeves attended her first retreat hosted by A Room of Her Own in 2005. Originally from Alabama, she has a B.A. in history from Huntingdon College, an M.A. in English lit from Bowling Green State University, and an M.F.A. in creative writing from New Mexico State University. She lived in New York City for a decade where she worked in editorial and production roles for several magazines before moving into IT, technical writing, and project management roles for newspaper and magazine clients. Most recently, she’s worked as a writer and editor for The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education and the state higher education agency in Texas.
She’s also ghostwritten a ranching family memoir for a publisher in San Antonio and taught creative writing courses and workshops in university and nonprofit settings. She’s received a residency from Kimmel Nelson Harding Center for the Arts, been a finalist for the Lamar/York Prize at the Chattahoochee Review, and twice been a finalist in the Austin Chronicle Short Story contest. Her fiction and essays have appeared in Ninth Letter (online edition), The Southampton Review, Superstition Review, Pembroke Magazine, Texas Co-op Power, Mobile Bay Monthly, Gris-Gris, and others. She is currently working on her novel told in stories and lives with her partner and pets in Texas.
I am here because I want to be a part of the conversation about elevating women’s voices. A conversation that begins with a digital presence, opens to a printed presence and burgeons once again to a physical presence. Years ago, AROHO handed me a mirror and a compass, which turned out to be two sides of the same thing. I’m here hoping the work we do helps other women emerge and keep going as they find themselves and their creative voices.–Ramona Reeves
Bernadette Smyth, Director
Bernadette Smyth is a graduate of New Mexico State University’s MFA program and is the recipient of the Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction and two residencies at Hedgebrook. She is currently working on a novel told in vignettes. She has many years of experience working as a writer and editor of everything from dissertations to fiction, and has extensive experience in the human rights, nonprofit and educational arenas, including as director of development at Gemini Ink in San Antonio and for other nonprofits. She currently freelances as a grant writer and editor for nonprofits and publishers.
This photo is actually of my mother, on her honeymoon. I am constantly drawn to the stillness of the moment, the privacy suggested by it, the internal quality of it, and relate to that on a very basic level. Those are the places my creativity comes from; the places that protect my gypsy soul as I wander the earth; my solid boat in the still water. Those are the values that allow me to breathe deeply; to uproot over and over again and remain stable; simply, to create.–Bernadette Smyth
Darlene R. Taylor, Director
Darlene R. Taylor has had a long career as a senior aide to the U.S. Congress and an advisor to arts, cultural and development nonprofits, and Fortune 100 corporations. She has served as president of Preservation Action, a nonprofit grassroots voice of local and state historic preservationists. Darlene is Chair of the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation, a 24-year-old nonprofit dedicated to preserving the voice of Black writers. As a writer and preservationist, she aims to protect and share the stories of American life and history through its people, buildings, landscapes, and literary art. The literary journal Blackberry: a magazine published her short story fiction, and she is a 2014 fellow of Callaloo in fiction. A graduate of American University, she has lived in Cairo, Geneva, and New York. Currently, she resides in Washington, DC and lovingly cares for an 1860 waterman’s house on the historic eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay.
Everyone has a story and every one has a purpose. In my writing, I (re) imagine the lives of people silenced in history.
I believe in the power of books to inspire. Reading feeds my creativity and sense of purpose. I share that love with others through circles that bring writers and readers together. My father built me book shelves in my room, and he and my mom filled those shelves with books. Those books lead me to places where I could feel I belong. So, I share my love of literature with others in my community and donate books to students at under-resourced public school libraries. I hope to lift the voice of other creators and inspire.–Darlene Taylor
Sun Cooper is the editor for Digital Waves, the 2015 Blackbird Fellow of AROHO, and a regular contributor to poetry journals and various publishing, travel, and women’s magazines. She founded her literary studio in the attic of a horse barn while completing her B.A. in English Literature. After 19 years in the world of writing and publishing – and a few stints as a newspaper editor, director of a nonprofit for students, and volunteer with women’s safe houses and boys’ homes – she concentrates on creative writing and cross-media publications, advocating for women’s stories, and raising a kind, well-traveled young man. Her work has been featured in Rolling Stone, National Geographic, American Cowboy, Severine, Southern Writers, UNUM and the Red with Love Campaign. A native Oklahoman, she migrates the West with her son and pup.
After some fire in my life, I found myself rising with the help of other women – women who supported my writing, a woman gifting me the Blackbird Fellowship, other women caring for my son so I could go to Abiquiu, acts which claimed a sisterhood for me in the world of arts.
As my own rising has met the rising of other women, I carry forward ancestral wisdom from the swan wing-wearing Ghigau: Be courageous and compassionate with your life and with each other. This is how we release our stories.–Sun Cooper
Tracey Cravens-Gras never wanted to be an administrator. A life-long lover of the written word, she studied English at the University of Cincinnati, and graduated with honors from the Ohio State University in 1997. She began working for A Room of Her Own as Darlene Chandler Bassett’s personal assistant in 2008, and now serves as executive administrator and creative facilitator, tending to the heart of the circle and operations of AROHO. On most New Mexico mornings, her feet tend to a rhythm on the pavement between her house and the horizon.
When I was young, I wrote stories, drew pictures, created dwellings out of bricks, leaves, and the space between bushes, dreaming up new worlds with anyone willing to play. For eleven years I’ve accompanied AROHO on her journey to the center of who she is, and this has led me full circle back to who I am—a writer, an artist, a room-maker, a co-creator. I see myself in the evolution of AROHO. We are kindred spirits learning together to make something powerful and new.–Tracey Cravens-Gras
Diane Gilliam is editor of the first AROHO WAVES Anthology, inspired by Virginia Woolf and featuring Maxine Hong Kingston. Diane grew up in Columbus, Ohio, daughter of parents who were part of the post-war Appalachian outmigration. She earned a PhD in Romance Languages and Literatures from Ohio State and an MFA from Warren Wilson. Gilliam is the recipient of the Pushcart Prize, Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing, and the 6th $50,000 Gift of Freedom Award from A Room of Her Own Foundation.
For every truth told, how many go unspoken? Muriel Rukeyser was on the shelf at my shoulder: “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.” I wanted to make of these pages a book that would split open whatever parts of the world it might touch.–Diane Gilliam