In celebration of our 15 years empowering women, we are excited to introduce a retrospective collection of success stories from previous EWI alumnae. One of EWI’s board members, Howie Feinstein, is the contributing writer for this series.
For Edith Graciela Sanabria, proud E.W.I. alumna and “ambassador,” art has never been a job, hobby, or pastime. It is, rather, her essence; it is who she is. Born in Bolivia to a family of jewelers, she has never strayed from the artistic path, branching out into poetry, painting, translation, drama and screenplays, short stories, children’s books – with no end in sight. She has always used her creativity to surmount national and cultural barriers, writing in three languages and traveling widely for readings.
Her journey, like that of most E.W.I. alumnae, did not begin under easy circumstances. She came to America in 1989, seeking a new life for her mother and herself, having grown up in an abusive family setting. While in a coffee shop in Alexandria, Edith saw an advertisement for Empowered Women International. She met Marga Fripp, E.W.I.’s founding director, at a class for the healing of women, which she attended with her mother.
“Marga was inspirational. She had the passion to make E.W.I. work. She came here with nothing, but never gave up. I started E.T.S. The trainers were great, and I was also in the E.W.I. Writers Circle [founded by EWI board member Howard Feinstein, with whom she does joint readings]. E.W.I. helped me with networking and marketing. I learned how important the business aspect of the arts is. E.W.I. showed me the tools. You cannot live on your art unless you learn how to advertise, market, and sell. To succeed in business, you must devote 100% of your energy, seven days a week.”
A natural creative artist, now armed with business training from E.W.I., Edith’s literary and related endeavors flourished in relatively short order. She published and gave readings in the U.S. and abroad, generally in both English and Spanish. She participated in festivals and conferences, and appeared regularly on radio and television, including a segment on “Sixty Minutes.” She also sold jewelry from Bolivia, and developed into an accomplished painter.
As any artist will tell you, the creative life is not a secure one. Her mother’s condition was deteriorating, and Edith was her sole means of support and care, a situation which continues to this day. Unable to devote sufficient attention to the business side of her creative endeavors, her income dwindled. Still fiercely committed to following her passion, Edith has returned to the E.W.I. family to recharge her personal and professional batteries. She is revising her website; performing at events on behalf of E.W.I. veteran Sushmita Mazumdar’s poetry anthology, “Thou Art: The Beauty of Identity,” to which Edith has contributed a poem; and embarking on a series of additional upcoming readings. She has cofounded the group “Poets Anonymous,” and works closely with other Spanish-language poets. She reads periodically at Politics & Prose in D.C.
“The arts empower me. I like to get energy and support from other artists, and especially from E.W.I.” Like all our alumnae, Edith has found that EWI is for life.