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Carolina Women's Partnership: Giving women a voice

Envisioning a way for women across North Carolina to share their experiences, Duke graduate Emily Colin, Trinity '97, has helped found the Carolina Women's Partnership, a publishing company dedicated entirely to women's literature.

The idea developed out of Colin's work at the Coastal Carolina Press, a non-profit organization established by Andrew Scott, professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The publishing company, which focuses on the history and culture of the Carolina coast, creates series that focus on different facets of North Carolina life.

Colin, president of the partnership, initially thought it would be a good idea to put together a series showcasing women and their accomplishments.

"Basically it was an evolution of ideas," said Nicole Smith, co-founder and vice president of the partnership. "Emily had the idea for the books, and once those were going we thought, wouldn't it be a good idea to have a press to focus on women."

Originally, Colin invited 116 women to participate in the publication of their first two books-The Secret to Their Success: How 33 Women Made Their Dreams Come True and The Long Way Around: How 34 Women Found the Lives They Love-and 67 agreed to join in on the project. The books feature 15 Duke-affiliated women, including professors, alumnae and graduate students.

Mirinda Kossoff, director of communications at the School of Law, wrote a section for The Long Way Around that deals with the role suicide plays in a family.

"The theme [of the book] was women who have been through challenges in their lives," Kossoff said. "I think it's a wonderful happening to give women a voice and provide a place for talented women with interesting things to say to get them out there."

The partnership's launch event, a panel discussion with eight authors from the two books, was held in Wilmington as a part of Women's Wellness Week; the partnership formally began Sept. 29. "We had people coming up afterwards with tears in their eyes," Smith said.

Kossoff explained that these panel discussions showed her just how effective the books were in helping women to overcome obstacles.

"What we struggled with does have universal applications," she said. "You can go through some terrible things, but also learn from it."

These panel discussions, book signings and other events are an integral part of the partnership, as much of its focus remains on community service and reaching out to women across the state.

Along with the publication of two books per year, some of the organization's future goals include the publication of a newsletter, which may lead to a magazine. The founders also intend to create a website as another medium through which women's voices can be heard.

"The partnership itself is an organization that will be dedicated to focusing on women in Carolina, but using writing and literacy as a means of expression," Colin said.

This publishing arm is what makes the partnership so unique. "We wanted to have a community service feel to us, but also have the concentration on the books," Smith said.

Part of aiming for this "community service feel" means the organization is applying for non-profit status, and currently the women are enrolled in Duke's Certificate of Nonprofit Management Program.

In addition, Duke's Continuing Education Program has started an e-commerce project whose students will intern at the partnership in order to help as they grow.

Colin stressed the founders are still in the process of shaping the organization. Still, the two women agree that the publishing arm is the key to their success.

"We don't want to reinvent the wheel in any way," Smith said. "You don't want to compete with other groups doing good, but you do want to find your own niche."

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