Audience WOW’ed by Whidbey’s Women at WICA

Posted in Community, Feature, More Stories

Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
March 23, 2016

Imagine standing in the spotlight telling your story with confidence and grace.

More than two dozen of Whidbey Island’s talented women took to the limelight for the Fifth Annual WOW! Stories held at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley on March 11 and 12.

Speakers, Fri.nite & coordinators

Friday night’s speakers and coordinators end their evening’s event onstage. (photo by Tyler Raymond)

Kristio-269x200Musician Kristi O’Donnell, a bassist with the gypsy jazz band Trio Nouveau, opened the event with music the first night. Her band performed “Blues for Hildegard,” a piece O’Donnell composed based on the poetry of Hildegard of Bingen. “The song is about living the creative life and celebrates love from the stars and the beauty of the natural world,” she said. O’Donnell is also an artist and has a show at Prima Bistro through the end of this month.

The motto of WOW—an acronym for Women of Whidbey—is “inside every woman is a story worth sharing” (and often they are stories one might not expect). WOW! Stories grew from Diana Lindsay’s inspiration in 2012 while she was watching TED Talks (“Technology, Entertainment and Design”; learn more at

Why not organize a TED-like talk, she thought, for all the interesting Whidbey Island women. She shared her idea with friends and, within two hours, the women had agreed to make WOW a reality. Her can-do friends—Rene Neff, Lynn Willeford, Mary Fisher and Debora Valis—created Seriously Fun Productions and the first WOW! Stories event was held in 2012. Ticket sales supported Whidbey Island Center for the Arts (WICA) and Whidbey Island Nourishes (W.I.N.). Shannon Arndt and Heather Racicot joined Seriously Fun Productions in 2013.

ToniMarthhaller-269x200Another speaker this year was Toni Marthaller-Anderson, an integrative nurse practitioner at Women to Wellness in Greenbank. A passionate advocate for promoting gut health, Marthaller-Anderson hosts regular workshops on healthy eating along with ways to nourish the billions of good bacteria that live in our digestive system.

“Well, I decided to participate in WOW because I had a gut feeling that I should,” she said. “The ‘Seriously Fun’ women are supportive, organized, energetic and simply awesome.”

Julie-Glover-269x200Giving homage to our ancestors, Julie Glover sang three Celtic laments. “I chose to share these songs at WOW! because they give a rich sense of the lives of our ‘foremothers’—our ancestors upon whose shoulders we stand today,” Glover said. (You can hear “I Once Had A Sweetheart” here.


Kathryn-Morgen-269x200Kathryn Lynn-Morgen works in theater as a designer, actor and director and helped create Langley’s annual Pride Parade. She spoke about how, through the alchemy of theater, we can create our own worlds: “You can find yourself,” she said. “Suddenly you have a voice. You have ideas and beliefs. You recognize your own personal creativity and process. It is exhilarating. It is terrifying and joyous and heartbreaking and healing.”

KatyMcGregor1-269x200Marilyn Main bought tickets for the second day of WOW! Stories and said she was brought to tears after hearing the story by Katy McGregor, who talked about her role as a surrogate mother. The original family, she said, eventually decided that they didn’t want the baby after all. But through an odd twist of fate, her baby became the balm for a bereaved couple who had just lost their young daughter.

Dakota-Stonecropped-269x200Main said she was impressed, also, by professional boxer, Dakota Stone, who held the title of Top Ten Women Boxers of the World for a decade. Stone owns Solid Stone Boxing Gym in Clinton and trains women, men and youth in boxing skills, confidence building and physical and mental fitness.



The audience joins Saturday afternoon's speakers following the event. (photo by Tyler Raymond)

The audience joins Saturday afternoon’s speakers following the event. (photo by Tyler Raymond)

Other speakers and performers at Wow! Stories included:

BarbaraDunn-269x200Barbara Dunn, PhD, LICSW, MT-BC, who is a musician and has produced four CDs. She is also a music therapist, social worker, psychotherapist and author of the books “More Than a Song” and “Exploring the Healing Art of Music Therapy.”



Chris-Peterson-269x200Chris Peterson, who traveled the world in the 1970s and then worked for a number of nonprofits in the housing, education and environment fields. She created the popular Public Radio show “BirdNote” ( and has since retired as the show’s executive producer.




Carrie Whitney, an artist, teacher, mother, wife, and friend. She spoke about how she integrates her life into her art.



Claudia-Walker-cropped-269x200Claudia Walker, who sings, plays instruments, has taught music and works as a music therapist, integrating music and medicine for end-of-life patients.





Pam Schell, an avid supporter of local arts, who runs the Inn at Langley and was married to Paul Schell, former Seattle Mayor.



Trish-Rosecropped-269x200Trish Rose is a Major General with the Air Force. She is currently the highest-ranking openly gay member of the US Military.





Members of South Whidbey High School’s award-winning jazz ensemble calling themselves “The WOW Sisters” — Mara Bush, Katyrose Jordan, Annie Saltee and Cat Ballestrasse

Members of South Whidbey High School’s award-winning jazz ensemble call themselves “The WOW Sisters” — Annie Saltee, Katyrose Jordan, Mara Bush and Cat Ballestrasse (photo by Tyler Raymond)


Josh-Hauser-269x200Josh Hauser grew up in a dusty Texas town and owns and runs Moonraker Books in Langley—a decidedly undusty and green place. She’s owned the bookstore for more than 40 years.



Melissa-Young-269x200Melissa Young once built cabinets. After getting involved with building a school in Nicaragua 30 years ago, she began producing social justice documentaries.



Brook-Ott-269x200Brook Ott is a nurse practitioner at South Island Medical. She spent her early days on the island and now treats elder patients she knew as a young girl.




Elzabeth-Guss-269x200Elizabeth Guss currently works as a pastoral administrator at St. Hubert Church in Langley. She also worked as a major fundraiser for the Whidbey Camano Land Trust. Guss is a co-author of the book, “Whidbey Island: Reflections on People & the Land,” which celebrates the island’s history and explains its remarkable appeal.


JeanneStrong-269x200Jeanne Strong is an educator known recently for her efforts in promoting peace in the war-torn African country of Burundi, where she is committed to educating its children. She is a guardian-ad-litem, advocating for children in foster care, and continues her involvement in schools as a consultant in helping to develop healthy learning environments.


LindaGood-269x200Linda Good, founder of Island Strings, is a long-time strings teacher and musician of South Whidbey. She has taught hundreds of South Whidbey children to play the violin and to appreciate music



Erin-Morgancropped-269x200Erin Morgan, a self-described “strong and willful woman,” talked about fitness, nature, the power of family and rising above challenges.



HannahWeatherford-269x200Hannah Weatherford, a self-employed photographer, enjoys the outdoors. She teaches photography to young people, helping them creatively express themselves.



Cynthia-Brix-269x200Cynthia Brix promotes healing internationally between men and women over sexual issues and taboos. She works with the interfaith Satyana Institute—bringing women and men together to confront gender injustice.



MarthMurphy-269x200Martha Murphy started singing and acting as a child growing up in Dallas, TX. She created the Whidbey Children’s Theater 35 years ago as a way for Whidbey’s kids to learn the magic of theater.




wow-sisters-269x200“The WOW Sisters”—Mara Bush, Katyrose Jordan, Annie Saltee and Cat Ballestrasse, are members of South Whidbey High School’s award-winning jazz ensemble.




WOW! Stories are put online as soon as processing allows. Individual videos are produced for this event by WhidbeyTV/Whidbey Telecom, you can view videos from 2015 and previous years here:

Kate Poss works as a library assistant at the Langley Library. She was thrilled to work for three summers as a chef aboard a small Alaskan tour boat from 2008 to 2010. She was a newspaper reporter in Los Angeles for many years before moving to Whidbey Island where she likes ‘talking story,’ hiking, hosting salons and writing her novel.


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