A Women’s Publishing Movement? Why Not??

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A Women’s Publishing Movement? Why Not??

“Change requires intent and effort. It really is that simple.” Roxane Gay

(If you find yourself unable to read to the end of this post due to time, please do bookmark and read Ms. Gay’s essay, Beyond The Measure of Men. Do NOT miss her essay.)

The web is buzzing again with the righteous indignation of women about the infuriating discrepancies in publishing of men vs women. We had the American Society of Magazine Editors report and, as Alexander Nazaryan reports, “No, seriously. Many are up in arms about the complete lack of female writers nominated for the major categories of Reporting, Feature Writing, Profile Writing, Essays/Criticism and Columns/Commentary.” No females nominated in any of the major categories, despite some fine writing in those categories. Quite fine. Excellent, in fact. Read Nazaryan’s report and be angry.

Last February, I wrote about the VIDA count and the gender disparity in publishing. This February, another VIDA count, another round of frustrating, but not surprising news. Lyon Review’s managing editor, Sandi Sonnenfeld recently updated us on the new VIDA count. Another year of same song, same story, but most often coming from people with penises. Take a look at this graphic from the count.

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“If the words are alive….”

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“If the words are alive….”

My life recently has been a seemingly endless string of Julia Cameron’s artist’s dates. It’s been a month since I climbed to the upper deck of the Megabus and traveled to Chicago for AWP . Though I live in Milwaukee, less than two hours by car, train or bus, from Chicago, I rarely get there. I was born directionally challenged with small-town girl blood still flowing in my veins. Milwaukee is a smaller, manageable city with a big-town friendliness and feel. It has become home, with occasional trips to fill my mountains, trees and oceans needs. Chicago scares me. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love the energy and the pace of big cities, but I can only take them in small bites, or I feel overwhelmed and a bit claustrophobic. I need more sky than big cities offer. I’ve dreamt of living in Paris, but I suspect I’d be better off planning to live in Paris for a month, rather than forever.

Chicago, the small slice of it I saw as I scurried from workshop to workshop at AWP, did not disappoint. I can’t quite say the same for AWP. Don’t get me wrong. I learned a lot. I listened to some fabulous, and some not so fabulous, speakers. But the schedule, the pace, the format itself was grueling. There was no free time built into the schedule. Workshops went non-stop, so if you took a break (as I did and had to), you knew you were missing something.

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Let’s Talk – Writing Groups

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Let’s Talk Writing Groups

Over at the MHC LinkedIn Alumnae group, Mount Holyoke Wordwrights, an alumna moving to Boston posted for help in finding a writing group. Suggestions flowed in. Try Boston MeetUp. Visit a library. Try the Grub Street workshops. Check SheWrites.com. A journal was recommended, Creative Nonfiction, that apparently also offers online classes and activities. One writer weighed in that she believes there’s no substitution for an in-person group with some suggestions on starting your own group.

Which, brings me to Let’s Talk about writing groups. Steve Almond had an essay appear recently in The New York Times Magazine, “Why Talk Therapy is on the Wane and Writing Workshops are on the Rise.” Almond is mostly addressing what can happen in MFA workshops, but in the hands of unskilled facilitators, writing groups can also easily devolve into pseudo-therapy groups.

I’ve written before about my affiliation with RedBird-RedOak Writing in Milwaukee, where I pay to attend facilitated writing groups. The experience has always proven valuable for me. That’s not to say I’ve never tried unpaid, less formal writing groups. But, they’ve never lasted. I know they can, and do, but I haven’t yet had one that lasted much longer than a year. Someone always had to drop out, usually for family commitments, followed by someone else and the group fell away.

At the LinkedIn conversation mentioned earlier, Carolyn Pouncy recommended a book she found useful on setting up your own critique group, Becky Levine‘s The Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide. Pouncy adds, “Levine discusses both how to critique various genres, which is useful even if you aren’t in a group, and how to find compatible writers and troubleshoot problems.”

If you’ve been successful (or even not) with setting up a writing group where you are, contact me if you’d like to do a guest post about your experience. Some dos and don’ts for fellow alumnae perhaps?