Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Championing Women Writers

According to Belinda Jack of Oxford University, author of the upcoming The Woman Reader, no literary force has done so much to change the world – nor continues to do so – than the historic team of women novelists and their eager, overwhelmingly female readers.

Snobbism about women’s fiction “goes back a long way,”  Jack tells us in her new book.  And before snobbism stretch millennia of active suppression during which women were prohibited from writing almost anything. “Public speech and harlotry were very closely associated,” Jack said in an interview, describing the very narrow range and reading and writing permissible to women up until the 19th century.

Some psychologists and neurologists trace the origin of the fiction gap to women’s demonstrably superior capacity for empathy, which is thought to enable them to occupy the minds of fictional characters with greater ease than men. And profit: New theories of literature see an evolutionary advantage in the ability to infer the motives of others, a talent that sharpens with reading fiction – and would seem to depend mainly on women to function.

Jack explains women’s historical affinity for the novel in terms of its role as a liberating force. Trapped in a domestic space that forbade self-expression, women traditionally turned to novels “to see more of the world,” according to her. “The amount of life that could be seen at first-hand was limited, and so seeing it at second-hand through reading was attractive,” she said.

Reading novels was in itself an act of subversion, and themes evolved to suit the enterprise. “A lot of the novels that many women would say were the greatest novels do explore unconventional patterns of female behaviour and female life,” Jack said, adding that history is repeating itself today among women in Muslim countries who risk severe punishment in order to read imported novels by, for and about liberated women in the West.

Meanwhile, back home, the Internet regularly launches new literary careers without interference from any gender filter that might once have operated in traditional publishing houses. It made 27-year-old Amanda Hocking, a lonely outcast from the U.S. Upper Midwest, a millionaire with her 99-cent tales of paranormal romance. It shocked and appalled British clerics by making former British call girl and blogger Belle de Jour a national sensation. (article by John Barber,The Globe and Mail, Sept. 06 2012) 

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On the writer's website, hundreds of women writers are coming together to support each other in their their writing and the publishing of their  novels, memoirs, articles, essays, and blogs. It is a safe haven for discussion, exploration and testing....a place where they are free to create and express their thoughts through words, no matter how bold or timid...a place to exchange helpful and interesting information and ideas with an atmosphere of  healthy balance between support and gentle criticism..............Nancy

The following She Writes women writers
 and authors discuss their latest projects on their blogs 
or websites. Visit their blogs and comment. 

Nov. 25: Nancy Hinchliff  " I have started a new memoir which focuses on my crazy family...."
Nov. 26: Julia Hanna "I am working on a novel which I can best describe as contemporary fiction that re-envisions the traditional romance novel. It is about how a woman can be happy for the rest of her life even if she does not get married. Being an old maid is not some reprehensible thing."

Nov. 29: Thelma Zerkelbach
Thelma will talk about her new memoir Stumbling Through The Dark

Nov 30:    Marcia Meier
" I plan to talk about my completed memoir, Sweeping Down the Sky"

Dec. 3rd: Carol Clouse:
"My project focuses on Native American philosophy in conjunction with sustainability in Architecture."

Dec. 4th: Susan Bearman:
"I wrote and self-published a picture book called the Animal Store Alphabet Book 
( based on my husband's pet shop. My illustrator and I 
launched a successful $10,000 Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing and 
distribution of the book and companion products (coloring book, poster, canvas 
prints and book bag)."

Dec. 5th: Valerie Neiman
Valerie will talk about her  new book, Backwater, a taut crime novel and coming-of-age story, as a teenage girl struggles for her identity – and her life – against the backdrop of her cousin’s murder.

Dec. 7th:  June OHara
"I'm finishing up a humorous memoir about being a psychotherapist and having my own breakdowns, neuroses and humorous life circumstances."

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  1. Thanks for the article and the many links -- most of these women are unfamiliar to me, and I'm happy to get to know their work.

    We women have come a long way with regard to writing opportunities, but concerns about sexism still exist. Joanna Penn writes her thrillers as J. F. Penn because she believes it's more effective in that genre, and she has a point.

    On my blog, I review books by and about women because I want to support women writers. There is some delightful work out there that's worthy of attention, so I help out where I can.

    Another aside that brings me hope: I call my work women's fiction because I consider women to be my primary audience, but my best review came from a man, and I know of other males in my readership. That's been a happy surprise for me, and tells me that male readers are more willing these days to read books filled with female characters and issues.

  2. I love this post talking about how women writers have found their voice in various eras, and how the Internet is opening new ones.