Online community provides safe space for women writers

Online community provides safe space for women writers

A new hashtag, #women_writers, is providing a safe space for female writers to talk about their literary passions, careers and frustrations in response to sexism within the publishing industry.

The community-building hashtag was instigated by Laurie Garrison (pictured), an academic and author, who is also the editor of Looking for Xanadu, a blog and course-provider for women writers.

Garrison aims to help women writers to "use the online world to complete, publish and promote books", in her blog, and claims that agents and publishers "habitually show more interest in writing by men" while books by men are "more likely to be reviewed and receive award nominations," she said. The community also exists to address, according to Garrison's blog, the issue that "women are socially conditioned to be less resilient in the face of the multiple rejections".

Garrison's online hashtag follows her recently self-published "manifesto" entitled Women Writers in the Twenty-First Century: How We Can Make Online Learning, Marketing and Publishing Work for Us, available on Amazon for 99p, which argues the online world can help redress imbalances against women writers.

Garrison has been organising monthly online Twitter chats using the hashtag #women_writers, which next month focuses on DIY online marketing and last month centred on translated fiction by women ahead of Women in Translation month. It was hosted by Meytal Radzinski, the founder of Women in Translation month, following her project of the same name that highlighted that only a quarter of English-translated fiction is authored by women.

Garrison told the Guardian: “We need dedicated spaces for women writers to improve their technique in a non-competitive environment, learn resilience to deal with all the rejection and criticism involved in professional writing and to be able to show vulnerability without being judged.

“If we can create spaces for women writers where these things can be discussed and put into perspective, I think it could go a long way toward levelling the playing field.”

Bookshops and publishers have also been showing their support of women-authored translated fiction to mark Women in Translation Month, while translated fiction publishers And Other Stories and Tilted Axis have taken Kamila Shamsie up on her challenge to publish solely women in 2018, "as a way to move towards changing this ridiculous situation".

In an interview with poet, translator and editor Sara Iacovelli for the American Literary Translators Association blog, Radzinski said "responsibility" for more women writers to be published "lies everywhere", but ultimately called publishers to account: "English-language publishers are the primary gatekeepers, and they ought to bear that burden in addition to its benefits," she said. "To claim that 'we’re not being offered enough books by women writers' is a weak argument."