The beginnings of WILAA
During the Emerging Writers’ Festival in 2014, a roundtable was held with women writers from all over Australia. We were disheartened that many discussions about gender and publishing were still asking if there was sexism in our industry. Statistics show us that there is, so why, we wondered, was the question still being asked? We wanted to start with the premise that women face discrimination in many aspects of the literary world, and ask what could be done about it.
In the very short window of time we had to gather and speak, we came up with a manifesto. It had real, tangible suggestions for ways that the underrepresentation of women in literature could be addressed. You can read it in full here. At the end of the session it was clear there were many ways that women could be supported. Since then, we’ve made some of those things happen. We hosted a panel at The Wheeler Centre in November last year which discussed the gendered covers of books. The Emerging Writers’ Festival committed to an entire day of programming for women during EWF 2015, including a stream specifically for young women writers. A growing group of women writers joined a private online space to discuss their experiences in the industry, and to network and support each other. These joined the ranks of already wonderful initiatives for women writers, such as the Stella Prize and the Australian Women Writers Challenge.
It soon became apparent, though, that while there were many ways to tackle the challenges of women writers, there was no one place they could go to for information and support. Many organisations or initiatives dealt exclusively with one aspect of the challenges facing women, and didn’t have the capacity to tackle other areas. And thus WILAA was born.
It is our intention to be a hub of information for women writers. To draw attention to the opportunities that exist for them, and to advocate for their needs where those needs are not being met. To begin, we’re taking a survey of women writers to ask about their experiences. We have committed to one big project for 2015: to undertake a count of women at literary festivals around Australia. We know women are underrepresented on the media, but what about on stage? We hope to grow beyond this, though. And we’d love to hear from you if you have ideas on what we should tackle next. Take our survey, send us an email, leave us a comment. We look forward to hearing from you.