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.
Women of Letters is an afternoon that celebrates a diverse range of strong female talent whilst simultaneously raising funds for Victorian animal rescue shelter, Edgar’s Mission. It is also a series of books publishing letters read at events in Australia, America and Indonesia.
Co-curated by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire, the monthly occasion brings together five of Melbourne’s best and brightest writers, musicians, politicians and comedians in celebration of the beautiful lost art of letter-writing.
WILAA evolved from a women in writing industry roundtable held at the Emerging Writers’ Festival in 2014. In just a few short hours of discussion, the writers present offered a wide array of challenges, suggestions and practical ideas to help address the unique challenges women face within the industry. These were collated into a manifesto which was presented to the wider festival community on the final night. A year on, where are we at with the points in the manifesto? This post over on the EWF blog is an update.
It’s our pleasure to introduce you to the women who will be working to shape what WILAA will become.
Eloise is a writer, advocate and academic who has written for The Guardian, The Conversation, Overland and Archer Magazine. She is on the board of directors for the Gender Centre and has a particular interest in improving the way trans-people are reported on in the Australian media and portrayed in Australian drama. Eloise is an experienced script writer for theatre and television. She has also lectured in creative writing, PR and Media Writing at Victoria University.
Currently, Eloise is a researcher at Western Sydney University, expanding the much needed conversation on transgender children.
Kate has been the General Manager of the Emerging Writers’ Festival since 2013. Prior to this she has worked at Melbourne Writers Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival and the Melbourne Art Foundation. Passionate about sustainable business models in the arts sector, Kate is currently completing a Masters of Business Administration.
Lisa is the Artistic Director/CEO of the Melbourne Writers Festival. She was the Director/CEO of the Emerging Writers’ Festival (2010–2012), and founder of its innovative online programming arm, EWFdigital (now Digital Writers Festival). In 2012 Lisa undertook an Asialink residency, working in programming at Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in Indonesia. Before becoming an arts manager, Lisa was a writer, editor and the publisher at Vignette Press.
Eugenia Flynn is a writer, social commentator, freelance producer and arts worker. She is the Centre Coordinator for the Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts and Cultural Development at the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts & Melbourne Conservatorium of Music at The University of Melbourne.
As a freelance producer and arts worker, Eugenia has facilitated the 2012 RISE Festival for RISE Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees as well as been Assistant Curator on Blak Dot Gallery’s Both Sides of the Street exhibition, where she facilitated and hosted a conversation on solidarity between First Nations Australians and non-Indigenous people of colour.
Eugenia runs the blog Black Thoughts Live Here and her thoughts on the politics of race, identity, gender and culture have been published in Crikey, The Guardian Australia, The Conversation, Peril, VICE, HYSTERIA (UK) and The Victorian Writer. She identifies as Aboriginal (Tiwi and Larrakiah), Chinese Malaysian and Muslim, working within her multiple communities to create change through writing, art, politics and community development.
Andrea Hanke is editor-in-chief of Australian book industry publication Books+Publishing. She has been working in the book industry as an editor, journalist and bookseller for 10 years.
Lian is a writer, editor and spoken word artist. She is currently Chair for Asian-Australian arts and culture magazine Peril, previously editor-in-chief (2010-2014) and prose editor (2009-2014). In March 2015, Lian collaborated on the performance text for the sold out premiere of Do you speak Chinese? held at the Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne. She recently completed a residency at the Wheeler Centre as a Hot Desk Fellow, and was a featured writer in The Wheeler Centre’s Next Big Thing: Hot Desk Edition (September) series. Lian returns to the Melaka Art and Performance Festival for the third time this year, and her travel is supported by Melbourne’s UNESCO City of Literature Office Travel Fund initiative.
Amy is a Melbourne-based journalist, writer and founding editor of Archer Magazine, an award-winning print publication featuring diverse attitudes to sexuality and gender. She has written and edited for publications including Australian Geographic, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Junkee, Meanjin, The Lifted Brow, The Big Issue, Cosmos and The Bulletin. She has a radio show on 3CR community radio in Melbourne, and she was named among Gay News Network’s Top 25 People to Watch in 2015. In her spare time, she plays AFL and collects interesting editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Kirsty is an award-winning author of nineteen books for children and young adults, including eleven novels. She has been a Creative Fellow of the State Library of Victoria, an Asialink Literature Resident in India, and a guest speaker at many international writers’ festivals. Kirsty is also an Ambassador for the Stella Prize in School’s Program and co-editor of the ground-breaking Indian-Australian anthology of feminist speculative fiction Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean.
Marisa is the commissioning editor of children’s and YA fiction at Hardie Grant Egmont in Melbourne. Over the last ten years she has worked with a variety of emerging, commercially successful and award-winning writers, and recently spent a year in London where she was seconded to Egmont UK’s children’s fiction team.
In 2011 she founded the Ampersand Prize for YA and middle-grade debut novels, which has rapidly gained recognition as a leading award for unpublished writers. Before she was a children’s books editor, Marisa spent a year as the YA fiction reviewer for the Canberra Times and worked with the Public Libraries Unit at the State Library of Victoria.
Roselina Press is the Editor-in-Chief of Right Now, a human rights media organisation. She is a Master of International Relations graduate, and is also completing a Master of Human Rights Law. She co-edited Right Now’s inaugural anthology, titled Poetic Justice: Contemporary Australian Voices on Equality and Human Rights, which was a finalist for the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2014 Literature Award. She has written for Reuters, The Guardian and the United Nations Department of Public Information.
The Barbara Jefferis Award is offered for ‘the best novel written by an Australian author that depicts women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowers the status of women and girls in society’.
WIFT is a membership based non-profit organisation aiming to encourage and support women already working in the industry and to also assist more women get into the industry, in particular areas where women are under-represented.
The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge is part of a world-wide movement to raise awareness of excellent writing by women. It helps readers to challenge the subconscious stereotypes that govern our choice of books to read.