Women's Writing Lives

by - 7:04 PM

Imagine one hundred women, seated in a hotel meeting room, anticipating a weekend of writing, learning, and camaraderie. That is where I found myself at the Friday night Keynote session of the Story Circle Network’s Stories from the Heart 2016 conference in Austin, Texas. I gazed around the room, marveling at the women present, a wide range of ages, with open welcoming faces, many women with colorful scarves and bohemian dress, others in comfy jeans, some in business casual attire. Writers come in all shapes and sizes but we all share a burning desire to put words onto paper, to make meaning.

Tonight’s speaker is Brooke Warner, publisher of SheWrites Press, an award winning hybrid publishing company.  Her topic is, “Authoring Your Life: Sharing and Publishing Your Story.” As she shared her personal journey from her dream job as an editor at Seal Press to founding SheWrites, her passion project, she also shared how she discovered she was a feminist. This audience much appreciated that! She shared statistics about gender bias in publishing, with men having more opportunity and more recognition for their work when they do publish, and encouraged us to do our part to change those statistics.

Many of the women in this room want to publish their work. Some simply desire to tell their stories to themselves, to find personal meaning or make sense of sometimes puzzling life experiences. Some want their work in print but for a limited audience, perhaps just family and friends. To all of us, our stories, whether told as fiction or memoir or poetry, matter.

It was the heart of her presentation that we all walked away thinking about and I have continued to absorb. She organized her talk around Five C’s and charmed us further by confiding that she had written them on her fingers to help her remember them as she spoke. These five C’s can fuel a woman’s writing life.

First is Community. Women thrive when we assemble our tribe and support one another within it. Then is Commitment, to come to the page, to author the story, and publish the story, to stay with the writing and see it into the world. I especially loved Championing, what I think of as literary citizenship, to read and respond to other women’s words and help those words get to a wider audience. Claiming the time to write, the authority to choose your words, and permission to enjoy the process is often difficult for us as women. And finally, Courage to listen to the calling to write, to craft your words, sit with them, and send them into the world.

It was delicious to hear this in the company of these women writers, exactly the kind of community Brooke was describing as necessary. I know by the end of the weekend, I will have experienced all five of the C’s and will tuck them close to my heart, inspiration for writing days yet to come.

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