Book Club, Publishing Kitt, The Bookroom, Women-kind

The Year of Reading Women, but women don’t make up most of the author percentage.

The year of reading women

2014 is the year of reading women, however the bigger percentage of authors are male! Should we really just be encouraging reading or encouraging women to fight the good fight of becoming a writer and making their dreams a reality?Ā 

This year the Guardian wrote an article that explored the issue that “female authors are marginalised by newspapers and literary journals, and their books are given ‘girly’ covers.” Their plea was was Ā “Take action against this inequality by making sure the next book you read is by a woman” I think that this is fantastic. Of course it is, I’m a woman and I’m also a writer that hopes to become a published author someday and I would like to believe that my books are not just successful but read by a range of people. But, here comes the obligatory but, I’m not sure if it is enough. Of course it is a benchmark, a start place however, but is it enough? Or is it a completely different fight altogether?

Since I was about eight years old I wanted to be one of two things (or both if I could swindle it), an author or a singer and by being a singer it means that I would have wanted to write my own songs; I distinctly remember singing Norah Jones “I don’t know why” on a rainy Saturday afternoon and wishing I could be a singer, just like her. For the past 12 years I have written song lyrics, poetry and stories. I absolutely love writing. Sometimes I thank the advancement of mobile phones that have a “notes” app that I can go into when I’m on the bus or in a queue and a idea pops into my head, because I don’t have to carry round a notepad all the time. It’s great that I can do it anywhere, wherever creativity decides to drop an idea bomb and log it somewhere.

Very gradually I began writing more than I did sing and the hunger to become a writer/published author became (in the words of Stephen Fry on the Twinging’s ad) gruelling and it still is. But the one thing aside dream, hope and determination I have are people that encourage me and tell me that I can do it!I am fortunate to be surrounded by family, friends and colleagues that believe in me and my talents and the ambition that I have to become something that many dream of but very often are not able to achieve.

I run a Birmingham based project called The Book ClubĀ Ā that encapsulates strong female characters and female voices, written by both men and women but we are guilty (however not sorry) of inviting more female authors and poets than male to our events to read, perform and excite our audience each month. The purpose of this is to encourage more people to read the word created by women and the word of the woman. This month we had Sci-Fi and Fantasy author Carmen Cupuano. Her genre of writing is one not often found in the female gender of authors which is interestingly pointed out in this article on XXFactor, asking why there aren’t more female Sci-Fi writers, so having Carmen at The Book Club was almost like hitting a gold mine, she is a rare breed of author. However, one of the things that spoke out to me when Carmen was telling us about her background what that she did not have the support of someone extremely close to her when she chose to down tools and pick up a pen and begin writing her series “The Owners”. Personally I would hope that any of my close ones would be on board if I chose to pursue a writing career later in life. Luckily, Carmen ignored the lack of support and did it anyway and if last week’s edition of The Book Club was anything to go by, we were all glad that she did.

So what am I trying to say? I have taken a very personal and opinionated route to explain this but in a very roundabout way, my point is that whilst urging people to read more books written by women is fantastic, sexism exists in every art industry, in every industry, somewhere and it does need to stop but, the bigger picture is that more male authors are being published than female, although most of the worlds readers are – FEMALE. Yes, funny isn’t it? Here come the numbers, this is part a research compiled by Vida, featured by the Guardian in 2010:

“In the US, The New York Review of Books shows a stronger bias. Among authors reviewed, 83% are men (306 compared to 59 women and 306 men), and the same statistic is true of reviewers (200 men, 39 women). The New York Times Book Review fares better, with only 60% of reviewers men (438 compared to 295 women). Of the authors with books reviewed, 65% were by men (524 compared to 283 by women).”

Number are boggling for me, but I got it and they aren’t blurred lines. It is loud and clear that men dominate the literary industry and, without sounding too frustrated, I want that to change! But it isn’t just the literary industry, the songwriters of the music industry is pretty daunting too in it’s numbers.

Last night I listened to a talk by Charlotte Church about Women in Music and I almost swallowed my own tongue when I heard this, “PRS claims that only 13 percent of writers (songwriters) registered are female” You can listen to the whole talk hereĀ and I recommend that anybody does. But what an outstandingly harrowing number and just shows what influence female writers have in the music industry. And I must question, what are the un-registered writers? Are they too afraid to make their stamp on the industry or have they been shunned? Where are they? Can we encourage them to come forward, raise their hands and say “I did this. I am great, I am talented, you don’t have to likeĀ me, but believe in me and my work.”

The work that I do inspires girls and women to write, to me it is imperative that women follow their dreams because who shouldn’t be allowed to follow their dreams? Of course as a writer my focus is on boosting writers and storytellers. Hell, women are the best storytellers – if you’ve heard women gossip then you will know that they are great at telling stories just generally. But it shouldn’t be the radical female authors such as Austen, the BrontĆ« sisters, Maya Angelou orĀ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that gain the most praise and attention, every female writer deserves to be up there with their work which is my The Book Club is so important for me. There are masses of girls and young women like me in the world with a dream to become an author who need support, guidance and at least just one person out there who believes in them.

Reading the work of female authors to beat the sexism in the industry is important of course it is, especially if we want them to stand out. However, what about the up and coming authors, to beat the stereotypes and prejudice for them would be fantastic, but the fact that men are published more than women supports a sexist issue, it’s not a conspiracy theory or a blame by pointing fingers, it’s just simply a fact. I believe the two plights go hand in hand and should be tackled to support one another.

So can we begin to support those up and coming female authors who are talented, who have a story to be told, who write Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels and especially the ones who have no one that believe in them? Surely if there are more female authors being published, there are more female authors to be read, heard from and loved.


Sources: HereĀ andĀ here.



Is Kirstie just a little bit right?

I’ve seen an uproar today in Kirstie Allsopp’s comments about having children younger to live your life when you get older. Some have said that’s just reversing the course that feminism has fought for, but what if actually they are wrong?

Feminism has taught women of all ages to be strong, to aim for their careers and strive for equality, which still has a long way to go when average women today are having children at later ages to focus on their careers and are scared of going on maternity leave incase they might lose their job. Women and men were outraged by Kirstie’s comments because they imply going back to the 1940’s when women lived for their household and families, I know Kirstie loves her vintage but I don’t think that’s exactly what she means by this especially when girls are having children by choice younger and younger. Maybe the point is that because feminism is about women having choice… if a girl chooses to have a baby young and focus on her career later on in life, who are we to judge, isn’t it her decision; goal and above all life? Of course not every girl/woman wants to have children and so they may choose to focus on their careers, but I get a sense that those women who want children feel pressured to pick their career first or try and have it all because of the standards some feminists have said we need to follow; there have been women who are slated for choosing to be house-wives or stay-at-home mum’s and what is wrong with that? Nothing.

Myself, I have tried to get my further education and build up by business at the same time because I would like to have children one day in the future and have my degree and my business stable when I choose to start a family. Even now trying to juggle education and my business is a struggle at times so I couldn’t imagine throwing a baby into the mix – I’d most likely spend most of my nights crying on the phone to my mom on loud speaker in front of my laptop, crying baby in one hand and a uni study guide in the other – that actually sounds like my idea of a nightmare! But! There are young women my age (20) who are doing this, whilst others will bad-mouth them for having a child so young – at the the wrong time, I’d have to give them my upmost respect for doing something that I couldn’t. Which brings me to the next point, when is the right time? They say get your education first, buy a house, travel, live your life… but first of all surely having children is living your life but also, what if it all goes wrong? What if you’re told at a young age that you should children soon otherwise you might not be able to when you’re older – you had plans to go to university and buy a house – I guess in this case Kirstie could be right, have your child and then go and get your education later. What if you get to 35 you’ve been married for ten years, have your own home and suddenly it all goes wrong? You lose your job or you and your husband get divorced, you might even reach a later age to find out you can’t have children then questions come in such as, ‘could we afford IVF?’ … ‘Can we deal with the wait and process of adopting a baby?’. I don’t think we can dictate when the time is right to have children, maybe it is one of those ‘you know when you know’ things.

Whilst I do not completely agree with Kirstie – I personally would quite like to get my education out of the way without having screaming kids running around creating mayhem – but I do believe she has some points that are valid if you are willing to look at both sides and opinions and if by some twist of fate I did have a child now, I would embrace it as best as I could because life is one big roller coaster (Just like Ronan Keating sang) and not everything goes the way you plan it to. Being 45 no kids around, doing a degree or building your career is no problem, you still have 20 years at the least before you need to retire; so maybe we should stop frowning and ‘advising’ when women and what circumstances they should be in to have children and support the fact that they have a choice which has been what feminists has fought for women to have for years.

J x

Uncategorized, Women-kind

The ‘F’ Word

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“You’re one of them!’
“One of who?’
“One of those feminists!”
“No I’m a woman!”
“So you’re a feminist!”
“No, I’m a woman. A woman that simply refuses to be your doormat, prostitute or victim to your inequalities formed by sexist, prejudice and sadist determinations and decisions. Anyone can be a feminist, I’m just a woman who has the power to say no. I didn’t earn it, it was always mine to claim.”

I previously wrote an article that was a write up about a lovely event I went to called Alto. In it, I had discussed what feminism (the “F” bomb) means to me and I had decided that feminism means being a human that wants to fight for change (not my exact words but something to that effect). Since then however I have been thinking and the thought has been niggling at me for a long time, I keep asking myself, ‘Do I really like the term Feminism.’ And is it really a term or a label?

For centuries girls and women have been fighting for women’s rights, right from Joan of Ark to Pocahontas, Emmeline Pankhurst to Malala Yousafrai. When Joan of Ark was told she could only wear women’s clothes and said she would rather go naked, the name feminist was not around, the term did originate from France in the 1800’s (as feminisme) however it wasn’t until the 1960’s that it was popularly used. So if it wasn’t used up until the 60’s, can we agree that we did just fine without it?
Unless you’re an extremist feminist – branding all men the same, hating every male specimen that ever existed and wishing you could send them all into a vacuum somewhere in space – then you have a good cause and fighting for equality is a beautiful cause, always. But it seems that the more feminist work that is being done, the feminist name is a labelling of women with bad connotations from anyone that disagrees or dislikes the modern-day feminism movements. Just how the terms racist, fascist, sexist – holds bad relations. I guess it depends what side of the fence you’re on – but you don’t see a racist happily waving a flag saying – ‘I’m a racist!’.
I feel as if the more good women’s rights work that is being done the more the term is being used as a brandish and not a celebration which is a huge shame, because not every feminist does generalise all men and hold sexist views against the male species, as it is a massive contradiction on the fight for gender equality.

The other thing that I think about is whether you can call every female a feminist. I proudly wave a flag for what feminism is supposed to stand for, but I’m not sure I would call myself one; firstly because I don’t like to think of myself as someone who is labelled as something, I already carry enough of those around in everyday life, first being a girl, second being of mixed heritage – they both come with their labels and stereotype prejudices. But what about the women, who simply say ‘No!’? Is it fair to label them as feminists because they recognise that they, as a person not just as a woman, have a right to say no or yes to whatever they like? If they don’t want to be a housewife but a successful business woman? Is that a protest by being a feminist or simply a choice?

Possibly we should think about where we place the name feminist and who we place it onto. You don’t even have to be a woman to be a feminist, you just have to be someone that believes in the fight for women’s rights and equality, so is the name ‘feminist’ really important today and is it right to use it?

J x