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October 2016 News

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We Need Your Help to Share the News

 

We are now just over a year away from our inaugural conference. In a few weeks we will share our Call for Proposals, providing information on how women writers can apply to speak on a panel or read from creative works. We want to gather the most diverse set of proposals possible, and for that we need your help. Please share this newsletter, and ask all the women writers you know to visit our homepage to fill out the "Sign Up for News" form. Those on our email list will get the first look at our CFP.

In the meantime, we can also use your input on our recommended reading list for future newsletters, and, as always, any financial support is appreciated. Anyone who makes a donation before the first conference will become a Founding Member and receive special perks.

As we continue our preparations, we wish you all happy reading, happy writing.

~ Sandy Longhorn, Director of the C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference

Making Public My Own Enthusiasm ~ Eliza Borné

 

When I was in high school, I served as editor of the newspaper at a large public high school. I can so clearly remember the feeling of wanting to raise a little hell in search of the truth. On my watch, our editors uncovered and published reports about the school district’s student pregnancy stats. For a follow-up story, I interviewed Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former Surgeon General of the United States, who, in a conversation about reduced services at the campus health clinic, memorably quipped that “the vows of abstinence will break a lot quicker than a latex condom.” We reported on bullying and cheating, and a statewide paper picked up the stories we broke. I got an earful from administrators on more than one occasion. (If you’re the editor of a student newspaper, I figure you’re doing something wrong if you aren’t at least occasionally called to the principal’s office.) I thrived on it all: the deadline-triggered adrenaline, the collaboration with my classmates, the rush of uncovering an important story, the satisfaction that came with distributing the news. I loved seeing my byline in print. And I really loved surprising people. I don’t think anyone expected the high school newspaper to be of notably high quality, but we worked hard—often late into the night, multiple times a week—and we delivered.

And then one day, toward the end of the school year, I walked into the bathroom and saw a scrawl on the inside of a dingy stall. The words described an “Eliza” in pejorative terms that managed to insult both personality and appearance. I was the only person by that name in the school; the mean bathroom graffiti was clearly directed at me. I was taken aback. Nobody had ever said anything like that to me before—certainly not to my face, and certainly not in writing. I didn’t think I had any enemies, but I’d obviously pissed someone off. Why? I could only assume it had to do with my then semi-public role within our high school ecosystem—maybe I had been too aggressive with my reporting, or too self-revealing in my letters from the editor, or even too peevish on deadline days. Maybe I had been too bold. Too confident.

I’d like to say that I forgot about the incident, but that’s not entirely true: I still think about it sometimes. (How innocent it seems now in an era of Twitter insults and Facebook trolling!) I was eighteen years old and had received a memorable lesson: it was time to develop thick skin.

❋❋❋


Twelve years later, I have worked my way up to the top of another masthead. I still thrive on deadlines. I feel deeply fortunate to work with writers, editors, and a team of creative folks to create an extraordinary magazine that is adored by many devoted readers. In his recent memoir, Avid Reader, Robert Gottlieb describes “the act of publishing” as “the act of making public one’s own enthusiasm.” I’ll never get over that profound pleasure. What a joy it is to have the opportunity to share stories I love with the world.  

In my tenure at the Oxford American, I have grown accustomed to “firsts.” In February, our staff won our first National Magazine Award in “General Excellence.” In December, we will publish our first genre-themed music issue, exploring new territory in a beloved series—a prospect that is both thrilling and a little scary. And—perhaps most relevant to followers of the C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference—I am the first female editor in the magazine’s nearly twenty-five-year history. I am honored by this distinction. I have long been bothered by gender and racial disparity in the literary arts, and I now have the power to publish a magazine that reflects the South’s diverse voices and viewpoints. As a young female editor, I am grateful for the encouragement and enthusiasm I have received from my colleagues, my city, and my peers, and it makes me happy when young editors and writers tell me that they’re inspired to meet a woman in my role—especially in a small state like Arkansas, which isn’t exactly known for its vibrant publishing landscape. Though I’ll be honest; at times, rarely (but still, I can’t help but think), I feel like I’m back in that high school bathroom—like someone is trying to put me in my place: when my photo is published online in the newspaper and I am instructed by a commenter to smile, when I am interrupted mid-conversation on the phone so someone can ask me my age, when I am mistaken for an intern by somebody who should know better, or when I am otherwise belittled in some silly but maddening way.

With experience, I have grown that thicker skin, and these small aggressions are easy for me to shrug off. Yet they remind me of the value of communities that exist to support women—places where we can talk shop and do good work without trifling distractions. Places like the inaugural C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference.

Recommended Reading

 

We offer here a brief list of women writers whose work has made an impression on our lives. If you would like to send us a recommendation for consideration,* email the director, Sandy Longhorn, at slonghorn@uca.edu. Please include the author’s name and one representative title. Remember, we hope to support writers in all genres and styles from mass market to literary or academic, from bloggers to journalists. Help us spread the word about fantastic women writers of today or yesterday.

*The Executive Committee will make the final decision on which titles to feature.


Nin Andrews ~ Why God is a Woman ~ Poetry (Boa, 2015)

Pearl S. Buck ~ The Good Earth ~ Fiction (Washington Square Press, reprint, 2004)

Joan Didion ~ The Year of Magical Thinking ~ Memoir (Vintage, 2007)

Sarah Greenough, Editor ~ My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz: Volume One, 1915 - 1933 ~ Non-Fiction (Yale, 2011)

Jenny Lawson ~ The Bloggess ~ Blog

Rebecca Makkai ~ The Borrower ~ Fiction (Penguin, 2012)

Harryette Mullen ~ Sleeping with the Dictionary ~ Poetry (Univ. of California, 2002)

Adrienne Rich ~ Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution ~ Non-Fiction (Norton, 1995)

Muriel Rukeyser ~ The Life of Poetry ~ Non-Fiction (Paris Press,  reprint, 1996)

This Month's Takeaway


Find Your Community
A brief list of resources for women writers:


Barbara Deming Memorial Fund ~ makes financial awards twice a year to individual feminist women in the arts whose work focuses on women.

Facebook: The Binders, Binders Full of Women and Non-Binary Poets, Binders Full of Essayists, Binders Full of Women Novelists, etc. ~ a set of closed groups where women writers share experiences and opportunities. If not already a member, when you click on one of these groups, you will be prompted to "Join," and an administrator will add you.

National League of American Pen Women ~ a non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage, recognize, and promote the production of creative works by women.

Out of the Binders ~ BinderCon and BinderCast ~ a non-profit organization supporting and advancing the careers of women and non-binary writers. BinderCon is a semi-annual bi-coastal conference for professional development, and BinderCast is a podcast series.

A Room of Her Own ~ a non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire, fund, and champion women writers and artists.

She Writes! ~ An online collaborative resource supported by 25,000+ active members, designed to support women writers in all genres at all levels.

VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts ~ a non-profit organization working for gender parity in the literary landscape.
Eliza Borné: Editor, Oxford American, and member of the C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference Board of Directors
 
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The C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference is supported and hosted by the University of Central Arkansas, with thanks to the University of Central Arkansas Foundation.
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