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March 2017 News

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What Happens Next?

Many thanks to everyone who submitted a proposal for the inaugural conference. We can't wait to begin digging into these wonderful ideas and examples of creative work. While our initial hope was to respond to the proposals by "early April," the sheer volume we've received may mean results will be announced in the latter half of the month.

Also in April, we hope to have our online registration system up and running with a list of fees and scholarship opportunities, along with information about how to reserve bookfair space, including the cost of those tables. There is a lot of action behind the scenes these days, and excitement is building for when we will all come together in November.

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

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

Babies, Mothers, & Writing Conferences ~ Jennifer Case


This past February, I packed a suitcase, a stroller, and a car seat and flew with my two-and-a-half-month-old son to AWP in Washington D.C. Though many people, including at times myself, thought I was crazy—why travel halfway across the continent during the height of cold and flu season, to a conference bursting with over 10,000 writers, with an infant who nurses every two hours and can’t fully hold up his head?—I knew it was important. This was my second child, and I needed to prove to myself that I could be both things: a mother and a writer.
 
Though we all, whether or not we choose to have kids, struggle with work-life balance, women writers with infants face particular challenges. First, the purely physical.  Women writers who have kids must nurture their writing careers around the exhaustion of pregnancy, the bodily needs of postpartum recovery, and, if she chooses to breastfeed, the demands of nursing. At an AWP panel about motherhood in 2016, one panelist admitted that she stopped writing for two years after her first child. She simply didn’t have the time or energy. Many in the audience, including myself, nodded in recognition. Though I continued to write after having my first child, my pace certainly slowed.
 
Second, there are the cultural challenges. As journalist and writer Jennifer Steil mentioned at a talk in Arkansas this month, her husband can go on a three-week business trip and no one will say a thing. But if she goes on a one-week writing residency, people will ask who is watching her child. Women are still expected to be the primary caregivers of their children, and they often face judgment for pretty much any childcare decision they make—whether it’s to stay at home or enroll their child in daycare. In this context, claiming a career with an infant (or choosing not to have kids in order to have a career) can seem a selfish choice.
 
But is it? When I took my son into the women’s restroom at the conference to change his diaper, other women stopped me to say I was their hero. When I brought him to the lactation room, I chatted with the other mothers, either nursing or pumping, who had similar qualms as me. How does one balance writing and family? How does one reestablish or maintain a writing career after having a child? One pregnant AWP attendee stopped me near an elevator and thanked me for showing her that it could be done.
 
To be clear: this wasn’t a normal AWP. I did not attend a single panel. I spent most of the conference in the bookfair, staffing my home institution’s booth, meeting with friends and colleagues, or nursing. I did not network as well as I could have. I did not attend the conference’s many readings. I wish that I could have. The fact that I didn’t shows how difficult attending a writing conference with a young child can be. I felt awkward bringing my son into panels, and I didn’t want to over-rely on my friends and colleagues for support. But I did leave the conference with energy. And perhaps most important: I demonstrated, to myself and others, that mothers of young children can still, visibly, be writers.

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.


Faye, Sanderia ~ Mourner's Bench ~ fiction (University of Arkansas Press, 2015)

Leslie Feinberg ~ Stone Butch Blues ~ fiction (20th Anniversary Author's Edition available as a PDF at http://www.lesliefeinberg.net/, 2012)

Emil Ferris ~ My Favorite Thing is Monsters ~ graphic novel (Fantagraphics, 2017)

Marie Howe ~ What the Living Do ~ poetry (Norton, 1999)

Patricia Spears Jones ~ A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems ~ poetry (White Pine, 2015)

Janis F. Kearney ~ Sundays with TJ ~ memoir (Writing Our World Press, 2014)

Heda Margolius Kovály ~ Under a Cruel Star ~ memoir (Holmes & Meier, 1997, Translated by Helen Epstein)

Takeaway

In her book on writing metrical verse, Rules for the Dance, published in 1985, poet Mary Oliver includes a brief anthology of example poems. In her foreword, she makes a point of addressing the gender disparity represented in this anthology. The following excerpt of that foreword stands as a testament to how long women writers have been calling attention to exactly the issues our conference hopes to address and redress.

Oliver writes, "Finally, I am aware that there are among the poems very few by women. It is a fact, though a sad one, that poets of the past few centuries, at least published poets, were almost all men. I wish it had not been so. It is, of course, a denial and a closure that need never happen again."

Excerpt from RULES FOR THE DANCE by Mary Oliver. Copyright © 1985 by Mary Oliver. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Jennifer Case: Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Central Arkansas  and author of Sawbill, a memoir forthcoming from the University of New Mexico Press (2018).

 













 
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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.
Copyright © 2017 C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference, All rights reserved.


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