Wednesday, March 26, 2014

VIDA: Uncovering Inequality in the Literary World

Shelby Engelhardt
            Just this week, I was searching the web for literary criticism to use in one of the papers I am writing for my international women’s literature class. As I combed through page after page, I began to realize that most articles I found were written by men. This actually shocked me because the book is about the issue of gender inequality.
I have never been one to really even realize or comment on the inequality of women, but this reminded me about an email that I had sitting in my inbox about VIDA. Let me be honest, before this email, I had never heard of VIDA, but I knew from reading the first line, that they were about uncovering the inequality of gender in some way. So, I logged on to my email and clicked the link. That is when I suddenly realized how much inequality exists within the literary field!
            VIDA began in 2009 as a group of women who spent countless hours scouring literary publications and book reviews to find out how many women are involved. It has now evolved into a huge project that occurs each year, and they are now looking for people to help undertake this enormous task. The numbers for 2013 were just released. Did you know that New York Review of Books consists of 80% of male authors, meaning only 20% of their books reviewed were written by women? They are not the only ones: The Atlantic, London Review of Books, New Republic, and New Yorker are high on the list of publications that subscribe to the good ol’ boys mentality.
This group makes sure women know that they are not forgotten in the literary world and is starting to open the eyes of editors at major publications. They are shining the spotlight on female authors such as Jesmyn Ward (Salvage the Bones and Men We Reaped). VIDA is calling out national publications like Times Literary Supplement for their lack of publishing of female writers and praising publications such as Ninth Letter (62% of their published works come from women) and Tin House (69% coming from women).
 They have definitely started ruffling some feathers, but the group warns that this fight is nowhere near over. They have just started the battle, and it is up to all of us, men and women alike, to continue to fight to reach equality in every field and not just literature and publishing.
            I encourage each of you to take a few minutes to visit the site and consider joining in the count! You can access this year’s and previous years’ statistics at


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What Do You Know About Female Authors?

This week we are going to try something different and let you write the blog post. March is Women’s History Month, and we would like to hear some interesting facts about female authors. Please post your comments to this blog or, if you have accessed it through IWC’s Facebook feed, you can reply there. We will then add your Facebook comments to this post.

Here’s something to start it off.

From Kathryn Page Camp: George Eliot was one of my favorite authors when I was in high school and college. Mary Ann Evans said that she used a male pen name to ensure that she was taken seriously. While a lot of women used their own names during that time (the 1850s through the 1870s), they were all romance writers, and Mary Ann wanted to escape the stereotype. But in recent years I learned there may have been another reason for the pen name. She lived with a married man (no, he wasn’t married to her) and may have wanted to create a wall between her reputation as a writer and her private life.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wanderlust, Women, and Writing

Shelby Engelhardt
I often find myself daydreaming, filled with wanderlust. The desire to travel and roam over a foreign land can be overwhelming at times. Lucky for me, who is firmly planted in Northwest Indiana for the time being, relatable female writers are becoming more and more prominent in the travel writing world. Through their journeys, I can explore different areas of the world and dream about my future travel plans. Let me share a few of my favorite reads with you.
Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World by Rita Golden Gelman
            I love this book and I think my ability to relate to the writer is a major factor in doing so. Rita Golden Gelman, an out of shape, middle-aged woman going through a divorce, is looking for a niche in life. On a trip to Mexico, she finds it. She travels the world and allows others to live out their dreams of doing so through her writing. Gelman recounts 15 years of travel in places such as Bali, New Zealand, and Thailand
Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald
            After traveling to India once, all Sarah Macdonald could recall was the filth and odor that she encountered; however, her husband’s acceptance of a job lands them back in India. She is not thrilled by the prospect of living in this country. Tagging along, she garners a new love for modern New Delhi.  Macdonald, an atheist, becomes enchanted by India’s religions. This book is an easy read, is honest, and often comical.
Somebody’s Heart is Burning: A Woman Wanderer in Africa by Tanya Shaffer
            After turning down her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Tanya Shaffer sets off to travel through Africa. Like many, Shaffer tries to travel as cheap as possible and accomplishes this by volunteering in many of the communities she visits. Her travels take her to Mali, Kenya and Ghana. Her descriptions of the people she meets along the way are captivating. Shaffer has an audaciousness in her writing that keeps the reader wanting more.
Traveling in foreign lands requires wit and fortitude, neither of which are lacking in wandering women writers.  The next time you are daydreaming and need to fill that wanderlust that sets in, pick up a woman’s travelogue and quench it. Or maybe, one of their tales will spark the planning of your own adventure.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Eat & Exchange Series: Spring 2014 Schedule

The first Eat & Exchange session of 2014 was a big hit. Held at Sip Coffee House in Crown Point, the session was well-attended and thought-provoking. IWC President Janine Harrison facilitated the discussion on “Kit and Kaboodle of Creative Nonfiction: Truth, Investigation, Tense, and Trends.”

If you missed the first session, there are five more to come during March, April, and May. All sessions are open to the public. The schedule follows, and be sure to join us when you can.


Wednesday March 19th at 6 PM, Grindhouse Café, 146 N. Broad St., Griffith, IN

"Where Do You Get Your Ideas?" -- the Question We Love to Hate

Facilitator:  Michael Poore

Supposedly, this is the question all writers despise...or DO we? Just this once, because the moon is in the seventh house and Venus has aligned with Mars, it will be okay to ask. And to tell. 


Saturday, April 5th, at 11 AM, Red Cup Café, 115 Broadway, Chesterton, IN

A Walk in the Woods:  Nature, Exercise and Writing

Facilitator:  Gordon Stamper, Jr.

Throughout the history of letters, nature and long walks have inspired our great writers, from Wordsworth and Dickens to Frost, Joyce, Woolf, and recent award winning poet Harryette Mullen (Urban Tumbleweed:  Notes from a Tanka Diary).   Moderator Gordon Stamper, Jr. will lead a discussion of how exercise and nature have been and can be wellsprings of inspiration.

Wednesday, April 16th, at 6 PM, Sip Coffee House, 11 North Ct., Crown Point, IN

Outside Your Demographic: Creating Characters with an Authentic Voice

Facilitator:  Julie Larson

This discussion will focus on writing race and  thoughts on writing beyond one’s own ethnicity. Is writing characters of another race a matter of imagination, as some writers claim, or forbidden? Discussion about regional dialect and vernacular, along with what expert linguists have to say, will be highlighted. Examples in prose and poetry will be provided. 


Saturday, May 3rd, at 11 AM, Grindhouse Café, 146 N. Broad St., Griffith, IN

Self-Publishing with a Professional Flair

Facilitator:  Kathryn Page Camp

Many self-published books are riddled with typos, inconsistencies, and just plain bad writing. How do you keep yours from being judged guilty by association? This roundtable discussion will focus on ways to show readers, libraries, and bookstores that your self-published book is professional quality and worthy of their time and money.

Wednesday, May 14th, at 6 PM, Red Cup Café, 115 Broadway, Chesterton, IN
“Yes I'm a Damsel. Yes I'm In Distress. I can handle this.":  Avoiding generic female characters in genre fiction

Facilitator:  Kayla Greenwell
Although there are a few great female genre fiction writers, like Margaret Atwood and Ursula LeGuin, fantasy and science fiction writing is still a "man's world." As a result, many female characters in these genres are static at best.  In this workshop we will be discussing how to avoid weak, stereotypical female characters in genre fiction writing.  We will discuss archetypes and character building within a genre fiction frame.

All discussion sessions are open to the public.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Women in the Multiverse! Comic Books and Gender Representation

Kayla Greenwell
Happy women's history month, all! I knew when I sat down to write this blog that I wanted to write something substantial about women, but I was perplexed.  I wanted to avoid being political, but I also didn't just want to give a  big history or literature lesson.  I wanted to show how far women have come in a way that people don't usually think about, and then suddenly it came to me: comics.
Comic books may seem like the last place to find diverse, non-stigmatized writing about women, but when looked at closely, female super heroes are some of the most diverse, well-written characters.  Super Dames have been dominating popular culture since the 60's, but there is a stigma that genre fiction and comics are somehow less than their counterparts of "real" literary fiction—that genre fiction is just a means of escape. Really though, genre isn't just escapism. A lot of the time the worlds we read about in genre fiction are much worse than our own, but it does give us something invaluable. These writings give us the tools we need to escape similar situations in our real lives.  They deal with real issues, even if those issues are veiled through tropes and literary devices.  This is true for women and gender as well.
Comics are a great record of women's rights and equality, because unlike some of the greatest feminist novels (not to diminish their importance)—most of these women are still being written. They change and become more current. They evolve.  You can track the thought of popular culture through these women—see how public thought on women involved into what it is today.  Women have come far, but there is still further to go and comic books, when looked at closely, reflect that perfectly.
There are  two examples that I want to share with you:  first is a classic, Wonder Woman (DC), and the other is brand spankin'-new, just announced this month--Ms. Marvel (Marvel).  I'm sure most people know who Wonder Woman is—but, just for good measure, I'm going to tell you anyway. Simply, she's an  Amazonian princess who kicks butt and does not take no for an answer.  I think her writing is fair in the portrayal of women not just because she is stoic, independent, and powerful, but she is also compassionate, she gets confused, and she had a tough time making certain decisions.  Over the past 50 years writers have done a great job portraying her in different lights, and giving her more complicated emotions that many people have to deal with in reality. 
More recently Marvel announced a new Ms. Marvel, and it is something that made headlines in papers internationally.  The new Ms. Marvel is a 16-year-old Pakistani girl Kamala Khan.  I think her addition to the long list of super heroes is so important, because it brings a sense of globalism to equality and gender representation.  The first comic came out on February 05, and if you have the time and three dollars I would definitely suggest checking it out.  It's well written, even if it can be a bit silly. 
Or even if you're not interested in Ms. Marvel, pick up a comic or graphic novel.  See for yourself how these writers have created a vast, diverse universe in which women thrive.  Women's history and the ideas of society towards women can be documented throughout the thousands of issues written over the past several decades, and now—they are looking towards the future.  It's a great feeling.