SHE WRITES is a new online community dedicated to providing women writers with support, services, encouragement, literary news, and writerly-food-for-thought as they struggle to succeed and to make art in a chaotic and exhausting marketplace. (Here at SHE WRITES we will argue that it is also an exciting, dynamic new marketplace, full of possibility, and do everything possible to help our members thrive within it.) This community began simply but powerfully, as a literary salon in London founded by the late Diane Middlebrook, our founding mother and muse. The idea was to bring together women writers of all genres and generations to discuss the business and the craft of writing. I will be forever grateful that Diane asked me to co-host the first salon with her in the spring of 2003. I was a graduate student laboring away on my thesis, hesitant to use the word "writer" when referring to myself; Diane was a literary rockstar, a biographer and a poet, and a damn fine dresser to boot. (To purchase any one of Diane's three brilliant biographies, visit our Bookstore.) Her instinct, however, told her we were a perfectly matched pair, and she was right. We had a great deal to give one another and, more important, to a community far larger than our party of two.
In 2004 I returned to New York, as did Diane's intimate friend and colleague the author Nancy K. Miller, a member of the original London salon. Together we founded the New York branch of the salon, and together we have begun SHE WRITES. Over the past five years Nancy and I have hosted twenty-five salons in our homes, evenings with women writers like Vivian Gornick, Meg Wolitzer, Francine Prose, Katha Pollitt, Erica Jong, Kathryn Harrison, Mary Gordon, Rebecca Mead, Marion Nestle, Elaine Showalter, Laura Miller, Alicia Ostriker, Alessandra Stanley, Caroline Weber, original salon member Alix Kates Shulman, and others. A growing community of women writers of all ages and backgrounds became members of our group. In San Francisco, Diane founded another salon with Marilyn Yalom and Kate Moses, and it has gone on without her. In London, the group continued with the leadership of Lisa Appignanesi.
Diane believed the salons were one of her most important legacies. The passionate aim of SHE WRITES is to carry on founding and nurturing salons of women writers all over the nation and the world, and to use new technologies to connect our membership in ways that will strengthen our minds, our hearts and our writing lives.
Many of you have already read the remembrance I wrote of Diane after her death in December of 2007, and its lengthier portrait of our friendship, our collaboration and of the birth of the salon. (For those of you who haven't, I am including it in a second blog post titled "Remembering D.") The photo below is my favorite shot of the two of us together--in it, she is holding my newborn son Maximilian. I wish she were here for the birth of SHE WRITES. It is without a doubt her baby, too.