• Kamy Wicoff
  • A Day of Action for Women and Girls Who Write
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A Day of Action for Women and Girls Who Write
Written by
Kamy Wicoff
December 2011
Written by
Kamy Wicoff
December 2011

Hi everybody!  I wanted to take a break from my sabbatical to write to all of you today about something that has been greatly on my mind these past few weeks, and ask you to take a MEANINGFUL ACTION TODAY to do something about it.

On my mind is the way women writers are consistently under-represented in the all-powerful "best of" lists that begin coming out at the end of each year.

As Meg Waite Clayton pointed out in her rousing post "Never Mind a Room, We Need a NEWSPAPER Of Our Own," in response to The New York Times' list of Notable Books for 2011, which contained three times as many books by men as women: 

"The year's "great books" lists have begun. Female authors have put on our literary heels and danced backward as well as we can, but it looks again like we're going to be left tapping our toes to the music while male writers dance on the best books lists once again."

As you know, year-end lists are incredibly important for writers.  When your book makes a "best of" or a "holiday gift-giving guide" list, you aren't just getting an accolade, you are getting a critical tool for exposure and sales.  These lists matter, just as the year-end holiday-book-buying binge matters for writers, too.  And it is really total and utter B.S. and bias -- and nothing more -- that women get left off of them so consistently.

So today I am asking our members to do two things to fight the bias and B.S.!!

1) Buy a book written by a woman and published in 2011 as a holiday gift TODAY.  (I just got an email from B&N saying it was the last day to order for free shipping by December 25th!)  Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, buying a book by a woman writer published in 2011 is an excellent way to honor the important work done by all women writers this year.  Please tell us, in the comment thread here, which book you bought.

2) Give something, anything, to Girls Write Now.  I've written about GWN here before, and they are She Writes' philanthropic partner.  More important, however, they are the number one organization in the country mentoring the next generation of women writers.  The girls they serve are the girls our society listens to last, and through the program they are empowered to speak, write and value their stories.  Your contribution will also help Girls Write Now to share its curriculum and methods with cities all over the country and the world, expanding its mission and programming to ALL girls who need it.  I can't think of a better way to make sure that the women writers of tomorrow are supported and nurtured as we all want them to be.

I hope you will take one or both steps (for giving to GWN, any contribution, no matter how small, helps), and blog, tweet and post about them today.  We may not run The New York Times, but we control our buying power and our power to give.

Warm best, and happy holidays to all,


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  • B. Lynn Goodwin

    Story Circle Network sent me two wonderful books by women for review. They are This is Not the Ivy League and Darkroom. I recommend them both. Highly! They dig into a woman's pov and Jill Christman occasionally analyzes the process of digging and discovering in Darkroom.

  • Carole Spearin McCauley

    Glad to see this discussion.  I too have noticed that women's books get less notice and fewer reviews than men's.  As a writer who does both nonfiction, novels, and stories, I worry about this.

  • joan gillman

    during this last year I found that the majority of the books I bought were written by women. 

    "Knowing Your Value" by Mika Brezezinski

    "Why wait - The baby boomers guide to Preparing for a parent's death" by Carolyn A Brent

    "Ithaka" by Sarah Serafin

    "Throw out 50 things - Find your life" By Gail Blanke

    "The 7 Graces of Marketing" by Lynn Serafinn

  • Breena Clarke

    Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery


    Jennifer L. Morgan is the woman-authored book that I've chosen for today's action. This is a book Ive had on my wish list for a while. I've put other books -- by women and men -- ahead of it. Today is the day for this wonderful scholarly text. Maybe some will think this is not "holiday" reading or even easy reading. I'm itching to get at it.

    "When black women were brought from Africa to the New World as slave laborers, their value was determined by their ability to work as well as their potential to bear children, who by law would become the enslaved property of the mother's master. In Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery, Jennifer L. Morgan examines for the first time how African women's labor in both senses became intertwined in the English colonies." from Amazon's description.

  • Meg Waite Clayton

    How lovely to see my name invoked in service of such a great cause! I'm buying, among many others, A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver, Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, and Being Polite to Hitler by Robb Forman Dew.

    Also just reading An Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer -- not coming out till January, but I've got an ARC and will be buying that in January when it comes out!

    And I just shipped two boxes of gift books to family, and I did pay very special attention to the writers' gender this year.

  • Jude Walsh Whelley

    Oh, one other thing, the Story Circle Network has a book review site for new releases by women authors. If you are looking for some good reads, go there! Just google Story Circle Book Reviews for a link.


  • Jude Walsh Whelley

    I'm buying Dayton, Ohio author Katrins Kittle's Reasons to Be Happy for my mid grade girls. If you are not familiar with her work, this is her first youth novel after four excellent adult books. The most recent was The Blessings of the Animals but my favorite is Traveling Light, her first book. I also went to the Girls Write Now site. Amazing! We could use something like this in Dayton! I'll follow up at the website.


  • Rebecca Elswick

    Today I bought Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell!

  • Satia Renee

    In 2001 I made a commitment to only read books by women and I decided to do it again this year.  In 2011 I only read books by women and found a few new treasures, revisited some old ones, and am finishing off my year by rereading the Harry Potter books.  I highly recommend The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.  I found Sarah Ban Breathnach's Romancing the Ordinary a lovely morning read.  I also highly recommend Younger by the Day by Victoria Moran for "women of a certain age."  Great advice that takes a holistic approach to menopause/perimenopause.  

    Also really liked and even loved:

    Blue Nights by Joan Didion

    Persuasion by Jane Austen 

    Mary Boleyn by Alison Weir

    The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

    Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

    The Last Samurai by Helen Dewitt

    Eros the Bittersweet by Anne Carson

    Stories of Illness and Healing by Sayantani DasGupta

    Death's Door by Sandra Gilbert

    There were others but I haven't finished my "best of" list. 

  • Earlene J Luke

    Afternoon everyone ... Just bought LEAVING LANCASTER by KATE LLOYD, available at B&N.

    Besides being a long time friend, this is her second book; She is a PNW author and researched her "Lancaster" book visiting Amish country. 

  • Andrea Ramon Eller

    I realize that this is somewhat off-point, but I suggest your buying Lois Lowry's The Giver for a young-adult -- and then reading it yourself. It's wonderful.

  • Barbara Bell

    Oh, and if you can find the YA novels of Julie Burtinshaw (Canadian), you'll be very impressed. - Barbara Bell

  • Barbara Bell

    There are three books by women authors on my list: Blossoming in Provence, by Kristen Espinasse; A Touch of Roy and Dale, by Tricia Spencer, and Canadian author Lynn Coady's wonderful novel, The Antagonist. I recently re-read Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Joyce Carol Oates' Son of the Morning. Both were absolutely riveting! I read The Paris Wife and Unbroken earlier this year and would also recommend them to everyone. Best wishes to all, Barbara Bell

  • Tekla S Miller

    Happy Holidays everyone. I am reading The Chicken Chronicles by Alice Walker and just bought Death Comes to Pemberly and Shroud of the Nightingale by PD James. I also look forward to reading many of the others books listed here. Thanks!

  • Tyra Brumfield

    In the last few months, I have bought and read Best Friends Forever (Jennifer Weiner), The Paris Wife (Paula McClain), Burnt Mountain (Ann Rivers Siddons), and a surprise novel Almost to Eden by a local artist June Hall McCash. Out of those listed, I would highly recommend The Paris Wife and Almost to Eden. The others I would save until you have nothing better to read, even though both authors are favorites.

  • Carole Spearin McCauley

    Kamy, I totally agree with you about women writers being underrepresented on bestseller lists (except for romance) and other book lists.  It stinks!  I just bought Write It Slant (writing nonfiction) by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola.I'm glad to know about Girls Write Now and will go its website.  Good wishes from Carole Spearin McCauley

  • Lisa Rizzo

    You inspired me:  I just bought Wrecker by Summer Wood.  I met Summer at  A Room of Her Own Foundation's summer writing retreat for women, where I was in the midst of amazing women writers discussing this same issue.  Another way to help:  start of book group that focuses primarily on books written by women. I am always dismayed by how many groups still read the good old boys!

  • Cristina Dimen

    Just bought Kindle editions of "Come Back to Me", "Chasing Amanda" and "Megan's Way" - all by Melissa Foster. Also bought the Kindle edition of "Marrying Missy" by Sarah Elle Emm. Waiting for gifts of other ebooks, which are all by female authors.

  • Heather L Reid

    The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry. Great lists, everyone! Can't wait to check out all the other books in the comments.

  • Elaine Taber

    I am currently reading "Unbroken" by Laura Hildenbrand.  Have recently read PD James, Jesmyn West and Tatiana de Rosnay.  I prefer women writers, males are too biased by ego.

  • Barbara Sullivan

    I  bought Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer and Sex Changed a Nation at War, by Leyma Gbowee, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in October along with two other women who helped bring an end to Liberia's interminable and incredibly bloody civil war. (The way "sex changed a nation at war" was that one of the things this women's movement did was to withhold it, explicitly, until a peace agreement was reached.) There is also a powerful documentary about their struggle--Pray the Devil Back to Hell--which I bought to show to my Women in Transition classes. That film is amazing! It's narrated by the women who propelled the movement that brought Christian and Muslim women together, and that ultimately resulted in Liberia electing its first female president, Ellen Sirleaf.

    That's what these women were doing while the literary old boys' club was on book tour.

  • Kamy Wicoff Brainstorming

    This is fabulous!!  I love using these posts as my buying guide for the year.

    And of course any donations to GWN, even $5 or $10, would be enormously appreciated too. :)

  • Deborah Heath

    Just ordered 'A Visit From the Goon Squad' by Jennifer Egan and made it my choice for our next book group meeting, so that's another four copies.

  • Caroline Gerardo


    Books I bought this week: Perfect by Ellen Hopkins; Cut by Patricia McCormick; Chain Reaction, Simone Elkeles; The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion; just to name a few

  • Liane Carter

    Fathermothergod by Lucia Greenhouse.