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My celebration for International Women’s Day

As I’m sure you know, yesterday was International Women’s Day (8th March). I went to a very interesting event to celebrate it at the Pavilion Theatre in Dun Laoghaire. The event, a panel discussion, was based around the #ReadWomen2014. Joining the discussion were Joanna Walsh, Anne Enright and Sarah Davis-Goff, with Sinead Gleeson to chair it. The discussion was a preview event for the Mountains To Sea book festival, which starts properly later this month.

Joanna Walsh, whom I mentioned in my previous post about Read Women, is a UK author and illustrator who started the hashtag, #ReadWomen2014, on Twitter last year.

Anne Enright is a Man Booker prizewinner and inaugural Laureate for Irish Fiction. She is author of The Gathering, Taking Pictures, Yesterday’s Weather and The Forgotten Waltz, among others.

Sarah Davis-Goff is a publisher at Tramp Press, a new and independent publishing company.

Sinead Gleeson is a literary journalist and arts presenter on RTE TV and Radio One. She also contributes to The Irish Times.

One of the issues mentioned were the jackets that books by female authors are sold in. Sarah Davis-Goff, from Tramp Press, mentioned the publishing mentality that will put a woman’s book into a ‘crappy, pink, sparkly cover’. Anne Enright discussed the idea of ‘masculine anxiety’ about the books men are seen reading.

Another interesting topic that came up was books in translation. Joanna Walsh is involved in translation at the moment and she brought up the fact that far fewer books that are translated into English are by women. This is an important issue, because translation into English enables an author to reach a much larger audience, and it seems that many women do not have access to this at the moment.

Women-only book competitions were also a topic of discussion. As far as I remember, all of the panellists were in favour if them, at least in the short-term. One example of a women-only book competition is the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

As for the audience, it was mostly comprised of women. I saw two men in the auditorium, although there may have been more. I was surprised at how few younger people there were at the event, I didn’t see many teenagers.

I thought the discussion was very enlightening and thought-provoking. The points discussed were all interesting, as was hearing the different viewpoints. I think it would have been nice to invite a male author or publisher to participate, to make it more of an inclusive event. All in all, last night was a great preview to the Mountains to the Sea book festival, and I hope to be able to see some of the other events.

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Read Women 2014

Since World Book Day is coming up (6th March) I thought I’d do a post about Read Women 2014. Read Women is a campaign set up by writer and illustrator Joanna Walsh as a challenge for 2014. The aim of the campaign is to get people to read more books written by women.

Walsh decided to start the campaign after hearing about the challenges of  Jonathan Gibbs and Matthew Jakubowski to read only books written by women for a certain period of time. Walsh also wanted to start the campaign after seeing the results of the 2013 VIDA Count. VIDA is the American organisation for women in the literary artsTheir annual count records how many reviews of books written by men and by women appear in a number of literary journals.

Walsh’s argument is that, despite the number of excellent books that are written by female authors worldwide, there are still more reviews of books written by men than by women in these literary journals. Walsh thinks that a good way of changing this is to make a special effort to read more books written by women or to challenge yourself to do it for a certain period of time.

I find that I have an almost exact balance of books by men and women. On one bookcase I have 89 by women and 88 by men. What about you, do you have more books by men or by women on your shelves? Will you challenge yourself to read more books by women this year? Please put up a comment if you know any good books or authors to try!

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