Kamy Wicoff is part one-woman show part community-minded maven and we 21st Century female scribes are lucky she is real, not fictional! If you're a woman and a writer you've probably heard of She Writes by now, but if not, read on...
JD: Tell us about the conception and birth of She Writes and what this Femme Phenom is all about, lady!
KW: She Writes originated from an in-the-flesh salon of women writers I started along with the late biographer Diane Middlebrook in 2004. Diane's great insight at that time was that while she and I wrote in different genres, were at totally different places in our careers, and were decades apart in age, we had a tremendous amount to give to one another: support, energy, insight, and companionship in the lonely endeavor that is writing! The salon showed me the enormous power of relationships in writers' lives, and I wanted to extend that network, and that power, to women everywhere by taking our model on to the web. On She Writes, bestsellers, National Book Award winners, and people who just enjoy keeping travel journals can all find a home, and rally around their shared love of reading and writing.
JD: Her biography of Anne Sexton was life-changging for me. So, what do you think is unique about the struggles of women writers as compared to our male pals?
KW: Women writers tend to be lumped together as though they were a genre, and not half the human race -- while women don't think twice about reading literary fiction written by men, men are less likely to read literary fiction by women, or to view it as speaking for the "universal" big picture American experience. There's a reason Jonathan Franzen, and not Marilynne Robinson, for instance, was on the cover of TIME with the headline "Great American Novelist" next to his brooding face. (For a characteristically lively and succinct essay on the subject, see Katha Pollitt's "Scribblers of America, Unite: Are women writers undervalued because of how they write, or how we read?") Men are presumed to be tackling the big, epic subjects, while women's writing is somehow reduced to being "intimate," and this simply isn't the case. But as long as books by women are left off of Top Ten Best Book lists (see PW's 2009 list, and even the "picks" of the indie booksellers, where women are always outnumbered), underrepresented as the winners of major awards, and women writers are labeled women writers, not women who write, women need to come together and take the reins of publishing -- and awards, for that matter -- for themselves. I'd also like to add that writers of color struggle with this more than women do. Those top ten lists leave women off consistently, but they ignore writers of color far more often, and it's a shame.
JD: Is the site only for prose writers or all scribes? What kind of writers utilize She Writes the most?
KW: She Writes has writers of every genre -- something Diane and I made sure of when we began our first salon in London. Screenwriters, poets, romance writers, nonfiction writers, bloggers: all are welcome and most are active on the site. For now I'd say we have predominantly book authors, or aspiring book authors (including books of poetry), and bloggers on the site, but lots of women who write things I'd never even anticipated -- like lesbian historical fiction and paranormal romance, which is awesome!
JD: She Writes seems like it's grown really fast! Why do you think that is and how much time do you personally put into the site day to day?
KW: There are several reasons we have grown so quickly. One was that we launched with a very well-respected, high-quality group of authors as our "alpha" members (we are still in beta), women like Francine Prose, Kathryn Harrison, Amy Sohn, Hope Edelman, Gretchen Rubin and many, many more. We also found very quickly that our intended audience -- the growing ranks of authorpreneurs, or professional authors forced into treating each new publication like a mini start-up, with all the attendant costs and time commitment -- only formed a part of the group who identify themselves as "She Writers." Through the power of social media, we were able to cast an incredibly wide net. Our network now includes women from all fifty states and more than thirty countries, which floors me. I will know we have done something really amazing when I attend my first gathering of She Writes Tehran. I also think we have grown quickly because members have used our platform to organize themselves into smaller groups that really speak to their interests and different aspects of their identities -- the groups, right now, are really the lifeblood of the site.
JD: Have their been certain themes that you've been obsessed with since you started writing?
KW: I am very interested in nuanced, sophisticated and truly contemporary portrayals of the lives of women and girls -- my first (and only) book was an examination of the modern wedding industry called "I Do But I Don't: Why The Way We Marry Matters," and it used weddings as a jumping-off point for a larger discussion about what the rituals of weddings can tell us about what women have and haven't accomplished in their pursuit of equality. I am thinking a lot about adolescence and girls right now -- and about the watershed I believe we are at in terms of gender, and what women's increasing economic power will mean for the world as we know it. I think fiction that addressed that tipping point would be absolutely fascinating, and I hope to contribute to it someday!
JD: If you could talk to any (dead) writer right now who would it be and what would you ask?
KW: This is a very personal answer, but it's an honest one -- I would talk to Diane (Middlebrook). We used to have such long, juicy talks about literature, and the writers she turned me onto were so brilliant and necessary, writers like Rebecca West and Anne Sexton, of course, whose biography she wrote. I'd give the world to be able to ask her what she thinks of what She Writes has become, but more than anything I'd give anything to be able to talk to her about my next book idea (a novel), and have her back in my head and my heart as my first, best, and most irreplaceable reader and friend.
Go to www.shewrites.com right now for inspiration.