Female writers highlighted
Flynn Center gallery hosts annual Book Festival
Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 21:09
As part of the eighth annual Burlington Book Festival, Alison Bechdel, Madeleine Kunin and Tanya Lee Stone sat in on the Vermont Women Writers Panel to talk about their experiences as women in the publishing and writing world on Sept. 23.
The Flynn Center’s Amy E. Tarrant Gallery was crowded with writers and readers ready to receive insight into the writing world of Vermont’s most celebrated female authors.
The three women represented a breadth of experience and creative diversity with graphic memoirs, feminist political works and children’s illustrations between them.
The conversation began with responses to the VIDA-Women in Literary Arts’ 2010 and 2011 discovery that across the board, the world’s most respected literary outlets publish significantly fewer women than men.
Pie charts on the VIDA website highlight a ratio of 832 female to 2,285 overall male writers in The Times Literary Supplement and 117 women to 504 men in the London Review of Books.
“The bias […] exists in all of the arts,” said Kunin, author of “The New Feminist Agenda: Defending the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family.”
Prior to her election as Vermont’s first female governor, Kunin recalled being told that a position she had interviewed for after finishing the Columbia College of Journalism was best suited for a man.
While interviewing for another position at the Providence Journal, Kunin said she felt oddly apologetic when the employer told her that the last time they hired a women, she was raped in the parking lot.
“I’ve reaped the benefits of pioneers like you,” Bechdel said to Kunin. “I was brought up in the second wave of feminism in the 80s […], published by feminist presses and now mainstream houses.”
Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic,” received an Eisner award in 2007 for Best Reality-Based Work and was named book of the year by Time magazine.
“A lot of what my book is about is how my mother didn’t get to be the writer she wanted to be, so I’m sort of doing that for her,” Bechdel said of her book “Are You My Mother?”
Tanya Lee Stone agreed that the discrimination against women in writing is overwhelming, but that she was able to navigate through its negativity with an early career in publishing.
“What we three have in common is that we have not felt the personal effects [of discrimination], because we are here,” said Stone, an award-winning writer of children’s books, young adult fiction and nonfiction. “We are succeeding at it. My books are about women who were told no [...they are meant] to empower young women.”
“Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?!,” a picture book about Elizabeth Blackwell, and “Courage Has No Color: the True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers,” will be out in 2013, with minority heroes and heroines at their core.
The panel was opened to questions halfway through, eliciting advice from the three women.
The most popular suggestion was overwhelmingly to keep writing and remain confident.
Bechdel said that rejection is inevitable and even worth writing about sometimes.
“All writing is rewriting,” Kunin said. “Nothing is bound to happen if you don’t write. Something will happen if you do.”
Longtime admirers and curious newcomers to these three talented writers can find their publications at Burlington’s Phoenix Books.