We support women writers living and working in the East of England * Winner of Outstanding Contribution to The Arts Award 2018; Shortlisted for the Women In Publishing New Venture Award 2015 & 2016, for Saboteur Best One-Off Event 2015 and Best Anthology 2014 *
Words And Women are part of the Norfolk Storytelling Project
J McDede and Isabelle King recently collaborated onaNorfolk
Storytelling Project for Future Radio, creating aten minute podcast on Words And Women andthe subject of writing space. The
podcast was first broadcast on Future RadioonApril the 4th.
To listen to it again please click here
presents the podcast when Isabelle has written a piece about the venture which
she’s kindly let us reproduce below:
Women helps female writers build rooms of their own
By Isabelle King
“A woman must have money
and a room of her own if she is to write fiction” – so says Virginia Woolf in
her famous essay 'A Room of One's Own' .
Still from Space
But that was 1929. Surely women
have rooms, and money, of their own by now, right? But yet, women writers are
still the minority in the literary world. Only 13 have won the Noble Prize for
literature since 1909. Book reviews are still mostly by men, about men.
With that in mind, Bel Greenwood and Lynne Bryan decided to make a film to
explore Virginia Woolf's proposition. Their latest creative project, Space, is
a film that focuses on, well, space. But not just any old space – all the
spaces where women in the East of England like to write.
A quiet International Women's
This past International Women's
Day, held on the 8th of March, the
Lounge bar on St Benedicts Street was packed. The overflowing audience of men,
women, and children pressed up against the door to get a glimpse of women
reading their work. It would just be another energized literary reading in Norwich,
except, one by one, women – and only women – took the centre stage. Inside the
Lounge, it was loud, literary, and female. But up until 2011, International
Women's Day quietly tiptoed past Norwich, unnoticed. It was a little too quiet
for local writer Bel Greenwood.
Still from Space
“I used to live in Italy and on
International Women's Day in Italy, any strange man walking past would give you
a bunch of flowers, I mean, International Women’s Day was celebrated, there was
always something on and so,” Bel said, “when I was here in Norwich, I just
thought that there was nothing that was actually marking the day and that lots
of people didn’t even know that March 8th
is International Women’s Day.”
The rooms of writers
Bel decided to organize a
reading on International Women's Day that year. But, International Women’s Day
is just one day in a year. Many of the problems women face are ongoing. Bel
teamed up with fellow writer Lynne Bryan and launched Words and Women.
With the two forces combined, Words and Women has grown into much more than a
single event to mark International Women’s Day. The organization brings local
women writers together all year round through hosting literary and net-working
events, running writing competitions and promoting the work of women in the
region both socially and online.
Still from Space
With the help of Unthank Books,
they've even got their own anthology. The idea for making a film about women’s
writing space was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own' where
Virginia Woolf argues that women writers must have 500 pounds and a locked
door. “We wanted to explore whether things had actually changed for women
writers. Do they still need a room of their own in order to write? Do they
still need a private income?” Lynne said.
Lynne has a room of her own, but
she knows she's very lucky.
“My room is white, it’s quite
big, I’m very lucky, it’s taken me a long time to get this room but it's my
space,” she said. “I'm very privileged.”
As for Bel: “I usually write in
the middle of kitchen chaos with a small yapping dog. I sit in bed and write
very early in the morning sometimes and then I move to my kitchen, which really
is a mess. So I don’t have a space in the house that is dedicated to
So, what about women in the East
of England? Lynne and Bel decided to investigate.
“Where do they sit and write? Do
they sit and write? Some writers stand at a lectern and write standing up. Do
they, are they lucky enough to have an office? Do they write as they walk along
the cliff tops?” Lynne asked. “Do they write in a field? Do they write in a cow
shed? Do they write in a subway, you know, where do they like to write? Where
can they write?”
Local women were encouraged to
send in photographs and text about their writing space – from kitchens, studies,
libraries to garden sheds. Each space highlighted just how personal a writing
space can be. As Bel points out, a room of one’s own isn’t necessarily a room.
“It’s not just about physical space, it’s also about a sort of mental freedom
to concentrate on your writing,” Bel said. “That can be quite difficult to
achieve sometimes, especially for women because you are juggling so many
“Space” – the film
The film is an eclectic mix of
visuals and voices, layering in and out of one another, depicting the many
different sorts of spaces women writers occupy. After the film was shown, it
sparked a lot of conversation about the varying spaces where the women in the
room liked to write. Writers Kim Sherwood and Lily Meyer, for instance, are
housemates, but that doesn't mean they write in the same space. Kim writes
wherever she can.
“I tend to write anywhere that I
can where it’s not too strange, mainly my bedroom because that’s the least
strange place but I suppose trains, rivers, not in the river that would be
difficult, fields, cities, anywhere that I can get away with it really,” Kim
But Lily is much pickier.
“ I write in one specific chair
at our kitchen table, Kim and I are housemates, and one specific seat on the
couch in our living room and sometimes in my bed but never at my desk and I do
not like writing in public, I don’t like people watching me and making noises,”
Rooms without space
But, despite their focus on
space, Words and Women doesn't have a room of their own. Not yet, anyway. But
that doesn't mean they can't create space for others. For two hours at the
Lounge, they've created a world where women writers can read their work and be
applauded for it.
“I think it's a lovely way to
come together as a community. Writing can be a very solitary activity and being
a part of something like Words And Women or the University of East Anglia lets
you know there are other people around who have the same passions as you and
are possibly just as odd as you and it’s really nice to support each other and
to hear other works and be inspired by other people,” Kim said.
reading, the women writers slowly trickled home. Perhaps, when they got there,
they picked up their pens. Or sat on their computers. Or maybe they didn't go
home at all – but to browse through the library, or shut themselves up in an
office, or run through a field. Or pet their dear house rabbit for
If you're a writer, whatever it
is you like to do, or wherever it is you like to go, or whether you're male or
female, the important thing is to sit down, and write.’
Isabelle King is an actress whose first
voice over job involved making cat noises for an animation film about cats and
dogs, alongside Alex Zane- there began a strange love for all things audio. She
is the founder of Books Talk Back, a literary event in London and Norwich,
supporting the work of new writers, which she is developing into an audio
project. She also writes and produces for the Norfolk Storytelling Project on
Holly J. McDede is a second year Creative
Writing and Literature student at the University of East Anglia who became
obsessed with radio in the public radio wonderland that is San Francisco.
Nowadays, she runs the Norfolk Storytelling Project through Future Radio and
hops around with a fancy Zoom recorder talking to strangers about their
feelings on sports and the weather.