News Round Up: May 5th

Woman reading a newspaper

Shock horror: Awards lists reflect makeup of society

Some good news to kick off our round up this week: following last month’s Desmond Elliot Prize longlist, and the 2013 Granta list, two further literary awards have done what the press still seems to find impossible, and given female writers as much recognition as their male counterparts.

Seven-and-a-half of the thirteen nominees for the 2013 CWA Dagger in the Library Award are women. Linda Waites of husband and wife writing team Tania Carver is the 0.5, alongside Belinda Bauer (the 2010 winner), Alison Bruce, S.J Bolton, Elly Griffiths, Jane Casey, Alex Gray and Frances Brody.

The Authors’ Club Best First Book Award also announced a gender-balanced shortlist, with four of the six places going to women.

Ros Barber is surely a shoe-in with The Marlowe Papers, which has already been nominated for the Desmond Elliot and missed WPL shortlisting by the skin of its teeth. Her competition comes from Kerry Hudson, I.J Kay and Sarah Ridgard.

Meanwhile, depressingly…

Author Claire Messud was this week widely recognised as having to bat off sexist questioning about her new novel, The Woman Upstairs.

Slate were the first to pick up on her furious response to a Publishers Weekly interviewer asking if she’d like to be friends with her mean protagonist Nora:

“For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet?… Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis?”

It’s interesting that Messud herself never overtly implied the question was sexist, although it’s fairly clear, due to the all-male list she gives, why she’s so cross.

Instead, the sexism has been picked up by eye-rolling critics and commentators after the event. A sign, perhaps, that in a world which increasingly recognises the pressures female writers face, interviewers can’t get away with knee-jerk lazy questioning any more.

Some tradey bits and pieces

Women’s fiction website Novelicious announced this week that, working with the Marsh Agency, they’re to launch a women’s commercial fiction digital imprint, Novelicious Books.

They’ll be re-issuing some nineties and noughties “romantic comedy classics”, but are also open for submissions of new material. Authors will receive 50% royalties, with the aim seemingly to provide a springboard for less-established writers.

In other trade news, Harper Lee is launching something too: a lawsuit. Lee tells of a depressing chain of events which only makes you realise how many more Atticus Finches this world still needs.

She claims that her former agent’s son-in-law took advantage of her failing eyesight and hearing to get her to sign over the copyright to To Kill a Mockingbird. We can only wish Lee all the best.

Historic wrongs still being righted… and committed

For Books’ Sake became a participant in the just-launched 100 Deeds Project this week, with our roller derby anthology, Derby Shorts.

The project, to mark the 100-year anniversary of the death of Emily Davison, invites 100 people to do a feminist deed, in response to the old slogan “Deeds Not Words”.

Meanwhile, much underrated and often overlooked Anne Brontë was paid some deserved attention this week from the Brontë Society, who gave her a new gravestone.

This corrected the 164-year-old error of the last, which noted her age as 28 rather than 29.

We can’t help wondering how long such a mistake would have been allowed to go unchanged on the tomb of one of her male contemporaries, but we’ll settle for being pretty chuffed that unacknowledged Anne has been paid some respect.

But it will be hard for some to end this week feeling anything but deflated, after the ninety-year-old Women’s Library bid its purpose built London Met home a sad farewell. It’s to re-open later this year in one or two rooms in an LSE library.

We may be getting recognition on awards lists, launching our own imprints and getting people on our side when we get cross with sexist interviewers but resources like this – and those resources being recognised as important – are vital if we’re to escape errors on our own left-to-crumble gravestones.

What did you think of the week that was? Did we miss anything?

Rebecca Winson
Image by x1klima, used here under a Creative Commons license