The first person who ever encouraged me to read poetry for monthly readings at a local martini bar a year ago said, “It’s a poetry sausagefest up there.” And he was right – all dudes, all the time. Dudes’R’Us. This was a big part of why I was hesitant to sign up, feeling a strange not-belonging-ness, that the fact I was female could require a little extra proof that I should have a microphone at all. And when I did first read, I told no one I knew to come see me in case I bombed. (I don’t think I did, which is nice.) I remember wearing Converse slip-ons and a loose button-up, feeling like I was more acceptable, could expect to be taken more seriously, silly as it may sound, in the boyishness of those things.
Fast forward a few months. I’m taking a non-fiction class with Abby and Lindsey, women I’ve known but not all that well. Abby wears dresses that remind me of sailboats and Lindsey eats green beans from the can in class. Solid individuals. Then I find out in workshops Abby’s writing is powder blue and home movies. Lindsey’s is laugh laugh laugh oh my god. Oh my god. In their ways, both make words glow like whoa. Neither of them had ever read or published, and to me this was ridiculous. I asked Lindsey why she’d never read; she was nervous, afraid she’d bomb, didn’t know if what she did was good enough.
Fast forward again to this fall. I’m in advanced non-fiction, taught by the fabulous Jill Christman, with Abby, Lindsey, Ashley, and Lora. I also get to know Elysia and her writing via the Ball State Writers Community, and again, pretty quickly realize there are women around me with significant talent that is largely not getting recognized – even Ashley, whom I’d seen read her lovely prose and perform stand-up several times, still had never been published. And conversations start happening, about how reading/publishing/etc. can be an intimidating creature. And how there is conflict between wanting to write like ourselves –as in, not men – and feeling pressure to drag our individual writing styles closer to a default male voice to be taken seriously as creative people. And I start thinking that this pressure is compounded by the fact that in our little creative community, almost all (if not all) of our peers getting recognition are male – deserving males to be sure, but these women I now knew deserved some spotlight just as much.
It happens I have to do some sort of publishing project for another class, and decide this is a perfect opportunity to give credit where credit is due. I ask Elysia plus non-fiction chicks to give me writing for a chapbook, and when I look through their pieces I am so impressed, and proud, and so badly don’t want any of us to feel the need to play down our sex as though it were a handicap. I will say it: having a vagina is not a creative defect, and unfortunately, for years I have semi-consciously carried around an attitude that says it is. I have said things like, “she’s good, for a chick” and “yeah, she’s a chick, but she’s good” – like an audience should assume femininity is inferiority. I thought dressing like a dude when I read gave me more legitimacy. All of it’s such bullshit and I love these women and what they can do too much to keep thinking that way.
Please don’t think we dislike/resent/whatever the male species. There are a number of men who have been nothing but supportive and encouraging to me as a writer, and I’m sure the rest of the chickz could also talk about the awesome dudes in their writing lives. Yeah, we’re CHICKLITZ, but as Ashley has said, what we’re doing isn’t just for chickz. We love our dudes and what they do for us as writers.
So, you’ll be seeing things here about writing and living and not-having-a-penis-ing, and etc. etc. etc. We hope to see you read and comment and be part of our conversations. We’re all stoked to have found each other and stoked that you found us.
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