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by Brooke Warner

Karen Joy Fowler and Dorothy Allison. Photo credit: Jacqueline Luckett.










A happy crowd of writers soaking it all in at Hotel Rex. Photo credit: Jacqueline Luckett.










Women who write tend to know they’re looking for something, but oftentimes they don’t know what. They understand that there’s a deeper and greater force than they can even begin to wrap their minds around that pushes them, drives them, and some of the time, yes, messes with their heads.

Last weekend I had the privilege to attend a Hedgebrook-sponsored event in San Francisco—a conversation between Dorothy Allison and Karen Joy Fowler. I spent much of the evening nodding my head along with the forty-plus other women (and two men!) in the crowd. The wisdom of these two long-time writers and teachers in the presence of so many students was palpable. During the Q&A, a question was posed: What do you want from writing?

Dorothy answered: “Community. And to get it right.” So simple, yet I also think so universal. We wouldn’t write for others without these two things. Although writing is a solitary experience, women writers crave connection. At SheWrites.com, one of the driving messages is something co-founder Deborah Siegel wrote: “Writers don’t let writers write alone.” And to get it right—I can’t remember something landing with such resonance in quite some time. When I think about the writers I coach, I wonder how much of the struggle and the beauty of writing stems from this desire.

I have been working with women writers exclusively for the past eight years, first in my role as Executive Editor at Seal Press, one of the few remaining women-only imprints in the traditional publishing world, and currently at She Writes Press, the press I cofounded with Kamy Wicoff (the other founder of SheWrites.com) in June of this year.

The reason SheWrites.com has the strong online presence it has is because it’s a gathering place for women writers. Dorothy Allison also spoke about the tremendous value of sharing our stories. She was speaking specifically about the power of reading stories in a circle of women, and what happens when you can actually hear your own words echo into the group. She said she let a decade go by without participating in a circle like this, in part because they’re hard to find. But can’t we manifest what we want? And isn’t this exactly what Hedgebrook is doing with this live event—and many more to come (we hope!).

Get two women writers together, and the wellspring of insight, depth, genuine warmth, and compassion can overwhelm a room. The sentiments expressed by these two writers touched a place in my soul—the inspiration place. It’s for the future Karens and Dorothys that SheWrites.com, and now She Writes Press, exists. Hedgebrook’s Executive Director Amy Wheeler introduced these two illustrious Hedgebrook alumnae, and told the group how Gloria Steinem had told her that we, women, need a Boys’ Network, except that we need to do it differently; we need to be in line with what women value.

I think Dorothy, in expressing her own truthful response to that question, what do you want from writing, hit upon the value: Community and getting it right. The good news is that the first is accessible, through places like Hedgebrook and SheWrites.com and countless other support systems. Women writers want to support each other. We have always found ways to do this, and we will continue. And getting it right doesn’t happen through forcing. It happens through practice, openness, sharing, and supporting one another. Karen Joy Fowler said that she doesn’t think that women want writing to be a competitive sport. And that’s part of how we all must support one another to rise to great heights and eventually to soar.

Here are five things women writers can do to support women writers:

1. Don’t just buy each other’s books, review them on Amazon, Goodreads, and elsewhere!

2. Like each other’s Facebook pages and follow each other on Twitter.

3. Interview each other using free software like Allfreeconference.com and use snippets of those interviews online as blog posts to promote each other’s work.

4. Host meet-ups or get together in person to read your work. As Dorothy said, that echo is important, and there is nothing like being received.

5. Tune into what Hedgebrook is doing as it expands its offerings and unique programs, and join us in conversation and support of one another at SheWrites.com.


Brooke Warner is the former executive editor at Seal Press. She is now the publisher of She Writes Press and founder of Warner Coaching, Inc. Her book, What’s Your Book? A Step-by-Step Guide to Get You from Inspiration to Published Author, was published by She Writes Press this fall.


Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.

Brooke Warner
About Brooke Warner


  • Chrys Fey
    4:35 PM - 15 December, 2012

    You made very nice pointers with the five things women writers can do to support women writers. I especially liked #1 because a lot of people believe that just buying someone’s book (and this can go for men too) is enough, but it’s not. In order for women writers to have more success, the word has to get out about their books and writing reviews is a great way to not only support a book, but to help raise awareness about it.

    #2 is also a good point. I am currently working on this one with my new Facebook page and I was surprised to learn that it’s hard to get your own friends and even other women/women writers to show supprt by liking your page. The things is, we have to support each other and a simple “like” can do just that!

    And #3 is something that I will definitely keep in mind for when I published a book of my own.

    Thank you for sharing these tips!

  • Brooke
    10:30 PM - 18 December, 2012

    Thanks for the comment, Chrys!

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