International Women’s Day 2016
A WCN Reading List

Yes, it’s International Women’s Day! To celebrate, and to honour the achievements of women in literature, the Communications Dept. sent a little email to everyone at WCN asking for their favourite female writer. 

We wanted to hear about writers that they connect with, that have moved them, stayed with them or have truly captured the female experience. We thought we’d tweet about everyone’s favourite, and assumed that some people wouldn’t get back to us… But then suddenly our inbox exploded with suggestion after suggestion, with passionate discussions on the power, beauty and passion of a whole colourful swirling kaleidoscope of writers, from Aphra Behn to Han Kang. Well, what could we do but commit this fantastic list to a blog post!

So here’s a hastily-compiled reading list from the staff at WCN, comprising our own personal favourites, and a, possibly fascinating, insight into the kind of group emails that dart around our organisation:

Our Chief Exec, Chris Gribble, was first out of the blocks, with a swift first response to our email, simply reading; “Gertrude Stein!”

After that, they came thick and fast. Freya, our Business Development Assistant shared her favourite quote from Helene Cixous’ The Laugh of the Medusa – “Censor the body and you sensor breath and speech at the same time. Write yourself. Your body must be heard”

Then Programme Coordinator Melanie Kidd took a theatre route and suggested Sarah Kane

Communications Coordinator, Brave New Reads, Rowan Whiteside shot back with her current list – “My favourites at the moment are Lynne Reid Banks (oh, The L Shaped Room!) Barbara Trapido (Temples of Delight), wonderful Margaret Atwood, the wondrous and incomparable Ali Smith, brilliant South African writer Henrietta Rose Innes, the phenomenal Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie….. I could go on, but I’ll stop.” (clue: she didn’t stop, but more on that later)

At this point our inbox had a meltdown, as Sam Ruddock, Programme Manager, shared his list –

“My choices would be (somewhat obvious) and cover most of the last 200 years.”

– Mary Shelley – Daughter of one of the founders of feminism,[Mary Wollstonecraft] a writer who lived and loved and wrote way beyond her historical age.

– The Brontes – all for different reasons. Mostly because their prose is some of the finest ever produced.

– Harriet Martineau – the world’s first female retained journalist, don’t you know!

– Virginia Woolf – because, while she was an incorrigible snob, those books never stop ringing out

– Daphne du Maurier – Because Rebecca and Jamaica Inn are two of the finest books of the 20th Century.

– Doris Lessing – for the character of her writing and her life

– Hilary Mantel – Because there’s no-one better in the world today.

– Eimear McBride – for doing something remarkable and new with prose.

– Sarah Perry – a writer of supreme talent most definitely going places.

And of course the fabulous women featured in our NNF City of Literature Programme this year:

– Una and Nicola Streeton who are writing about gender specifically

– Yrsa Daley-Ward, Jackie Kay and Jo Shapcott who are Fierce Light poets

– Lucy Caldwell, Sarah Hall, Anna Metcalfe, Claudia Rankine, Sally Rooney, and Katherine Mansfield who are all featured in The Story Machine

– Kate Summerscale

– Rachel Aspden

– Alison Weir

– Rose Tremain

– Francesca Beard

– Hollie McNish

(Khairani Barokka performs at 

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