WILLA: Women in Letters & Literary Arts recently launched its website. As outlined in its mission statement, “WILLA seeks to explore critical and cultural perceptions of writing by women through meaningful conversation and the exchange of ideas among existing and emerging literary communities.” Apropos Christian Bök’s recent post concerning the rejection of an AWP panel proposal featuring the University of Calgary’s Creative Writing program where Bök teaches, WILLA similarly arose from a rejected panel entitled “Arsenic Icing: Sentiment as Threat in Contemporary American Women’s Poetry” that poet Cate Marvin proposed for AWP’s annual conference.

In response, and after circulating among friends a letter—included on WILLA’s website—expressing her frustrations, Marvin co-founded WILLA with the poet Erin Belieu. The organization has a board of directors along with advisors in the genres of children’s literature, creative nonfiction, fiction, playwriting, and poetry. Among WILLA’s primary goals are an annual conference dedicated to women’s writing, a mentorship-style retreat for women established along the lines of the Cave Canem summer workshop, and the inclusion of more writing by women in public school literature curricula. In the meantime, WILLA is working to create a grassroots network of individuals, institutions, and events. The website even has an updatable calendar for listing these events, most of which, so far, seem to have taken place at the last AWP.

The website currently includes an essay by novelist A. J. Verdelle on the acclaimed reception of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s work and the much-less-visible underlying support structure among women writers. Marvin contributes an essay on being both a poet and a mother, and how the two are obviously related and yet perhaps more separate than they seem. In a column entitled “The Count,” Amy King presents the gender breakdown of book awards and “best of” literary lists. For instance, did you know that between 1918 and 2009 the Pulitzer Prize for poetry went to 67 men and 23 women?

Visit the WILLA website at http://willaweb.org.

Originally Published: April 15th, 2010

Alan Gilbert is the author of the poetry collections The Treatment of Monuments (2012) and Late in the Antenna Fields (2011). He has earned praise for his ability to move between personal, national, and global scales and experiences in his wide-ranging, politically and ethically astute poetry. He is the author...