CWILA (Canadian Women in the Literary Arts) is an inclusive national literary organization for people who share feminist values and see the importance of strong and active female perspectives and presences within the Canadian literary landscape.
CWILA was founded in 2012 by poet and essayist Gillian Jerome in response to an online conversation on gender representation in Canadian literary reviews started by poet and critic Sina Queyras on her blog Lemon Hound and continued by poet Natalie Zina Walschots on her blog www.nataliezed.ca. The conversation expanded to women active in various literary communities across the country, calling for a discursive space to address the politics of representation, the critical reception of women’s writing and the ways in which we can foster stronger critical communities of women of all ages and ethnicities, including genderqueer writers and Indigenous writers.
CWILA continues the path set by the US organization VIDA, founded in 2009 “to address the need for female writers of literature to engage in conversations regarding the critical reception of women’s creative writing in our current culture.” VIDA conducts an annual project “to count the rates of publication between women and men in many of our writing world’s most respected literary outlets.” None of the literary outlets counted by VIDA are Canadian.
In June 2012, CWILA launched findings from its first Count, documenting the rates at which men and women were published and reviewed in 14 Canadian literary publications in 2011. Within 24 hours the website went viral, with over 8,000 unique visitors in the first month. The 2011 Count received media coverage from national and international media outlets, including The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, The Montreal Gazette, The Capilano Review, Room, Jacket2, Lemon Hound and Quill & Quire.
In order to begin to address the gender gap in Canadian review culture as revealed by the Count, CWILA created the position of Critic-In-Residence (CIR) and funded it by donations raised through social media. Throughout 2013, inaugural CWILA Critic-in-Residence Sue Sinclair published reviews in the National Post, Arc Poetry Magazine, Winnipeg Review and Canadian Literature. She also led a community-based project in partnership with the Atwater Reading Series in Montreal.
In 2013, the second annual CWILA Count was conducted, expanding from 14 publications to 25 to provide greater regional inclusion. A genderqueer metric was added to account for individuals who identify outside the gender binary, and a new Canadian metric determined the number of Canadian writers represented. The findings of the 2012 Count were published in July 2013, and again CWILA received media coverage in Quill & Quire, National Post, THIS Magazine, Globe and Mail, Winnipeg Free Press, Arc Poetry Magazine and rabble.ca. To date, CWILA’s findings have been discussed in over 40 articles internationally.
In December of 2013, Shannon Webb-Campbell was selected as CWILA’s 2014 Critic-in-Residence. Over the course of her residency, Webb-Campbell has published reviews and interviews in The National Post, Telegraph Journal, The Coast and Plenitude Magazine. She was also the recipient of the 2014 “Out in Print” Literary Award.
In 2014, CWILA conducted its third annual Count of Books reviews and published the results in September. The 2013 Count, which received funding assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts, expanded from 25 publications for 2012 to 31 publications (to include the French literary community and a broader regional representation), resulting in 82% more reviews than the 2012 Count.
CWILA now has over 400 paid members consisting of some of Canada’s most prominent writers and academics
If you want to join CWILA, please click here for our New Members form.
CWILA strives to promote and foster equity and equality of representation in the Canadian literary community by:
1) tracking statistics on gender representation in reviewing;
2) bringing relevant issues of gender, race and sexuality into our national literary conversation;
3) and creating a network supportive of the active careers of female writers, critics and their literary communities.
Along with the publication of an annual gender count, CWILA is raising money for an annual Critic-In-Residence. Support CWILA through the button below or click here to read more.