Why I Joined CWILA: Words from our Members

This page will be updated regularly throughout our membership drive Oct. 29 – Dec. 15, 2015. You can join CWILA here.

2015 Statements

2014 Statements

2015 Statements.

daphne4Daphne Marlatt, CWILA member

“I joined CWILA with a sense of relief that feminism is not dead.  Its collective continues to effectively highlight the long-held prejudice in Canadian literary reviewing, criticism and publishing that writing by women somehow deserves less attention, less promotion than writing by men. Its annual count of reviews actually creates change. And it furthers engaged communication between writers. What could be better than that?”

– Daphne Marlatt is an award-winning poet and novelist.  Her Liquidities: Vancouver Poems Then and Now addresses the city she’s inhabited for decades.

Alison Pick, CWILA memberAP_sideways_WEB_BW

“I’m so incredibly grateful for the important work that CWILA does. Canadian Literature is a microcosm of our larger society; working to close the gender gap benefits not just writers and readers, but us all.”

– Alison Pick is the author of the Booker-Prize nominated novel Far to Go and the best-selling memoir Between Gods.

imageLucia Lorenzi, CWILA member

“CWILA offers a necessary feminist intervention: a space and a community that brings into the public square conversations that are too-often relegated either to silence or solely to academic study. Connecting the creative with the critical, the quantitative with the qualitative, and theoretical inquiry with lived experience, CWILA’s focus on intersectional conversations make it possible to imagine a brave new world for literary life and beyond.”

– Lucia Lorenzi is a PhD candidate in the Department of English at UBC, as well as a feminist writer who maintains a regular blog at Rabble.ca.

Sharanpal Ruprai, CWILA memberSharanpal

“I joined CWILA because it is an organization that is shifting the literary community by doing what many women and women of colour have been doing for years; walking into a room, counting and making some noise about who is sitting at the reviewing table, being reviewed, who is in the audience. The public and transparent policy of CWILA is vital to our literary communities. It might be 2015, but we still need to do this and that is why CWILA is vital to our literary conversations.”

– Sharanpal Ruprai is an Assistant Professor at the University of Winnipeg in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies and is the author of Seva.

©Imaging by Marlis 2012 Permission granted to Jane Munro for personal and promotional use

©Imaging by Marlis 2012
Permission granted to Jane Munro for personal and promotional use

Jane MunroCWILA member

“For me, CWILA began as an ardent email discussion among writers who mostly don’t talk with one another. It was honest and meaningful. I was hooked. As an older poet and long-time feminist, it was fascinating to learn from—and share common cause with—edgy, complex and intelligent younger writers. I loved their passion and vision but most of all, I welcomed a chance to work together to make an impact on entrenched social and structural injustices.

In 1989 when I first read Tillie Olsen’s Silences (a book that’s sadly still relevant) her numbers struck me: 1 in 12 writers on prize lists, in anthologies, studied at university were women. Her analysis of why so many of us are silenced resonated deeply. Now, CWILA’s wonderful interviews and discussion papers probe the experiences of contemporary Canadian Women in the Literary Arts.

As my kids were growing up, whenever a woman (writer, artist, athlete, activist) broke through barriers, I’d salute her with my raised fist and cheer, “yeah, Team!” That’s how I feel about CWILA: yeah, Team!”

– Jane Munro’s sixth poetry book, Blue Sonoma (Brick Books), won the 2015 Griffin Poetry Prize.

Ali Blythe, CWILA member

Photo credit: Melanie Siebert

Photo credit: Melanie Siebert

“I was at the after-party of a big writing event. In this particular hotel room, when the men spoke, everyone would be quiet and listen. When the women did, a chorus of people would speak over, under, through. Then Helen walked into the room and Gillian began chanting, “Gur-i, Gur-i, Gur-i,” like a sporting event. When Helen spoke, everyone was quiet for her. CWILA started soon after and of course I joined.”

– Ali Blythe’s debut book of poems, Twoism, undresses the accidents and injuries of desire and gender. Ali is also the judge for the 2015 University of Victoria Diversity Writing Contests http://www.uvic.ca/library/featured/events/writingcontest/index.php



2014 Statements.

Photo Credit: Nigel Dickson

Photo Credit: Nigel Dickson

Lawrence Hill, CWILA member

“As a Canadian and a writer, I applaud CWILA for insisting on equality for women and their words. Feminist advocacy is not just the job of women. We all benefit by ensuring that female perspectives are heard and respected, and that women are celebrated throughout our literary landscape as writers, publishers, jurors, critics, scholars and readers.”

– Lawrence Hill is the bestselling author of The Book of Negroes.

Rita Wong, CWILA Member

Rita Wong“CWILA encourages and facilitates necessary dialogues regarding ongoing and worsening inequities of gender, race, class, and more. If we have any hope for a peaceful shared future in a world of increasing climate instability and inequity, it involves respecting and honouring women’s work, women’s words, brought into action through public and grassroots engagement. I joined CWILA because it is part of what Naomi Klein calls “the unfinished business of liberation” in This Changes Everything–namely, the process of “rebuilding and reinventing the very idea of the collective, the communal, the commons, the civil, and the civic after so many decades of attack and neglect.” Women–writers, thinkers, activists–have a key role in this rebuilding.”

– Rita Wong walks and writes for water and peace.

Lisa Hartley Photography

Lisa Hartley Photography

Sandra Djwa, CWILA Member

“I joined CWILA when it began because I felt it was essential to have a collective where we can share our views and experiences and undertake research on how women are actually functioning in the Canadian literary world. It helps immeasurably – in the sense of being forewarned – to have gender and diversity statistics for reviewing, awards, major prizes etc. When I Iearned I was short-listed for the Governor-General’s award for a biography of P.K. Page, my first action was to check CWILA statistics for Non-Fiction.”

Sandra Djwa is a Canadian writer, critic and cultural biographer. Her latest book Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page won the 2013 Governor General Award for Non-fiction.

Kathryn Mockler

Kathryn Mockler, CWILA member

“If we don’t know a problem exists—how can we fix it? CWILA is an essential organization that keeps Canadian publishers, editors, and reviewers accountable for their choices with hard data from the annual CWILA gender count. CWILA also supports feminist review culture through its Critic-in-Residence program. As a writer and publisher, I support CWILA because I want to be part of a literary community that is open and diverse and that acknowledges inequity and seeks to change it.”

Kathryn Mockler is the author of three poetry books and is the Toronto editor of Joyland and the publisher of the online literary & arts journal The Rusty Toque. She teaches creative writing at Western University.

QWF logoQuebec Writers’ Federation (QWF), CWILA member

“The Quebec Writers’ Federation (QWF) plays an important role in the life of the Quebec English-language literary community as an arts presenter and professional and community educator, as well as the representative of Quebec’s English-language writers. We are invested in providing tangible community support for the promotion and encouragement of English language literary arts within the province of Quebec. Since we are committed to equal opportunities for our own writers, we applaud CWILA’s endeavours to highlight those practices that have marginalized both women writers and the attention they receive in the practices of reviewing in both French and English in Canada. It is our mutual hope that such attention will result in fairer reviewing practices and a necessary change in the Canadian literary scene.”

Carole GersonCarole Gerson, CWILA member

“I support CWILA’s wonderful dedication to the ground-level counting that is the only way to test and contest lip-service to gender equality in the realm of publication. Having focussed some of my own research on enumerating women’s contributions to early Canadian literary periodicals and anthologies, I fully appreciate the hard work involved, and I’m thrilled to see this methodology taken up again.”

– Carole Gerson, English Professor, Simon Fraser University, author of Canadian Women in Print, 1750-1918.

Photo Credit: John Londono

Photo Credit: John Londono

Sean Michaels, CWILA Member

“Systems of power are so hard to change. Organizations like CWILA can offer the floodlights and fanfares to help make these transformations happen. We need monitors for our progress, bulwarks against regression, lookouts in the fray. Thank you.”

– Sean Michaels is a Montreal-based writer and critic. His debut novel, Us Conductors, was awarded the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Photo credit: Joy von Tiedemann

Photo credit: Joy von Tiedeman

David Chariandy, CWILA member

I joined CWILA because of its inspiring and informed commitment to advancing genuine equality in the literary arts at all levels — writing, publishing, distributing, and reviewing. In a very short while, this grassroots institution has emerged as a bold and demonstratively effective investigator of the often unspoken hierarchies that continue to shadow contemporary cultural work. I’m honoured to be a member of CWILA; and I urge everyone who yearns for a fairer and better world of literature to join.

– David Chariandy, Fiction Writer and Associate Professor of English, Simon Fraser University

Margery Fee, CWILA member

“CWILA’s work shows how the literary institution foregrounds some literary works and overlooks others. In scrutinizing whose writing gets published and reviewed and in disentangling discourses of “great” and “award-winning” literature to reveal the economic and social forces that underlie such judgements, it provides us all with useful ways to think about literature in Canada.”

– Margery Fee is Editor of Canadian Literature and professor of English at the University of British Columbia

Sue SinclairSue Sinclair, CWILA member

“I joined CWILA because I was excited that writers cared enough about a gender gap in Canadian critical culture to band together, name it, and try to do something about it.  We need to hear those missing voices, need to make room for them in the conversation.”

–  Sue Sinclair is a poet, mother and past CWILA critic-in-residence, who recently completed her PhD in philosophy.

Photo Credit: Sarah Carney, CBC

Photo Credit: Sarah Carney, CBC

Sonnet L’Abbé, CWILA member

“I support CWILA because the work of sustaining women’s strong voice in public discourse is ongoing. Culture isn’t static; there has been, and will be, no moment when we can say, okay, things are “equal” for women now, so we can stop thinking about it. The whole #gamergate thing is a clear example of the current climate around women’s representation in media and the hostility women face when they try to confront it. Women need to maintain professional networks, keep communication channels amongst themselves open, and have spaces where they can come together and take action on their own behalf. CWILA provides that space and those networks.”

– Sonnet L’Abbé, Ph.D. is the author of two collections of poetry, A Strange Relief and Killarnoe and is the 2014 guest editor of Best Canadian Poetry. L’Abbé has taught at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and at the University of British Columbia, and in 2015 will be the Edna Staebler Writer-In-Residence at Wilfrid Laurier University.

smaro uncroppedSmaro Kamboureli, CWILA Member

“These days I think in terms of “before” and “after” CWILA. Before CWILA there were only ad hoc attempts to monitor the pulse of the cultural industries regarding the voices of women; since CWILA there has been a sustained engagement with the diverse issues that concern, and affect, women in the literary arts. What’s more, CWILA is not just interested in the cold logic of numbers—how many women are published or reviewed, for example—no matter how vital such figures are; it is also a hive of cultural and intellectual activity about gender issues that are of concern to everyone, a community that I am proud to be part of.”

– Smaro Kamboureli is a Professor and the Avie Bennett Chair in Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto, and a Board Member of NeWest Press, where she has served as an Editor since the early 1980s.

Elee imageElee Kraljii Gardiner, CWILA member

“I joined CWILA because of the idea of collecting empirical data on publishing. It’s one of the best ways to hold a mirror to our literary community and decide if we want to change. I’ve stayed a member of CWILA because of the conversations and connections. In a very short time the organization has become a rich resource – a sort of depot on the internet where we can interrogate and contend with issues of inclusion, feminism and social justice in a literary context.”

– Elee Kraljii Gardiner is the director of Thursdays Writing Collective and the coeditor with John Asfour of V6A: Writing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2012)

Vessios Photography

Vessios Photography

Renée Sarojini Saklikar, CWILA member

“I was heartened and inspired by this group of writers, working hard to open up, and to make more inclusive, our shared literary culture.”

– Renée Sarojini Saklikar writes thecanadaproject, a life-long poem chronicle. She is an award-winning poet and author of children of air india, un/authorized exhibits and interjections (Nightwood Editions, 2013).

Photo credit: Mandy Heyens

Photo credit: Mandy Heyens

Jonathan Ball, CWILA member

“What the CWILA count encourages more than anything, it seems to me, is attention. The act or art of paying attention. In this way, it facilitates real change by motivating readers and reviewers to make actual, incremental shifts in their attitudes, and offering a broader context for a greater sense of personal, social, and cultural responsibility.”

– Jonathan Ball is the poetry reviewer for the Winnipeg Free Press and the author of five books: Ex Machina, Clockfire, The Politics of Knives, John Paizs’s Crime Wave, and Why Poetry Sucks: An Anthology of Humorous Experimental Poetry (co-edited with Ryan Fitzpatrick). Visit him online at www.jonathanball.com, where he writes about writing the wrong way.

Photo Credit: Ayelet Tsabari

Photo Credit: Ayelet Tsabari

Catherine Bush, CWILA member

“It’s so important to make space not just for the creation of a female literature but for a critical conversation about it. I mean critical in the broadest sense. For our work to live we need to hear about it and write about it and talk about it. On the one hand, it’s crazy that the CWILA count is necessary. On the other hand, it is necessary and we need to support it. CWILA makes room for a conversation about women’s writing that is essential to the vibrancy of all literature in Canada. This is a room I want to live in. Viva CWILA!”

– Catherine Bush is a novelist, most recently of Accusation, and coordinates the University of Guelph’s Creative Writing MFA.

Photo Credit: University of Victoria photo services

Photo Credit: University of Victoria photo services

Lorna Crozier, CWILA member

“In the ‘80s  the Feminist Caucus of the League of Canadian Poets did a count similar to CWILA’s but with fewer magazines. The results, which exposed the inequalities in the publishing world, were expected but nevertheless shocking and finally disheartening. Though the figures were published, very little changed, and the disparity remained over three decades. Now, however, CWILA is making a difference. In its correspondence, you see many reactions from those that get to choose who makes it into print and what books get reviewed. There’s been anger and embarrassment from editors and reviewers, but also, among many, a desire to change. That gives me hope. Above my desk I have a quote circulated during the ‘70s and attributed to a pioneer woman: 
“We had to make the quilts fast so our children wouldn’t freeze. We had to make them beautiful so our hearts wouldn’t break.” That’s what CWILA means to me. There’s the same hard work and practicality—that’s the start—then there’s the beauty of women of various ages and literary experience working together to make all our lives better, readers as well as writers, teachers as well as students, the old as well as the young. I’m proud to be a part of it.”

– Lorna Crozier is an Officer of the Order of Canada and the recipient of three honourary degrees for her contribution to Canadian literature. She has won several national awards for her poetry, perhaps most significantly two Pat Lowther Awards, which pay tribute to that wonderful poet who was murdered by her husband. It’s a reminder of the ongoing violence against women. Lorna’s latest book of poetry, The Wrong Cat, will be out next spring. In the fall The Wild in You, a poetic collaboration with the photographer Ian McAllister will be published by Greystone Press. It’s a book that advocates the protection of the almost pristine wilderness called The Great Bear Rainforest.

Photo credit: www.bluebesos.com

Photo credit: www.bluebesos.com

derek beaulieu, CWILA member

“CWILA provides a vital resource for every writer; a chance to see how the landscape we create is reflected back to us. CWILA’s work is vital everyday; studies and discussions, residencies and interviews. CWILA is the way we learn about who we all are.”

– derek beaulieu is the author or editor of 15 books, the most recent of which is kern (Les Figues press, 2014). He is the publisher of the acclaimed no press and is the visual poetry editor at UBUWeb. Beaulieu has exhibited his work across Canada, the United States and Europe and currently teaches at the Alberta College of Art + Design. He is the 2014-2016 Poet Laureate of Calgary, Canada. He can be found online at www.derekbeaulieu.wordpress.com

Ayelet Tsabari, CWILA member

Photo cred: Elsin Davidi

Photo cred: Elsin Davidi

“I joined CWILA because there’s strength in belonging to something larger. This is how you make an impact, and how you bring the margins to the centre. CWILA doesn’t just celebrate diversity in the literary culture; it fosters a critical, unapologetic discussion about gender and racial disparities in the literary landscape in Canada. It’s a conversation that needs to happen. The idea of power in numbers is also what makes CWILA’s annual count so meaningful. The counts tells us a story in numbers; it maps patterns and trends in a way that is hard to dispute, and hard to turn away from. It’s in your face and it makes a difference.”

– Ayelet Tsabari is the author of The Best Place on Earth (HarperCollins). She teaches creative writing through the University of Toronto.

Lynn Coady, CWILA member

Photo Credit: Jason Franson

Photo Credit: Jason Franson

“I support CWILA because social progress never occurs on its own–even large, well-intentioned communities wishing for change (such as we have in Canadian arts and letters) doesn’t make change happen. Progress requires a dedicated group of people who aren’t afraid to shake up the status quo and point out the mistakes and misapprehensions of even the well-intentioned. Progress requires we get angry, and not be afraid to make our friends a little bit angry too from time to time.”

Lynn Coady is the author of six acclaimed works of fiction, the most recent of which, Hellgoing, was awarded the 2013 Scotiabank Giller prize, Canada’s most coveted fiction award. Her novel The Antagonist was also nominated for the prize in 2011, and her books have been published in the US, the UK, Germany, France and Holland.  She is a widely-published essayist and co-founder of the magazine Eighteen Bridges and is currently working in television.

Photo credit: angela rawlings

Photo credit: angela rawlings

Sachiko Murakami, CWILA member

“I joined CWILA because I need female and feminist perspectives in my literary community. I am proud to be a member of an organization that amplifies women’s voices, supports much-needed female critics, and shines a light on the enduring and damaging gender gaps in our field. “

– Sachiko Murakami wrote the poetry collections The Invisibility Exhibit (2008), Rebuild (2011), and the forthcoming Get Me Out of Here (2015). She has been a literary worker for presses, journals, and organizations across the country. Sachiko lives in Toronto where she is an MFA candidate in the Digital Futures program at OCADU. She’s online at sachikomurakami.com

SWC_by Mel Hattie

Photo credit: Mel Hattie

Shannon Webb-Campbell, CWILA member & 2014 Critic-in-Residence

“I joined CWILA to have a sense of community, a safe space, and roots to grow out from. Feminism is integral to CWILA, and our voices are essential to the Canadian literary landscape.”

– Shannon Webb-Campbell, winner of Egale Canada’s Out in Print Award, is critic-in-residence for Canadian Women In Literary Arts 2014. Still No Word (Breakwater Books, 2015), will be her first book of poetry. She is earning her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia and lives in Halifax.