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Nasty Women

Visiting Speaker: 404 Ink’s “Nasty Women”

March 30th, 2017 by katharina_dittmann | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker: 404 Ink’s “Nasty Women”
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On March 23, the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication and the Stirling Centre for Gender and Feminist Studies organised a launch event for 404 Ink’s first book publication, Nasty Women. We welcomed our very own Laura Jones and Heather McDaid, founders of alternative indie publisher 404 Ink, as well as Claire Heuchan and Laura Waddell, two of the authors featured in Nasty Women. They came to talk about the idea behind the book, discuss issues of class and diversity within the publishing industry and offered some advice on working in publishing.

404 Ink’s Nasty Women 

Nasty Women is 404 Ink’s first book, published on International Women’s Day 2017. It is a collection of essays on the experiences and the issues women face in a world in which right-wing populism, racism and misogyny seem to be on the verge of becoming socially acceptable once again.

Heather and Laura talked us through the idea behind the book and the adventurous publication process: The essays in the book are meant to “celebrate and showcase women’s voices” and to give a platform to those women whose experiences are often marginalised in the mainstream media. The idea was to represent current issues (especially in the light of Donald Trump being elected as President of the United States), which led to a heavily shortened publishing schedule. Setting the publication date on International Women’s Day left Laura and Heather about four months to commission, fund, edit, and produce the book. The overwhelming demand for a book that gave voice to the experience of contemporary women became clear when the project was fully funded on Kickstarter within three days and widely exceeded the initial goal.

Panel Discussion

After Claire Heuchan and Laura Waddell read extracts from their essays titled Black Feminism Online: Claiming Digital Space and Against Stereotypes: Working Class Girls and Working Class Art, respectively, the panel discussed possible crises of confidence and the feeling of imposter syndrome. This was related to both the issue of diversity in publishing as well as Nasty Women’s unconventional publication process.

In publishing, following your intuition is almost always a good idea, and if your gut (and experience) tells you that there’s a market for your project, seize the opportunity and get to work! From an author’s point of view, Claire says that faith in your own work is derived from how it is received in the public context and that the commission for Nasty Women was “incredibly validating”. When it comes to the relationship between publisher and author, trust is the most important factor. According to Laura Waddell, it is very reassuring to work for a publisher who believes in the project and is committed to their authors. Basically, everybody suffers from imposter syndrome from time to time, you just have to push through it and keep learning.

On the subject of tackling issues of class and diversity, the panel discussed the problems of gatekeeping and how it can narrow the level of representation within publishing. When commissioning the essays for Nasty Women, Heather and Laura were careful not to tell their authors what to write, but to respect their voices and to interfere with the content as little as possible. Their policy is to put the author first and to give the whole publishing process a sense of transparency, which benefits both publishers and authors alike. Claire says that writing for Nasty Women has given her the opportunity to “hold the doors open for other people” and encourage other marginalised voices to make themselves be heard as well. While gatekeeping is still a big issue in the publishing industry, 404 Ink shows that it is possible to have a relationship of equality between publishers and authors.

Some final advice

After answering questions from the audience, the discussion ended with Laura, Heather, Claire and Laura offering some advice for starting out in publishing:

  • Don’t do the work all on your own! It is easier to share responsibilities and take advantage of other people’s skillsets.
  • Look at the structure! If you want to make an impact in editing, start by paying attention to how things are composed.
  • Be authentic! Be true to yourself and keep your main objectives in mind.
  • Things will go wrong! People make mistakes, so don’t take anything to heart and just work through it.

By Katharina Dittmann