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The year of ‘reading women’

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What started as a small initiative by an American literary journal has snowballed into a worldwide movement. Publishing houses across the world are celebrating what they term as the ‘Year of reading women’. In order to address male writers’ dominance in the literary universe and to shift focus on female authors, readers and publishers are taking their own small steps in giving a platform to female writers.

Inspired by 2014 being the year of reading women, Indireads, a Toronto-based e-publishing house started in early 2012, launched ‘She Reads South Asia’ campaign on International Women’s Day this year with the aim of reading, discovering and supporting women writers from South Asia. The goal of the campaign is to bring together readers and writers from the region and to promote women writers.

In an e-mail interview, Naheed Hassan, founder of e-publishing house Indireads, talks about the campaign.

Excerpts:

How many women writers are a part of this campaign?

Currently more than 30 women writers from the region have expressed an interest in the initiative. Senior writers such as Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Indu Sundaresan and Shobhaa De and well-known writers such as Anuja Chauhan, Milan Vohra, Shobhan Bantwal and Rupa Gulab, have all expressed their support. And then we have many new writers in all genres, who are all in the process of establishing themselves and their writing.

Are there writers from smaller Indian cities? Do you see this campaign as an effective platform for women writers from tier-2 cities?

‘She Reads South Asia’ is a social media campaign and the platforms we use are Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads, as well as our own website. Therefore, there is no barrier in terms of access – either for interested readers, or for writers wishing to promote their books. Many of the newer writers are from all over South Asia, from Bangalore to Bhatinda. No matter where you are based, you have an equal opportunity of getting an audience. For instance, Jaya Murty, author of Canvas of Dreams is based in Vizag. We are also actively pursuing women writers from other South Asian countries as well.

How did the idea to promote women authors come up? What is the objective?

The idea came about when publishers across the world declared 2014 as the Year of Reading Women and by a Twitter campaign launched by writer Joanna Walsh called #Readwomen2014. We decided that we should have a South Asia-centred campaign for readers and women writers. There are so many wonderful writers from the region - both established and upcoming – and this was a great opportunity to initiate a campaign that would highlight women writers and their contribution to South Asian literature. We also plan to use this opportunity to showcase South Asian women authors to a western audience. We hope to have some Twitter events featuring our women writers.

Will this be an ongoing campaign throughout the year? How are you planning to execute this idea?

‘She Reads South Asia’ will be an ongoing platform. Currently, we are reaching out to women writers, bloggers and reviewers. From next month, we will begin author interviews, to be held live on Facebook and Twitter, giving readers a chance to interact with authors. Writers can find us online on our website www.shereadssouthasia.

com, Facebook page: She Reads South Asia and Twitter handle @SheReadsSA. We plan a mix of old and new women writers, giving readers the opportunity to connect with their favourite authors, as well as to discover new ones. We will also be doing giveaways and contests with the books of our featured authors.

How are these writers selected?

There is no selection process. We are reaching out to as many authors as we can at our end and encourage writers to reach out to us as well. All authors will be featured once our weekly interviews and events begin. Interested writers should contact us via our Facebook page or on Twitter.

Being present in the e-book segment, are there plans to get into print publishing?

Going forward, we would like to partner with publishing houses and launch competitions and challenges that could then be published by our partner agencies.

There are so many wonderful writers from South Asia and this was a great opportunity to initiate a campaign that would highlight women writers

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