Roomie Carrie Schmidt reviews Women’s Words: An Anthology.
For the past twenty years, the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Extension has offered summer writing workshops for women. This anthology is an astonishingly apt representation of work produced through those workshops; it captures the spirit of a workshop environment: the pieces (poetry, non-fiction, fiction) are brief and the content is varied in tone, subject matter, and quality. The editors of this collection were deft and thorough.
The work of over seventy-five women is represented here; providing a fair review of a work featuring so many diverse voices is difficult. There are pieces that made me immediately note the author’s name so I could search for more of her work. There was one piece I described in great, excited detail over the phone to my mother during a conversation about birth and loss: the words in this anthology are about sparking conversation, continuing a dialogue—telling a story. Telling many stories. And, inevitably, there was work that made my eyes glaze over—I am not keen on writing about writing and there are several pieces in here about writing.
But even within those were wise words; a crisp essay by Eunice Scarfe summarizes the spirit of these workshops and the act of writing in general: “To write does not depend on education, occupation, age, gender or intellect. It depends on choice. You choose to write, or choose not to write.”
This is, ultimately, an inspirational text. And I don’t mean inspirational in that you can update your Facebook status with a pithy quote, or put it on a magnet on your fridge while murmuring “how true.” Well, you can if you like, of course. It’s inspirational in that once upon a time, these stories and poems didn’t exist, but now they do—these women put pens to paper (or fingers to keyboards) and this anthology is the tangible proof of “doing” rather than thinking “hmm, maybe I should write.” Whether through quick stolen moments or hours of anguished toil/fevered bliss, these writers wrote, and that is the inspiration. Some of the writers whose work is fea-tured here have names that are instantly recognizable as solid contributors to modern Canadian literature; others may one day be recognized, and perhaps for others this is the only time they will see their names in print. And there’s something kind of fantastic about that.