It’s not that complicated: a partial list of eminent women writers

by Kathryn Heyman

So, my correspondence with the darling ruffians over at LRB has continued. They seem puzzled as to how to find the lady writers, and bemusedly wrote that “Men vastly outnumber women among writers proposing pieces”.
Oooh, I said – so you don’t commission the pieces? You wait for them to come to you?
Errr, no.
“Just to clarify, the vast majority of pieces that we carry are commissioned by the editors. I mentioned the proportions by gender among the unsolicited contributions only as evidence that more men than women actively seek to be published in journals such as ours”

In a conciliatory spirit, they said that perhaps some ‘positive discrimination’ might be called for.


So I sent this:

If the editors are commissioning the reviews you don’t need positive discrimination. You just need the editors to approach women. Below is a very incomplete list of  eminent, established writers and academics, one or two of whom would, I am sure, be very happy to write for LRB and most of whom outrank or equal most contributors you’ve had. For the record,  that list was drawn together from a five minute conversation, with very little intellectual effort involved.
By the way, we’ve just had a cursory glance at the current edition of New Writing, which is also drawing on writers and literary academics in the UK. There are six female contributors, six male and one of unknown gender. Paul, I want to applaud the space that the LRB inhabits; I want to celebrate the continuing insistence on giving serious literature serious attention. To produce a high quality literary journal is a major achievement. But it is no longer appropriate to continue positive discrimination in favour of men. I hope that you will have the courage to shift the template of the LRB…
I would suggest that as a start, an all female issue would be a bold statement of intent, effectively a statement on your willingness to  address the issues raised in the recent studies.

The list follows. Any other suggestions for the LRB?

Gillian Beer
Sarah Churchwell
Marina Warner
Lisa Appinganesi
Hilary Mantel
Hilary Spurling
Frances Spalding
Kate Grenville
Michele Roberts
Susie Orbach
Jane Rogers
Maggie Gee
Ali Smith
AL Kennedy
Jill Dawson
Christina Koning
Stephanie Cross
Louise Doughty
Kate Figes
Aminatta Forna
Rose Tremain
Carole Angier
Ellah Allfrey
Margaret Atwood
Ceilia Brayfield
Rachel Cusk
Bernadine Evaristo
Sally Cline
Ruth Padel
Anne Chisholm
Anne Enright
Helen Dunmore
Alex Clark
Linda Grant
Susan Sellers
Khamila Shamsie
Sarah Waters
Janice Galloway
Amanda Craig
Sarah Dunant
Polly Samson
Joanne Harris
Jane Harris