Lorraine Currelley Talks BinderCon 2014: One Woman’s Story

Lorraine Currelley
Lorraine Currelley

OUT OF THE BINDERS: SYMPOSIUM ON WOMEN WRITER’S TODAY.

This past weekend OUT OF THE BINDERS: SYMPOSIUM ON WOMEN WRITER’S TODAY October 11th- 12th, 2014 took place at New York University & Cooper Union in New York City. Background: “Founded three months ago by a group of women who met in a bar in Manhattan to plan a conference. While they did not know what their conference was going to look like, they wanted it to be inclusive. A conference where women and non-conforming writers took center stage, where issues were discussed, and successes were celebrated. The response was overwhelming.”

Women arrived at BinderCon full of expectation and looking to connect with a community of women. Women came seeking affirmation, support and the need to know they’re not alone. While walking to a workshop I met a woman who flew in from Israel and others from various parts of the United States. Whether by plane, bus or train women showed up. Women came representing differing social, economic, political, faiths, non-faith, gender identities, non-gender conforming and ideologies. Did BinderCon meet their goals and aspirations?

It is not easy to plan a conference of this magnitude. It requires mindfulness, thoughtfulmess, committment to long work days of planning and organizing. Still, we dot out i’s and cross our t’s. thinking and rethinking decisions.

On Saturday Keynote speaker Leslie Jamison spoke of being excited about the evolution of women writers. The need for places for women to speak to each other. “She said,”Women are speaking in beautiful ways and being heard.” “We still have a long way to go.” “There are still gender inequalities.” “Gender imbalance is a major problem in publishing.”

There was talk of bylines being where the fight will take place, and how far we’ve gotten as women. The White guys are using tactics. Publishing is still largely a White guy’s club, with women still trying to break through the glass ceiling. Own your expertise. The future of media is merging. Be clear on why you do something and what you do. Educate yourself and remain alert. I added bylines will also tell us how far women and men of color have gotten.

Sunday’s luncheon featured Jill Abramson in Conversation with Emily Bell, Jill Abramson spoke about her experiences being one of the first women to navigate the gender biased towers of publishing, pay inequity and being fired from the New York Times. She spoke about
there being few changes in the inequalities of the past specifically changes for women. Sharing learned tips for nagivating the world of journlism and writing. ”Details are important and make a story lasting.” “Ask about your job rate and what others are getting paid.” The order remains in publishing’s Ivory towers. First women (White), and lastly women and men of color.

Jill Abramson would have done well not to introduce the Stanley, Shonda Rhimes, and Viola Davis fiasco. The attack by Ms. Stanley on actress Ms. Davis’s not being the classic standard of beauty like Hallie Berry. Ms. Berry being the dominant culture’s definition and criteria for Black beauty. Ms. Abramson colleague and friend, stating the importance of loyalty, and suggesting those of us speaking out against Ms. Stanley should just sit and learn. Ms. Abramson, Blacks have a long history/herstory of fighting injustices, racism, idignities and inequalities. We are not about to sit and digest more of the same. While loyalty is an important characteristic. Ms. Abramson, loyalty to racist character disparaging remarks don’t fly with me nor with other women of color.

Jill Abramson is the first woman to serve as Washington Bureau Chief, Managing Editor, and Executive Editor for the New York Times. Emily Bell is the director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. .

We Need Diverse Books: The Campaign that Matters for All Readers and Writers. Diversity in publishing and literature was the focus of this discussion. The White out of representation of peoples of color. The reluctance to publish books by peoples of color. There are the financial concerns, belief non persons of color will not purchase books about persons of color. There is the misguided belief that books of color are always lessons. White publishers don’t know ,are not interested or give thought to there being an audience for books by and about people of color. The reality is, persons of color want to see themselves not only in books but in a positive light. A light reflecting a myriad of lifestyles and interest. Panelist Dhoneille Clayton says, “Books help people gain empathy.” Panelist Stacy Whitman says,”If you’ve written or are writing a book that is universal in content, that’s all the better.” “Remember this is a business.”

Dear Agent: How to Write A Killer Query was a workshop offering invaluable information verbally and distributed in a pamphlet. Literary agent Janet Reid was down to earth, forthright and pulled no punches. Her candor was appreciated by all in attendance. Janet Reid, “Don’t beg!” “We literary agents make our livings from clients.” “Why are you begging?” Stop, with the if you’re not too busy to read my book.”” One of the jobs of an agent should be to free up the writer to write.”

Self-Promotion Online (No Sleaze Required) with Esme Wang was interesting and informative. It confirmed and affirmed much of the identical approach I utilize in my interaction with social media. Some important points were, know your values, writing voice and your readers. What is your mission statement? What do you want most to achieve? Protect your writing time. Educate yourself and pay attention. Did you know there are individuals on
the internet getting paid off of your the hard work?

If you Build It, They Will Come answered the question what does it take to build and sustain an organization? Panelists shared their experiences and suggestions for building organizations. I appreciated the diversity of approaches and insights. I welcomed meeting women in person for the first time and
know via social media.The panel included JP Howard, Kamy Wicoff, Sarah Gambito, Laura Pegram, Grace Aneiza Ali and Camille Rankine.

The Double Whammy: Women Writers of Color Discuss Challenges and Strategies with panelists Tayari Jones, Ayesha Pande, Malaika Aderno, Raquel Cepeda, Ava Chin, and Kavita Das. This panel focused on women writers of color and the challenges and difficulties of marketing and writing as a person of color. Malaika Adero and the panel shared strategies and recommendations. Tayari Jones, “Be a good citizen of a literary community, share information.” Other suggestions were: Practice your craft. Writing should be taken seriously. Prioritize. Inform yourself. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. If you don’t meet with success with your first book, and you don’t have an agent, keep writing. Don’t be discouraged. Panelists were available after the discussion. Giving of their time to respond, listen to concerns and offer information. I invite you to read articles on BinderCon by Raquel Cepeda, Tayari Jones and Malaika Adero. Please click on the links.http://djalirancher.com/2014/10/the-greatest-hits-from-the-double-whammy-panel-bindercon-and-then-some/#more-8143

Here are links to more articles on BinderCon. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/meghan-odea/the-first-annual-out-of-t_b_5983468.html

Do I think a concerted effort was made to bring together a diverse group of women and non-conforming writers? Yes. Efforts were made to be inclusive and to provide a diversity of workshops, discussions and panels to appeal to all interest. Do I think efforts were made to make everyone feel welcome and a part of this event? Yes. Efforts were made to make everyone feel welcome and a part of the event. Will
future BinderCon’s reflect a continued growth in their diversity representation? Will BinderCon need to employ more diversity strategies and insight to strengthen these numbers? Yes.

If success is measured in attendance, goodwill and enthusiasm of participants BinderCon succeeded. Individuals I spoke with had positive words for the conference. They came to connect and engage with other women. They came to learn, exchange information and ideas. Women traveling long distances insearch of connection and eager to converse. Did they achieve their goals? Yes. I believe there is a need for more venues and opportunities for women to come together
in an exchange of ideas across cultures and ethnicities. It is in
these exchanges we find empathy, compassion and understanding. Lip
service is not the answer. It’s going to take commitment and work.

Thank you and congratulations OUT OF THE BINDERS, Co-Chairs Leigh Stein and Lux Alptraum for your commitment to women and the writing community.

Thank you scholarship donors for this opportunity and for making a scholarship program possible to insure inclusion of all women. Your generousity made it possible for thirty-two (Scholars) to attend OUT OF THE BINDERS. Thanks to the volunteers, sponsors, facilitators of workshops, conversations and panels. Thank you my fellow BINDERS each of us has the potential to realize our dreams, goals and aspirations. It’s never to late! Know what? Dreams goals and aspirations continue throughout our lives. I’m looking forward to next year’s OUT OF THE BINDERS. Onward and upward! Remember, Leigh Stein’s words during her welcome and open address. “Never ever give up, no matter what!””I dare you to do the thing you’re not ready to do.” – Leigh Stein

To learn more about this author and her organization Poets Network and Exchange: https://poetsnetworkandexchange.wordpress.com

BinderCon 2014 Gallery
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©Lorraine Currelley 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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