Cherilyn Parsons Talks Women Lit, a Program of the Bay Area Book Festival

In this post, Cherilyn Parsons describes Women Lit (a program of the Bay Area Book Festival), how it was founded at the height of the #MeToo movement, what type of events it offers, and more!
Author:
Publish date:

Cherilyn Parsons is the founder and executive director of the Bay Area Book Festival (launched in 2015 in Berkeley, CA) and its year-round Women Lit series. Previously, she was influential in building the field of non-profit journalism, notably at the Center for Investigative Reporting, and also has worked as a fundraiser, travel writer and book reviewer. She has a Master’s in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.

Cherilyn Parsons Women Lit

Cherilyn Parsons

(Writer's Digest Annual Conference)

In this post, Parsons describes Women Lit (a program of the Bay Area Book Festival), how it was founded at the height of the #MeToo movement, what type of events it offers, and more!

*****

Name: Cherilyn Parsons, founder and executive director
Organization: Women Lit, a program of the Bay Area Book Festival
Founded: 2018 (festival launched 2015)
Affiliations: Bay Area Book Festival
Fees: Membership starts at $50
Organization for: We help female-identified authors of all genres and career levels. Aspiring or newer authors can access our featured authors through our in-person events, including private receptions (in Bay Area), and online through chat and Q&A.

Elevator pitch for the organization: Women Lit is “where women’s words remake the world.” Founded in 2018 at the height of the #MeToo movement, Women Lit was created to elevate women’s voices and foster “literary community” among women. Our membership-based program creates a wealth of opportunities for aspiring writers: an A-list literary event series; gatherings with fellow book-lovers in beautiful places to connect with each other and renowned authors; an online lifeline that brings inspiration, builds bonds, and simply helps keep us sane; and resources such as a rich online newsletter, “Literary Lighthouse,” with interviews, profiles, book recommendations, links, and more.

What makes your organization stand out from other writing or literary organizations?

We focus on female voices and empowerment—elevating the voices of our featured authors and our members through the power of the written word. We also stand out in creating special opportunities for our members to connect with the featured authors, in cultivating what we call “literary community” among our members, and in providing high-quality experiences (which have included, for example, high tea at our Rachel Cusk event, or member cocktails after seeing Candace Bushnell). 

(Best Writing Community Websites 2020.)

At some membership levels we also have a special panel and Women Lit gathering at our annual Bay Area Book Festival; at this gathering, more than 100 female Festival speakers join our members—a great way for our members to network, ask questions, learn, and get inspired!

Cherilyn Parsons | Women Lit | Bay Area Book Festival

Do you offer live events for members?

Yes, when we’re not sheltering in place, Women Lit brings members together for live author events at stunning venues across the Bay Area. In addition to the more traditional settings, we offer special events, such as a luncheon with Jenny Offill (she moved from table to table!) and a brunch with Jennifer Weiner at a spectacular restored Victorian mansion. 

At higher membership levels we also offer intimate private salons where members meet to discuss a book over a fully catered dinner at a member’s home, with the author present. (Or, during lockdown, we do it via Zoom and send chocolate and the book to all participants!)

Do you offer virtual events for members?

Yes, since May 2020 we’ve offered live virtual events that our members can access for free, with live Q&A. Authors we’ve hosted recently (in addition to some mentioned above) include Patti Smith, Ann Patchett, Jane Smiley, and Julia Cameron, with LaRayia Gaston and others coming up. 

(Writer's Digest University.)

We now have members all over the world, so even when we’re able to do in-person events again, we’ll always have a virtual component so everyone can join however works best for them.

What do you hope writers will get out of your organization?

We hope writers will gain confidence in daring to express their own literary voice, tips and tools to improve their craft, creative inspiration, literary connections, and an expanded community.

If you could share one piece of advice with writers, what would it be?

Tough question: Women Lit’s featured authors have offered hundreds of great pieces of advice for writers! I’ll share something I’ve learned from them all: Find what you really care about (not what others think you should), what you uniquely can say (because no one else can), and do the steady, unglamorous work to complete it (“without hope and without despair,” as Isak Dinesen once said).

How to Not Write in the Pandemic, Early Days

How to Not Write in the Pandemic, Early Days

Novelist Rebecca Hardiman gives us an insight into the obstacles that cropped up for writers at the start of the 2020 global pandemic.

7 Tips for Writing Police Procedurals That Readers Love

7 Tips for Writing Police Procedurals That Readers Love

Mystery and crime novelist Russ Thomas explains how best to create a police procedural that will hook your reader and keep them coming back for more.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 560

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write an alien poem.

3 Tips for Writing with a Co-Author

3 Tips for Writing with a Co-Author

Shakil Ahmad provides the top 3 things he learned while co-authoring the book Wild Sun with his brother Ehsan.

Viet Thanh Nguyen | The Committed | Writer's Digest Quote

WD Interview: Viet Thanh Nguyen on The Committed

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen discusses the challenges of writing his second novel, The Committed, and why trusting readers can make for a more compelling narrative in this WD interview.

Dinty W. Moore: Poking Fun at Hell and Dante's Inferno

Dinty W. Moore: Poking Fun at Hell and Dante's Inferno

In this post, Dinty W. Moore shares what inspired his most recent book To Hell With It, what lesson it taught him, why writers should have fun with their writing, and more!

Arisa White: Putting the Pieces Together

Arisa White: Putting the Pieces Together

In this post, Arisa White shares how she was able to piece together her past with her present, how some works freed her to write, and more!

Adapt vs. Adept vs. Adopt (Grammar Rules)

Adapt vs. Adept vs. Adopt (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use adapt vs. adept vs. adopt with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.