Curation & Community: Inside the Online Literary Magazine Women Writers, Women’s Books

The owner and managing editor of the online literary magazine Women Writers, Women’s Books, Barbara Bos discusses growing the community—and how to submit.
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The owner and managing editor of the online literary magazine Women Writers, Women’s Books, Barbara Bos lives with her family in a small village in Spain, where she is at work on her first novel.

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You've curated this space for women in the writing community for some time. What inspired the site?

Poet and writer Anora McGaha founded Women Writers, Women’s Books in 2011 with the idea of providing an online platform for women writers, by women writers. I became involved in 2013 and ended up taking over the site shortly afterward.

I always believed [in] and adhered to its initial motto, focusing on support more than anything, and grew it into what it is today. Although perhaps “grew,” in this instance, isn’t the right description; it’s been more like nurturing, giving women writers of all walks of life a voice. Providing inspiration and support for others. Not a day goes by when I’m not awe-inspired by stories and articles arriving in my inbox. It’s like watching magic.

Today your site isn't only a content hub, but an active community with a dedicated Facebook group of more than 14,000 members. Was that part of your original concept, or did it happen organically?

Yes, the actual community aspect was very much part of the original concept. It felt like it was something that was lacking at the time and Facebook seemed the best way to go. Some people advised me against the idea, that it wouldn't work, or would open itself up to abuse. That was my initial worry too; the internet can be a wonderful place, but online forums can be vicious.

However, the Facebook group developed into a place I hoped it could be, not defined by self-published, traditionally published, or genre [designations], but rather a place where women writers learn from each other and offer mutual support. A place where women writers feel they can ask questions without fear of being labeled or trolled. And also, a place not defined by being invite-only. I didn't want anyone to feel left out.

The group is monitored, but again, it doesn't need more than occasional steering. Simply pointing out that it's actually OK to just be nice seems to be enough; agree to disagree [is OK]. And the mutual support which flows from that is overwhelming and wonderful to see.

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You boast some impressive stats in your quantity and quality of contributors. What about Women Writers, Women’s Books are you proudest of?

MM Finck, who oversees our interview section, has interviewed some amazing authors for the site: Emily Giffin, Caroline Leavitt, Catherine Ryan Hyde, Jardine Libaire and Laura Dave, to name a few. And I shouldn't forget Isabel Allende. She was one of the first big names we featured in the beginning.

There is so much talent out there, and we have the privilege to share such inspiring and diverse pieces! Authors like Amy Impellizzeri, Kerry Lonsdale, Joanne Harris, Elizabeth Buchan, Hazel Gaynor, Liz Fenwick and Martha Conway have written several times for us. I love working with them. They're hugely supportive of other women writers.

What makes me incredibly proud is the fact that we have collaborated and continue to collaborate with other women writers’ organizations and initiatives. We played a tiny role in the #readwomen2014 hashtag, for instance, which became nothing less than a movement.

Beyond following your submission guidelines, what can you tell writers interested in contributing about the sorts of pitches you’re actively looking for?

We feature a wide range of writing-related articles, and the most important thing we look for in those is authenticity. That sounds like a cliché, but in the end of the day, all subjects have already been covered on the internet. There are countless articles about writing inspiration and writing tips, but it's authenticity that gives the piece its flavor. It's all about perspectives. Whether recently published, established author, or someone who's just started blogging, we all have a different writing voice, and someone else can learn from it. We also welcome pieces about lesser-known authors (such as Judith Kinghorn’s “Neglected Lady Novelists and Me”) and the rediscovery of women writers throughout history.

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