Publish date:

Remembering Kirk Polking: Author, Writer's Digest Editor, and Pioneer for Women in Writing

For Women's History Month, Writer's Digest remembers editor Dorothy Ann "Kirk" Polking (1925-2017), whose mark on the writing world and legacy for women writers live on today.

For Women's History Month, Writer's Digest remembers legendary editor Dorothy "Kirk" Polking (1925-2017), whose mark on the writing world and legacy for women writers live on today. 

Image placeholder title

Image from The Cincinnati Post, August 12, 1974, in an article called "Editor in the Air: Kirk Polking discovered a new language when she started flying" | Photographer: Max Samuelson

Starting in 1960, Kirk Polking became one of Writer's Digest's most memorable editors—for relentless dedication, for an unshakeable sense of adventure, for a deep knowledge of writing and publishing … and for the fact that she was a woman.

Born Dorothy Ann Polking in 1925, she would expand WD's circulation to more than 200,000 and establish it as the premier magazine for writers in the world, according to then-owner of F+W Dick Rosenthal. Beyond her work for the magazine, Polking authored more than two dozen books, served as director of the Writer's Digest School and president of the Cincinnati Editor's Association, editing Manage magazine, and earned many awards for her work, including a National Headliner Award from Theta Sigma Phi, a society for women professionals in communications.

Polking passed away on October 24, 2017. Since then, we have spent our days reflecting on her extraordinary works on writing, flight, exploration and more, but Rosenthal said it best:

Conscientious, fun-loving, religiously meeting deadlines, Kirk was also an adventurer. When she wondered how airplanes flew, she earned a pilot's license to learn firsthand. Not satisfied with that, she wrote a book on piloting which turned into four successful editions. Ever learning about everything from astronomy to zoos, she actually kept list of topics she and friends discussed over dinner to be sure she introduced new things to talk about at their next get-together. The world was her playground, and its people her friends.

Image placeholder title

Clipping from The Cincinnati Post, August 12, 1974, in an article called "Editor in the Air: Kirk Polking discovered a new language when she started flying" | Click the image to expand

Polking never outright hid the fact that she was a woman, but she used the pseudonym Kirk to limit stigma from her readers, both of WD and of her books. Her friend Jan Sherbin explained to Cincinnati.com: "She would tell you, 'Who would want to read a book on flying airplanes written by someone named Dorothy?'" How important, then, her leadshership has been for those of us who have come after—both women and men who have served as editors and staffers for WD in the decades since Polking wore the mantle.

At WD, it is our honor to follow in her prestigious footsteps, and to live up to the example she set—not only for writers, but also for anyone with a dream and the passion to pursue it.

Read more about Kirk Polking's legacy and the history of women in writing here.

Image placeholder title
Mark Anthony: On Destigmatizing Paranormal Communication

Mark Anthony: On Destigmatizing Paranormal Communication

Author Mark Anthony hopes to educate and normalize paranormal communication with his new spirituality book, The Afterlife Frequency.

Ways Animals Have Interacted With Writers Through the Centuries

Ways Animals Have Interacted With Writers Through the Centuries

Across the globe and spanning lifetimes, animals have always operated as more than simply animals within the stories they reside. Author Richard Girling discusses how animals have interacted with writers throughout the centuries.

Margaret Verble: On Combining Facts and Imagination in Historical Fiction.

Margaret Verble: On Combining Facts and Imagination in Historical Fiction.

Pulitzer Prize-finalist Margaret Verble discusses the process of writing her new historical fiction novel, When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 586

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

Creating Space to Ponder Your Bliss and Relying on Your Inner Compass to Guide Your Writing

Creating Space to Ponder Your Bliss and Relying on Your Inner Compass to Guide Your Writing

What do you do in a world perpetually in fast forward? You create spaces for contemplation. Author Terry Helwig offers advice on creating spaces to ponder your bliss and how to find your inner compass.

comfort

Small Comforts

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, write about a small comfort.

Gayle Forman: On Challenging Your Gut

Gayle Forman: On Challenging Your Gut

Award-winning author and journalist Gayle Forman discusses the start-and-stop process of writing her new middle grade novel, Frankie & Bug.

One Story: Market Spotlight

One Story: Market Spotlight

For this week's market spotlight, we look at One Story, a literary publication that showcases one story in each issue.

Peer vs. Pier (Grammar Rules)

Peer vs. Pier (Grammar Rules)

Let's look at the differences between peer vs. pier with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.