Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A Society for Woman (and men too) by Ann Evans

I'm sure that quite a few Sassies are also members of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ). It's the UK's longest-established Society for professional woman writers and has members based all around the globe.

It was founded in 1894 so next year sees it's 120th anniversary. Oddly enough it wasn't founded by a woman. It was newspaper proprietor and entrepreneur Joseph Snell Wood who recognised the need for women journalists back in those Victorian times to have their own organisation that supported them and which could establish and safeguard their rights.

And so he established the Society of Woman Journalists. In 1951 it changed its name to the present title, adding in the words 'Women Writers' to meet the changing needs of its membership. Then in 2004 the Society made the decision to invite men who are published writers to join as Associate Members.

The origins of the Society can be found in Sylvia Kent's book The Woman Writer published in 2010, but as a snapshot into the Society's history I found it interesting to note that in its early days a reception was arranged for its members to meet Sarah Bernhardt, one of the most famous actresses of all time. Within two months more than 200 women had applied to join.

Over the years it has attracted countless famous literary and society names. To mention just a few, members and Presidents have included Ursula Bloom, a prolific writer with some 500 books published, many under pseudonyms; crime writer Margery Allingham, Catherine Cookson, who has sold 100 million copies of her books; Richmal Crompton, famous for her Just William books;

Lady Longford was their Honorary Life President for 25 years. Joyce Grenfell was the Society's President for 22 years, followed by novelist Nina Bawden who was President from 1980 until her death in August 2012. 

It's an awe inspiring and possibly daunting line up, nevertheless the SWWJ – just like our SAS is friendly and welcoming.

I joined back in 1994. It actually comes as a bit of a shock to think I've been a member for so long. But it must be because I remember going to one of their Centenary celebration events as a new member.

The aims of the SWWJ include the encouragement of literary achievement (which I'm still striving towards!) the upholding of professional standards, and social contact with fellow writers and others in the writing business, such as editors, agents, publishers and broadcasters.

The social contact with fellow writers is something we all appreciate, although I must admit I haven't been to that many SWWJ events. However 18 months ago I went to a writers' retreat in Gozo near Malta which had been organised by a SWWJ member. That was fun with writing workshops every morning leaving the afternoons and evenings free to explore, get inspired – and of course lots of sand, sun, sea, cocktails and good food, to get those creative juices flowing.

A band of SWWJ folk in Gozo
There's lots of benefits from being a member. There are regular events such as workshops and visits to places of literary interest. There are seasonal get togethers which often feature big-name guest speakers. There are informal regional meetings. Just a few weeks ago, the Society held it's first Midlands regional meeting, and for me it was nice to put faces to names - and to meet up with a fellow Gozo writer again, Jean Morris.

Other benefits of being a member are that you receive the magazine The Woman Writer five times a year which is packed full of news, articles, competitions, markets and more. You receive a Press Card, which will get you into places and behind the scenes at countless events and venues - that alone is worth the very reasonable annual membership fee. Plus there are different levels of entry - but you can check out all the details of membership on their website.

There's a lot of benefits of belonging to the SWWJ. It might be right for you. Why not visit them at: www.swwj.co.uk And you can find them on Facebook.

Or visit my website: www.annevansbooks.co.uk


Ruth Symes said...

I gave a talk on screenwriting for the SWWJ a few years ago - what a lovely group, :)

Karen said...

What an informative post, Ann. I loved the Just William books when I was a child. Sounds a very friendly and fun group. I'll just have to count my pennies and see if I can afford to join another group....

Ann Evans said...

Thank you for your comments Ruth and Karen. Yes the society are a very friendly and welcoming group.

Ann Evans said...

Just noticed in the title I've put 'Woman' when I should have put 'Women'. Woops!

SouthernBelle said...
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SouthernBelle said...

What a Lovely Piece on the SWWJ Ann! It was great to meet you at the Midlands Meeting in Birmingham, Sue