Women Who Submit rocked this year’s Lit Crawl L.A., an annual street festival where thousands of book lovers hustle from one North Hollywood venue to the next to hear local authors read their work. As a new member of WWS, I was honored when group co-founder Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo invited me to read at the event this year, a feeling that deepened as I listened to the powerhouse line-up of women writers with whom I shared the stage. Lit Crawl gave me the opportunity to once again hear Lisa Cheby read from her chapbook, Love Lessons from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, including a poem nominated for a Pushcart prize. Iris De Anda’s delicate delivery of her poems only heightened their intensity, while Ashaki M. Jackson’s poems were as bracing as they were profound. The prose writers, Tisha Reichle and Vicki Vertiz, rounded out the line-up sharing poignant and compelling stories that captivated the audience. I read a brand-new essay–one I had never shared–but knew the safest place to make a debut was among friends of WWS.
In an effort to emulate WWS meetings, each reader began by listing the publications to which she had submitted her work and was immediately cheered on by the audience (at meetings, each member announces the moment she presses “send” and submits her work to literary journals and contests as everyone in the room applauds). Unlike WWS meetings, we cheered with plastic hand clappers, which made a normally subdued event feel more like a celebration. Though the reading took place on the patio of the Eclectic Restaurant, the noise from the busy dining room and street could not overpower the readers’ voices or the audience’s applause. Passersby stopped to listen, snap pictures and join an already packed house.
The Lit Crawl reading was one of the best of my writing life. At first, I was nervous to take part because my essay explored one of the most difficult moments in my failed marriage. Not only did I feel vulnerable sharing such a personal story, especially a painful one, but I also worried whether the new piece was “working.” The rousing applause after I finished reading was encouragement enough. But even more fantastic was the support I received from my fellow WWS members, like Tisha who beamed at me when I walked off the stage and said, “You killed it.”
— LitCrawl L.A. (@LitCrawlLA) October 22, 2015
Which brings me to what is most special about Women Who Submit: community. All writers need places where they can feel supported to take chances in their work and brave the challenges of an artistic life. But for women writers, who tend to be less assertive in building their careers, the support may be even more crucial. For that, WWS is priceless.
A recent transplant to Los Angeles from Boston, Laura Warrell has been published in Salon.com, Racialicious.com, The Writer and other publications. She spends most of her days hustling to one of three adjunct teaching positions to fill amazing young minds with literature and writing prompts. The other days, she thanks God for never having to endure another New England winter.