Highlight on WWS-Pittsburgh: An Interview with Chapter Lead, Jenny Ruth

How would you describe your city and your local literary community?

Pittsburgh is a literary destination! Historically the poster child for America’s industrial revolution, we’re reinventing ourselves through an economy with education at its core. We nurture an inordinate amount of literary ventures like reading series, literary magazines, MFA programs, indie bookstores, read & critique groups, etc… If you’re a writer looking for a writing community, you’ll find many options.

How did you hear of Women Who Submit, and why were you drawn to start a WWS chapter in your area?

I happened to see a tweet from the main WWS account in my feed in the spring of 2015 shortly after attending a writing conference in D.C. It was at this conference that I heard a panel of lit mag editors discuss gender disparities in submission rates and the VIDA Count. I immediately connected to the idea and recognized the need to support women in their submission efforts. Seeing that WWS tweet was a great example of “right place, right time.” I started tweeting at it every time I submitted work!

In spring 2016 my family moved to Pittsburgh. I asked WWS HQ to put me in touch with the Pittsburgh chapter only to discover we did not have one. Totally surprised me because PGH seemed to have everything else. So I started the chapter here.

What personal experiences are you hoping to bring to the table as the chapter lead?

I have experience organizing people in a variety of endeavors, so my main goal is to facilitate a group that people find to be worth their time.

What can people expect to find at a WWS-Pittsburgh submission party?

We’re pretty chill, more like an aid station providing the space and supplies writers need. We meet in coffee shops on lazy weekend afternoons and get an early start to the week by crossing a bunch of stuff off our writing to-do lists. Often the women who attend do not know each other but find they have writing connections/friends in common.

What specific submission barriers do the writers in your chapter face, and how is your chapter addressing them?

Almost everyone says their trouble with submitting is “getting around to it.” I think it’s safe to keep toiling away at our projects, feeling satisfaction in accomplishing progress within each work. But at some point you have to summon the courage to say a piece is done and ready to go out into the world. I think the focus our parties provide, a time when you must work on submitting, is what women come for.

Do you have any submission success stories to share? 

The most unexpected aspect of our chapter so far is how often women come to prep and submit applications for funding. Our inaugural meeting welcomed a playwright applying for money to stage her play. Two separate parties hosted women looking for money to support book projects. So the women who attend are not producing a large quantity of submissions, but they feel productive with the complicated work they are accomplishing.

unnamed-1Jenny Ruth’s literary work has appeared or is forthcoming in Waxwing, Streetlight, The Hopper, and Gravel’s post-election blog “All Trumped Up.” Her professional writing as a college administrator won her awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

A native of rural Pennsylvania, Ruth now resides in Pittsburgh where she is a leader in the local chapters of Women Who Submit and Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America. She has previously worked as a freelance writer for community-based magazines, and as an events director for a local council of Girls on the Run, an after-school program with a feminist-based curriculum.

You can find her online at jennyruthwrites.com or @JennyRuth81.

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