This is a What's My Scene? post from Lefa Singleton Norton, founder of Women in Literary Arts Australia (WILAA).

Being a writer can feel like a lonely, tough path sometimes. When you’re hunched over your laptop struggling to find the perfect way to express what is inside your head, or when you’re reaching out to editors to put your words out into the world. For some writers, there are also additional challenges.

For women, there are often numerous challenges to overcome in fields of literature and writing. Statistics show us getting your work noticed is more challenging, women often find they have greater issues of socialisation to overcome, and various kinds of biases (some unconscious) exist. For women who also identify as a person of colour, LGBTQI, having a disability or other intersecting identities there are often additional barriers to inclusion.

During the Emerging Writers’ Festival in 2014, a roundtable was held with women writers from all over Australia. In the very short window of time the group had to gather and speak, we talked about the challenges facing women writers and came up with a manifesto. It had real, tangible suggestions for ways that the underrepresentation of women in literature could be addressed. You can read it in full here.

Flowing on from that session it became apparent that while there were many ways to tackle the challenges of women and non-binary identified writers, there was no central hub the community could go to for information and support. And thus WILAA was born.

It is our intention to be a nucleus of information for writers who fall outside the straight, white, cis-gendered male writer majority. We use an inclusive definition of ‘woman’ and ‘female’ and we welcome trans women, genderqueer women, and non-binary people. We are also aware that for many women there are intersecting issues around race, class and other aspects of their identity. Essentially, we recognise that not identifying (or being identified) as part of the majority in literature and writing can hamper an individual’s progress towards their goals.

We are working to draw attention to the opportunities that exist for people in this community, and to advocate for their needs where those needs are not being met. We have a website that links to as many of the amazing programs and projects for women writers as we can find, so we can be a one-stop-shop for women looking for community or support. We have committed to one big project for 2015: to undertake a count of women at literary festivals and public events around Australia. We know women are underrepresented in the media, but what about on stage?

At present our focus is on our survey of writers to ask about their experiences. We want to hear from as many people as possible about how they feel, and what ideas they have as to how WILAA can best represent and advocate for women and non-binary identified people. Get in touch, tell us about you and your work, and connect with other writers facing similar challenges. WILAA is just at the beginning of its journey, and you can help us draw the map for where it should go.

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Sam van Zweden was Writers Bloc’s Online Editor from 2013 - 2015. A Melbourne-based writer and blogger, her work has appeared in The Big Issue, Voiceworks, Tincture Journal, Page seventeen, and others. She’s passionate about creative nonfiction and cross stitch. She tweets @samvanzweden.