My Inspiration: Debbie Taylor | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Mslexia, the national magazine for women writers, celebrates its 100th edition this month. Based in the centre of Newcastle, Mslexia publishes information about publishing opportunities and creativity, as well as original stories and poems. Here, its editor Debbie Taylor explains why she started the magazine.

What inspired me to start Mslexia was a row with my husband. Actually it was many rows, over many days. And weeks. And years. Correction: it was the same boring row, that had been playing repeatedly on a loop ever since our daughter was born.

It was a row about childcare, and whose turn it was to bath her, feed her, change her, burp her, dangle car keys in front of her when she woke in the middle of the night… Somehow it always seemed to be my turn.

Mslexia is a magazine for women writers, and I founded it 25 years ago because I was a woman writer who suddenly didn’t have any time to write. And I realised that other women writers with children were probably experiencing exactly the same frustrations as I was – and that this was having a serious effect on our literary careers.

So I did some research and discovered that I was right. Although girls talk, read and write earlier than boys, on average, and women massively outnumber men on English literature and creative writing courses, books by men dominated all the literary prize lists and reviews pages, and most of the top jobs in publishing were occupied by men.

What was going wrong? In the launch edition of Mslexia in 1999, I identified three causes of ‘mslexia’, a made-up word to describe the mismatch between women’s abilities as writers and their actual literary achievements. The first and most obvious problem was lack of time – which was what got me fired up in the first place. But sexism in the publishing industry was also a factor, along with a resulting lack of confidence, experienced by many woman writers, that their work was any good.

The purpose of the magazine was, first and foremost, to highlight these three factors that were holding women back – so that we could start to challenge them. The magazine contains information about publishing trends and opportunities, about writing craft and creativity. There are 20 different ways to submit work to the magazine too – for fiction writers and poets, journalists and memoirists – and 90 women are published in every edition.

Mslexia also runs free fortnightly workshops for subscribers: on everything from time management to Instapoetry – plus our famous Agent Extravaganza events, where novelists and memoir writers can pitch their manuscripts directly to literary agents looking for fresh voices.

And after 25 years and 100 editions of the magazine, I think we have made a difference, at least for the 28,000 women writers who have subscribed to the magazine, and the 6,140 we’ve published. Lack of time is still a major impediment in most women writers’ lives, but our recent survey of 2,349 writers to mark our 100th edition reveals that 62% felt more confident about their writing compared to ten years ago, and 39% felt there were more opportunities for publication.

We’ll never know exactly how many women have taken the first steps on their literary careers in the pages of Mslexia, but I’m proud to claim – because they’ve told us – that we’re often the first place they try when they start submitting their work. If you want to join them, this is the place to go.

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