Monday, 13 April 2015

The SWWJ by Ann Evans

Founder of the SWWJ
Joseph Snell Wood

I'm wondering how many of Authors Electric authors are also members of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ). It's the UK's longest-established society for professional women writers and has members based all around the globe.

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

The aims of the SWWJ include the encouragement of literary achievement (which I'm still striving towards!) to uphold professional standards, to promote social contact with fellow writers and to defend the dignity and prestige of the writing profession in all its aspects.

The Society was founded in 1894 so last year celebrated its 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.

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. It now also welcome aspiring writers and non-writing Friends from across the publishing industry and beyond.

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, it's noted that in the 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. One of the Society's first speakers was George Bernard Shaw.

Over the years it has attracted countless famous literary and society names. To mention just a few, members and Presidents have included Richmal Crompton, famous for her Just William books; 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. 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 society – just like our Authors Electric is friendly and welcoming.

Currently, the SWWJ's President is Victoria Wood, CBE, who commented at the 120th anniversary, “It's one hundred and twenty years of creativity and communication.”
Pictured below with Victoria Wood are associate member Patrick Forsyth and member Pamela Payne.


 
Photo courtesy of Sylvia Kent SWWJ





There's lots of benefits from being a member. They run 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 which is nice because you get the chance to put faces to names, in-house writing competitions and lots more.

One event I went to was a week-long 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 and enjoy the sunshine, sea, good food and cocktails.

Me and some SWWJ members in Gozo

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.

The Society also runs Scriptora which is an assisted publishing service facility for full members. They also have a manuscript appraisal service for poetry, full length fiction, non-fiction articles and books, short stories, one-act plays and monologues.

There's a lot of benefits of belonging to the SWWJ. It might be right for you. Visit them at: www.swwj.co.uk And you can also find them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/SWWJ






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8 comments:

Wendy Jones said...

I'd never heard of this so thank you for bringing it to my attention. Sounds good and I will be looking it upm

Kathleen Jones said...

Thanks for the info Ann. I don't usually join anything that's women only (because I oppose all those men only institutions!), but this does seem interesting.

Susan Price said...

Victoria Wood is the president? I feel the need to genuflect.
I hadn't heard of it either. I like the sound of that press-card.
Thank you, Ann! Here's another one who will shortly be visiting the SWWJ website. (I hope they have one - they don't seem to do much to publicise themselves, do they?)

Lydia Bennet said...

I've never heard of it before either, so will check out the website. Thanks Ann!

Karen said...

A timely and informative post, Ann, as I'm just about to join the SWWJ. Thanks for all the info. :)

Ann Evans said...

Please do check it out. They have a website, a facebook page, and a twitter account. Kathleen - men are allowed to join as associate members now,which allows them full access to all the facilities and competitions etc., except (I think) being on the council. Sue, I use my press card all the time. It opens doors! And Karen - great news!

Lynne Garner said...

Have just printed off the application form and note I need two people to sponsor me. What a hassle.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I had never heard of this organisation before but it sounds interesting! Thanks so much for blogging about it.