Monday, 4 September 2017

Our prose competition launches!

Our annual prose competition launches today with two major prizes: the East of England Prize and our National Prize for Women Writers over the age of 40.

Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney
(c) Rosalind Hobley
This is the fifth year our competition’s been running and this year we’re proud to announce that we don’t have one guest judge but two! Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney are the authors of A Secret Sisterhood: The hidden friendships of Austen, Brontë, Eliot and Woolf. They also co-run, a website that celebrates female literary friendship. They’ve written for the likes of the Guardian, the Independent on Sunday and The Times. Emily is a winner of the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, Emma is author of the award-winning novel Owl Song at Dawn, and they both teach at New York University, London. 

Emily and Emma will be looking for compelling voices from the entries, ‘voices that combine a sensitivity to the musicality of language with a story that holds the reader's attention from beginning to end. Narratives that are nuanced, complex and unusual will make us sit up and take note.’ 
The national award, generously sponsored by Hosking Houses Trust, offers women over the age of 40 the opportunity to win £1,000 and up to a month-long writing retreat at Church Cottage near Stratford-upon-Avon. 

The East of England prize offers the winner £600 and a mentoring session with Jill Dawson of Gold Dust. 

Both national and regional winners will be published in The Words And Women Compendium which will be launched on International Women’s Day, 8th March, 2018.
They will also have the opportunity to read at this event too.

All competition entrants will be offered a special discount for Gold Dust, the high calibre mentoring scheme for writers.

For more information on the prizes see our dedicated blog page  comp prizes and for details on how to enter see our dedicated blog page   comp entry details.

But in short: entries should be 2,200 words or under.  Fiction in any genre, memoir, life-writing, essays and creative non-fiction on any theme are all welcome. Extracts from longer works will not be considered. The competition is open for entries from the 5th September and the deadline for entries is 15th November 2017. Winners will be announced in January 2018.

Friday, 7 July 2017


Words and Women are working hard behind the scenes to create a raft of activities and celebrations for next year. We will release news of these in the forthcoming months.
In the meantime here are a couple of dates for the diary:

5th September we will be launching our annual prose competition with prizes worth over £1,600. Our guest judges are Emma Claire Sweeney and Emily Midorikawa, the authors of A Secret Sisterhood.

10th September – 1st October we will be running a Sunday series of women-only writing workshops in Norwich.

Details will be posted on this blog shortly.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Three Words

These words appear on a sheer white panel of polyester chiffon, which forms the focal point of a textile installation by Jamie-lee Linnitt and Evangeline Dauber created to raise awareness of domestic abuse. Linnitt and Dauber are studying for the BA in Illustration at Norwich University of the Arts and they began to collaborate  in their final year on the course, and together have produced a final piece which is brave, beautiful, carefully-considered and sensitive.
How to deal with disturbing subject matter, how to intrigue and draw people in and not have them turn away, how not to sensationalise or trivialise? These are questions that preoccupied the artists, known collectively as SHE KNOWS, as they began to shape the installation.
Bravely they chose to tackle the subject of domestic abuse by using that most domestic of materials – the textile. Also the most feminine of materials. Linnitt and Dauber knew they wanted to created a work which would be immersive, which viewers could walk through and round, which would lead the viewer in.  They wanted the work to be soft and beautiful to look at, in order to wrong-foot the viewer just as the abuser often wrong-foots the abused.

The installation is comprised of four large panels with two smaller panels sandwiched between. At the rear, is the single white panel with the three words. The large panels are made of silk habotai, hand-painted with procion dye. The marks, made by squidgies and brushes, are in purple and red, the colour of bruising. The smaller panels, made from silk viscose satin, are a deep red, patchy and various as fibres have been removed using a process called devoré. No figurative images but instead abstract, suggestive patterning. The panels are hung together in a way which echoes a family grouping. The larger panels hang from near invisible strings, so they float and have something shroud-like and ghostly about them. They  twist and turn as people pass as if they are twisting and turning from the viewer as if shy or frightened. The panels have the fluidity of skirts, of dresses, and remind the viewer of the female, the feminine.
The panels are in a symmetrical arrangement of twos with an aisle leading through the centre. So another association is made; this time with the banners which line either side of an aisle in a Christian church. From this it doesn’t take much to make a link too with weddings, with walking up the aisle to be married. Except there isn’t a priest at the altar but those three powerful words.
Linnitt and Dauber say they selected the words for the alliteration, but also that they convey the tactics an abuser may employ. Coerce, Control, Constraint. To the viewer too the words bring coolness. This is the language of academic studies, of the official document, legal papers, the police force. The font chosen is called ‘cocogoose’ and it is in bold. It was chosen for its clarity and because visually it suggests intensity and restriction.  The text contrasts sharply with the softness of the text-ile.
Three words.  Perhaps the most famous three words in the English language are I Love You and often, sadly, these can be the precursor to domestic abuse.
These artists are working in the tradition of Barbara Kruger (feminist slogans), Tracey Emin (fascination with words and textile), Louise Bourgeois (preoccupation with the body, pain, the textile and words).
The installation can be seen at the Norwich University of the Arts degree show, opening on the 27th June.
Accompanying the installation are information packs containing statistics about domestic abuse, contact numbers for help etc. These young women have considered everything, and should be applauded for creating a work which resonates.

Jamie-lee Linnitt and Evangeline Dauber as SHE KNOWS plan to sell artwork in order to raise money for selected charities. They also plan to hold their own exhibitions in the near future. Keep an eye out for their updates at, or via Instagram, @sk_co_. If anybody would like to talk to them about their work please contact at, or use the 'Contact' page on their website.
Jamie-lee Linnitt is 24 and currently living in Attleborough. Since rediscovering her love of textiles in the last year or so, it has become her main approach to creating work. Her dissertation focused on how effective the use of textiles is when communicating Feminist theories. Feminism is integral to her work and she is interested in all aspects, from body positivity to the treatment of women in varying cultures. 
Evangeline Rose Dauber is originally from Lincoln, but has been living in Norwich for the past few years studying Illustration. Her personal practice focuses on female empowerment and challenges the equality between genders. She likes to work mainly in pink and blue to push the stereotype of male and female expectations. Having only just found her feet in textile design, she has a lot more to give and  can’t wait to get started on further projects!
·      1 in 4 women in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes and 8% will suffer domestic violence in any given year (Crime Survey of England and Wales, 2013/14)
·      Globally, 1 in 3 women will experience violence at the hands of a male partner (State of the World’s Fathers Report, MenCare, 2015)
·      Domestic violence has a higher rate of repeat victimisation than any other crime (Home Office, July 2002)
·      Every minute police in the UK receive a domestic assistance call – yet only 35% of domestic violence incidents are reported to the police (Stanko, 2000 & Home Office, 2002)
·      The 2001/02 British Crime Survey (BCS) found that there were an estimated 635,000 incidents of domestic violence in England and Wales. 81% of the victims were women and 19% were men. Domestic violence incidents also made up nearly 22% of all violent incidents reported by participants in the BCS (Home Office, July 2002)
For help and advice about domestic violence please contact:

Monday, 29 May 2017

Going High - International Women's Day 2017

With many thanks to Tallulah Self for making this great film 
of our IWD event in Norwich City Centre.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Lijia Zhang on her novel Lotus: part 3 – Chinese Society

Below is Part Three of zhendegender ‘s interview with Lijia Zhang about her first novel Lotus  which centres on a young migrant woman eager to escape her life as a prostitute in China.

What does your novel convey about greater Chinese society, or about societies in general?

Every society has prostitution. There is a saying in China: once you have food and clothing you start thinking about sex.

Society has become hedonistic after Mao’s regime of sexual purity and sexual repression. China has become materialistic, restless. Other reasons for the growing sex industry include growing wealth, relaxed social control and the resulting growth in individual personal freedom. Plus of course, China’s population is increasingly mobile. Young migrant workers often can’t bring their wives with them or establish a relationship.

Prostitutes are real people, and I wanted to expose that. They are not always sexually appealing, but they know all the tricks of how to flirt and attract men. The oldest sex worker I met was a woman in her middle 60s. Another middle-aged sex worker had a grown-up daughter who was married. Some women really get stuck in the trade and cannot get out. Like any job, there are drawbacks. But their lives are not totally bleak either.

When she becomes a prostitute, Lotus has no idea about sexual health. Her clients pay more for sex without a condom, and one man even washes out an expensive “Golden Gun – Never Flops” condom for later use. What are the pervasive attitudes and challenges to sex education?

The legislation states sexual education should be taught in schools, but it is not compulsory and it is not enforced. It is not on the government’s list of priorities. There aren’t calls from the public for sexual education but there are non-governmental organisations providing information on a wide range of things, from HIV/Aids clinics to promoting openness about sexuality.

Many prostitutes are not educated about sexual health. Their bosses often tell them that it is ok not to use a condom, because they get more money that way. They will say, “it looks clean” and agree to sex without a condom. Many men will refuse to wear a condom.

One NGO promoting sexual health suggested prostitutes start using femidoms, because then the women themselves could have control of the contraception and they don't have to rely on the clients wearing a condom. But the prostitutes said they cannot use femidoms, because they are too big – in a raid, they will often swallow the condoms they have on their person, because condoms (used or unused) will be used as hard evidence by the police. But femidoms were too big to swallow so they would not carry them or use them.

The detail about Family Treasure washing out the condom for later use is true. I heard lots of stories like that. That brand, ‘Golden Gun – Never Flops’, is a real brand of condoms, you know!

Migrants tend to live on the outskirts of cities where they can find cheap temporary housing. They seem to occupy a liminal space between urban and rural life, where they find it hard to integrate. Lotus’s status as a migrant seems to compound her existing problems. How do migration issues compound women’s problems in China?

The Hukou system prevents migrant workers getting really good jobs. The Hukou is effectively China’s apartheid system. It is partly because of the Hukou that migrant workers and urban residents live such separate lives. In the novel, Lotus tries to become a salesperson, she even buys the clothing for it. But she cannot because she doesn't have the correct residence papers.

How does the legal position of sex workers reflect patterns of class-based oppression in China?

Most women come to prostitution through personal choice. There is very little trafficking, there are very few women who are sold into prostitution, there are not many pimps. However, there are some cases where the pimp is the woman’s husband or brother.

Prostitution is illegal. The government does not really know how to tackle the problem so the police do big raids and crackdowns. The police arrest as many women as they can. The police will use any evidence they can to prove the women are prostitutes. Condoms – used or unused – are considered hard evidence.

Crackdowns are a big problem. The police will beat up the women and force them to confess. If the woman goes unconscious, they will force her to drink water mixed with wasabi so they wake up. A woman I know was sprayed with a high-pressure hose with cold water, and then they put the air conditioning on. When she vomited, they made her eat her own vomit.

If they can prove that a woman is a prostitute, they will repatriate her, take her back home. Repatriation means that the woman will be sent back to her hometown in shame, and her family will have to pay the fine. That means everyone will find out the truth. They will do anything to avoid this. I know a woman who slept with the policeman but still had to pay the fine before they would let her go. They would rather borrow money to pay the fines, lose all their savings and go bankrupt, than be sent home in shame.

Note: Hukou is a national identification system which determines where citizens are allowed to live, and is used to control the movement of people between urban and rural areas. Access to schooling, healthcare, employment, and owning property all depend on where the individual’s Hukou is registered.


The interviewer is from Norwich, UK and is currently based in Beijing, China, where she teaches English Literature at a state university, and writes about gender and culture in contemporary Asia. Her writing has featured in various media outlets in China and the UK. Read more at

Lijia Zhang is one of the few mainland Chinese writers to write in English. Her first book was the memoir: Socialism is Great! A Worker’s Memoir of the New China