Calling all Women Writers: Apply for the AROHO Orlando Prizes

January 31, 2010 is the deadline for the Orlando Prizes. These fiction, poetry, and non-fiction awards, that include $1000 and publication in the Los Angeles Review, are sponsored by A Room of Her Own Foundation. Not only is this a great opportunity to monetize writing, A Room of Her Own really gives a voice to the challenges women writers face. Learning about the backstory of A Room of Her Own really put the wind in my sails today.

During an evening session focused on midlife possibilities Mary [Johnson] told of her desire to write her story, asking the universe for “a room of my own and the opportunity to write.” At that moment Darlene [Chandler Bassett] found her passion, Mary found a benefactor, and A Room of Her Own Foundation found its beginning in the realization of Virginia Woolf’s words, “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write.” Recognizing a new calling, Darlene offered to fund Mary’s pursuit of a fine arts degree if Mary would help her create a template for an organization that would offer other women the privacy, finances, and creative support to pursue their work.

Just like that, A Room of Her Own Foundation was born. “I decided I would finance Mary’s art, and if I could do it for her, we could do it for other women,” Chandler Bassett said. Together they developed a model for a foundation which would give creative women the money and space they needed to pursue their creative vision.Today Johnson holds an MFA from Goddard College in Vermont, and is currently writing the memoir of her years working with Mother Teresa, tentatively titled An Unquenchable Thirst: One Woman’s Extraordinary Journey of Faith, Hope, and Clarity.

This touching story reminds me of the warm feeling I felt just days ago when SheWrites, another stalwart organization for women writers, e-mailed with a subject line that read, “Tried for Baby, Had Book Instead.” While the e-mail was about an author who started out on one path creatively, but ended up on another, the subject line reminded me that moms-to-be weren’t the only ones who had a community of doulas. Despite hardships faced by women writers, women have resisted and created a way out of no way to be the nurturing supportive systems that have led to women achieving their dreams. For this, organizations such as SheWrites and A Room of Her Own owe our thanks.

But, in the words of Jesse Jackson, “The fight for freedom isn’t free.” A Room of Her Own is famous for doling out The Gift Of Freedom Award, the largest award for women writers in the US. But the dismal funding climate has meant that this $50,000 award is on hiatus. Having raised more than $650,000 for women writers already, the organization is still in the fundraising process for 2011’s award. So, if you are not a woman writer yourself and are thinking about ways to monetize women’s writing, donate to A Room of Her Own.

Happy submissions and giving!

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