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International Women’s Day: “Women on the Edge” next week

Written by Jenni Calder, Scottish PEN, co-organiser of ‘Women on the Edge’ On 6 March six writers are getting together at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities to talk about ‘Women on the Edge’. The all-day event marks International Women’s Day (on 8 March) and has now become an annual […]

February 26, 2015

Written by Jenni Calder, Scottish PEN, co-organiser of ‘Women on the Edge’

On 6 March six writers are getting together at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities to talk about ‘Women on the Edge’. The all-day event marks International Women’s Day (on 8 March) and has now become an annual collaboration between Scottish PEN and IASH. All the writers are women, but this is far from being a women only event. Experiences of being ‘on the edge’ geographically, socially, emotionally, psychologically are shared by all. They may have for women, still on the margins of so many aspects of life, a particular intensity, but they are not exclusive.

Our writers on 6 March reflect a wide range of experience, interests and genres.  Sara Maitland has written richly and strikingly about her choice to live remotely and alone, most recently in Galloway. Her book Silence is a moving and profound examination of alternatives to a world of noise. Linda Cracknell‘s fiction often concerns women cut off from the usual supports, and her recently published Doubling Back is an empathetic engagement with landscape and memory which tests endurance both physically and emotionally.  Denise Mina is one of Scotland’s most interesting and thoughtful crime writers, examining the lives of women working in spheres dominated by men, and of women pushed beyond the bounds of what is considered ‘normal’.  Cynthia Rogerson is a Californian who has lived in the Scottish Highlands for 30 years, where her recent fiction is set. She explores communities at a distance from the mainstream, and individuals hemmed in by limited opportunities and conventional expectations.  Elizabeth Reeder, from Chicago but now living in Glasgow (the two cities have a lot in common), writes about women challenged by unconventional circumstances. At the centre of her novel Ramshackle is a young girl struggling with identity and loss, forced into independence. Jenni Fagan‘s remarkable first novel The Panopticon similarly features a fifteen-year-old misfit, a young girl brought up in care, pummelled by ‘the system’, driven to many outer edges. Jenni is currently writer-in-residence at the University of Edinburgh.

So, six very diverse writers gathered for a day to address wide-ranging interpretations of experience ‘on the edge’. They’ll be reading, discussing and exchanging ideas with what we know will be a highly engaged audience. There will be plenty of opportunity for informal talk with the authors at coffee breaks and over lunch. The day will be chaired by Jenni Calder, past president of Scottish PEN, and Faith Pullin, convenor of Scottish PEN’s women’s group. It all takes place at IASH in Hope Park Square, Edinburgh, from 10.15 (refreshments available from 9.45). It’s free, but you’ll need to book at  iash.ed.ac.uk.

You can listen to audio interviews with the writers involved in this event here.