A drizzly night. A cobblestone street. Three women meander through the historic center of Rome. They talk about a lot of things, including what women get to write about.
“There’s a sort of global conversation happening right now about women in every facet of life, whether it’s the workplace or sexual misconduct.” That’s Elizabeth Geoghegan, a Rome-based American writer, instructor and co-organizer of Women of Letters, a literary reading event slated for February 19 at Garbo Bar in Rome's trendy Trastevere neighborhood.
Geoghegan ("The Marco Chronicles" and "Natural Disasters"), who co-organized the event with California-born poet Jahan Khajavi, says the recent upsurge in the #MeToo movement spurred by reports of sexual harassment by high-profile figures has, clearly, turned up the volume on women’s voices.
Geoghegan says she doesn’t consider herself a political activist, even though the event is a follow-up to a Read & Resist night held in this city last year on the heels of the last US presidential election and co-organized with theater and cultural historian Patricia Gaborik. Her key motivation? To add to the places where "women can give voice to their ideas on any subject." She stresses the importance of the word any.
“I just want to open the floor to women writers. We just think of ourselves as writers, we don’t think of ourselves as women writers. I don’t necessarily think of my subject matter as particularly gendered," Geoghegan says. "But I do see a sort of imbalance in the publishing world, where men and women are concerned.”
One of the writers lined up to read is Elizabeth Farren, a New Yorker, teacher and mother who lives in Rome. Farren was one of the organizers of the local sister-march to the January 2017 Women’s March on Washington.
“I’ve always been able to have my Me Too moments as a writer,” says Farren ("7 Stories from Rome"). “That’s what writers do, right? As a writer, you’re always saying the things you’re not supposed to say. Or you’re trying to say the things that nobody else lets you say, or that you would like to say but can’t really say. So from a writer’s perspective, not much has changed for me. But I do think, certainly I hope, the receptivity of people is changing and the way people are hearing and paying attention to stories that are told by women, now, is changing.”
“My idea is just to showcase emerging women writers as well as established women writers," Geoghegan says. "I’m always just trying to create community.”
Women of Letters aka Read & Resist readers will include writers Jo Ann Clark, Sophy Downes, Moira Egan, Gaby Ford, Chelsea Graham, Allison Grimaldi Donahue, Tara Keenan, Francesca Marciano and Lisa R. Tucci.