So to Speak Founding Editors Speak at Fall for the Book Panel

**Guest post by Chelsea Barb, GMU undergraduate student

**Check back soon for video of the panel!

The So to Speak Founders Panel at George Mason’s Fall for the Book festival last week featured three of the eight women who, together, founded So to Speak: A Feminist Journal of Language and Art, 19 years ago in 1993.

The three founding editors who spoke at the event were Leslie Bumstead, Colleen Kearney Rich, and Jean Donnelly. Bumstead kicked off the event, reading some of the poetry from her book, Cipher/Civilian. The second reader was Colleen Kearney Rich, who has been an editor for over 20 years and is currently the editor of Mason’s magazine “Spirit.” She shared with the audience a scene from her novel in progress, called The Semantics of Longing. The novel is set in the 70’s and follows a young girl named Grace who is helping all her friends celebrate her best friend Sue’s wedding. Jean Donnelly was the third speaker and read from her poetry collection Anthem, which consists of 50 sections—one for each state in the U.S.

After the reading, the panelists took questions from current So to Speak staffer and panel moderator Atossa Shafaie about the history of the journal. The panelists said that their main purpose in creating the journal was to inspire more women writers to express themselves and to give them a space in which to publish their work. According to an article Bumstead quoted, before 1985, only 16% of published novelists were female. However, after creating the journal, by 2007, 29% of novelists were female writers. Although this is still a low number, it has vastly improved in the past 22 years.

The authors all had a successful way to approach the audience and keep them captivated by their writing. They all used slang, asked questions, and used imagery in their pieces which helped the audience feel comforted by the words. This event helped me to learn that if you set your mind on a talent that you have and use it to your advantage, you can go far in life and accomplish your dreams.

***

Things You May Not Have Known About So to Speak:

  • The original eight editors of STS did not use a hierarchical management system.  Instead, they formed a “circle” where all voices were weighted evenly.
  • The journal got its name from a conversation founding editor Leslie Bumstead had with a friend, in which she kept adding “so to speak” at the end of her sentences. Bumstead’s friend suggested this for the name of the journal, and it stuck.
  • For its first few issues, the journal published only solicited material, including scientific articles, political essays, and photographs of feminist activism.
  • The founding editors of the journal worked together in a close, informal writing workshop group together before deciding to create the journal as a space for women’s voices.

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