Archives For rankings

I don’t make Top-5 lists. Because that always means leaving out so much awesomeness. But luckily for me, this one made itself.

I call this the International Version because none of them are from the U.S. and because that gives me a chance to do a separate Top-5 U.S. Women Writers if I want to. Only one of these women writes in English, so a huge shout out to translators everywhere!

Who are your top women writers (international)? Please share in the comments. I love to discover new authors!

In alphabetical order, then, because I cannot bear to rank these woman against each other, here they are:

1. Leonora Carrington

Leonora Carrington, Self Portrait

Her Words: “I didn’t have time to be anyone’s muse. . . . I was too busy rebelling against my family and learning to be an artist.”

When She Lived: 1917 – 2011

Where She Lived: Fled debutante British upbringing to go to France where she was with Max Ernst until the Nazis arrived. Fled to Mexico where she thrived for over 50 years.

What She Wrote: My favorite of her stories is “The Debutante,” about a girl who doesn’t want to go to her debutante ball and sends a hyena in her place. The hyena disguises itself by using the face of the maid. In order to get the maid’s face, however, the hyena had to eat the maid. (Note the hyena in her Self Portrait above. The painting and story were written at about the same time in her life.)

More Reasons to Love Her: She was a major painter and artist, and a fiesty old lady who gives interviewers a hard time. (See video, the first few minutes tell it all.)


2. Clarice Lispector

Clarice Lispector

Her Words: “So long as I have questions to which there are no answers, I shall go on writing.” – The Hour of the Star

When She Lived: 1920-1977

Where She Lived: Born to Jewish parents in the Ukraine, taken as an infant to Brazil where she lived most of her life

What She Wrote: In the short story, “Looking for Some Dignity,” Mrs. Jorge B. Xavier gets lost in Brazil’s large football (i.e., soccer) stadium and lost in the streets to her home and all of this echoes the way she is lost in the labyrinth of her aging mind and body. The story culminates in a fantasy of a love scene with a contemporary pop star. Lispector’s novella, The Hour of the Star, is similarly heady and dreamy.


3. Herta Müller

Herta Müller

Her Words: “I’ve had to learn to live by writing, not the other way round. I wanted to live by the standards I dreamt of, it’s as simple as that. And writing was a way for me to voice what I could not actually live.”

When She Lived: 1953-present (she lives!)

Where She Lived: Born and raised in an ethnic German minority in Romania, endured rule of Ceauşescu, now lives and writes in Berlin.

What She Wrote: Her story collection Nadirs has mind-bending flash fictions that play with time and space. And the lyrical, wrenching novel, The Appointment, which I wrote about here.

More Reasons to Love Her: She won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature, making her 12th woman to win in over 100 years!


4. Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Her Words: “Russian literature has been a kind of religion in this country–a religion based on the moral position of writers, on their suffering. All our greatest writers have been sufferers and saints.”

When She Lived: 1938-present!

Where She Lived: Russia. Many of her relatives were rounded up during Stalin’s Great Purge.

What She Wrote: I’ve only read her collection of stories, There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby, and the title pretty much tells it all. These are fairy tales set in Socialist housing units.

More Reasons to Love Her: She was banned by the Soviets.

Main source: The Nation


5. Virginia Woolf

VWHer Words: “For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”

When She Lived: 1882-1941

Where She Lived: Britain, purebred

What She Wrote: Only the best novels of the 20th century! Mrs. Dalloway! To the Lighthouse! Orlando! The Waves!

More Reasons to Love Her: Not to mention A Room of One’s Own! Her takedown of the patriarchal systems that privilege the male perspective, literary and otherwise. What if, she asks, Shakespeare had a sister? What if her name was Judith? She would have been “as adventurous, as imaginative, as agog to see the world as [her super-famous brother] was. But she was not sent to school.”


Honorable Mention: Božena Němcová (1820-1862)

Božena Němcová

A Czech writer of Austrian and Bohemian parents, grew up knowing Czech and German. I’m working on a collage-biography project about her. I am as captivated by her story (her life story, full of affairs and death and disease) as for her stories (her fairy tales and famous book, The Grandmother), which are as dark as they are quaint. She’s hard to learn about without knowing Czech, so I’ve tried to learn a little. Czech, that is.

I wrote more about her here.

[Most basic source info taken from/confirmed by Wikipedia unless otherwise noted.]

My job is the “best”!

January 5, 2012 — 6 Comments

It’s syllabus time. School starts Monday, so I’m working on crafting the perfect balance of readings and assignments, with time for grading in between.

Of course I’m lamenting that break is almost over while assuring myself that Break. Is. Not. Over.

But I’m also experiencing the little inner delight I get over designing a new syllabus and anticipating the cool things I’ll get to read and talk about with students this semester. I’m enjoying the industrious feeling of sending and receiving emails, writing and crossing off items on the to-do list, working on a couple of new manuscripts, and cleaning up the holiday mess.

In other words, I’m looking forward to the new semester. Perhaps this is because my job is THE BEST!

In a recent Forbes Magazine study of BEST JOBS FOR WOMEN IN 2012, my job was rated #1. Here’s what it says:

At No. 1, post-secondary teachers top the list. Not only do women report very high satisfaction rates in the job, median annual earnings range from $59,000 (for foreign language and literature teachers) to $94,000 (for law teachers), well above the average household income in the U.S. Furthermore, the field is expected to grow by 15% and features an average of 55,000 openings each year.

Shatkin believes women likely value post-secondary teaching for its high earnings, prestige and stimulating environments. The National Survey of College Graduates found that women appreciate a job’s location and environment more than men, and Shatkin points out that college students are generally excited to learn, colleagues are of high caliber and college campuses provide comfortable amenities. At the same time, post-secondary teachers have a high degree of independence and autonomy, which Shatkin says almost all workers prize.

[The bold is my doing. Source link to Yahoo overview. Source link to Forbes Magazine article.]

I have to agree. My students ARE generally excited to learn. My colleagues ARE of high caliber (not just in academics, but in food, fashion, music, and fun). And the amenities are comfortable indeed. I like my office with its window view of rooftops and treetops. I love working at a place with a library overlooking the campus on one side and a river on the other – and with more books I can order from other campuses. And did I mention: I got to take students to Prague and Berlin this summer!

Sometimes, when I’m drowning in the middle of a semester, I think that I would quit teaching if I could, and just write. But I’d drown in different ways without the semester’s structure or the students’ energy.

Yes, I get annoyed when our budget well runs dry or when the bureaucracy runs thick, but, in the spirit of living lovely, I thought I should take a moment to appreciate where I am and what I’ve got. Here’s to a new semester.

Oh yes, I’ve been reading the Poets & Writers rankings of Creative Writing Ph.D. programs, where my fellow alums and I have been delighted to find the University of Cincinnati’s program ranked #8. (Facebook: like! like! like!)

At long last, we say. How many faculty successes does one need before one gets recognized? How many graduate jobs and student publications? Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred? How many amazing literary events? How many more top-20 rankings of its literary journal? (Go Cincinnati Review!)

Now at last we get some recognition.

So, how DO you measure, measure a Ph.D. program. To the tune of Rent’s “Seasons of Love,” sing it with me now:

In funding, in selectivity, in job-placement
In CGSR compliance,
In reputation, faculty, in number of applicants.

I can’t sing it either. (At least push play so you can listen as you read the rest of the post…)

But as I read the P&W fine print, it looks to me like Ph.D. programs are ranked not according to all those things, but according to how many people claimed to have applied there since 2007. The answer – 40 – put UC in a tie for #8.

I’m not very good with reading or comprehending fine print, so I may be wrong about that disappointing criterion, but either way, let me give some personal reasons why I still think of my time at U.C. as a #1 “Season of Love”:

1. All the faculty, friends, and fellow students I thanked by name and general reference (karaoke!) in the acknowledgments page of my book.

2. This is a continuation of #1 because I can’t say enough about it. Let’s talk faculty. I graduated in 2006, and I can still send an email to my professor who no longer works there AND is on vacation with his family, ask for a reference letter, and I will get it. My other professor who is still there recently invited me back to give a reading in the spring. And a professor I never even had in class has, 5 years after I’ve graduated, carried on an extended email exchange about a grant opportunity I’m pursuing. (Thank you Brock, Michael, and Don.)

3. This is also a continuation of #1. Friends, fellow students, & ma’ ladies. When my writing was rejected, or when I screwed up in my oral exams, I was encouraged and supported by voices even more powerful than the ones in my head. Since then, I’ve had many opportunities that came about through my network of increasingly successful alums. Who were the first to invite me to give readings at their universities when my book came out? And who did I contact first when I started my How to Become a Writer interview series? You know it.

4. Before grad school the closest I came to interacting with a living author was maybe at a reading at Joseph Beth Books. At U.C. I had lunches, dinners, parties, and even airport chauffeuring with major and emerging authors, and even if I didn’t always have long in-depth conversations, I learned, like all writers do, by observing. (It is impossible not to observe when Lorrie Moore is across the lunch table or  Michael Cunningham is in the passenger seat of your crappy Nissan Altima.)

5. It was in my town. I was married and had a young child when I started grad school, so my geographical options were limited, and I consistently thought, Lucky me that this perfect program is right here in my city.

6. Perfect program? Pretty much. I’m sure I would have also loved a program with publishing and book arts, but a Ph.D. was a great way for me to go because I’ve got an academic side as well as an artistic one, and because it gave me so much extra time. I actually got my M.A. and Ph.D. at U.C. back-to-back, so it was six years to launch, and I needed every minute of it.

7. Yes, funding is important, and I was well-funded. If I weren’t, I would have had to quit after my M.A.

8. I’ll stop at #8 since U.C. is #8! How do you really measure a program? Sing it with me:

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights
In cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.

All of which I had at U.C., and more, making it intense and wonderful and #1.