100 Voices for 100 Years is a podcast throwing the spotlight on narratives created and told by women. The project brings together a diverse community of female-identifying writers and storytellers from all backgrounds, identities, abilities and locations around the country. Each volunteered to share a story from their lives, published, one a day, over the period of 100 days. Miranda Roszkowski, also a writer, heads up the project. Here she talks to us about the plans to turn it into a book.
Why did you set up the 100 Voices podcast?
I set it up to commemorate 100 years of women’s votes, but also to celebrate female-identifying writers. I thought it was important because 100 years on from getting the vote, women’s stories are still not as apparent in society – only 32 percent of MPs are female, so in parliament 7 out of 10 voices that you hear are going to be men; men are speaking for us all over. I wanted to bring together some really amazing writers and show that there was a lot of talent out there. We’re currently creating a book on Unbound with 100 women writers – actually, more like 110 because I just couldn’t resist including a few more amazing people in the collection.
What brief did you give people for the podcast?
I asked people to give a five-minute podcast on a time when they’ve been brave or achieved something. I want to fill the world with stories about women who have achieved things. That doesn’t mean being a CEO – although we have some CEOs in the book – the first one we aired was about a writer learning how to make lemon curd in her kitchen. Others were a lot more hard-hitting; a couple about the difficulties of motherhood, some about sexual abuse. There were a lot about resilience, which I wasn’t necessarily expecting when I sent out the commission – I thought there would be more about bungee jumping.
It featured a wide range of ages.
We had a few 17-year-olds and I think our oldest was just over 70. I wanted to create a really wide picture of what a woman is. Everybody’s story is just as valid and they’ve all got something to teach us. One of the 17-year-olds talked about going on a death slide when she was a child, it’s a beautiful metaphor really – all about learning to let go and trust someone. One of our older writers has recently become a political activist at the age of 70, which shows that you can change your life at any time. It’s not just a variety of ages; there are people from many different backgrounds and places across the UK, different physical abilities, sexualities – the more diversity, the better. There is no one story for being a woman.
Do you have trans stories?
We have in the book. I’m not aware of anyone in the podcast who identifies as trans. We ran the podcast over 100 days, and I was just getting submissions as they came along, we couldn’t necessarily plan it as much as I would’ve liked. So I wanted to make sure that when we created the book, we did get a more inclusive section of writers.
You want to see more females in creative writing. There is also currently a big push for them to pursue STEM-related careers – presumably you’re fully behind that too.
Absolutely. I wanted the book to not just be about writing and art, it’s my view that if you show lots of different types of women, you will get more people feeling emboldened to do whatever they want.
Do you think social media has helped and empowered women more than it has let them down?
For this project I sourced a lot of my writers on social media, being able to find a community online has been really helpful. There is obviously another side. Suffragette City ran a podcast called Same Sh*t Different Century, looking at suffragettes from the past and bringing them to the attention of a modern audience. They got so much trolling… I think it probably affected their attitude to being able to make that work.
Growing up, were there any specific female writers you were besotted with?
When I was a child I was really into Judy Blume, I think she’s great because she highlights a really human side of everyone, and there were lots of female characters at the centre of her stories which as a young girl is really helpful to see. But when I started to get into creative writing, all of my influences were male. Then somebody introduced me to Katherine Mansfield, Alice Munro and Miranda July, and that really expanded my understanding of what writing could be. Deborah Levy is my current fave, and Ali Smith, who play with language and have sort of given me permission to do that too.
You’re seeking public funding for 100 Voices to be published – what stage are you at with it?
We’re 20 copies away from our 50 percent mark. We’ve just got to keep going, keep the energy and keep remembering why we’re doing it. We’ve got Deborah Frances-White from The Guilty Feminist doing the foreword, but that can’t happen unless we fund the book. I go through phases where it’s a bit tough but if I meet with somebody who’s in the book or get an email from one of them, it’s a real boost because it reminds me that it’s something that really needs to be in the world.