A global $50,000 prize to support stories about women—by writers from nearly 60 countries—was created and funded because I wrote one blog post about something that’s bugged me for years: books about women don’t win awards. (Films about women don’t win awards either.) Yes, I’d done the work. Yes, I had data to back up my assertion. But the needle could not begin to move until I pointed out the injustice, until I spoke out.
I’m guessing you all know the story of the starfish:
A man walked along a beach where a storm had washed starfish up above the tideline. They were dying.
Up the beach, the man saw a little girl picking up the starfish one by one and throwing them back into the sea. She was slow, and she didn’t throw well, and there were thousands of starfish.
As she picked up another, the man said, You’re wasting your time. There are too many. Don’t try so hard. You’re not making any difference.
She threw the starfish and watched it sink into the water. Then she turned to him and said, I made a difference to that one.
It’s a story I’ve know for a long time, and, on good days, believed. But its truth was really brought home to me yesterday when I read the press release from the Half the World Global Literati Prize website, announcing the winner of their inaugural $50,000 prize:
The Half the World Global Literati Award was set up in response to 2015 research from author Nicola Griffith, which identified that the majority of the significant literary prizes are awarded to works written from a male perspective. The award is set to return in spring 2017.
Statistics about the Half the World Global Literati Award 2016.
• 59 countries including Eritrea, Iran, Azerbaijan, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago
• 45.5 percent submissions are novels, 36.5 percent short stories, 18 percent screenplays
• Drama the most popular genre, topping novels & screenplays and a close second for short stories. Literary Fiction was the second most popular with Romance in third. Erotica comprised of less than 5 percent of all entrants.
• Majority of the short list are female (82.5 percent) vs male (17.5 percent)
I did that. Me. So if you spot injustice, open your mouth (flex your fingers, whatever—the mode of communication doesn’t matter) and speak. What we do really does make a difference. So say something. Someone might be listening. You might change the world.