Sunday, July 08, 2012

LADYFEST: Winning Stories from the Oxford Gender Equality Festival

 LADYFEST: Winning Stories from the Oxford 
Gender Equality Festival 

Published by Dead Ink June 8 2012-50 Pages, Kindle Edition 

Reviewed by Timothy Gager 

It’s always a pleasure to read the winning stories anthology because of the quality of the work and the comparisons which naturally occur between the reader and the judges. That being said, I found this anthology rather uneven, some of the work soaring while other stories falling slightly short on conflict. I also noticed the men portrayed in nearly all of these stories to be bores and dullards. When they weren’t they were video game players, television watchers and in one case angry for reasons unspecified.  

Also I was disappointed to find more noticeable typos and editing omissions throughout the book. Several places had such erroneous errors of “we” where a “he” should have been, thus changing the meaning of the sentence.   

Another improvement in editing, could be made in the order of the stories. The first story, Songs of the Sea by Rosalind Newman, opens with,Hush, child, and I will tell you a tale…”, while second, “Dreamcatchersby Aimee Cliff opens with “I want to tell you a story, because I feel it’s a story which you built with my bones…” This effectively disarms the great hook Cliff uses to hook you into her story where Cliff takes a commonly written theme, and tells it in a beautiful and creative way. The prose in this piece are an explosive plate of fine dining.  

Continuing on the theme of order, I didn’t consider, “Songs of the Sea” to be strong enough to lead off Ladyfest and I felt the winning story and the two runner-up pieces should have had been placed right up front. The competition judge, Bidisha, named “A Touch of Male” by Cherish Shirley the best of this collection. I found the story humorous and light, with the women portrayed quite differently than the women found in survivor mode, that most of the rest of the pieces portray women to be. (Done nicely in “The Game” by Laura O’Brien and “We Amount” by Kate Pocklington.) I enjoyed “A Touch of Male”, but found the opening paragraph told in the point of view of a character whom appears initially, then disappears forever to be an issue. This technique alone causes me to disagree with Bidisha’s choice of “A Touch of Male” as the best found within Ladyfest.  

The story, “Poke Face” captured how the elderly can be viewed positively or negatively based on who is doing the viewing. Angela Court-Jackson kept it short and sweet and didn’t bang this point over our heads by over writing or numerous extreme examples. This made it a winner for me. 

Bidisha choose “Getting There by Farah Ghuznavi as first runner-up and I agree with her singling out this piece, and in my opinion, I felt it was the best of the lot. It uses traditional short story writing technique; emphasizing strong conflict and characters that remain true to themselves. It also has a strong sense of setting and place which enhanced and captured my interest.   

I also would like to salute the story, “Savage Lands” by Sarvat Hasin, for taking bold chances. Not all of the chances were a home-run, but I found the writing interesting enough to footnote and research other writings of this author.  

Recommendation: Hit or miss

1 comment:

  1. Thanks very much for raising the points you did in this review, Timothy! On the basis of this, the publisher went back to review the manuscript, and edited out the typos that you mentioned. We have also changed the sequence of the stories, so that it now begins much stronger with the two runner-up stories right in the beginning. The second runner-up story "Poker Face" can now be read free on the Amazon website as part of the sample, and the beginning of my story "Getting There" can also be read in that sample. Anyone interested can check it out at: or download a non-Kindle version at:
    We've already had some good feedback as a result of the changes, so thanks again!