Fem: You spent nearly 15 year in the airline industry. What inspired you to start pursuing a career in writing and publishing?
Ryleigh Walsh: When I fell into my previous career what I loved about it was the ability I had to collect stories (people travel for all sorts of reasons). But when it started feeling like a job, I decided I wanted to do something I love and am passionate about. I’ve always written—from the time I could hold a crayon. I graduated from making books from construction paper when I was a kid, to working on a zine with a friend as a teenager, to hand-binding journals as an adult. It was always a hobby, but it was clear I wanted to make books. So I got my editing certificate and started researching how to publish a journal and here we are.
F: Who are some of your favorite feminist icons?
RW: Am I going to sound like a nerd if I say Kathleen Hanna changed my life? I wrote a blog post about it, actually. A long one. When I was a teenager and had no notion of feminism, apart from textbooks full of suffragettes and women in the 60s burning bras, and contrived or humorous sitcom portrayals. It didn’t seem relevant to my life or experience. But Kathleen Hanna on stage, in her underwear, gripping a microphone, and screaming to let the, ‘girls to the front’, using her voice, and art, and music to express real feelings about real issues that meant something to me … changed everything. Now, I can add Bell Hooks, Roxane Gay, Simone De Beauvoir, and every woman who was ever been brave enough to do anything they were told they couldn’t or shouldn’t ‘t the list, but it all started with Kathleen Hanna.
F: Talk about your feminist literary journal, Skirt.
RW: Skirt is a feminist, quarterly, literary journal that focuses on creative non fiction. Our issues are themed (our first was on periods our second, girl fights) and we welcome the voices of all women (in whatever way you identify as a woman). I call Skirt feminist because for me it’s an important classification. It’s important that people who pick it up know that it’s by women and about women. However, we are firm that it’s for everyone. The stories we choose offer the singular and unique perspective of an individual, while at the same time contributing to the collective experience of being women. For me, skirt is a platform for women to reclaim a role in telling the story of our human experience.
F: Have you ever felt marginalized for your experiences as a woman in your personal life? In what ways has writing served as a catharsis for you?
RW: Absolutely. On the most superficial level, I’m small and female. I’ve been physically lifted up and moved out of rooms, I’ve been patted on the head and told I was cute for voicing an opinion or asking a question, I’ve struggled with power dynamics in work environments and abuse in relationships. Writing has made it possible for me to find myself and my voice. I think so often as women we face discrimination and just ‘suck it up’ and move on, but writing has enabled me to speak to, and share, my experiences, which to me is claiming power and control of those experiences.
F: Why do you think it’s important for women to find their voice through writing?
RW: Writing offers an opportunity to explore yourself in an intellectually safe way. It’s a conversation with yourself, really, so the only person around to judge you is you. That’s important because it allows you to not only figure out what your voice sounds like – by synthesizing your ideas and feelings – but also to analyze your own judgements and work through them. It’s important to be clear on who you are in your own head; it makes you strong.
F: What are your goals for Skirt as a magazine? How do you hope it will serve the community?
RW: I want skirt to be read. That’s my goal. I want it to be read by anyone who enjoys good writing. Because that’s what it is; it’s good writing by good writers. I hope it will serve as a challenge to people to talk; to break the conventions of polite conversation and make space for provocative subjects and be open to different points of view.
F: What would you say to the women out there who think their experiences aren’t important enough to be vocalized?
RW: Anything that adds to the collective consciousness is important. Every new insight, no matter how small, into the lived experiences of women (of people for that matter) matters.
Ryleigh Walsh is a writer and freelance editor in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She is a founder and editor-in-chief of skirt quarterly, a brand new, feminist literary magazine.