A celebration of Zelda Fitzgerald, Sylvia Townsend Warner, and Rose Macaulay Three modernist women

Bristol Women’s Literature Festival is BACK for a special one-off event on 21 March.

Book your tickets now!

This Women’s History Month, join Bristol Women’s Literature Festival and Handheld Press for a celebration of three modernist women writers: Zelda Fitzgerald, Sylvia Townsend Warner, and Rose Macaulay.


All three writers pushed the boundaries with their writing, producing an extraordinary body of work that included novels, short stories and essays. But for too long, these women have been excluded from the canon – marginalised from our understanding of modernism due to marriage, mental health, sexuality, and social status.

“So much she loved the man, so close and closer she felt herself that he became distorted in her vision, like pressing her nose upon a mirror and gazing into her own eyes … She felt herself very small and ecstatic.”– ZELDA FITZGERALD


Bath-based publisher Handheld Press has reprinted Zelda Fitzgerald’s Save Me The Waltz, Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Kingdoms of Elfin, and Rose Macaulay’s What Not. For this special event, Handheld’s Director Kate Macdonald is joined by Macaulay’s biographer, author and Women’s Press editor Sarah LeFanu to discuss these women’s work, the process of republishing classics by women, and why these three writers deserve their place in modernist history. Following the discussion are readings from Save Me The WaltzKingdoms of Elfin, and What Not.

This is your chance to discover the words of these wonderful women – and if you are already familiar with their writing, to reconnect with your love of their work.


Book your tickets now!


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Fancy a writing retreat in Bali?

We’ve got a very special offer to share with Bristol Women’s Literature fans who fancy honing their writing, learning new skills, and working with some of our favourite authors in beautiful Bali.

Here’s the website blurb:

Writing Retreat Bali

Seven nights. Six writers. One seriously playful retreat.

Writing Retreat Bali. Finesse your novelplot your screenplaysell your news storyrefine your poetry and build a copywriting portfolio. This is a seven day swoop into creative and commercial writing, replete with stimulating wordfood that aims to inspire, entertain and sustain.

You’ll be retreating with a range of writers including novelist Clare Fisher.

Here’s the deal:

As a special offer for Bristol Women’s Literature Festival, Writing Retreat Bali offers a £50 saving per person on ALL tickets.

This offer WILL work in conjunction with our EARLY BIRD which is currently running until 23/02. So, it’s possible to save a whopping £150 on tickets purchased before 23/02.

Quote BRISWOMLIT when booking to claim the discount.

If you have any problems with booking or using the code please contact Writing Retreat Bali directly (not me!).

Happy writing!

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An Impossible Poison – join Bidisha at Spike Island

We are pleased to be hosting a very special event with Bidisha and Taban Othman at Spike Island on 17 May.

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Over the past few months, conversations have raged about Me Too, feminism, and women’s representation in film, literature and wider culture.
In her debut film, the writer, broadcaster and journalist Bidisha explores issues around gender, violence and control. Her work is beautiful, challenging and designed to provoke discussion.
This very special event brings Bidisha together with award-winning filmmaker Taban Othman, who now lives in Bristol having left Iraqi Kurdistan. The pair will be screening their films and then will join Sian Norris in conversation. Together they will discuss the inspirations and motivations behind their work, the challenges facing women of colour in the film industry, and how, post Me Too, we can encourage women’s stories to be told, heard and respected.



Bidisha is a journalist, filmmaker and broadcaster for BBC radio, BBC TV and SKY. She is a Trustee of the Booker Prize Foundation and writes regularly for The Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement. Her fifth book is Asylum and Exile: Hidden Voices(2015) and her debut short film is An Impossible Poison (2017).

Taban Yasin Othman

Taban Yasin Othman is an experimental film maker.

Book now

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Thank you!

Thank you so much for being part of the Bristol Women’s Literature Festival. It was such a brilliant brilliant weekend – two days of intelligent and thought provoking conversation, fun, wit, and a real celebration of women’s work, feminism, reading and writing.

Not even the snow could put us off – hurrah!

We’ll be updating the website soon with pics and audio recordings… so watch this space.


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Festival going ahead

Hi there

So we have decided to go ahead with the festival so please do brave the snow and come along to Watershed.

We may have to reduce or amend some of the line-ups so it might not be exactly as programmed but we are doing our very best in these surprising circumstances to keep calm and carry on…

See you later.

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Sunday weather update

We are keeping an eye on the weather for #BWLF – at the moment it looks like trains are still running to Bristol so events are all going ahead, we will update if anything changes…

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The Second Shelf joins BWLF

As well as buying brand new books from BWLF authors at the festival, you’ll also have the chance to discover and shop for rare and forgotten books by women, thanks to Second Shelf.

Writer and arts journalist A. N. Devers is launching The Second Shelf, an online bookstore focused on rare, antiquarian, modern first editions, and manuscripts by women writers later this year. She had the idea for The Second Shelf after realising that women writers’ legacies and acclaim for their work has suffered as a result of the rare book trade being traditionally a male field. The Second Shelf seeks to put excellent work by women in the hands of readers and collectors, to help unearth work that has been relegated and bring it the attention it deserves, and to encourage more women to collect books in order to help grow a market and balance the bookshelves. She will be joining the festival in Watershed’s Waterside 3 with a selection of rare and modern first edition books available for purchase.

Waterstones will also be at Waterside 3, selling the books by our speakers.

The Second Shelf Logo RGB smaller (1)

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