Women Galore: Celebrating Women Words

Lauren Smart knows a thing or two about being told to be quiet.  

In early 2015, she published a critical review -- as was her job, as the then-arts and culture editor for the Dallas Observer -- concerning a conceptual installation by French artist Loris Gréaud that was on exhibition at the Dallas Contemporary. To put it mildly, Gréaud reacted badly. He took issue not just with the review but with Smart personally, sending her a series of Facebook missives recommending, among other things, she get a "400mg/day anadrol boyfriend" and "study a bit literatture [sic], study A LOT art history [sic] and art after the 20 century [sic] (you'll be amaze)..." 

Actually, we'll save our "sics." You can read their back-and-forth and Smart's response. 

The incident stirred national press both from art publications and those outside of the art world. And, it prompted further conversation locally from D Magazine's Peter Simek who, already having expressed "misgivings" about the Contemporary's reputation as a "boy's club," said Gréaud's "deplorable" behavior "threaten[ed] to take that reputation to the next level." 

But, this story is not about a single Dallas art gallery. Nor does it end with a debacle that happened well over a year ago.

It is about the chances taken every time a woman puts thought to paper or speaks aloud. And it is, in part, the context behind Women Galore, a new month-long literary festival produced by The Wild Detectives in collaboration with Smart, herself. 

The Wild Detectives hosted Mexican author Sofia Segovia in October.

The Wild Detectives hosted Mexican author Sofia Segovia in October.

Ben Torres/Special Contributor

The idea comes from the Bishop Arts shop's co-owner, Javier Garcia Del Moral, who had been reading an article, Smart writes, about the "continuing gender disparity in literature." He wondered if his shop's events represented women equally. 

During a later conversation between the two, he mentioned those thoughts, and the need for a local literature and arts series showcasing women artists became clear. Smart seemed an obvious choice to help curate its talent, and she compiled programming that "goes beyond" any expectation, says Wild Detectives Brand Director Andrés de la Casa-Huertas. 

"We thought, how come in 2016 a festival like this is even necessary? Shouldn't we be able to focus on the literature?" he says. "Obviously, we're doing it because the equality isn't there yet."

That's the festival's central theme, along with an examination of where the "boundaries of feminism lie regarding the language women use to talk about themselves," a release says. 

This isn't the first time The Wild Detectives has questioned itself and local culture. It's housed the Daily Show-style series Bar Politics with Josh Kumler, which humorously lambastes state issues in hopes of educating potential voters. And, it pulled the plug on weekend Wi-Fi in hopes of encouraging patrons to generate meaningful conversation. Women Galore aims to do much the same, with a specific celebration of female-identified novelists, poets, critics, musicians and filmmakers. 

Dallas writer Sarah Hepola turns boozy memory gaps into searing memoir

"There are so many women writing in Texas right now, so I think we have already been doing a good job bringing those voices in our programming," says de la Casa-Huertas. "We'll continue to keep an eye on the issue to make sure we keep it equal and balanced."

The Women Galore lineup includes 13 events from workshops and panels to poetry readings and a film screening beginning May 1. Among the most recognizable names involved are writers Sarah Hepola and Merritt Tierce, who will appear on May 3 and 10, respectively. 

Hepola is a former Dallas Observer music critic whose first book, her 2015 memoir Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, was praised by The New York Times as "excellent" with "direct access to the midnight gods of torch songs, neon signs, tap beer at a reasonable price, cigarettes and untrammeled longing."

Denton-based Merritt Tierce is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award and was named a 2013 National Book Award 5 Under 35 Author. Her debut novel, 2014's Love Me Back, is set in Dallas, drawing from her years working as a server at Nick and Sam's where she twice received $2,000 tips from Rush Limbaugh. She donated that money to the Texas Equal Access Fund, which provides financial assistance for abortions; following a Dallas Morning News story about it, she says she received a "torrent of abuse" online. 

The Wild Detectives' Shakespeare in the Bar sold-out almost immediately. 

The Wild Detectives' Shakespeare in the Bar sold-out almost immediately. 

Smiley N. Pool/Staff Photographer

Update, May 3: The Wild Detectives have just announced another notable name, 10 year-old comic Saffron Herndon of Mesquite, who will appear with Emmy award-winner and "2014 Funniest Comic in Texas" Linda Stogner during Women Galore's comedy show on May 7.  Here's a clip of Herndon performing on NBC's Today Show last fall. 

That is but a small sample of the 20-plus creatives who will take part in the month-long series. The currently-announced events are all free to attend, but de la Casa-Huertas says two or three unannounced ones might require tickets. He said they will likely be in an affordable $5-10 range, like most of The Wild Detectives' programming. 

 Browse the full list of events, with more information about each.

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