Interview: Leah Greengarten

At the helm of the inaugural Modern Woman’s Anthology, due for release in June this year, is Sydney based journalist and editor, Leah Greengarten. Inspired to try and put the modern woman’s experience into words, Leah has assembled an eclectic, diverse collection of women to share their stories, with the proceeds of the anthology going to The Black Dog Institute. She spoke to us about the process and what we can expect from this innovative literary project.

Tell us how the Modern Woman’s Anthology came about.

Six months ago The Modern Woman’s Anthology was just an idea. Just another idea, spurred on by a wild week of creativity at Varuna, the writers’ house in the Blue Mountains. There I was surrounded by five inspiring woman, each coincidentally representing a different generation, who all brought to the table funny, smart and lively conversation. Theirs were tales that I wanted to bottle up and take home with me; wisdoms I wanted to share with friends and unborn children. Over the course of the week, many life lessons were passed on through the hilarious and heroic tales of other women.

This wonderful experience was the catalyst for creating the Modern Woman’s Anthology. A compilation seemed the perfect form in which to record these gems of wisdom, a concrete way to pass them down to the women we love, present and future.

All proceeds are to go to The Black Dog Institute – mental health is obviously an issue you feel strongly about …

I think we all know someone that has suffered from depression. It’s devastating to watch and even worse to experience. This is my way of honouring those people that dedicate their lives to helping others. I would also like to think, I am creating a dialogue between people, whereby individuals who suffer from depression can speak about it more openly and not feel weakened by it.

You assembled some pretty impressive women – Cathy Freeman, Dr. Gene Sherman, Libby Hathorn – how difficult was it choosing who to include?

The process was an interesting one. Most of the women I asked to contribute said “yes”, and those that said “no”, either committed to the project next year or gave very good excuses. I knew it wouldn’t be easy gathering a power pack of women, so I started off with the women I knew from previous experiences, like Dr. Cindy Pan and Libby Hathorn. From there, I moved on to choosing women, like Kate Leeming and Gemma Sisia who are doing amazing things. Gradually the list grew and people started approaching me, to ask if they could write.

What kinds of stories can we expect?

The Modern Woman’s Anthology reveals a range of insights through personal stories based around what it means to be a woman in today’s world. This unique publication chronicles the trials and joys of being a woman, from singing opera in Russia to early morning family chaos, cycling across Africa to tackling Germaine Greer’s philosophies

Do you have plans to make the anthology an annual thing?

Definitely! I’ve learnt a lot from creating The Modern Woman’s Anthology – most importantly, that when you surround yourself with inspiring people, anything is possible.

What do you think being a Modern Woman is all about?

That’s a tricky one. I think it has to do with balance, honesty, love and trust. Most importantly, what do all the MWA authors think of being a modern woman … the only way to find out is by reading The Modern Woman’s Anthology 2010. Happy reading!

RRP: $29.95

The Modern Woman’s Anthology will be available through the website and good bookstores.



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