The Hot 100 2017: #1 404 Ink
- Fiona Shepherd
- 1 November 2017
It's been a blisteringly successful 2017 for publishers 404 Ink. We talk to Laura Jones and Heather McDaid about Nasty Women, celebrity endorsements and sharing a stage with the First Minister herself
'I'm not sure 2017 would have happened for us without Margaret Atwood.' Laura Jones is reflecting on the first full year of 404 Ink, the punk publishing company she runs with Heather McDaid. They're talking from the latter's spare room in Edinburgh, while honorary partner Luna the Labrador mooches about with her toys.
Thanks to the resonance of Nasty Women, their timely non-fiction collection 'on what it is to be a woman in the 21st century', it has been a year of supportive celebrity endorsements, high-profile hobnobbing with the First Minister and other pinch-me moments, not least (we like to think) being toppermost of The List's Hot 100. Mostly though, it has been a year when Jones and McDaid made a passionate, articulate and very necessary contribution to human discourse in the era of fake news.
404 Ink launched in summer 2016, and produced the first edition of their literary magazine before the year was out (riffing on their name, the theme of issue one was 'error'). But the seeds of a very eventful 2017 were sown on the day Donald Trump was elected 45th President of the USA. Reclaiming Trump's description of Hillary Clinton as a 'nasty woman', along with the millions who marched against his misogyny in the wake of that election, Jones and McDaid decided to commission new and established female writers on a whole spectrum of their challenging experiences. 'Nasty Women clicked together really quickly,' says McDaid. 'It all made sense, it meant we could publish a lot of rad women and seek out stories that we hadn't heard. We knew as soon as we had the idea that we had to do it really quickly.'
Inspired more by independent record labels than traditional publishing houses, the pair were able to respond instantaneously. They approached a few writers directly and put out an open call on Twitter, gathering eloquent essays on sexism, racism, abuse and harassment, but also pieces on what they don't tell you about pregnancy and the pill, on the fallibility of role models, on the handing down of family traditions, both healthy and unhealthy. Nasty Women was commissioned in four weeks, funded in three days and published two months later.
Atwood's small but significant contribution to their fortunes was to respond to a tweet about their Kickstarter campaign to fund a project which was already exceeding expectations. The esteemed author of The Handmaid's Tale has since described Nasty Women as 'an essential window into many of the hazard-strewn worlds younger women are living in right now', and there has been further vocal support from Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson, author Ali Smith and performer / activist Amanda Palmer (Jones is particularly excited about the latter, being the bearer of an Amanda Palmer tattoo).