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Twelve writers on the fictional women who shaped them, from Matilda to Agent Scully.

Growing up I moved from place to place, and from friendship to friendship, but in fiction I found a constant. Matilda, Hermione, and Jane Eyre were confidants who fit in my pocket, who could be found no matter how many times they had been lost. Princess Buttercup always returned with the whir of a DVD tray, no matter what postcode I found myself in, and all I had to do to catch up with Veronica Mars was flip on the TV.

I wasn't alone in this experience. In fact, these reliable fictional pals have often been the catalyst and mutual common ground for friendships in my life, and throughout my professional experience as an editor of personal essay at BuzzFeed, a literary panel chair, bookish podcaster, theatre director, and children's librarian, I've met so many women and girls bursting to share stories about the heroines of page, stage and screen who have filled the role of sister, best friend, role model, mother, and beyond in a uniquely intimate way.

With this in mind, I’ve set out to create an anthology that celebrates the fictional fairy godmothers who have guided many different women along our way - because I believe that the women who entertain us and become our imaginary best friends are essential parts of our identities. They offer a unique aspirational resonance in the current climate, where women are under siege. In a post-Weinstein world, we need Leia freeing herself from Jabba and becoming a general in her own right. With governments around the world policing women's bodies, we need Leslie Knope running for office.

And surely the past year, in which Margaret Atwood’s scarlet-clad handmaids were revived and revered on screen as a tangible cautionary tale, proves that the way we engage with women in fiction plays an integral role in the way we engage with our real world.

So that’s why I’ve asked contributors to Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down to tell us their stories about the intersection between beloved fictional role models and real life experiences – because stories provide safe havens for women working themselves out; they're a canvas where the world might work in our favour and a hypothetical testing ground where for once, it's okay if it doesn't. The lessons we learn from our favourite fictional characters teach us who we are and who we aspire to be, in the signature safe space that exists in fiction. I hope that safe, joyful space is exactly what you find between the pages of this book.

With essays on... Leslie Knope
Lyra Belacqua
Annalise Keating
Agent Scully
Princess Leia
Hermione Granger
Bridget Jones
Kelly Kapoor
and more to be announced...

I’m a writer, children’s librarian, producer of the YA oughta podcast. Born a military brat in the US, I moved to London in 2012 to complete my masters in European Culture. I then moved into journalism at BuzzFeed UK where I held the position of commissions editor for features for two years before striking out freelance to focus on literacy, education, and books journalism.

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