It’s now three months until my new book comes out in North America. Out of the Shadows: Six Visionary Victorian Women in Search of a Public Voice will be published by Counterpoint Press on 11 May, 2021, and it’s exciting for me that news about it is making its way into the world.
The last couple of weeks have brought two particular happy moments: an interview for the BBC and a first print review.
The review in Publishers Weekly (US) appears in the current edition, and was published earlier in an online version. PW found Out of the Shadows ‘persuasive’, ‘entertaining and informative’, and I was particularly delighted with their closing verdict: ‘Women’s history buffs will be enthralled.’
It was also a pleasure to be asked to talk a little about my research on the Fox sisters – who feature heavily in Out of the Shadows – in episode 5 of the hugely popular BBC Radio 4 / Bafflegab podcast The Battersea Poltergeist, available on the Radio 4 website, BBC Sounds and all major podcast streaming services. I’m looking forward to sharing much, much more about the lives of Kate, Maggie and Leah Fox – especially the dramatic prelude and aftermath to the episode I addressed in my interview – in my forthcoming book.
Emma Claire Sweeney and I were delighted to be approached by new literary magazine, Shooter, with a request that we contribute an article to their first issue.
‘Success is Counted Sweetest’, our piece on the literary friendship between Emily Dickinson and Helen Hunt Jackson, is the result. Readers of our joint website Something Rhymed may recall that we profiled this fascinating relationship on-line some months ago, but it was a pleasure to revisit it in a longer form in print.
Our research into this pair has caused us to seriously reevaluate our earlier impressions of Dickinson as an out-and-out recluse, and encouraged us to look with a more careful eye at the woman known to her curious neighbours as The Myth.
This process of reevaluation has, in fact, played a much broader part in the work we’ve been doing for the website.
Jane Austen’s radical friendship with family governess Anne Sharp, we discovered, challenges the notion that she was a timid, conservative lady. Diary entries left behind by Virginia Woolf cast doubt on popular depictions of her and Katherine Mansfield as bitter foes. The bond between Helen Keller and Nancy Hamilton transforms the ‘saintly’ image of the former and shows her as an even more interesting individual.
If you are interested in finding out more about these friendships, or the many others we have featured so far, you can do so by visiting the Profiled Writers page of Something Rhymed.
Season Butler, Reshma Ruia and Kit de Waal were all kind enough to answer some interview questions about their friendships, as was prize advocate Irenosen Okojie. We’ll be featuring a new creative piece inspired by their answers during our talk at the Ilkley Literature Festival next week. This is a free event and we’d love to see you there.
~ the literary friendships of famous female authors
Ilkley Playhouse Wildman
Wednesday 15th October
For a taster of the sort of thing we’ll be discussing, you can also read our article for Hippo Reads, which went live on their website yesterday.
I’m delighted to announce that I will be reading an extract of my as-yet-unpublished first novel A Tiny Speck of Black and then Nothing at the Writing on the Wall festival in Liverpool on Wednesday 14 May.
In other writing news, the Yorkshire Post recently featured an article on Something Rhymed, the literary website I run with Emma Claire Sweeney. Throughout 2014, Emma Claire and I are profiling the writing friendships of well-known female authors, and this month we’re turning the spotlight on Emily Dickinson and Helen Hunt Jackson.
We’re still actively looking for more literary pals to consider for the site, so please keep letting us know your thoughts by Tweeting us, or contacting us via somethingrhymed.com.
Ever since we launched Something Rhymed at the start of the year, Emma Claire Sweeney and I have been kept happily busy with research, monthly activities and weekly updates for our website. Throughout 2014, we will be profiling the literary friendships of well-known female authors, so if you have any ideas about famous writer pals we could consider, do please keep those recommendations coming in.
We’ve written a few one-off feature articles about the project too, most recently for Women Writers, Women[’s] Books, and this month we’ve also recorded a podcast – a new experience for us.
We were already fans ofRead Me Something You Love, so when Steve Wasserman asked us to record an interview with him, based around the writer friends we profiled on Something Rhymed in January, we jumped at the chance. Emma Claire read (and deftly defended) a section from Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway and I read the opening of ‘The Garden Party’, one of my favourite short stories ever since I first encountered it.
We both had lots of fun doing the interview and, perhaps partly because it was a joint interview, I actually enjoyed reliving it via the recording – which hasn’t always been my experience when I’ve listened to myself again in the past!
As some friends already know, my partner and I have recently returned from a motorcycle tour of Spain (with him doing the driving, me sitting on the back).
We saw all sorts of amazing sights: a school of jumping dolphins on the ferry crossing out and a whale on the return journey, a meteor shower on a cold mountain night, a magnificent sunset at mainland Europe’s southernmost point.
But one of the experiences I think we’ll look back on the most is a day we spent at a small motorcycle garage on the outskirts of Granada. I’ve written up what happened in this article, which won this week’s Just Back competition in the Daily Telegraph. This is my first piece of travel writing, so I’m really glad they chose it.