To mark the occasion, Emma and I feel honoured to have a piece about the rivalrous friendship of Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf in the Paris Review. If you are interested in finding out more about this, and the other friendships we celebrate in our book, today’s blog post on Something Rhymed, the literary blog I run with Emma, takes a look back at some of our recent reviews and articles.
After knowing Emma for well over a decade-and-a-half, it is wonderful to have chance to celebrate this milestone in our own writing friendship.
It’s been ages since I posted anything here and so I thought I really ought to remedy this.
Emma Claire Sweeney and I have spent the greatest part of the past few months, working away on our co-authored book. Most frequently, we’ve been hunched over our desks in our own studies or at Senate House Library, but we also spent an enjoyable – if chilly – week in January on a Bread Matters Cultural Foundation residency near Lisbon.
This was, in fact, the same place that we’d taken ourselves off to when we were first planning our, then unnamed, website about female literary friendship, which we’ve been running for the past three years. So it seemed especially fitting to return here in early 2017, when we were in the final stages of editing our book on the literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontё, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf.
At last, the UK edition of A Secret Sisterhood has gone off to the printers and the US version will not be far behind. The UK edition is available for pre-order here, the US one here.
Unlike the posts we write on Something Rhymed, necessarily limited to a few hundred words, each section of A Secret Sisterhood delves in far greater detail into one of the book’s four main literary friendships. We’re both looking forward to hearing what readers think of the stories we’ll be sharing of Jane Austen and the amateur playwright Anne Sharp; Charlotte Brontё and the feminist author Mary Taylor; literary legends George Eliot and Harriet Beecher Stowe; and the combative, yet affectionate, friendship of Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf.
Another thing I’m eagerly anticipating is the prospect of doing more events with Emma. The last talk we gave at City, University of London – with Something Rhymed guest bloggers Susan Barker, Ann Morgan and Denise Saul – feels a very long time ago now, and so Emma and I are glad to be in the process of organising many more literary friendship-themed sessions. One of these will be the 46th annual lecture for the George Eliot Fellowship, at which we’ll be the keynote speakers. We’ll be focusing on Eliot’s transatlantic literary friendship with Stowe – surprisingly little known today despite its historical importance.
The lecture takes place at 2.30 pm on Saturday 16 September. Tickets can be purchased here.
Thanks to a generous grant from Arts Council England, Emma Claire Sweeney and I have been able to organise a series of literary salons at NYU London. These events will bring together writers and literary professionals, to discuss the problem of gender equality in the literary world and come up with positive solutions.
For more details about the salons, please click here. We look forward to seeing you there.
Emma Claire Sweeney and I already blogged about our forthcoming book on Something Rhymed, but I thought it would be a good idea to share a link to that post here too. A Secret Sisterhood, which focuses on the literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf, will be published by Aurum Press in the UK and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the USA, both in late 2017.
Emma and I are heavily into research and writing now, but we look forward to sharing snippets of the stories of these friendships on our website, and delving into everything in much greater depth in our book, A Secret Sisterhood.
In what has been a very busy month, writing-wise, it was an absolute treat to attend the dinner for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2015 on 14 May – and a huge surprise to win!
Having enjoyed reading their novel extracts so much, it was great to meet the four other writers shortlisted for the prize (Tracy Kuhn, Amy Spencer, Sonia Velton and Rebecca Welshman), the prize judges who were able to attend that evening (literary agent Nelle Andrew and bestselling author Allison Pearson), as well as Professor Janet Todd, president of Lucy Cavendish College.
An added delight was having the chance to share all this with my close friend and Something Rhymed collaborator Emma Claire Sweeney. Emma and I have been supporting each other’s ‘writing journeys’ for well over a decade now, and she has seen me through so many ups and downs. So this made her the obvious person to ask along as my guest for the evening. Having Emma there to celebrate with me made the whole experience extra special.
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.
The plan was relatively simple. For twelve months, we’d profile the literary friendships of a dozen pairs of famous female authors and challenge ourselves to complete monthly activities based on an aspect of each of these alliances.
During 2014, we’ve publically recalled our first impressions of each other; thrown a party together; composed long handwritten letters; even spent a day dressed in each other’s clothes…
Our project has developed in unexpected ways, giving us opportunities to collaborate with other writers and organisations.
Shortly after setting up Something Rhymed, we gave our first joint podcast interview. We’ve appeared together at the Ilkey Literature Festival and written articles for a variety of publications, including Women Writers, Women[’s] Books and the Independent on Sunday. On our own website, we’ve featured interviews and guest blogs with contemporary female writers we admire – most recently, Diana Athill.
When this time last January, we announced our intentions to set up Something Rhymed, several well-wishers expressed concern that we wouldn’t be able to find enough female literary pairs to complete our year-long task. But, as Emma Claire mentioned in a recent post, thanks to our close-knit community of readers from around the globe, the reverse has turned out to be true. Suggestions via Twitter or through our website have helped us to unearth many more collaborations than we could ever have envisaged twelve months ago.
And so, we’ve decided to keep sharing our findings at Something Rhymed into 2015, beginning this January with the extraordinary friendship of Mary Lamb and Dorothy Wordsworth.
We’d like to thank all our readers for their support and to wish them a Happy New Year.