Book Oxygen and Yorkshire Post feature articles

Keeping with my New Year’s resolution to not to leave it ages between posts on this blog, I thought this would be a good opportunity to let you know about the progress of two projects I’ve been involved with recently.

Emily's letter seal

Something Rhymed

This is the new website I began at the start of the year with Emma Claire Sweeney, which profiles the literary friendships of well-known authors. Throughout 2014, we will be looking at a different pair of female writer pals every month and challenging ourselves to complete an activity based on a prominent feature of that particular friendship.

In January, we’ve been focusing on Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf, and the activity Emma Claire and I have been doing is letter writing, which we’ve talked about in more detail in our weekly updates.

We were also lucky to be able to feature a guest post by writer friends Jill Dawson and Kathryn Heyman, regular correspondents by letter themselves. You can read more about our plans for Something Rhymed this year, in this feature article for the literary website Book Oxygen.

Tangled Roots

Katy Massey’s project, showcasing the experiences of mixed-race families from Yorkshire continues to go from strength to strength. You can read the latest news and stories here.

I was pleased to see Nick Ahad’s article about Tangled Roots in Saturday’s edition of the Yorkshire Post magazine. As one of the featured writers, I’m of course looking forward to the book of the project, which should be launched in March.

Article in Mslexia

An article by Emma Claire Sweeney and me appears in the new issue of Mslexia. Its theme is rivalry between female author friends – a subject that we became interested in through our wider research into writing friendships.

We’d touched on issues of friction within writers’ relationships in the talk we gave at the NAWE conference last year and also in a piece we wrote for The Times. But we felt it was an issue that could be explored in more detail, which was why we approached Mslexia with our idea for the feature.

Although rivalry is often regarded as only a detrimental force within a friendship, Emma Claire and I know from our own relationship that the competition between us has been good for us as writers, and good for our friendship too – since it’s encouraged greater honesty between us.

We wanted to find out whether other authors felt the same way. As well as investigating the historical friendship between rivals Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf, we sought the opinions of several modern-day writers to get their views on the subject too.

Many thanks to Polly Coles, Amanda Craig, Jill Dawson, Louise Doughty, Liz Jensen and Madeline Miller for your insights.

Mslexia Issue 57 is out now.

Next year’s Mslexia Writer’s Diary

The Mslexia diary I’d ordered arrived this week. As usual, in addition to all the calendar-related stuff you’d expect, it contains inspiring words by writers, a useful directory and summary of The Writing Year ahead, and plenty of blank pages for scribbling down ideas.

The diary’s theme in 2013 is collaboration and the Inspirations page for August focuses on the writing friendship between Emma Claire Sweeney and I, which we talked about in our feature in The Times back in May and also in our recent discussion panel at the NAWE conference.

Also mentioned in our Mslexia entry are Jill Dawson, Louise Doughty, Emily Pedder and Monique Roffey, who were amongst the writers we interviewed for the Times article.

Feature in The Times today

In celebration of this year’s Orange Prize, The Times is running a feature article on friendships between female writers, written by Emma Claire Sweeney and me.

Emma introducing me at a recent readings event at NYU in London

For this piece, we had the pleasure of travelling out to Ireland to interview Anne Enright (shortlisted this year for The Forgotten Waltz) and her friend Lia Mills. Back in London, we met with Jill Dawson and Louise Doughty, both former Orange nominees who’ve long been a source of support to each other), and also Emily Pedder and Monique Roffey (shortlisted in 2010). These two signed a co-mentoring agreement to keep themselves on track with the writing of their memoirs.

The inspiration for this article grew out of personal experience. Emma and I have been the best of friends since we met, in Japan, over a decade ago. We were working as English teachers in Japanese schools at the time. Separately, we were writing in secret, although we hadn’t yet found the courage to admit our ambitions, even to each other. Since then, we’ve been able to watch each other’s careers progress and we’ve shared in the successes and also the disappointments we’ve experienced so far. It’s been wonderful to talk with other women who’ve relied on each other in similar ways.

Many thanks to Anne, Emily, Jill, Lia, Louise and Monique. Thanks also to Tim Clare and Joe Dunthorne for your insights on a friendship between two male writers. This story is also featured in our piece.

Finally, thanks to Emma herself. Despite the long hours we’ve put into this, working with you has been just as fun as it always is.