A Secret Sisterhood is out today in the USA

I’m delighted to announce that my book A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf (with a foreword by Margaret Atwood, and co-written with Emma Claire Sweeney) is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt today.

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.

Coming Soon! – A Secret Sisterhood: The Hidden Friendships of Austen, Brontё, Eliot and Woolf

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.

Proofs for A Secret Sisterhood. Looking forward to seeing the real copies…

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.

‘A Secret Sisterhood’ talk at NYU London

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Emma Claire Sweeney and I will be giving a talk at NYU London tomorrow (3rd December).

‘A Secret Sisterhood’ will focus on our research into female literary friendship, in particular the friendships of George Eliot and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf.

We’ll let our Something Rhymed readers know how it went in an upcoming blog post, and you can find out more about these relationships, and many others, by visiting Something Rhymed.

Article in Shooter magazine: Emily Dickinson and Helen Hunt Jackson

The only authenticated portrait of Emily Dickinson (later in childhood). This image is in the public domain. The original is held by the Archives and Special Collections at Amherst College.
Emily Dickinson (later in childhood). This image is in the public domain. The original is held by the Archives and Special Collections at Amherst College.

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.

Something Rhymed: guest post for Women Writers, Women[‘s] Books and interview with Read Me Something You Love

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.

Weve 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.

Me listening to Emma Claire's reading of Virginia Woolf
Me listening to Emma Claire’s reading of Virginia Woolf

We were already fans of Read 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 Woolfs 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!

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.