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.
Having had such an enjoyable time at last year’s NAWE conference, I was really happy to take part in another panel discussion there this year. This time, Emma Claire Sweeney and I gave a presentation on the subject of friendships between writers along with two other “writing friends”, Emily Pedder and Monique Roffey.
Some people might remember that Emily and Monique were two of the writers we interviewed for our feature in The Times
back in May. Taking the newspaper article as a starting point, we used our session at the conference to ask Monique and Emily some questions inspired by what they’d told us the last time we met with them.
Emma and I were also able to delve a little further into the friendships of some of the historical writers that our research for the article had centred on – Brontë and Gaskell, Fitzgerald and Hemingway, Mansfield and Woolf to name but a few – as well as discussing practical tips with our audience of modern day writers for ways of sustaining a successful writing friendship through the good as well as the rockier times.
Having been friends with Emma for well over a decade now, I feel extremely lucky to have someone who’s been with me through my writing years. As we shared with the group at the conference, there have been ups and downs in the trajectories of our careers, disappointments as well as triumphs, but something I really do appreciate is that Emma’s been there for the whole of this period and that she’s still usually the first person I turn to if I have a difficult decision to make or a knotty plot problem that I’m struggling to untangle.
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.