Out of the Shadows – out in paperback today!

I’m so happy to be able to let you know that my group biography, Out of the Shadows: Six Visionary Victorian Women in Search of a Public Voice is now available in paperback. A lot has happened in my life since the hardback came out over a year ago – and just weeks before my son, Dylan, was born.

In addition to reviews in the Wall Street Journal, Times Literary Supplement, New York Journal of Books and others, the book was featured in an essay in the New Yorker. I was also asked to talk about the history of Spiritualism in an article in the New York Times and in episode five of BBC Radio 4’s Battersea Poltergeist podcast. Out of the Shadows was one of Bookmarks’ Best Reviewed Books of the Week. Extracts from the book appeared in Crime Reads, Literary Hub and UEA New Writing. These excerpts focused on Victoria Woodhull, America’s first female presidential candidate, and the Fox sisters, whose apparent abilities to contact the dead sparked a transatlantic séance craze.

I also wrote a few features of my own, which gave me the chance to talk about Georgina Weldon – whose Spiritualist beliefs nearly saw her confined to an asylum, but who went on to become a campaigner against archaic lunacy laws – and controversial ‘trance lecturer’ Emma Hardinge Britten, famed for her ‘Great Funeral Oration on Abraham Lincoln’, which was watched by a crowd of thousands. I’m now working on some pieces to tie in with the release of the paperback. I’ll add links to them on this page of the website once they’re published.

Getting back to the subject of Dylan, he and his sister, Lola, are doing well. At one and three years old respectively, they are more or less oblivious to all of the above, but perhaps one day they’ll be interested to hear that much of the research and writing of this book happened alongside my two pregnancies and their births – a subject I explored in a post for Women Writers, Women’s Books.

In other news, I returned to my academic post teaching writing at NYU London earlier this month. After a longer-than-expected break, taking in two stints of maternity leave and a pandemic-related absence from campus, I’m enjoying being back in the classroom again and having the chance to share the work of writers I admire with a new intake of students.

Finally, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who bought a copy of Out of the Shadows, borrowed one from a library, helped spread the word on social media, in a blog or podcast, or by old-fashioned word of mouth. Your support has meant so much to me. I’m now hard at work on a new book and will be sharing updates on that in the months to come.

Out of the Shadows released in the UK today, plus an online book launch, features in Lit Hub, inclusion in their Best Reviewed Books of the Week, and more

Out of the Shadows is released in the UK today, and is available from Waterstones, Blackwell’s, Amazon and elsewhere. I’m so happy that readers in my home country will now be able to read my book.

Seven-and-a-half months pregnant in this image of me all set up to talk with my editor Jennifer Alton.

Over the past week-and-half, since publication in North America, I’ve had the chance to talk about the lives of the Fox sisters, Emma Hardinge Britten, Victoria Woodhull and Georgina Weldon in an online book launch hosted by Brookline Booksmith and chaired by my editor at Counterpoint Press, Jennifer Alton. A recording of the event should be made available soon.

I also had a piece published in Literary Hub on some of the difficulties facing the biographer who works with the accounts of unreliable witnesses, and was delighted to be included in their Book Marks list of the Best Reviewed Books of the Week. Today, Literary Hub also published an extract from Out of the Shadows, which deals with the remarkable rise on Wall Street of Victoria Woodhull.

And in the UK today, the University of East Anglia’s New Writing site published a different extract, which focuses on the first mysterious knockings that launched the extraordinary careers of the Fox sisters, Kate, Maggie and Leah.

Another thing that has made me happy has been the opportunity to give interviews or write features for some of my favourite book blogs.

Books By Women published a piece by me about the experience of working on a book in tandem with two pregnancies: ‘On Writing and Early Motherhood’.

Pregnant (with my previous baby) in this image too – researching the lives of the Fox sisters at the site of their former home in Hydesville, Wayne County (NY).

I Stayed In with Linda Hill as part of her popular series on Linda’s Book Bag. This gave me the chance to share an image of myself ankle-deep in snow at the site of the Fox sisters’ former home, and to talk about my Great Aunt Jessie’s opera glasses.

I talked more about my research for Out of the Shadows in a Q&A on Deborah Kalb’s blog.

Jill’s Book Cafe included my ‘Five on Friday’ selections, featuring music that’s part of the soundtrack of my life, advice for my younger self, and things that few people know about me.

In addition to these pieces, I’m grateful to the many social media users who have been sharing images and thoughts on my book. Seeing these kinds of readers’ reactions to Out of the Shadows always makes my day.

Something Rhymed… a continuing story

When Emma Claire Sweeney and I launched Something Rhymed at the start of 2014, we were clear about one thing: it would be a year-long project.

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…

The clothes-swap challenge: me dressed in Emma Claire's dress
The clothes-swap challenge: me, on holiday, in Emma Claire’s dress.

And Emma, at her book club, wearing my top.
And Emma Claire, at her book club, wearing my top.

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.

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!