Things on the Internet I’ve Enjoyed Lately

I suppose this is a very mini version of In the Media with not quite so catchy a title. There are a few things that have caught my attention lately that I thought were worth sharing.

Firstly, The Prime Writers, a group of writers who had their debut novels published at 40+, have joined together and launched their website last week. (No surprise that the majority of the group are female.) There you’ll find everything you need to know about each of the writers and their books. There’s also fantastic content being posted regularly, I particularly enjoyed this conversation between Antonia Honeywell and Claire Fuller about their debuts which are both about fathers and daughters.

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Norwich Writers Centre have announced their Brave New Reads for the summer. They include Black Country by Liz Berry, Green Carnation Winner Any Other Mouth by Anneliese Mackintosh and one of my books of the year so far, Jennifer Clement’s Prayers for the Stolen. You can find out more about the authors, read extracts from the books and find out how to join in the discussion on the website.

Other things well worth reading:

One of my favourite writers, Janice Galloway, has a new short story collection, Jellyfish, out this week. You can read a short story from it in Prospect called ‘Romantic‘.

Lauren Laverne’s blog for The Pool is always worth reading (published on Mondays) but this week’s is particularly good, ‘What’s Happened to Social Mobility?

Also on The Pool and worth reading every week is Sali Hughes. Last week she wrote, ‘Let’s hear it for honest celebrities‘.

Eva Wiseman’s column for the Observer is also brilliant every single week. This Sunday’s was particularly fantastic and beautiful: ‘What is the price of heartbreak?

Rufi Thorpe whose debut The Girls from Corona del Mar is well worth a read, wrote a beautiful piece about publishing a first novel on Medium: ‘The Frightening and Wondrous Things That Will Happen to You When You Publish Your First Novel‘.

Also beautiful is Jess Richards’ piece for Scottish Book Trust, ‘Undrowned‘.

Briliant interviews published in The Guardian/Observer this week with my new favourite writer Nell Zink and feminist YA writer Louise O’Neill whose book Only Ever Yours I bought last week as it sounds amazing.

Last week I said I was considering writing a response to Kamila Shamsie’s piece calling for a year of publishing only women but Foyles Assistant Head of Fiction, Marion Rankine, said everything I was going to say in her piece for The Guardian, ‘Battling bias on the shop floor: how bookstores can support diversity‘. I went into Foyles on the Southbank last week and face on to the door, first book you saw as you walked in was Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor. I was impressed (and I bought it).

And if you need a good laugh, there’s an extract from Bridget Christie’s forthcoming A Book for Her in The Guardian, ‘Feminists never have sex and hate men opening doors for them, even into other dimensions‘ and John Crace’s Digested Read of Grey by EL James also in The Guardian is hilarious. Count how many times you can get the phrase ‘enormous cock’ into one article (you’d never get away with that in The Times).

 

In the Media: 26th October 2014

In the media is a weekly round up of features written by, about or containing female writers that have appeared during the previous week and I think are insightful, interesting and/or thought provoking. Linking to them is not necessarily a sign that I agree with everything that’s said but it’s definitely an indication that they’ve made me think. Also, just a note to make it clear that I’m using the term ‘media’ to include social media, so links to blog posts as well as traditional media are likely.

 

This week there’s definitely a celebration of feminist role models happening. At the forefront (mostly because her book Yes, Please is out in the US on Tuesday and the UK the following week) is Amy Poehler. Bustle have 15 Quotes that Prove She’s Our Brilliant Fairy Godmother; Popsugar have 19 Times Amy Poehler Said What We Wish We’d Said, while People have her answering questions people posted on Twitter and Facebook. Amanda Hess, in Slate, wrote about Poehler joining the famous women’s comedy/memoir/advice-book club; Lydia Kiesling wrote in Salon about how Nora Ephron presides over Poehler, Dunham, Fey and Kaling’s books, while Sam Baker in Harpers Bazaar wrote about Fearless Feminist Reads and why they’re important for teenage girls as well as adults.

Someone else who’s been written about as a feminist role model this week is Jane Austen. Jane Austen: Feminist in Action by Sinéad Murphy ran on the Huffington Post blog; Alexander McCall Smith explained why he’s modernised Emma on the Waterstones’ Blog; Sarah Seltzer on Flavorwire wrote about ‘Why We Can’t Stop Reading – and Writing – Jane Austen Sequels‘, while on Something Rhymed, Emma Claire Sweeney wrote ‘In Praise of the Spinster‘ about playwright, Ann Sharpe, Austen’s family’s governess.

Another amazing woman, Joan Didion, is also being celebrated this week. Her nephew is making a documentary about her. You can watch the trailer here. He’s decided to raise funds via Kickstarter which led to Flavorwire publishing Some Other Joan Didion Kickstarter Rewards We’d Like to See and Vogue re-publishing her 1961 essay ‘On Self-Respect‘.

It would be wrong not to mention Hallowe’en this week, particularly as there’s been a group of pieces around that theme. Wired’s podcast, which features Lauren Beukes, is What’s Scarier, Haunted Houses or Haunted People?; Electric Literature have published ‘“Then, a Hellbeast Ate Them”: Notes on Horror Fiction and Expectations‘, looking at Diane Cook and Helen Oyeyemi amongst others; Sarah Perry has written on The Gothic for Aeon, and Kate Mayfield who wrote the memoir ‘The Undertaker’s Daughter’ is on For Books’ Sake talking about How Not to Write a Memoir and in The Guardian talking about ‘Growing Up in the Family Funeral Parlour‘.

Talking of scary, Gone Girl‘s still a hot topic this week. Tana Wojczuk wrote ‘Gone Girl, Bluebeard, and the Meaning of Marriage‘ in Guernica in response to Elif Bautman’s piece ‘Marriage Is an Abduction‘ from last week’s New Yorker. Amanda Ann Klein wrote about the ‘Unbearable Whiteness of Gone Girls‘ for Avidly, and Steph Cha wrote about ‘Laughing at “Gone Girl”‘ in the LA Review of Books.

This week’s other notable essays/articles:

And the interviews:

In translation news, I’ve seen no articles this week about the identity of Elena Ferrante – hurrah! But I have seen that there’s a new imprint called Periscope devoted to translating poetry by women – hurrah!

If you’d like some fiction to read/listen to:

Or some non-fiction:

This week’s lists:

And the best things I’ve read this week:

Unsung Female Writers (Part Two)

Thank you for the great response to our Unsung Female Writers (Part One) post. Today, we’ve got the rest of the list for you consisting of mine and Antonia’s choices. Let us know what you think of our picks and whether there’s anyone whose writing you love who isn’t on either of our lists.

Antonia Honeywell is a writer whose debut novel The Ship will be published in February 2015. She blogs each month about the journey towards publication and is a keen reader of literary prize lists – you can read her thoughts on the Bailey’s Prize and the Man Booker Prize on her website.

Maggie Gee

Gee’s thirteen novels span a vast range of subjects and settings; her work defies categorization by genre or concern. What her novels have in common, though, is a clear-sighted, unsentimental generosity about humanity and its place in the natural world. Her characters’ opinions of themselves are dissected with honesty and compassion, and this ability to create empathy where there is not necessarily sympathy is one that deserves wider recognition. Gee has a comic touch too – in her latest novel, she brings Virginia Woolf to modern-day Manhattan. Her memoir, My Animal Life, is a must-read; in novels, begin with The White Family (contemporary) or The Ice People (speculative future) and take it from there.

Stella Duffy

Stella Duffy is a powerhouse of energy. She’s published fourteen novels, several plays, she acts, she is a vocal champion of equal marriage and is the drive behind the Fun Palaces project (inspired by Joan Littlewood); she’s had cancer and written eloquently of her distaste for the language of battle that’s often used in relation to it. This concern for honest language permeates her novels – The Room of Lost Things, my suggested starting point, is London. Not the monuments and icons we’d all recognize, but the vibrancy and squalor of a life lived rather than a life created.

Marika Cobbold

If I ever have reservations about Twitter, I only have to think of the book chat it’s introduced me to and the writers I’d never heard of before I joined. I wonder how I’d have found Marika Cobbold’s writing if I’d never * butted in * on an exchange that started with Disney princes and carried on with the toads in my cellar lightwell, culminating in a photo of Rufus Sewell. Such frivolous humour led me to Tea With Guppies, a beautifully-observed exploration of aging, of dignity, of relationships between old and young. Cobbold’s latest novel is Drowning Rose. Witty, sharp and rewarding.

Edna O’Brien

Now in her 80s, Edna O’Brien has published twenty one works of fiction since The Country Girls (1960) was denounced and burned in her native Ireland for its open discussion of matters moral and sexual. She had already made her home in London, but remains an honest and precise dissector of the consequences of a repressive society on the life of its citizens. Down by the River (1996), for example, takes as its subject a teenage rape victim seeking an abortion. The Country Girls remains a relevant and fresh read and a fine starting place to explore the work of this prolific, fierce and assured novelist.

Dorothy L. Sayers

Dorothy L. Sayers wrote detective fiction. Detective fiction is genre fiction, and genre fiction rarely makes it onto the literary prize lists. But by dismissing genre fiction, readers dismiss some truly excellent writing. This is as true now as it’s ever been (see also Kate Atkinson). Sayers’ stories are masterclasses in creating character with a few deft strokes; in conveying emotion through a simple action; in using dialogue; in effective use of description. Sceptics should start with the short stories (Lord Peter Views the Body). Murder Must Advertise or Strong Poison would be a good place to start the novels.

And my choices are:

Janice Galloway

Galloway might seem like an odd choice for a list of unsung writers to some – she’s won a number of awards and her debut The Trick Is to Keep Breathing is considered a Scottish contemporary classic. However, the big prizes and sales seem to have alluded her whilst her contemporary Irvine Welsh has gone on to worldwide fame and acclaim. Galloway has written three novels, two short story collections and two memoirs. She observes ordinary life, describing it through vivid and often disturbing imagery. Where to start with her work would depend on your preference: for novels, The Trick Is to Keep Breathing; for stories, Blood, for memoir, This Is Not About Me.

Jackie Kay

Another Scottish writer who’s won a number of awards but not the popular recognition she deserves. A poet, novelist, short story writer, memoirist and playwright. She’s also a wonderful performer of her own work. Adopted by a Scottish couple as a baby, her memoir Red Dust Road is the story of her search for her birth parents – a Scottish mother and a Nigerian father. It’s a great introduction to her work. Alternatively, you could start with her novel Trumpet, inspired by the life of American jazz musician Billy Tipton who was born Dorothy and lived as a man for fifty years. The book begins as Joss Moody (the Tipton inspired character) dies and his adopted son discovers the truth about his father’s identity.

Salley Vickers

In contrast to the previous two writers, Vickers has never won an award for her books – something I’ve checked several times via a variety of sources, so astonished was I to discover this. She’s the author of seven novels and a short story collection. Her work is often inspired by art – her debut Miss Garnet’s Angel features the Guardi panels in the Chiesa dell’ Angelo Raffaele in Venice – and includes a magical element. However, it is her work as a psychoanalyst that allows her to create characters with such considered inner lives whilst maintaining a seemingly effortless style of writing. Her aforementioned debut is a good place to begin, or with my personal favourite Mr Golightly’s Holiday.

Bernadine Evaristo

Evaristo is the author of seven novels, several of which blend prose and poetry. Her writing is musical and rhythmic. She explores a variety of experiences through her work, including her own family’s mixed heritage in the verse novel Lara and the black experience in Europe through the ghosts of Pushkin’s great-grandfather and Mary Seacole, amongst others, in Soul Tourists. She was a recent winner of the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize for her wonderful novel, Mr Loverman, about a 74-year-old African Caribbean man who comes out after decades of hiding his relationship with his lover. Barrington Jedidiah Walker’s story is my suggested starting point.

Rebecca Solnit

Writer, historian and activist, Solnit is an essayist and long form non-fiction writer. She’s covered topics as diverse as nuclear testing, Eadweard Muybridge and high-speed motion photography, activism, prison, altruism from disaster, the creation of stories and walking. Her essay ‘Men Explain Things to Me’, which led to the coining of the term ‘mansplaining’ will be published in a book later this year alongside essays on marriage equality and violence against women. That essay or her book A Field Guide to Getting Lost, which explores how we can steep outside of our comfort zones – both physically and mentally – would be good introductions to her work.

Huge thanks to Ali, Susan and Antonia for their contributions.