Get your reading recommendations here…. more books added to the #100women100books library

Get your reading recommendations here…. more books added to the #100women100books library

Following yesterday’s post about our #100women100books library, I’m very pleased to list here some of the recommendations we’ve been getting via our website… ENJOY! And remember, we’ll be giving daily updates of our library on our Facebook page before revealing our whole library on 20th July when I’m off to the Compton Verney‘s Womens Library for our second writing residency there. Below’s a detail from one of the Compton Verney paintings!

Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed.

Book title: Geek Love

Author: Katherine Dunn

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): When I first read this book as a teenager I felt like I had discovered another planet. The Binewski family were so vivid, so fascinating and so real even when I read it again 20 years later. Just incredible.
Chosen by: Cait Morgan

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Book title: Good Behaviour

Author: Molly Keane

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): A novel from 1981 by the sharp and witty Irish writer Molly Keane – very funny, and also utterly agonising on family life, as well as wild socialising, and all its ‘glamour and malice’. A keenly intuitive and observant lover of people, food, creatures, mischief and life.
Chosen by: Katherine Pierpoint

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Book title: Life After Life

Author: Kate Atkinson

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): Everyone’s life is the result of chance happenings and ‘roads not taken’ (after Robert Frost). This book brilliantly explores these many possibilities in the life of a woman called Ursula whose life spans much of the twentieth century.
Chosen by: Clare Dudman

 

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Book title: Olive Kitteridge

Author: Elizabeth Strout

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): It’s a beautifully written, wonderfully insightful book that follows the life of central character Olive Kitteridge from adulthood through to old age. Olive is a woman as women are, not as she ought to be: she is flawed and fascinating and magnificently human.
Chosen by: A J Ashworth

 

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Book title: To Kill a Mockinbird

Author: Harper Lee

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): I first read the book at 12 years of age when I was at my most ‘priggish’ about what was right or wrong. My moral compass has matured but still consider it most famous quote to ‘walk in another man’s shoes’ as a good guide. I wanted to be Scout

Chosen by: Cas Holmes

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Book title: The Road Home

Author: Rose Tremain

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): I loved the way she turns predudice on its head, gifting us a wonderful character and illuminating his situation from the off.

Chosen by Zoe King

 

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Book title: Devil’s Cub

Author: Georgette Heyer

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): Any of he comedies are beautifully crafted and represent the Regency era and the English upper class at its worst and best. She started the regency genre -underrated -writing for her money for her ungrateful family ( I think) she churned them out and surely she is worth a mention somewhere on the list.

Chosen by: Hazel Stewart

 

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Book title: Himself

Author: Jess Kidd

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): This is a rollicking read, with rich language and amazing characterisation of both the living and the dead. It made me laugh and sometimes cry and I loved it.

Chosen by: Cath Barton

 

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Book title: Voyage in the Dark

Author: Jean Rhys

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): Because Jean Rhys wrote about difficult subjects in a time that didn’t want to hear about it, including sexism, discrimination, and that one harrowing illegal abortion scene in Voyage in the Dark. She was incredibly intelligent and she used her own harrowing and bleak experiences as inspiration for her passionate, stylistic and hugely under-appreciated novels.

Chosen by: Holly Anderson

 

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Book title: The Key (And The Name Of The Key Is Willingness)

Author: Cheri Huber

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): It is quite simply the best book on spiritual practice I’ve ever read; brief, clear, down-to-earth (if that doesn’t sound too incongruous for a spiritual book) – and requires no faith in anything unseen, only willingness face what is.

Chosen by: Tim Pieraccini

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Book title: The Weather in the Streets

Author: Rosamond Lehmann

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): I read this book (published in 1936) many years ago but it still resonates. It’s about double standards, women’s vulnerability in general and the suffering of a woman after a backstreet abortion.

Chosen by: Patricia Borlenghi

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Book title: The Left Hand of Darkness

Author: Ursula K. Le Guin

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): It’s science fiction, it’s queer and it’s about friendship … and such good storytelling. And it is journey … so many topics I dearly love.

 

Chosen by: Alice Puck

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Book title: God of Small Things

Author: Arundhati Roy

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): Because it helped me understand the power and magic of words

 

Chosen by: Vipasha

 

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Book title: The Red Tent

Author: Anita Diamant

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): No other book has stayed with me like this book. The strong sense of sisterhood mixed with the horror of what happens to the main character, Dinah, is both beautiful and haunting. It made me really appreciate the female friendships I have and realise how I couldn’t survive without the strong, intelligent and courageous women in my life.

Chosen by: Hester Mackay

 

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Book title: Joan Makes History

Author: Kate Grenville

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): This writes women into history, eg when Captain Cook discovers Australia, the woman in the McCubbin painting, The Pioneers, and many more. Intertwined with the story of an ordinary family, with our own moments of history eg moving out of home for the first time,first day of school etc.
Beautifully constructed as usual Kate Grenville.

 

Chosen by: Joan Ryan

Looking for something new to read?

Looking for something new to read?

Well, look no further… and not just one book but I’ve got ONE HUNDRED BOOKS, all written by women, and chosen by women, for you.

#100Women100Books is the result of one of the most lovely months Viccy Adams and I have just had, asking 100 of our friends and family to give us the one book they would recommend to put in our virtual women’s library for 2017.

JUST ONE BOOK!!! That was the cry we had most often, but then we got the books – a varied, exciting, yummy selection, all with the reason they had been picked. Some were funny, some were serious, some had made the chooser thing again, others had been favourites since they were children. Nearly everyone demanded a conversation – OH MY GOD, I REMEMBER THIS ONE or an immediate search to find out more, and yes, more than few purchases!

So why did we do this?

The picture above is one of the shelves of books in Compton Verney‘s 19th Century Women’s Library, where Viccy and I had a residency in January, and I’ll be going back to next month. All fine and good, you might say, but these aren’t real books – but rather false spines and were there just to give the impression of a well read woman, maybe? So Viccy and I decided to create our own virtual library of the books women should be reading today.

You’ll be able to read the whole list in July on our website, Spreadsheets and Moxie (and read more about the project there) but in the meantime if you like our page on Facebook (here) we are putting up two of three of the choices EVERY DAY – and with the reasons why they have been picked. Here are some of the ones so far to show just how varied the choices are…

Kerstin Uvnas Moberg, The Oxytocin Factor, Tapping the Hormone of Calm, Love and Healing
“This book is a wonderful introduction to the ‘feel good’ hormone, oxytocin, released within just 40 seconds of giving someone nurturing touch such as big hug. Research by the Touch Research Institute in Miami shows that oxytocin can lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce the level of stress hormones and bring a sense of calm…. so the book is essential reading for every woman.” Mary Atkinson

Toni Morrison, Beloved
“It’s a book about slavery narrated from a woman’s perspective and definitely one of the most powerfully affecting novels I have ever read. I still remember when and where I read it for the first time, twenty years after the event.” Louise Page

Jung Chang, Wild Swans
“It follows three generations of woman who grew up in China. I read it when I was traveling in Asia at 19 with an awful boyfriend who I promptly dumped as soon as I got back to Heathrow: the book was my saviour. It brought me so much strength to read about what these women had had to live through. I don’t think I’ve ever been so absorbed in a book since. It has been totally unforgettable and stayed with me all these years. It still sits in my bookshelf covered in yellowing and crispy sellotape; one of these days I’ll read it again.” Helen Bishop

Charlotte Brontë, Villette
“Because of her insistence on her right to love and be loved despite not being a beautiful princess.” Amy Caldwell-Nichols

Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider
“I’ve chosen it because it is a bold, thoughtful and courageous collection of essays. It explores writing/poetry/the arts as forms of knowledge that are feminine and offer a contrast to patriarchal-academic constructs of knowledge. She urges the feminist reader to explore and embrace differences of race, class, age, sexuality, physical ability, etc. within their understanding of feminism, as they can impact women’s experiences of oppression differently.” Juliana Mensah

So follow us on this journey, and remember to come back on 19th July when the whole list will be published! In the meantime, you can add your own selection to the library via our website – here. We’ve been reading and enjoying those choices too – although with a certain amount of trepidation because our to be read piles are getting higher and higher….

 

Voting for equality…

Voting for equality…

That’s what I’ll be doing on Thursday. I’m very proud to support our local WEP candidate in Tunbridge Wells, Celine Thomas, – and not just because she’s a lawyer, a parent and volunteers as a support worker for a local charity supporting women affected by domestic violence and has also been involved with supporting local refugee groups. Obviously I’m not telling you how to vote but let me invite you – whatever gender you are – to take a look at how the Women’s Equality Party are doing politics joyfully differently – for BOTH MEN AND WOMEN!

Even if Siobhan Sharpe doesn’t think we look the way a PR thinks we should….

Here’s the manifesto in brief…

1. A caring economy

WE offer a fresh approach that will build a sustainable caring economy that works for everyone.

2. Shared parental leave

WE will implement a fully equal system of nine months shared parental leave on 90% of pay, with a 3-month use-it-or-lose-it provision for each parent.

3. Free universal childcare

WE will implement full-time, high quality, free childcare for all children from the end of shared parental leave.

4. An end to violence against women

WE will repair the broken funding model for specialist services, including services that are for and led by BAME women. WE will put prevention, protection and provision at the heart of all our policies and WE will not rest until all women and girls are free from violence and harassment.

5. Unleashing women’s talent

By reforming our education system and tackling the reductive and often hypersexualised depiction of women in the media, WE will unleash the talent of all.

6. Equality in health and social care

WE will make sure our healthcare system works for women and men  alike, putting the furthest from equality first, and ensure that social care is recognised not as an adjunct to economic activity but as its underpinning.

7. Brexit

WE will build an immigration system with gender equality and social justice at its heart. WE will design trade deals that work for everybody. WE will make sure Brexit does not turn back the clock on gender equality through secondary legislation.

8. Invest in what matters

WE will invest in what matters and make sure our social infrastructure works as well as our physical infrastructure. WE will invest in homes, not houses, and restore our education, health care and social care systems. All our policies are costed and will not increase the burden on low and average income households.

And you can read more on the website here.

Some new writing workshop dates….

Some new writing workshop dates….

It’s spring! So do you want to get a spring  in your writing life? Well, here are some dates for you…

Put some movement in your writing – Saturday 22nd April, Tunbridge Wells

There are still a few places left for the yoga and journal writing workshop this Saturday at the Freestyle Yoga  Project in the High Street, Tunbridge Wells. You can come and join Anna’s wonderful Mellow Yellow class at 1pm and then write with us from 2.15-4.15, or just come for the writing part at 2.15. More details are here, but it’s important to note that this workshop is ideal EVEN if you’ve never done either yoga or writing (or both) before – it’s about opening up your creativity, trying something new and playing both on the page and the mat!

 

Share a poem – Saturday 29th April and Sunday 30th April, Canterbury

I’m lucky enough to work with the amazing Poetry Exchange who have found a completely new way of introducing and talking about poetry. Book a FREE 45 minute spot with us (I’m with John Prebble on the Saturday, and Victoria Field will be there on the Sunday) at the Wise Words Festival in Canterbury and bring a poem that has been a friend to you to talk about.I promise it’ll be an enriching experience, and you get a special recording of your poem afterwards as a gift.

HURRY THOUGH because these spots do get booked up – click here for the booking info. If you’re not quite in time to catch your spot, you can listen to the podcast here. 

 

Retreat from the world and nourish your love of words, 10-5pm, Friday 5th May, Canterbury

Last year we were sold out for this workshop in the yurt, and this year places have been going fast. COME AND JOIN Fiona Bennett and I as we encourage you to play with words, write in completely new ways, get tons of new ideas, and just generally spoil your writing self.

The details are here, and all you need to bring is a pen and journal. A CPD certificate is available for this workshop.

Some comments from last year’s participants..

I’ve discovered a new voice that I didn’t even know I could write in. Inspirational.

 I’m coming away with so much potential new work.

 I feel like it’s been much longer than a day, I’ve travelled a long way inside myself and with words.

Things overheard

Things overheard

We all know what street photography is now, but what is the term for someone who overhears things? A street listener, maybe. I prefer that to a snoop anyhow!

Here are a few of the things people said in town today as  I passed with my evil little notebook…

  • Just stop crying and smile so I can take a photograph
  • It’s a name of a small river in Sheffield. I just don’t know why I remember it so well.
  • Look there’s the Easter bunny! Oh, too late.
  • Funny, Mum, how it used to be me who held your hand when we crossed the road. Now, it’s the other way.
  • Never again. Until tonight.
  • I hate her. She thinks I’m her best friend but I’m not.
  • Is it wrong of me to fancy Boris?

Each snippet is a little story in itself, apart from the last one to which the answer is emphatically YES! AND NEVER MENTION THIS AGAIN.

A writing exercise for International Women’s Day

A writing exercise for International Women’s Day

Here’s what we’re doing in my writing class tonight to celebrate International Women’s Day. You’re very welcome to join along with us!

First, a freewrite… to pick one of the glorious women from my postcard pack (below) and write for six minutes on the smells, tastes, sights, sounds, and touches they would experience in the environment they are in right now (in the right now of the postcard obviously)…. Just that. We’re not going into character yet, we’re walking into the postcard, as it were.

 

Then we’re reading two wonderful poems. First up, Lucille Clifton with one of my favourite poems of all time, Won’t You Celebrate with Me. You can hear her reading it here :

Then, Kim Addonizio’s What do Women Want. 

I think we should have an interesting discussion about these two!

The second writing exercise is to go back to our woman in the postcard. Now we’ve established the sensory aspects of her setting (in the freewrite), what about her? What does she want to celebrate, what does she want? We’ll be writing monologues from the imagined woman’s perspective – so in the first person – and with the one thing both poems have in common for me: a woman taking back and owning her power.

It should be interesting. A first line suggestion might be ‘I want a…’ or ‘Let’s celebrate how I…’

And the going-home gift? Sylvia Plath’s Lady Lazarus. Not exactly a celebration but for me, one of the finest monologues, and another example of a woman in a poem who won’t be silenced. It gives me goosebumps every time.

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

Three small things and the smirk I need right now

Three small things and the smirk I need right now

 

A friend of mine recently went on a Buddhist activist weekend, and came back with the best advice I’ve heard of coping with the world right now. DO SMALL THINGS, she was told. There’s no way you can change everything.

So I’ve taken this on board. My small thing at the moment is what I call the Polish Ladies and Tea Club. A group of Polish women come to my house weekly to drink tea, eat cake, and er, yes, learn English. They are teachers, shop managers, university students who are now all working as cleaners here. One of the problems we identified is that their hours don’t allow them to study English regularly so this is a chance to sit down and have some general conversation.

As always, the best things to do are the ones you enjoy yourself. And what this has done is to remember the joy of everyday words. Cup, I say, and then cupboard… is that because that’s where the cups board???? Oh my gosh, how bizarre that we never think of what’s behind these words. I’m not trained in teaching English as a foreign language, but as they are just ‘paying me’ in laughs and chocolate biscuits we are all happy. If anyone would like to try something similar, I’d be happy to let you have some of the exercises and games we’ve used so far. Or indeed to swap resources.

And then, other small things… well, I’m not sure I’d call reading a small thing, but we went away recently for a reading weekend. We put our phones away and got out our books instead. Apart from missing a call from my sister to say she was at the local pub, we didn’t miss them at all. Mind you, we were staying here in one of the Landmark Trust houses.. Fox Hall in West Sussex. It may look like a mansion but it was actually a bedsitting room.

So what did I read. Well, here’s a clue…

I’ve placed it by a labyrinth because Sarah Hilary is plot-master supreme – who even holds back certain mysteries (no spoilers) for the next Marnie Rome book. I could hardly bear it. If you see her on twitter or facebook please send her back to the manuscript. I can’t wait too long. I also read the most extraordinary biography of Shirley Jackson, A Rather Haunted Life. GET BOTH! I promise that you’ll never hear creaks in an old house in the same way ever again.

But despite being too frightened to go anywhere on my own one evening, I felt so relaxed and … yes, stilled at the end of the weekend.

And the third thing? Laughing of course. Helped by this sign I saw…

And then a friend of mine spotted my photo on instagram, and sent me her poem which made me laugh out loud… ENJOY! En-joy… In Joy… that’s not a small thing after all!

RUDE PLACES
by Susanna Clayson

I recently was entertained –
my mirth could barely be contained,
by a list of British places
with names so rude they redden faces.

One county stood out from the rest –
Northumberland was naughtiest.
With Lickar Moor, and Great Tosson
Bushygap, Flesh Shank and Sodom

Dorset has a Scratchy Bottom.
Shaggs, Piddle, Spanker and Weedon,
Nob End, Minge Lanes and Lower Swell
Cockintake, Twatt and Staines as well

Up north, I laughed at Cockermouth
And smirked at Sandy Balls down south
Beaver Close and Bachelor’s Bump.
Bishops Itchington, Great Trump!

Butt of Lewis, Cock of Arran
Hole of Horcum and Wetwang
Horneyman in Kent, near Thong
While Crotch Crescent is just plain wrong

But west to east or in the middle
Acock’s Green to Wyre Piddle
Fanny Barks wins the rudest prize
Tied with Fudgepack on Humberside

The photographs I didn’t take…

The photographs I didn’t take…

 

I went by train from London to Newcastle today, realising too late I’d left my phone at home, so here are some written snapshots of the shots I might have snapped….

 

1.     Walking through Bloomsbury and looking up as always at the flat with the blue plaque which says Lenin lived there, I spot a woman in the kitchen cooking breakfast. For the next few streets, my feet ring out to the phrase ‘frying bacon for Lenin, Lenin’s bacon is frying, Lenin’s frying bacon.’ By the time, I’ve reached Kings Cross, I’ve written a whole opera in my head, including smoke alarms.

2.     On the train, four railway employees come to sit across the aisle. They’ve just been on a course together, and spread drawings and plans of signal crossings across the table. For nearly the whole journey between Peterborough and Darlington, they discuss signals. With enthusiasm.

3.     Looking up suddenly and seeing the Angel of the North from the train window.

4.     There’s a queue spilling out on the street as I walk to the university, I imagine a restaurant, pub, nightclub, but it’s a gym. The bouncer is letting people in one at a time.

5.     At the bar, I sit and wait for Viccy. At the other end of the table two architecture academics are discussing ‘civilian architects’. Separately they both pull out the same huge heavy book from their bags. One has dragged her copy all the way from Denmark. For the whole time I sit there, the two books sit in front of them. Unopened.

6.     The Premier Inn I’m staying in used to be the old Co-Operative headquarters. On the stairwell there’s a memorial plaque for employees killed in both world wars. They are listed under their old departments – Butchery, Boot Repairs, Ready to Wear…

What one piece of advice would you give a woman writer, artist or musician starting her career?

What one piece of advice would you give a woman writer, artist or musician starting her career?

It was good to step away from the world last week and have a day’s discussion and writing workshop with four of the South East Associate Artists involved in the Spreadsheets & Moxie research project Viccy Adams and I are currently running, with the support of Arts Council England.

We covered everything – from role models for writers, to unprofessionalism, to the differences between qualities, strengths and skills, to best ways to communicate. Our day ended with an impromptu quick fire round table of the one piece of advice we might give a woman* starting out on a career in the creative arts. Here’s what I scribbled down from the discussion…

Qualities for a writing career

Some of the qualities we identified for sustainable arts and writing careers

Take yourself seriously and don’t be derailed by other people’s jealousy and/or fear.

Work on one project at a time. 

Work on six projects at a time

Find somebody who will be really supportive of you.

Try to keep a different mind and experiment with different medium

Ditch the idea that it is necessary to suffer as a writer or an artist.

Never dismiss something just because you find it easy. If you’re enjoying your work, it doesn’t automatically mean that it is, or you are, shallow. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

And lastly: TURN UP!

 

So, what might be the one piece of advice you’d offer someone? 

 

(* I think all of these are applicable to men too, but it’s interesting. MIght there be some circumstances where we would offer different advice?)

With grateful thanks to our lovely South East Associate Artists – Clare Best, Catherine Smith, Ellen Montelius, Kay Syrad, and Vanessa Gebbie, for continuing and welcome challenges and inspiration! We will be in Newcastle next week for a similar day with our NE Associate Artists… notebooks ahoy! 

 

Nan Shepherd and Jane Austen compare notes…

Nan Shepherd and Jane Austen compare notes…

What might happen during a Twitter conversation between Nan Shepherd and Jane Austen about what it’s like to appear on banknotes?

Linda Cracknell and I decided to find out recently for Edinburgh University’s Dangerous Women Project.  The results can be found here…

The conversation contains a lot of imagination, a little Mark Carney, although sadly no Moomins…