Category Archives: Writing

All that matters – a 50 word photostory

All that matters – a 50 word photostory

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We’re falling apart and there’s no-one left to put us back together. We just let things drop where they will. My finger on the stairs, your leg in the bathroom. We hold each other so gently, secretly measuring what’s left. Soon we’ll just be lips kissing our love to oblivion.

(I used to do 50 word photostories all the time. I’d take an interesting photograph and write a 50 word – no more no less – story to go with them, but somehow along the way I stopped. I was still taking the photos but forgetting to do anything with them. But recently I’ve been thinking about them again, and then I had a lovely coincidence when I went to a sparkly poetry tea where the guests included Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos who talked about his wonderful Picpoetry.

My old ones have disappeared now but I love how when I went looking for them today, I found traces on other writers websites… where they’d been left like small blurry footprints.

Which fits in nicely with the photograph above, really! )

 

The power of reading aloud together

The power of reading aloud together
The power of reading aloud together

Last Sunday, I got invited to something wonderful. I’d heard about the village here in Kent that had got together at Christmas and read Paradise Lost out loud to each other, and a friend and I were inspired – we would do the same! But somehow things got in the way and, er, we haven’t actually got round to it yet.

But luckily for Rolvenden, the same people who organised the Paradise Lost event organised another reading and luckily for me, I got an invitation. Because it seems you get the well-intentioned (me) and the actual do-ers (them). In this case it’s Rob Pursey, Amelia Fletcher and Colin Teevan – thank you thank you thank you! (I love the story about how when Rob and Colin first thought of the idea, they suspected it might be the two of them reading Milton to each other in a shed.)

Far from it. For this second event, they had invited Michael Longley and his wife, Edna, to visit them and to read his poems aloud with him, and about thirty of us crammed into Rob and Amelia’s wonderful sitting room and let the words wash over us. As Michael himself sat and listened! What a privilege. There was real magic in the communal experience, and a reminder that poetry should be read out loud – especially with all the different voices, accents and even the mangling of Irish place names, as we took one poem each to read in turn…

And I think Michael enjoyed it too…. here’s a gorgeous photo of him at the end of a full reading of his collection, The Stairwell that sums up the day….  (the photograph is by John Stanley, and Rob kindly said I could share it.)

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Are Women People?

Are Women People?
Are Women People?

I had to post something about Alice Duer Miller today – this is republished from an article that first appeared in Vulpes Libris.

An appreciation of Alice Duer Miller

Article by Sarah Salway

Father, what is a legislature?
A representative body elected by the people of the state.
Are women people?
No, my son. Criminals, lunatics and women are not people.
(A.D.M, 1915)

My first novel, Something Beginning With, begins with the dedication: ‘To Alice, with respect’. It always makes me happy when people ask who Alice is because I get to talk about the inspiration of much of my writing, the American writer Alice Duer Miller.

She’s one of those writers whose words are so alive that it doesn’t matter that she died some twenty years before I was born. I still find myself picking up one of her poems or books and wanting to reply. The first book of hers I read was lying on a shelf in a holiday house we rented the summer of the eclipse. Forsaking all others is a novel in verse first published in 1930, and although the dusty cover did not look promising, inside was a different matter. It uses a playful, almost modern structure in its use of fragmentation and different forms for the different voices to tell the story of an illicit affair and the resulting heartbreak for all parties. When I finished it, I knew I had found the challenge I wanted for my MA project – a series of linked short stories that created a much bigger picture than the whole, just as Alice Duer Miller had achieved with her poems.

But one of my stories grew until it transformed itself into a novel, as I’m sure no story belonging to Alice Duer Miller would have dared to do. As one of the only two women (along with Dorothy Parker) who belonged to the Algonquin Round Table in the 1920s and 30s, she was known equally for both her sharp tongue and love of fun. ‘They’re not exactly ill bred, and they’re not exactly well bred,’ she apparently said about some acquaintances. ‘They are the sort of people who keep a parrot.’

This quirky humour seeps into her writing, and is particularly visible in her suffrage poems. From 1914-1917, she had a weekly column called ‘Are Women People?’ in the left wing New York Tribune. She took the arguments used against women’s suffrage and turned them round until they made no sense at all. Her poems and short pieces are extremely funny, and I like to imagine, completely infuriated the people she poked fun at.

Some were persona poems. ‘Representation’ begins with an epitaph quoting Vice-President Marshall’s comment: ‘My wife is against suffrage, and that settles me’, and continues:

My wife dislikes the income tax,
And so I cannot pay it;
She thinks that golf all interest lacks,
So now I never play it…

Bullet points, mimicking the official language of the anti-suffrage movement, were another form that worked well for her. Her list poems, which include ‘Why we oppose pockets for women’ and ‘Why children should not go to school’, are as biting as any modern satirical journalism. And in her reversals of gender stereotypes, she spoofed the male legislators with versions of their own arguments:

Why we Oppose Votes for Men

1. Because man’s place is in the armory.

2. Because no really manly man wants to settle any question otherwise than by fighting about it.

3. Because if men should adopt peaceable methods women will no longer look up to them.

4. Because men will lose their charm if they step out of their natural sphere and interest themselves in other matters than feats of arms, uniforms and drums.

5. Because men are too emotional to vote. Their conduct at baseball games and political conventions shows this, while their innate tendency to appeal to force renders them particularly unfit for the task of government.

Ouch for that last point. Every week, Alice proved that she could make her point cuttingly when she wanted, and she wasn’t afraid of anyone. When one man publicly stated that some teenage girls who had ‘gone astray’ enjoyed sex with the men who exploited them, she wrote a sonnet which led to even his family rebelling against him. Through the Tribune, Alice was reaching a weekly audience of over 100,000, and her poems became popular rallying calls. Their mixture of regular form, rhythm and humour must have made them enjoyable to have heard read at suffrage rallies. I can imagine this one, in particular, going down well – it’s a wonderful parody of Kipling’s ‘If’ (probably no one present then needed reminding of his last line – And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!):

Many Men to Any Woman

If you have beauty, charm, refinement, and tact,
If you can prove that should I set you free,
You would not contemplate the smallest act
That might annoy or interfere with me.
If you can show that women will abide
by the best standards of their womanhood-
(And I must be the person to decide
What in a woman is the highest good);
If you display efficiency supreme
In philanthropic work devoid of pay;
If you can show a clearly thought- out scheme
For bringing the millennium in a day:
Why then, dear lady, at some time remote,
I might consider giving you the vote.

For Alice Duer Miller, the causes of feminism and the suffrage movement were always personal. Although she’d been born into a wealthy New York family and had a formal debut into society, her father lost all his money in a bank crisis. When she took up her place studying mathematics and astronomy at Barnard College in 1895, she had to overcome both a lack of funding and social disapproval. In fact, Mrs Astor visited her mother to disapprove the minute she heard the news, and exclaimed: ‘What a pity, that lovely girl going to college’.

She paid her way through college by writing short stories and poems, but the subject she was studying, mathematics, remained her true love. She writes about creeping out of parties to escape to Columbia University’s Observatory where she worked through the night still dressed in her ball gown. How painful it must have been then when she had to finally obey the rules of the time and give up her college research when she got married. Perhaps it’s not surprising that when she went back to address the students at Barnard many years later, she told them: ‘Never take your college education for granted. People whom you have never known broke their hearts that you might have it.’

After her marriage, she went with her husband to live in Costa Rica and started her full-time writing career, coming back to live in America in 1903 and rising to prominence in 1915 when her novel, Come out of the Kitchen, became a best-seller. She was always an active feminist; as well as writing her column, she was Chair of the Committee on resolutions of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, founder and first President of the Women’s City Club of New York (a vehicle for affecting public policy in NYC), lifetime member of Heterodoxy (a feminist group in Greenwich Village), and Trustee of Barnard College.

The second collection of her newspaper columns was called, more encouragingly, Women are People. But her writing career was much wider than journalism. She wrote more than twenty novels, while finding time to attend baseball matches regularly with Ethel Barrymore (who she said could shout beautifully). In the 1920’s she was wooed by Sam Goldwyn to move to Hollywood to write for first of all silent films and then ‘the talkies’. During this time, she worked with Jerome Kern, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, and lived next door to Cecil Beaton.

She was ‘full of the devil’ and ‘a cross between Jane Austen and Henry James,’ according to her contemporary reviewers, but maybe she was just too funny, too interested in domestic relationships, to be taken seriously enough to have a place in the literary canon. Or maybe she was too successful. The White Cliffs (1940), her novel in verse about the love between an American woman and a British soldier, sold over 700,000 copies world wide, was made into a Hollywood film, and inspired one bookseller to hang up a large notice in his shop: ‘Do not be put off from buying this book by the fact it is in verse.’ However, despite having her name as Associate Editor of The New Yorker, one reviewer of the time admitted that it was ‘difficult for her contemporaries to believe that she is an important artist.’

What Alice Duer Miller’s reaction was to any of this isn’t recorded, but I doubt she spent much time worrying about what people thought of her. Because she wasn’t the type to whine or publicly complain, few people realised that at the time she was writing her pieces for the suffrage moment, she had been financially supporting her husband and their household through her writing for more than ten years, something he admits in his memoir of their marriage, All Our Lives.

She was a great believer in writing to find out what she thought. Her favourite fairytale, apparently, was Cinderella. She called it the ultimate success story, and re-writing it was one of the demands she insisted on when she moved to Hollywood, to the apparent surprise of Sam Goldwyn who had thought that, as a suffragist, she would want to write something more ‘worthy’. However Alice believed that Cinderella had all the elements – her beloved mathematical mix – of the perfect story, not least because at the end, the heroine had triumphed not just over adversity, but over convention.

Triumphing over both difficulties and convention was something she knew all about. ‘Everyone who’s worth anything begins life again somewhere between thirty-five and fifty,’ she wrote, ‘begins it destitute in some important respect.’

Alice Duer Miller died in New York in 1942.

Owning a bookshop? That sounds like a nice thing to do….

Owning a bookshop? That sounds like a nice thing to do….
Owning a bookshop? That sounds like a nice thing to do….

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Amazing the number of people who want to be writers. Or will be, anyway, once they have a bit of time. I imagine it’s almost the same number as want to run a pub or cafe. Although I could never understand that one. Perhaps it was too many waitress and barmaid jobs as a teenager.

bookshop

A bookshop though… now you are talking! Or at least that was my dream until I read Shaun Bythell’s diary of being a bookseller in Wigtown, Scotland’s book town.

Admittedly some days sounded idyllic…

nature writing

But then you’ve got the customers….

customers

Not to mention the staff..

reference

I loved this book – it was funny, interesting, more warm that I think the author was hoping for, but…. it didn’t make me want to be a bookseller. Ho hum. You can buy the book in all sorts of places, of course, but of course, I’d recommend you buy it from Shaun himself here. You don’t have to go there, they have modern things such as the internet in bookshops now, and once you get the book delivered,  you can read all about the Wigtown post office too. Gems all.

And if it doesn’t convince you that running a bookshop is harder than it looks, all that sitting round and reading, well you can always run a bookshop in Wigtown for a holiday thanks to the enterprising Open Book scheme.

As for me, it’s back to the drawing board…

windturbine

Using submission calls as a writing prompt – and an invitation

Using submission calls as a writing prompt – and an invitation
Using submission calls as a writing prompt – and an invitation

Here’s a little invitation to come to sit at my table and join my weekly writing group for a session – without leaving your computer.  I thought I might share what I do in the two hours I run the group and perhaps you’ll want to join in with us all…. you may be on a train, you may be at home, or a cafe. You’re welcome wherever, whenever!

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We have been looking at form this term. Last week, we explored Tanka with mixed enthusiasm. This week, I wanted to look at how we write in form naturally, with our own language and unique experience and ability to get our message across.

So the first exercise was to write a list of all the forms of writing each person uses without necessarily thinking about on a day to day basis. This could include thank you letters, health and safety reports, evaluations, tweets, advertising copy etc etc.

Then each writer picked up one of the photographs and postcards I collect and had scattered round the table – obviously you can’t do that, so I suggest you google ‘surreal images’ and pick one.  Don’t try to think too hard, the best results come when you think ‘oh my god, I can’t make this work. I really can’t, this is hopeless…’ until, click, something slips into place.

Because…. you are now going to use one of your written forms and link it to the image. We had some wonderful surprising results – an advert to win an afternoon of someone’s happy childhood, a thank you letter expressing what someone really thinks, a health and safety report for a cow with wings etc etc etc.

Set your timer for eight minutes and go….

Then we read out – with these first draft readings we just listen and admire, rather than comment. It’s always one of my favourite parts.

Following this we read and discussed this piece on actively getting 100 rejections by Deb Wain in Tulpa Magazine, and looked at what it meant – not just shifting the emphasis from product to process but also discipline. It’s part of the writing circle. Too often we can get stuck in freewriting, coming up with the ideas but not finishing them off which uses a different part of the writing brain.

Then we had coffee, filled up our drinks, caught up with other writers for five minutes. It’s not all hard work!

Coming back to the table, I handed out a sheet with these five current (as I’m writing this) submission calls. The writers had to pick one and come up with something then and there. Before they started writing, I discussed how some of my best work has come from commissions – because I often had to work hard to find out how I connected with the subject, where my heart was, why this often random subject could become mine.

So here you go…. good luck! If you need another way into these subjects, I offered that they might go back to the original list of writing forms they wrote at the beginning and use one of them to approach their chosen prompts…

Do let me know if you follow any of these, perhaps send a link if you get one published, and I hope you find this mini writing session helpful! 

 

PICK ONE OF THESE FIVE WRITING PROMPTS TO WORK WITH….

  1. Write inspired by this picture… anything, anyhow… (visualverse.org)

visual verse

  1. Write a piece NO MORE than 300 words using as many of these seven words as you can… (http://newflashfiction.com/)

On December 15th, 2017, we learned through reliable news sources such as the Washington Post that the Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the Center for Disease Control from using seven words in their official documents: The words are as follows: “evidence-based”, “science-based” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” and “fetus.” This isn’t dystopian fiction. This is real.

  1. Write a non-fiction piece on something beautiful in your every day. It should be 250 words or less. (http://www.riverteethjournal.com/)

Glimpses, glimmers, meditations, moments, reflections, refractions, interrupted shadows, river shimmers, darkened mirrors, keyholes, kaleidoscopes, earring hoops, slabs of cracked granite, cracks where the light gets in. Beautiful things.

  1. Write a poem based on the theme of women’s suffrage – 100 years anniversary… (paperswans.co.uk)
  2. Use ‘contagion’ as your theme…. (http://abridgedonline.com/)

We are intimate with the end of things. Infection comes from close contact. Out of control, it makes us crazy. Suspicion plants its roots deep and spores. Trust nobody. This is the threat. It is enormous but made of tiny things that are everywhere. We speak for it with our words that aren’t ours. Nothing is ours. The threat is panic. What sneaks in will eat us up whole. It is getting too close, it is sticky on our fingertips. Are you afraid of other people? How they touch you, love you, need you, change you? How they look like you and can rearrange you? We come together in touch. This is contagion. Don’t be touched if you want to survive. And you want to survive. With plague comes suspicion, comes isolation, comes hysteria, comes total destruction.

So how do you organise your book shelves?

So how do you organise your book shelves?

Never let it be said we’re not exciting in Tunbridge Wells. Not only have we recently had our own sex festival, but our librarians have gone crazy…

redbooks

They’ve been arranging the books by colour instead of the normal (boring) categories.

blue books

I must admit I loved it. Particularly on a grey day. Look at the yellow suns here… I noticed I wasn’t the only one walking round the table stroking them.

sunshine books

What do you mean, you don’t stroke books? How else do you let them know that you’ll come back and read them one day?

colourful books

But aside from the joy of it – and shouldn’t libraries and books be about joy? – it felt like I’d walked into one of my own short stories, In Good Order, in which a man tries a bit too hard to distil order on his life/wife via their book shelves. It’s here if you want to read it …. In Good Order.

More books… #100Women100Books

More books… #100Women100Books
More books… #100Women100Books

Following on from this post collating the recommendations we’ve been getting through the #100Women100Books project, perhaps ONE HUNDRED books aren’t quite enough for you. So I’m going to keep putting up the choices we’ve been getting through our website, www.spreadsheetsandmoxie.wordpress.com. As I hope you know, we are still collecting book recommendations – please visit the website and add yours….

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From: Jacqueline Kington
Book: Long time no see by Hannah Lowe
Why I chose this book: It just touched me very deeply. She is a wonderful writer…
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From: Rachel Seeland Scott
Book: Only Every Yours by Louise O’Neill
Why I chose this book: I chose this book because of its controversial theme and captivating writing, which evokes vivid imagery. To me, it was fascinating, as it took everything girls did to each other in secret and turned it into a social normality which was encouraged as: ‘there is always room for improvement’. The writer also encourages us to review our ethical code, since the girls are made and not born, which is shown by their lower case names and treatment by the human males of this dystopian society.
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From: Ali Jones
Book: Tale for a Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Why I chose this book: I love the clever way this book creates a gripping narrative woven with Zen wisdom.
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From: Alison Belfield
Book: Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
Why I chose this book: This is the first book by Margaret Atwood I read. It was so brilliant that I went on to read all her others; my world is a better place for having her books in it.
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From: Helen Jamieson
Book: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Why I chose this book: Because she could see into the mind of a tortured man. I think it is a great love story, powerful, sad and tragic and beautifully written. Heathcliffe is one of fictions greatest.
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From: Jane Rogers
Book: THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK by Doris Lessing
Why I chose this book: This is the most honest novel about relationships between men and women that I have ever read. It changed the way I thought about political involvement, feminism, and writing, and is as timely now as when it was published in 1962.

Creative writing course – 25th July

Creative writing course – 25th July

Just a quick note to confirm this is now sold out. Thanks for all the interest. Do let me know – sarah@sarahsalway.co.uk – if you would like to be on my mailing list for future courses though. 

 

There are just a few places left for my one day creative writing course on Tuesday 25th July, 11-4pm in Tunbridge Wells.

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Come and write with me in my home, with supportive like-minded people – both beginners and published writers. You may have come to one of my courses before, or just looking to try something different, but this is a day of brand new inspiration for both poetry and prose writers using journal techniques and external prompts. We’ll write together, reading out only if you want, and you’ll leave with new ideas in your notebook, some new writers to find out more about and some new exercises to try out on your own.

The cost is £60 including lunch. Do let me know if you’d like a place by emailing me at sarah@sarahsalway.co.uk.

Once I hear from you, I’ll send you venue details etc – we are a five minute walk from the train station in Tunbridge Wells, and close to all the shops, cafes etc if you need before or after inspiration!

If you can’t make it, don’t despair! I made a star chart (definitely not just for children) together with daily writing prompts for my regular writing group which finished last week. Email me to be put on my mailing list (sarah@sarahsalway.co.uk) and I’ll send you a copy to get some at-home inspiration!

 

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….