Goodbye to Mansfield and Woolf

If we’re honest, we both felt some trepidation on 31 December 2013. On the day before we launched Something Rhymed, each of us had the same questions. Would anyone, other than our nearest and dearest, want to visit this website? Is the subject of female literary friendships one that interests other people?

We’ve been delighted to discover that it has struck a chord with so many of you: 3000 hits on the site so far, the majority from the UK, USA, Canada, Ireland and Australia, but from other corners of the globe too. We’ve heard from emerging and established authors, readers, academics, literary bloggers, editors at publishing houses and literary magazines, agents, publicists, owners of writing retreats and more.

The Independent on Sunday featured our website in their Between the Covers column, and Book Oxygen, Books by Women and Writers’ Centre Norwich all asked us to talk more about Something Rhymed in the guest blogs we wrote for them this month.

There have been hundreds of tweets about the site, and many more of you have got in touch, by sending a message or leaving a comment, to add your thoughts to the discussions we’ve started and to recommend pairs of writer pals we could profile.

Some suggestions focused on friendships we’d already heard something about, but others were entirely unknown to us. We’re keen to explore all of your ideas, so do please keep them coming in.

We were also delighted to learn that some of you had joined us in this month’s letter writing activity.

Elaine, who wrote to to her long-standing friend Frieda, seems to have shared some of the same feelings that we encountered, noting that ‘In these days of e-mail and Facebook we have instant if rushed communication on tap, but my rambling missive penned whilst enjoying traditional afternoon tea on a winter’s Sunday afternoon, gave me a chance to experience a much less frequent pleasure nowadays’.

Novelist Sarah Butler and screenwriter Tessa Nicholson used their letters to talk about the business of writing itself and to give each other advice. Sarah told us how much she appreciated her friend’s wisdom, singling out two tips in particular: ‘Your competitive streak is like a motor. Don’t be ashamed of it’, and ‘You’ll have to learn to put your blinkers on and write more for you’.

Tessa Nicholson's response to January's challenge with this a letter to her friend Sarah Butler
Tessa Nicholson’s response to January’s challenge – a letter to her friend Sarah Butler

Others said that they were already in regular correspondence, including Jill Dawson and Kathryn Heyman, the authors of last week’s wonderful guest post.

It seems that, for some of this blog’s readers at least, letter writing is not such a lost art after all. As author and journalist Erina Reddan pointed out in a comment on the site, ‘Letters pull you down and into a place that conversation does not take you’.

On Saturday, we’ll be saying goodbye to Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf and letting you know about the next pair of famous writing pals.

Sarah Moore was the first to mention Maya Angelou when she left a response to our first post of the year, which mentioned the author’s friendship with Jessica Mitford.

But this was followed by separate suggestions on Twitter from the writers Wendy Vaizey and Salena Godden. They cited Angelou too, but it was another one of her friendships that they thought we should consider.

And so, after much deliberation, we’ve decided to go with that duo next: Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. If you return here on 1 February, you’ll find lots more information about that relationship and also details of the month’s activity. And if you have any thoughts you’d like to share about this pair, do please get in touch. As always, we’d love to hear from you.

Don’t forget, if you want to make sure you don’t miss out on any Something Rhymed updates, you can sign up to follow us via email using the tab on the right of the screen.

Until Saturday then…

4 thoughts on “Goodbye to Mansfield and Woolf

  1. What an exciting new duo – can’t wait! Your last month of posts has made me think a lot about my letter writing to my pen-pal, one of my childhood best friends. We now live at opposite ends of the country, our lives have diverged – but somehow writing to a friend who knew you from “before” allows a liberating freedom and honesty. The pages have become a safe, and often hilarious, haven of stories of the past and present!

    1. I’m so glad you’re looking forward to February’s duo, Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, who we’ll blog about tomorrow. And it’s been so heartening to hear from you and others about your experiences of communicating by letter. I enjoyed your comment about the freedom of writing to someone who has known you ‘before’ – it’s so true that such knowledge can be liberating as well as burdensome.

  2. I’ve only recently discovered Toni Morrison’s searing novels and just before Emily’s post announcing’s second pairing, a Banned Books copy of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings nudged me to buy it in the Oxfam shop. I’m fascinated and I suppose not surprised to learn that they are great friends and mutual supporters, as two amazing female authors who have engaged with the world and fought to change it for the better both through their writing and aside from it. Neither of them could be accused of sitting in an ivory tower. I’m put in mind of Elizabeth Gaskell, another female author with a deep social conscience who lived life to the full and spoke out for her beliefs, and would like to nominate her friendship with Charlotte Bronte, whose biographer she was, for a future pairing on the website.
    I come from a generation rather closer to Angelou and Morrison, and Emily and Emma’s delighted espousal of pen and ink is the reverse of my experience. Email has brought for me a late flowering and rediscovery of the discourse of friendship in between occasional meetings with old friends who live a distance away, and enabled new one-to-one book-recommending, thought-swapping relationships to flourish with people I’d only otherwise meet in a group. No blots, no crossings-out, no execrable and at times illegible handwriting. It’s a joy!

  3. Thanks so much for your thoughts, Julie. A few Something Rhymed readers have mentioned Bronte and Gaskell to us, and we will be giving very serious consideration to those two authors as a pair to feature on the site. You’ll probably know that their friendship was also carried out to a large extent by post, and that quite a number of letters made it into Gaskell’s biography of her friend.
    We were interested to hear about your love of email too. I must admit that the knowledge that our letters would be appearing on line, made us extra aware of the need to write legibly and to try and avoid the blots and crossings-out that might otherwise have cropped up.

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