Celebrating Past and Modern-day Writing Friendships

Especially over the past year, when we have been hard at work on our joint-book, we have been focusing mostly on historical literary friendships on this blog.

Reading the novels and stories of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf and their friends has given us much to think about, as have our conversations about these important literary relationships.

We’ve often been struck by how relevant the issues faced by these authors of the past still feel to female writers today – particularly in terms of the need to balance the desire to write with other pressing responsibilities.

Austen’s great friend and governess to her brother’s children, Anne Sharp, had time to pen her theatricals only in the hours in between teaching lessons.

Before the tremendous success of her first published novel, Jane Eyre, Brontë faced similar struggles.

But just as Sharp benefited from the support of Austen, who did her best to improve her friend’s work life, Brontë was lucky to have the future feminist author Mary Taylor to encourage her literary efforts.

The two of us have been teachers for about a decade now and have thankfully never found it as limiting as Brontë, or even Sharp, did. We have been lucky in that, rather than teaching a broad curriculum, we are teachers only of writing – a subject in which we naturally have a genuine interest.

Nonetheless, there have been times in both of our pasts when, being short of money or eager to get a foot in the door at a particular institution, we’ve taken on too many classes and our own writing has suffered as a result.

This need for authors to try and find the right balance been writing and other aspects of their lives came up at our recent Writing Friendships event at City, University of London, made possible by the generous support of Arts Council England.

Susan Barker
Susan Barker

We were joined by writers Susan Barker, Ann Morgan and Denise Saul – all also former guest bloggers for Something Rhymed. The feeling among the group seemed to be that, although teaching (and teaching writing especially) can provide inspiration for an author, it’s important to fiercely guard your own writing time.

But we all also felt that it was equally important not to cut yourself off from other people. In the talks by Susan, Ann and Denise, audience members were treated to insights about the literary friendships of each woman on the panel.

Ann Morgan - image by Steve Lennon
Ann Morgan – image by Steve Lennon

Ann, the first speaker of the evening, talked about the important bonds she’d forged through her web project and non-fiction book, Reading the World. Susan spoke about the invaluable advice and support she’d received from Liang Junhong, a friend she met while she was living in China and working on her novel The Incarnations. Denise talked about collaborating with other artists as part of a video poem project, Silent Room: a Journey of Language.

Denise Saul - image by Amanda Pepper
Denise Saul – image by Amanda Pepper

Audience member, Rosie Canning, has written up a fuller account of the evening, which you can read here.

We are grateful to Rosie for commemorating the event in this way, and to everyone who came along to support us. We’re sure to be running more Something Rhymed events in the new year, so do keep an eye on our blog for more details.

 

Writing Friendships event at City, University of London

Emma and I have just returned from an enjoyable weekend in Lincolnshire, where some of our readers may recall I used to live in the early years of our friendship.

We’d gone there to teach two friendship-themed writing workshops together. It was fun to be able to take Emma to a few of the places I used to know well, to introduce her to some of my former evening class students, and also for us to meet plenty of other people for the first time.

For those of you who couldn’t make these sessions, we’re delighted to be able to let you know that we have another event coming up next month, this time at City, University of London, where both of us teach on the Novel Studio programme.

city-uol-logo-rgb-dk1aWriting Friendships at City, University of London

As long-term friends who’ve supported each other’s careers from the beginning, we know just how important building strong links with other writers can be. We’ll be joined by Something Rhymed guest bloggers Susan Barker, Ann Morgan, Irenosen Okojie and Denise Saul, who’ll be sharing their own experiences of literary friendship and offering practical advice to new and advanced writers on ways in which they can forge and develop meaningful writing relationships of their own.

Once again, this event has been generously funded by Arts Council England.

When: Wednesday 16 NovemberPrint

Doors open 6.15pm, event runs from 6.30-8pm, followed by drinks reception – a chance to make new writer friends

Where: The Northampton Suite C, City University of London, Northampton Square, London, EC1V 0HB. Details of how to reach the venue appear on this page.

Tickets: Places are free but limited for this event and must be booked in advance through the City, University of London website. You can do this here.

We are grateful to City, University of London and Arts Council England for helping to make this event possible. We hope to see you there.

 

Footage of Something Rhymed Salon 3: Genuine Change

For those of you who were unable to make our literary salon series this spring, or for those of you who’d like to relive the experience, please take a look at these film clips of the discussions we enjoyed.

At the third salon, our stellar line-up of guests talked about ways to achieve genuine improvements in diversity in the UK literary scene. To hear their ideas, take a look at clips of Melanie Abrahams, Founder of Renaissance One – a literary events company committed to diversity in the arts; Jill Dawson, Orange Prize shortlisted novelist; Louise Doughty, Costa Award shortlisted novelist and former Booker Prize judge; and Varaidzo, Arts and Culture Editor at gal-dem – an online magazine comprising almost fifty women of colour.

 

 

These films were made by the brilliant Ashley Hall, a former New York University in London student. She also updated this website and designed our banner and posters. Ashley is building up a portfolio for her future career as a media consultant. Get her while you can still afford her! She is based in New York but we communicated by Skype and email. If you are interested in getting a quote from her, feel free to email on ashley.hall@nyu.edu

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Footage of Something Rhymed Salon 2: So-Called Women’s Issues

For those of you who were unable to make our literary salon series this spring, or for those of you who’d like to relive the experience, please take a look at these film clips of the discussions we enjoyed. You can also click on the links below to read write-ups from some of the salon speakers.

At the second salon, our stellar line-up of guests talked about why books by and about women and so-called women’s issues tend to get devalued by the literary establishment. Take a look at clips of journalist and literary critic, Arifa Akbar; biographer and former senior editor at The Women’s Press, Sarah LeFanu; bestselling author, Karen Maitland; and Booker Prize shortlisted novelist, Michèle Roberts to see hear them identify the problems and make suggestions for accelerating change.

These films were made by the brilliant Ashley Hall, a former New York University in London student. She also updated this website and designed our banner and posters. Ashley is building up a portfolio for her future career as a media consultant. Get her while you can still afford her! She is based in New York but we communicated by Skype and email. If you are interested in getting a quote from her, feel free to email on ashley.hall@nyu.edu

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Something Rhymed Friendship-Themed Writing Workshops in Lincolnshire

Many thanks to everyone who came along to Saturday’s Margate Bookie talk on the literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf. We’ll look forward to sharing more stories about these authors and their friends in our forthcoming book, A Secret Sisterhood.

Emma (left) and Emily talking about female literary friendship (Image by Jonathan Ruppin)
Emma (left) and Emily talking about female literary friendship. Image by Jonathan Ruppin.

 

For our readers based in or near Lincolnshire, or those of you who are able to travel to this part of Britain, we want to let you know about two more Something Rhymed events coming up soon.

Something Rhymed friendship-themed writing workshops

Dates & Times: We will be running the same Printworkshop at two different venues.

South Holland Centre, Spalding: Saturday 15 October, 2-5pm

Fydell House, Boston (Lincolnshire): Sunday 16 October, 2-5pm

With practical writing exercises that can be tackled at different levels, these workshops will be open to experienced and novice writers – and, of course, both men and women.

The workshops have been generously funded by Arts Council England. Places are free but limited and need to be reserved in advance by emailing somethingrhymed@gmail.com, indicating whether you want to attend the Spalding or Boston workshop.

We do hope to see you at one of these events. In the meantime, do look out for the videos of our recent London literary salons. We’ll be sharing these here on Something Rhymed over the coming weeks.

Varaidzo to Speak at Final Something Rhymed Salon

Please meet Varaidzo, the final speaker in this Thursday’s line-up. We’re really looking forward to her thoughts on how best to accelerate gender equality in the literary world.

We still have a few spots left, so please do join in the conversation by emailing us on SomethingRhymed@gmail.com to make one of them yours.

Varaidzo (1)

Varaidzo is a writer, editor and film programmer with a focus on storytelling through fiction, journalism and film. She is an editor at gal-dem.com, an online media platform produced by women of colour, and curates the gal-dem Winter Film Festival which showcases work solely by women of colour filmmakers. As a speaker, she regularly advises film and publishing organisations on how to engage young people and ethnic minorities with media industries. Her writing has appeared in Media Diversified and New Statesman, and her forthcoming essay on navigating black childhood in white spaces will be published in The Good Immigrant (September, 2016)

Salon Three: Genuine Change 

  • Thursday May 12 th, 6.30pm-9.00pm 
  • New York University in London, 6 Bedford Square (Gower/Bloomsbury Street side), WC1B 3RA
  • Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road. Holborn, Russell Square, Goodge Street and Warren Street are also close by.
  • Disabled access and facilities. Please do let us know if you have any access needs.

RSVP: SomethingRhymed@gmail.com

Our friends at Naked Wines have kindly provided the wines for our salon series, and they are even offering a discount especially for our readers.
Our friends at Naked Wines have kindly provided the wines for our salon series, and they are even offering a discount especially for our readers.

Melanie Abrahams to Speak at Final Something Rhymed Salon

Melanie Abrahams, founder of an events company dedicated to diversity in the arts, will be joining us this Thursday at the third and final Something Rhymed salon. Here we will ask whether it is possible to achieve genuine change in the UK literary scene by attempting to use the master’s tools, as Audre Lorde put it, to dismantle the master’s house.

If you’d like to hear Melanie’s ideas for accelerating positive change and also share your own, please email us at somethingrhymed@gmail.com to book one of the last spots.

© Linda BrownleeMelanie Abrahams is a curator, producer and speaker, who has channeled a love of books and words into projects and escapades. She has curated events and festivals both independently, and through her companies Renaissance One and Tilt, for the Bluecoat, Chris Ofili, Miami Book Fair International and Southbank Centre.  As a literature producer, she has shaped poetry videos for BBC’s The Space with Chris Redmond, and has toured with writers including Ali Smith, Amiri Baraka, Patience Agbabi and Caryl Phillips. This year she partners with the British Library to present London Is The Place For Me, a Caribbean festival of literature and liming, as part of a wider project exploring the theme of independence, and contributes fifty one-to-ones, and supporting public events, to writers and practitioners around England.

You can follow Melanie on Twitter: @wordtraipser 

Salon Three: Genuine Change 

  • Thursday May 12 th, 6.30pm-9.00pm 
  • New York University in London, 6 Bedford Square (Gower/Bloomsbury Street side), WC1B 3RA
  • Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road. Holborn, Russell Square, Goodge Street and Warren Street are also close by.
  • Disabled access and facilities. Please do let us know if you have any access needs.

RSVP: SomethingRhymed@gmail.com

Our friends at Naked Wines have kindly provided the wines for our salon series, and they are even offering a discount especially for our readers.
Our friends at Naked Wines have kindly provided the wines for our salon series, and they are even offering a discount especially for our readers.

Louise Doughty to Speak at Final Something Rhymed Salon

Here at Something Rhymed, we take any opportunity to celebrate female literary friendship. It is therefore with great pleasure that we welcome Louise Doughty, a dear novelist friend of Jill Dawson, to our third and final salon.

Longstanding readers will already know about Jill’s bond with the Australian writer, Kathryn Heyman, because this pair kicked off our guest blog series back in 2014. Similarly, Louise blogged for us with one of her old friends, Jacqui Lofthouse.

We’ll look forward to seeing Jill and Louise together this coming Thursday, May 12th, and to hearing their ideas for achieving greater diversity in the literary world.BWphotoLD

Louise Doughty’s eighth novel, Black Water, will be published on 2nd June.  Her most recent book was the top ten bestseller Apple Tree Yard, published in 2013 by Faber & Faber UK and Farrar Straus & Giroux New York.  It was longlisted for the Guardian Not the Booker Prize, shortlisted for the CWA Steel Dagger Award and the National Book Award Thriller of the Year and is published or being translated into twenty-seven languages worldwide.  A four-part BBC1 adaptation is currently in production with Emily Watson in the lead role.  Doughty’s sixth novel, Whatever You Love, was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award and longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. She has also won awards for radio drama and short stories, along with publishing one work of non-fiction, A Novel in a Year, based on her popular newspaper column. She is a critic and cultural commentator for UK and international newspapers and broadcasts regularly for the BBC.

You can follow Louise on Twitter: @doughtylouise

Salon Three: Genuine Change 

  • Thursday May 12 th, 6.30pm-9.00pm 
  • New York University in London, 6 Bedford Square (Gower/Bloomsbury Street side), WC1B 3RA
  • Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road. Holborn, Russell Square, Goodge Street and Warren Street are also close by.
  • Disabled access and facilities. Please do let us know if you have any access needs.

RSVP: SomethingRhymed@gmail.com

Our friends at Naked Wines have kindly provided the wines for our salon series, and they are even offering a discount especially for our readers.
Our friends at Naked Wines have kindly provided the wines for our salon series, and they are even offering a discount especially for our readers.

Jill Dawson to Speak at Final Something Rhymed Salon

We are delighted to welcome award-winning novelist, Jill Dawson, to our third and final salon in this series. Jill will be helping us to come up with strategies for improving diversity in the literary world.

Jill Dawson-2 copy

Jill Dawson is the author of nine novels and winner of an Eric Gregory Award for poetry. Fred and Edie, her third novel, published in 2001, was shortlisted for the Orange and Whitbread prizes and voted ‘one of fifty essential novels by a living author’.  The Great Lover, about the poet Rupert Brooke, was a best-seller and Richard and Judy book-club choice.  Her seventh novel, Lucky Bunny, won a Fiction Uncovered award.  The Tell-Tale Heart was nominated for the Folio Prize.  Her latest, about the writer Patricia Highsmith, is The Crime Writer, to be published 2016. In addition Jill is a tutor of creative writing, credited with bringing many new writers to publication through the one to one mentoring scheme she set up, Gold Dust (www.gold-dust.org.uk).

Please join Jill and us this coming Thursday for drinks, snacks and fruitful conversation.

  • Salon Three: Genuine Change 
  • Thursday May 12 th, 6.30pm-9.00pm 
  • New York University in London, 6 Bedford Square (Gower/Bloomsbury Street side), WC1B 3RA
  • Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road. Holborn, Russell Square, Goodge Street and Warren Street are also close by.
  • Disabled access and facilities. Please do let us know if you have any access needs.

RSVP: SomethingRhymed@gmail.com

Our friends at Naked Wines have kindly provided the wines for our salon series, and they are even offering a discount especially for our readers.
Our friends at Naked Wines have kindly provided the wines for our salon series, and they are even offering a discount especially for our readers.

 

Arifa Akbar to Speak at Second Something Rhymed Salon

At tonight’s Something Rhymed salon,  journalist and literary critic, Arifa Akbar, will be sharing a behind-the-scenes glimpse of her experiences as a literary editor and reviewer.

If you would like to join in the conversation, please nab one of the last spots by emailing SomethingRhymed@gmail.com.

The Independent Arts Correspondant Arifa Akbar.
The Independent Arts Correspondant Arifa Akbar.

Arifa Akbar is a journalist and literary critic. She is the former literary editor of The Independent, where she worked from October 2001 until April 2016, as a reporter and arts correspondent before joining the books desk in 2009.

She was a judge for the Orwell Prize in 2013, the Fiction Uncovered Prize in 2014, and the British Book Industry Award in 2016.

Arifa has chaired author interviews at the London Literature Festival, Foyles, Asia House and the Bath Literature Festival.

She is a regular newspaper reviewer on Sky News, and reviews books in print and on radio. She studied English Literature at university and then completed a Masters in Gender Studies, specialising in French Feminism and ‘writing the body’.

  • Salon Two: So-called Women’s Issues 
  • Wednesday May 4th, 6.30pm-9.00pm 
  • New York University in London, 6 Bedford Square (Gower/Bloomsbury Street side), WC1B 3RA
  • Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road. Holborn, Russell Square, Goodge Street and Warren Street are also close by.
  • Disabled access and facilities. Please do let us know if you have any access needs.

Our friends at Naked Wines have kindly provided the wines for our salon series, and they are even offering a discount especially for our readers.
Our friends at Naked Wines have kindly provided the wines for our salon series, and they are even offering a discount especially for our readers.