Celebrating Female Friendship

When this month’s guest bloggers, Harriet Levin and Elizabeth L. Silver, let us take a look at one of their on-line chats, we felt privileged to be witnesses to a conversation that so clearly conveyed their mutual appreciation of each other’s support.

This has, of course, been a common theme in all of the guest posts this year. Like them, Rachel Connor and Antonia Honeywell, and Sarah Butler and Tessa Nicholson, have gone from living close to their writer friend to being separated by geographical distance. But they all wrote of how they’re still able to rely on their pal’s advice, even though they are physically far apart.

IMG_1146Jill Dawson and Kathryn Heyman, too, who live on opposite sides of the world, told us how their frequent phone conversations, about ‘writing, gossip, lipstick’ amongst other things, keep the relationship going.

Kadija ‘George’ Sesay and Dorothea Smartt spoke of the pleasures of working with each other professionally. Zakia Uddin shared a story about hearing valuable literary advice from Susan Barker on a crowded London night-bus.

Julie Sarkissian and Haley Tanner, and Emily Bullock and Ann Morgan, were keen to emphasise how much they valued having someone with whom they’ve been able to share the struggles and eventual triumphs of their books-in-progress.

We are grateful to all of this year’s guest bloggers for posting these inspiring words about the crucial role that the friendship of another woman has played in their writing lives.

Since launching Something Rhymed at the beginning of the year, we’ve often found ourselves wondering why the literary friendships of our most famous female writers are generally less well-known than those of their male counterparts.

Recently, we’ve been mulling over a number of theories, but one conclusion we’ve come to is that the all-too-common depiction of ambitious women as inevitable jealous rivals could have played a major part in this. Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf are two writers, in particular, whose reputations have suffered in this way. This month’s pair, Maxine Kumin and Anne Sexton, are another, historically later, example.

At Something Rhymed, we’re keen to try and promote some more positive representations of women’s friendship, so with this in mind we’ve just launched our #SomethingRhymed hashtag on Twitter with this tweet: Women’s relationships are too often seen as bitchy & backstabbing. Tell us about a time when a female friend supported you. #SomethingRhymed

We’ll be sharing our own stories (in 140 characters or less!) of helping each other out personally or professionally. Whether you’re a writer or not, we’d love to hear about your positive experiences of female friendship too. If you’re not on Twitter, but would still like to add your voice to the conversation, why not leave a message in the Comments section below?

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By the time we met, I felt as though I already knew her: Kadija ‘George’ Sesay and Dorothea Smartt

Our April guest bloggers are poets Kadija ‘George’ Sesay and Dorothea Smartt. They’ve shared with us their conversation about their first impressions of each other…

Kadija George

 

Kadija
The first time I met Dorothea, she was a figment, yet a fixture of Centerprise, a community centre in East London, that housed a community publishing project. In 1995, I became the Black Literature Development Worker, a newly created post that replaced Dorothea’s role in the publishing project, which she ran with Bernadette Halpin. There wasn’t anything I could do that wasn’t compared to Dorothea!

Are you going to run workshops (like Dorothea)? Are you going to set up performance poetry evenings (like Dorothea)? Can you publish our poems in books (like Dorothea)?

Who was this Dorothea person I had to compete against?

In the meantime I took home the Word Up! Women’s Café anthology that Dorothea had edited, and realised why this woman was so missed by those she’d worked with. This was a classic anthology of women’s performance poetry in London, published in the mid-Nineties. There was nothing else like it.

DSafro byRT IMG_7860

Dorothea
I can’t remember when I first heard about Kadija. I had heard of her before I met her because she was working at Centerprise where I had worked, at one of the most enjoyable and rewarding jobs that I had had, up until that time.

Although I left Centerprise under a cloud I was glad to see there was someone taking up the reins. One of my main regrets was that I always felt I should have published more Black people. At the point when I left, we had our publishing resources removed so when she brought out Calabash, a newspaper for writers of African and Caribbean descent, I thought: oh good, she is getting around that, by putting out a resource in newspaper format.

Kadija
By the time I met Dorothea, I felt as though I already knew her – I can’t even remember the exact time, except I published one of her poems in my first anthology, Burning Words, Flaming Images for which she says, till this day, it is the only poem she has published that she has ever been paid for, so I’m proud of that.

Dorothea
I remember reading at the launch event for the book at Centerprise. I still have the photo of Jacob Ross, Bernardine Evaristo, Courttia Newland, Chris Abani… It could very well have been the first time we met in person.

Around that time, Kadija organised the first Writer’s Hotspot in The Gambia in 1996. When she asked me to go a second time to be one of the tutors, I couldn’t believe it. I went again and shadowed Kadija.

She pointed me out and said, ‘On the next trip, she’s the Boss Lady.’ It gave me a lot of confidence that she selected me.

Kadija
I knew Dorothea had a good reputation so there was mutual respect on both sides.

Dorothea
And here was someone who liked travelling as well. I believed in Kadija and what she was doing. I knew that whatever she did was gonna get done!

Kadija ‘George’ Sesay is the publisher of SABLE LitMag. Her poetry collection Irki was published by Peepal Tree Press.

Dorothea Smartt’s third poetry collection Reader I married him and other strange goings on will be published by in 2014.

They are currently co-directors of the Inscribe programme for professional development for writers of African and Asian descent, based at Peepal Tree Press.