Virginia Woolf, 25 January 1882 ~ 28 March 1941

Today marks 137 years since Virginia Woolf (née Stephen) was born. It is truly a testament to her life and work that we still discuss her writing today, so much so that the BBC have included her in a list of Icons: The Greatest Person of the Twentieth Century.

My birthday. L. slid a fine cow’s horn knife into my hand this morning. Nelly knitted me a pair of red socks which tie around the ankle, & thus just suit my state in the morning.

This, from Virginia’s diary in 1918 was written while she lived in Richmond with her husband, Leonard. What a way to start a diary entry on your birthday! Nelly, (or Nellie) refers to one of Virginia’s servants, Nelly Boxall, who stayed with the Woolfs for many years.

Not many people realise, but Richmond was extremely important in Virginia’s life, but the town’s reputation has been tarnished by a quote invented by the screenwriter of the film The Hours, Sir David Hare. ‘If it is a choice between Richmond and death, I choose death.’ so the fictional quote goes, uttered by Nicole Kidman playing Virginia. This has been taken as truth, rather like the quote: ‘You cannot find peace by avoiding life.’ which has, mistakenly, been attributed to Woolf. Instead, this appeared in the book The Hours, by Michael Cunningham, but was never written or said by Virginia.

Virginia and Leonard moved to Richmond in 1914 because it was thought that the area would be more beneficial to Virginia’s health than central London. Indeed, it was also close to Burley House (or Burley Park) in Twickenham, which was a rest home where Virginia stayed at least four times to try to conquer her mental issues. After lodging with Mrs le Grys at 17, The Green, Richmond, the couple found, and fell in love with, Hogarth House on Paradise Road. A very aptly-named street, as for me, Richmond was to be Virginia’s saviour.

During their time in Richmond, the couple founded The Hogarth Press. Leonard believed that having a hobby would be good for Virginia’s health. It wasn’t on,y good for that, but it was crucial for her career. It allowed her to publish her own work without the stress of it being criticised by publishers. It was after the TLS had printed a favourable review of her short story, Kew Gardens, which kick-started her career. The couple were overwhelmed with requests for copies that they had to have help with printing. As well as this, and her other novels, The Hogarth Press printed important works by, among others, T.S. Eliot, Katherine Mansfield and E.M. Forster.

Here have I waited 25 days before beginning the new year; & the 25 is, not unfortunately my 25th, but my 39th birthday; & we’ve had tea, & calculated the costs of printing Tchekov.

The above from 1921, three years before leaving Richmond and Hogarth House. Upon leaving the town, Virginia wrote that ‘nowhere else could we have started the Hogarth Press.’ And I believe she was right. You can learn more about her time in Richmond with my book, Virginia Woolf in Richmond, as hardback from aurorametro.com or as a discounted ebook for a limited time.

With the BBC’s nomination of Virginia for their Icon programme, it seems madness that she doesn’t have any more recognition in Richmond other than a blue plaque. There is a small bust of her in Tavistock Square, but Richmond is the place that really shaped her. Aurora Metro is campaigning for the first full-size, bronze statue of Virginia Woolf, to be placed by the Richmond riverside. With planning permission granted, we now need to raise funds to make Laury Dizengremel’s statue a reality. Visit aurorametro.org to make a donation, and follow the Twitter account @VWoolfStatue.

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On Gout

Gout is not a laughing matter.

I don’t think it’s easy for those lucky people who don’t suffer from this curse to imagine just how painful gout actually is. In fact, I don’t think they can imagine the pain. It’s indescribable, but I’ll try.

I’m currently in the throes of my first knee gout attack, and my goodness, it’s all the bad and curse words I can think of. I thought gout in toes was bad enough, but this? This is something else entirely.

It’s like someone is using a hammer on a chisel, chiselling into my knee.

Don’t get me wrong, there are other sufferers who have had it in both knees, and I just cannot imagine that. During this attack, I feel useless. So useless to the point that I don’t know what I can do anymore.

It’s like my kneecap is slowly, but severely, splitting into millions of pieces.

One small, tiniest of the tiniest brushes of material, such as a bedsheet or the softest fleece house trousers, can cause searing pain that causes you to shout out. Trying to sleep is a nightmare – if you can actually get to sleep. Even getting into bed is a trial, but it’s worse to try and get out.

I woke up around 5am the other night needing the bathroom. Often with gout, your temperature can fluctuate, and I was cold. It was at that point that my legs started to shiver, out of my control, making the pain even worse and the urge to pee much stronger. The shaking wouldn’t stop. And it got worse. My partner is now awake and not sure what to do, we’re both in panic. Somehow I get up, am presented with a bucket – toilet relief at least.

It’s like all of the possible pain around your body is solely concentrated on one place, magnified by 1,000 and using a machine gun to shoot daggers, needles and axes into your knee at the same time.

So this has been it for the last few days. It’s not fun, this isn’t written well but it’s how I’m feeling.

The Self-Doubting Virginias

Virginia Woolf in 1939

It was Virginia Woolf who wrote in her diary the following; ‘There’s no doubt in my mind that I have found out how to begin (at 40) to say something in my own voice; and that interests me so that I feel I can go ahead without praise.’

All I can say to that is lucky Virginia. It is no coincidence that I use Woolf as a quote to illustrate myself here. After over a year of research into her life in Richmond for a book which just so happened to be published in the same month as my 40th birthday, I already feel a certain bond with Virginia. But this is where the similarity ends.

It was true that Virginia desperately needed praise from her peers and Leonard, her husband, who was nearly always the first to read her manuscripts. Friends such as Lytton Strachey and E.M. Forster wrote to Virginia about her most recent publications. She often went through periods of self-doubt, but I want to be that Virginia in the quote at the top. I want to be able to go ahead and write whatever I want without needing praise or adoration.

Is it the right of every writer to expect praise? If the writer expects praise, then they should also expect the negative. In my most recent submission, I was told I repeat myself. And it is true, I do repeat myself. I repeat myself a lot. I even find new ways of saying the same thing a few lines later like I’ll probably do here. The manner in which I retell the same information is occasionally astonishing. But this is the good negative. I welcomed the editor writing back to me so generously with their opinions and even apologised if I was going to be hurt by this unasked-for criticism. Indeed, not hurt, generally happy and it gives me something to work on.

I think it was probably their founding of the Hogarth Press which sealed it for Virginia. Having your own printing press is almost like giving the middle finger to all those publishers who wouldn’t publish your work. Having said that, Virginia’s first publisher was also her half-brother, who she later accused of sexually abusing her, so it is no surprise that this wasn’t to be a match between author and publisher.

Earlier I said that Virginia was lucky. In a way, she was, because she had the freedom that the Hogarth Press allowed her to publish what she wanted to write, in her own words. But it’s possible that this very freedom also constrained her in ways unimaginable. The nature of her death in 1941 is common knowledge, but the mere fact that she managed to write so many intelligent novels, short stories and essays is testament to her talent. This vast portfolio of work stands proud above her self-doubt, self-criticism and mental illness.

So therefore, when I find that nobody wants to read an article I’ve written, or that I’m struggling to get reviews for my book, I just need to remember that now I’m 40, I have just found the beginning of writing things down in my own voice, and whether I repeat myself or not, it’s my voice. However, praise is always nice to get, whatever Virginia might have said.

2019 Goals

Inspired by Liminal Pages, I’ve decided to set myself some goals for 2019. I’ve already looked back at my year in my previous posts Pushing Towards the End of the Year and A Whirlwind Year. However, I haven’t yet thought about my personal goals for 2019.

1. Keep writing

I’d love to be able to write a couple more short stories and get started on a big new project. Wouldn’t mind getting back to writing some poetry too.

2. Get submitting

As above, it would be great to publish my second short story as well as submitting to magazines and indie presses.

3. Get healthy

I say it every year, but I really must. I know what I need to do, just do it.

4. Freelancing

I’d like to acquire a couple more regular clients to complement the one I have now. I’m only freelancing PT along with my PT publishing role, but I still have space for one or two more regular clients.

5. Honing publishing skills

With the PT publishing role, I want to be able to learn more so I can offer more, and this will help with my freelancing too.

6. More events & talks

There are a couple coming up relating to Virginia Woolf in Richmond and I’d like to do more, as well as more networking within Byte the Book and SfEP.

7. Further training

Possibly one or two courses this year, maybe through SfEP.

So there we have it for now. Thanks to Liminal Pages for helping me to actually write some goals. They might not be the best worded, or easily measured, but I know what I mean!

Pushing towards the end of the year

As my previous posts have described, it’s been an incredible year. It’s been topped off with my acceptance as a member of the Society of Authors, which is just amazing.

Virginia Woolf in Richmond has been entered into two book prizes; The James Tait Black Prize and the Ondaatje Prize, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the book makes the shortlist. If not, then it’s still a wonderful experience to be able to have a book to send in.

Next year, I hope to be able to continue this great first full year of being in the publishing sector. I’m hoping to get started on a new non-fiction book and keep going with short story fiction too. There’s one at the moment out on submission (with one rejection so far) but I have a few more ideas of what I’d like to write.

On Tuesday, I’m off to Hungary for a few days, so if I don’t post before then, have a wonderful Christmas whatever you’re doing and whoever you’re spending it with.

The TBR list, or what I should have already read

Everywhere I see on social media, bloggers are putting up their top lists of the books they have read, so I thought I’d be a little different, and post the books that are in my TBR pile that I wished I had read this year.

1. Impersonation by Tamsin Walker, Garreteer Press

Now, this looks intriguing to me, not only because it has an endorsement quote from Michael Palin (work!!), but because it’s a detective story and this is my go-to genre of fiction. It is Tamsin Walker’s debut novel, and I really enjoy discovering new authors. What makes it even more special is on the back cover, the final line of the copy reads ‘But can she do it in time to stop herself from becoming the victim of a twisted literary plot?’ A twisted literary plot?? Sounds like my kind of thing.

2. The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan, HarperCollins HQ

I’ve seen so much praise about this book that I just had to buy it! Dolls always creep me out a little bit, but I think that’s probably what has drawn me to this. Another debut novel by Phoebe Morgan, I was eagerly awaiting to start this. And I will.

3. The Scattering by Jaki McCarrick, Seren Books

Even though this was published five years ago, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t go on my TBR list. In fact, I haven’t even seen it through my door yet, but I’m still excited by it. Jaki McCarrick came to my notice through my typesetting of her wonderful play The Naturalists for my part-time job. Extremely impressed with the writing, I wanted to see some short stories.

4. The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor, Penguin

Am I possibly the only person who hasn’t read this yet? I feel deeply embarrassed. And to think that C.J. Tudor and I share a birthday too. How very un-Sagittarian of me. I don’t think I can say anymore. *hangs head in shame*

5. Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley, Hodder & Stoughton

I am a HUGE fan of Lucy Worsley, and I was excited to hear her talk about Queen Victoria at the Richmond Theatre earlier this year (and yes, I got a signed copy of that book!). Jane Austen has always been a literary figure who I have enjoyed reading, but yet know little about. I’m hoping this will help, and I’ve also bought an edition of her letters. (Austen’s letters, not Worsley’s because… strange) [not that Lucy Worsley is strange, but because it would be strange to read the letters of someone in the public eye nowadays]. *ahem* NEXT!

6. Raising Sparks by Ariel Kahn, Bluemoose

I have the lovely BookwormVaught to thank for this one. I’d always see her interacting with this writer on Twitter, and he seemed genuinely awesome, so I looked into the book. The hidden worlds of the Middle East? Yes, please. Unknown stories? Oh yes. So, when I was at the wonderful book launch of The Life of Almost (read and loved), I bought myself a copy of Ariel Kahn’s book at Mr B’s. Looking forward to it.

7. Medieval Woman by Ann Baer, Michael O’Mara Books

For this, I have the wonderful Tessa Dunlop to thank and her book, The Century Girls. A while ago, I received a letter from a lady who wanted to tell me some stories about Virginia Woolf for my book and the statue campaign. She was 103 years old. She was Ann Baer, and I went to meet her at her house. She is an incredible lady and I was completely blown away by her. She told me about her book, and it seems so interesting that I had to have it.

8. The Pier Falls by Mark Haddon, Vintage

How could I not include something by Mr Haddon? A writing inspiration (and fellow Woolf fan), I (ashamedly) didn’t realise that this book of short stories existed. What makes this one so special is that it includes illustrations by Haddon, and he is a very talented artist. Looking forward to delving in.

9. Charlotte Brontë: A Life by Claire Harman, Penguin

Rather like Jane Austen, Brontë has always been in my literary education, and I’d read and loved the book by Elizabeth Gaskell on the writer. I’m hoping to get some more insight into Charlotte, and this should inspire me to read more about her sisters and brother as well.

10. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, Vintage

I am ashamed. Again. I’ve had this for years, and I’m sure I studied some Carter at college or university, but it seems I’ve always overlooked this edition. Since I’ve started getting more excited about short stories, I’ve decided that this should really be quite near the top of my TBR list. But then again, I should stop buying more books to add to it. Or should I?

 

So there we go. Of course, if you’re reading this (and have got to the end), I should shamelessly plug my own book, Virginia Woolf in Richmond published by Aurora Metro Books. If you ask me, it’s really good. Honestly! And don’t forget to donate to the Virginia Woolf Statue campaign either!

https://www.aurorametro.org/virginia-woolf-statuehttps://www.aurorametro.org/virginia-woolf-statue

If you want to know more about me, please visit my website.

A whirlwind year

I can’t quite believe how much has happened since I left teaching. I count the year from January 2018 when I made the decision to go freelance, but of course, by then I had already started volunteering with Aurora Metro. Here, of course, is also a shameless plug for my website. And don’t forget to like my page on Facebook.

Let’s start towards the beginning of the year (be aware, long post coming). Between January to April, I was completing training and trying to get jobs as a freelance editor/proofreader. Not a lot was happening. I was already working on the book Virginia Woolf in Richmond in connection with the Virginia Woolf Statue campaign, and in May, I wrote an article for Huffington Post UK about the campaign. Also in May, I was asked to work part-time for Aurora Metro Books, which was, and has been, a great opportunity.

I was able to work on different books, and learned typesetting and editing. These are four of the publications I’ve worked on, all of which can be bought from the Aurora Metro website:

It’s been a privilege working on these, and I’m looking forward to many more.

Then, it was time for Virginia Woolf in Richmond to go to print, and I had two talks at Marylebone and Victoria libraries and also the official book launch as part of the Richmond Literature Festival on November 13th.

Virginia Woolf in Richmond FRONT

Holding the hardback in my hands was truly amazing, and then to work on the ebook myself and see it being advertised on sites such as Amazon and Kobo, as well as being in local shops such as The Kew Bookshop, Lloyds of Kew Bookshop, The Open Book Richmond and Waterstones Richmond. I even had an interview with Paula Maggio, of Blogging Woolf, who very graciously wrote the foreword to the book.

I haven’t stopped there. In my ELT freelance writing, I’ve been working with Express Publishing, and today I received the first books to be produced from the collaboration:

I wrote all the practice tests within the books, and it’s definitely something else to see your own writing relating to a previous career of 17 years in the English Language Teaching profession. The books aren’t yet up on the Express website, but when it is, I’ll be sure to update this page. In terms of further work for Express, I’m just completing my second ESB set of practice tests, and I have another contract for a higher level to start in January 2019.

So, that’s the non-fiction out of the way. Now for the fiction. I’ve been selected to have my first short story, The Walking Stick, included in an anthology called Tempest, about tempestuous times, being published by Patrician Press. It will be published in March 2019.

tempest-front-cover-192x300

In fact, today, I was sent the first proof of the entire text, so that’s very exciting. I’ve also submitted my second short story, Taxi to Hamburg, for consideration, as well as some of my poetry.

For Virginia Woolf in Richmond and the Virginia Woolf Statue Campaign, I wrote an article for Darling Richmond magazine, and it’s been featured in their Winter Issue:

Image-17

So, to the future…

More ELT materials to come…Hopefully more short stories…Hopefully an exciting new project leading to a new book for Aurora Metro – possibly connected to the Bloomsbury Group and LGBT issues.

I’m not sure whether I’ve ‘burst onto the publishing scene’, but it certainly feels like it!

VWinRichmondCanva

Published Author

Me and VW

After a year and a half of research, writing, editing and typesetting, the book is finally here and it’s beautiful.

Full VW Cover

It’s available from many different places including Aurora Metro, the publisher. You can also get it from Amazon, both as a hardcover and an ebook!

The following indie bookshops also stock the hardcover:

As well as Waterstones Richmond!

I have to say a great thank you to everyone who helped, either directly or passively and a special mention must go to Paula for writing the wonderful foreword. Please do check out her blog, Blogging Woolf, which is full of excellent writing and resources about Virginia Woolf as well as this wonderful interview she did with me.

I was thrilled to do two talks at Westminster Libraries; Victoria and Marylebone and they went really well. However, it was at Richmond Literature Festival where the book was launched on 13 November to a sold-out room at the Old Town Hall in Richmond. Huge thanks to everyone who came, and to Johanna Coombes who spoke so eloquently about Richmond during the years 1914 to 1924.

The biggest possible compliment I could get came from the superb Emma Woolf and her parents, Cecil and Jean. Cecil Woolf is the only living relative of Leonard and Virginia who knew the couple. I sent a copy of the book to them and received this amazing image in return:

CecilWoolfI have to say I was completely astounded and so very humbled to receive this. It meant so much to me, and to hear that both Emma’s parents were discussing who was to get to read it first.

Thus, I have been shouting very vocally on Twitter and Facebook about my achievement, and I also have a Goodreads author page and people can leave reviews. I think it’s so important to get reviews, both on that page and on Amazon, and I would be extremely grateful if people who have the book would honour me with a review, no matter how short.

I’m going to leave a couple of photos here:

L-R – Kew Bookshop, Me with signed copies at Kew Bookshop, The window of The Open Book Richmond.

I’m available for interviews, articles and talks and you can contact me via my website.

POSTER FOR BOOK AND STATUE-001

Nearly there…

It’s the middle of October and I can’t believe that this little beauty is on its final journey to publication.

The team at Aurora Metro and I have been working our socks off over the last couple of weeks to make sure that this book is ready for publication imminently.

I started researching for this over a year ago when I was fairly low after a traumatic year, and to see it finally coming together is truly amazing. Although there is still a tiny bit to go, I can see the final product.

Ever since starting on this project, I’ve been to Byte the Book events, joined the SfEP, visited the London Book Fair, got involved in the Virginia Woolf Statue campaign and moved out into the countryside. It’s been quite a ride. To top it off, my first short story has been accepted into an anthology called Tempest to be published by Patrician Press in March 2019.  If you are a fan of Virginia Woolf, please check out my book and events, as well as the statue campaign and the fantastic blog, Blogging Woolf. Many thanks to Paula for her invaluable help with the book, which will all become clear on publication.

Events:

7 November @ Victoria Library, London – My talk about the book.

12 November @ Marylebone Library, London – Another talk about the book.

13 November @ the Old Town Hall, Richmond for the book launch as part of the Richmond Literature Festival.

For details, please follow this link.

September Song

It continues to be busy in the freelance and part-time editing world, which is a very exciting time. This is possibly going to be a long post, so sit down with a cuppa and start reading.

First, I’m very excited for the official book launch of The Original Suffrage Cook Book published by Aurora Metro Books. This will take place at The Exchange in Twickenham on Wednesday 26th September from 7pm. The How the Vote Was Won exhibition will How the Vote was won Suffrage Cook Bookalso be there making a pitstop on its current tour. The food historian Louise Quick (@Larquick on Twitter) will be talking about ‘Vegetarianism and the Sufragettes’, which should prove to be a wonderful talk. Cheryl Robson, from Aurora Metro, will also be talking about the new edition of the book, which includes short biographies of some of the notable contributors of recipes. Tickets are available from The Exchange website.

The book has been inspiring people to use the recipes from 1915 to create stunning food, and one of particular note is Emma Muscat (@20thCentCrush on Twitter), and she has kindly given me permission to use the photos in marketing for the book.

She made the apple sauce cake from p.102 of the book, and I have to say that it looks absolutely delicious, and I’ve been assured that it indeed was lovely. To be Suffrage Cook Book Emma Muscat 2018honest, I’m going to have to start getting into baking because this cake needs to be made in my kitchen. Many thanks to Emma for this fantastic photo which really deserves to have a book all of its own.

Moving on from the cook book, which I was very happy to be involved in, a new release from Aurora which I had more input was The Naturalists by Jaki McCarrick (@jakimccarrick on Twitter). This is a fantastic play set in Ireland and has been having its World Premiere in New York at Walkerspace, directed and produced by The Pond Theatre Company. I was extremely proud to have worked on this script in the production stage, and it is the first publication that has my name as book producer. I know Jaki is extremely happy with the rave reviews the play has been getting, and here’s hoping that it comes to London at some point so I can go and see it.

The Naturalists

I won’t spoil the story, so if you want to see it, be quick and get to New York. Or, failing that, buy it from Aurora Metro.

My book Virginia Woolf in Richmond is nearing completion after more than a year in the making. We have now got images to use in the book and very soon I will start typesetting it. I am also very excited, but also a little scared, that I will be talking about the book and Virginia’s life in Richmond at two London library events in November. First, on Wednesday 7th November at 6pm at Victoria Library and the second will be at Marylebone Library on Monday 12th November at 6.30pm.

In addition to all of this, the book will have its official launch at the Richmond Literary Festival on 13th November. This is hugely exciting for me and there will be a special guest speaker as well as Cheryl from Aurora talking about the Virginia Woolf Statue campaign.

I was honoured to go to Anna Vaught’s (@BookwormVaught on Twitter) book launch of The Life of Almost in Bath at Mr B’s The Life of Almost - Chosen CoverEmporium earlier this month. It was wonderful to finally meet her and also to see how many people were there to support her and her new book. The book is published by Patrician Press and should be read by everyone. People should also check out Killing Hapless Ally by the same author, and I am looking forward to her forthcoming books as well. I was privileged to proofread and edit Saving Lucia which will be published by BlueMoose in 2020.

In other news, I am very excited to have been chosen to be in a short story anthology which is due to come out in 2019. I have to be tight-lipped about it at the moment, but the story is called The Walking Stick and is my first attempt at a short story. I have others in the pipeline and I am working on one at the moment with a working title of Taxi to Hamburg.

The freelancing for ELT publishers is still going strong, and I have just finished my second set of ELT tests for one publisher. I think each set is going to form a separate book that they will sell, and this is yet more publications to add to my growing portfolio of work. They have asked me to do another set of five tests which I will start working on in the near future.