I recently started reading Virginia Woolf. First Mrs. Dalloway, and now A Room of One’s Own. I know, I’m late to the party—and not even fashionably late. My copy of A Room of One’s Own is special. It’s from 1981, purchased used by my dad and it has his embossed stamp in it.
Side note: I received an embosser for Christmas and this will be my first stamp, beside my dad’s. I inherited this copy when he passed and I feel it looks very 70s/80s – which in turn reminds me of my late father, who looked like Sonny Bono.
I’ve written only one essay – apparently not very well. I want to do better so I need to read more essays. I’ve got two Ann Patchett essay books I will dive into shortly but thought I should start with a classic. I dusted myself and this book off and dug in.
It’s a page turner! It’s a page turner? Mrs. Woolf’s dips deeply into the library for her topic of Women and Fiction – reflecting on the history of female authors, which stops in 1929 when the book was published. So much has changed with the acceptance of women writing and working and having a room of one’s own. But not enough. We are still dismissed, we still don’t have a proper seat at the table, and we are still barely recognized for our contributions. Literature is one area where we have made strides – more women authors are leaving their mark – and from all over the world – Chile to Canada, Nigeria to Japan, US to UK.
I’m humbled by Virginia Woolf’s words. I’m not going to attempt the perspective she gave… But allow me to note that even with this “progress,” the Pulitzer has only been awarded to 31 women with Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence (read it! – not then, of course) being the first in 1921 and Louise Erdrich’s The Night Watchman (just got it) in 2021. 100 years—not solitude but not evenly split. The Man Booker isn’t any better: 34 men and 18 women, with the last winners (yes, two) Bernardine Evaristo (first Black woman) for her novel Girl, Woman, Other and Margaret Atwood for The Testaments in 2019 (need to pick up both of these).
My next venture shall be to read all female prize winners – at least from the last two decades – that I haven’t already read – starting with those on bookshelves (including The Night Watchman and the 2018 Man Booker winner Milkman by Anna Burns).
Back to Women and Fiction and A Room of One’s Own, not to spoil the ending, but Virginia Woolf’s conclusion was brilliant… here are a few sound bites:
“There runs through these comments and discussions the conviction—or is it the instinct?—that good books are desirable and that good writers, even if they show every variety of human depravity, are still good human beings. Thus when I am asking you to write more books I am urging you to do what will be for your good and for the good of the world at large….
“For my belief, is that if we live another century or so—I am talking of the common life which is the real life and of the little separate lives which we live as individuals—and have five hundred a year each of us and a room of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting room and see human beings not always in relation to each other but in relation to reality;….
“But I maintain that she (Shakespeare’s sister) would come if we worked for her, and so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while.”
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
A Room of One’s Own deserves more than three paragraphs. Read it.
Virginia Woolf and these essays left me wanting to perch in my room or better yet, back porch, to read and write. Which is what I am going to do… now. Words that pay homage to strong women.
I think about you several times a week. I do, seriously. You’re like a good friend I haven’t seen in years, only its been a few months.
I’ve been busy, honest. But I still care, deeply.
What has pulled me away. I challenged myself and wrote another book. DOVE in headfirst (thankfully, there was water) and just went for it. HARDCORE. And it resulted in a good book. I mean good. Maybe not perfect, but it will be momentarily.
And I am ready to put it out there. In fact, I am entering it in a really cool writing contest. New Year, New You, New Writing Contest. There are all of them out there now, and some goodies — but this one thanks to Chuck Sambuchino and agent Elizabeth Winick Rubenstein of McIntosh & Otis, is right for me (and maybe you writer friend!): Dear Lucky Agent #21 as its on Women’s Fiction. This is how you enter… http://tinyurl.com/z5njvsp
Am I, as Elizabeth Gilbert says, “flat out bananas” because I feel like I have not done enough or accomplished enough in my life.
Career as a music journalist covering some mega huge bands in the 90s. Read Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Jeff Buckley, etc.
Corporate move to a high-end computer company as a creative director, and then fast track up the ladder at a fashion company of sorts… etc. So yes, a big job…. or big career that far exceeds the 40-hour work week and requires travel in the U.S. and around the world.
Mother. Yes, I “balance” the career while also raising a fabulous 15-year-old son. Virtually solo. And I have two pups, who also require a fair amount of mothering.
So between work, homework checks, dog walks, dinners cooked (or, let’s face it, ordered), travel, house and garden care–I write. Write to the tune of two books — one I have shelved for sometime and the other I have spent the last two years editing and will be working on the next round shortly after NaNoWriMo. And I have started several others.
A lot on my plate and a great deal accomplished.
So yes, Elizabeth Gilbert, I need to lighten up. I need to EMBRACE my load — and maybe that’s enough. Not that it means I am stopping, but I maybe it’s alright not to push myself and to feel proud about where my life is and the path that it is heading.
For the second time, I took time away from the home, virtually alone, to write. I like to call it a Writeaway
The first Writeaway was in Dublin a year ago. I wandered the streets alone for two days, taking notes for a story set in Ireland, sat in bars alone and wrote, and drank, you guessed it, alone.
Now, I am settled poolside in Palm Springs working on a new book, sitting beside my closest friend, bouncing ideas off her, reading the first four chapters and seeking big picture critique, and then rather frantically writing and rewriting in between dives in the cool water.
Writeaways are the right way for me right now to #FindInspiration.
Digging through a box in a sudden cleansing urge, I came across a couple collections of matches. These collections stored in various containers, including a cool old tin that belonged to my dad, spanned my teenage, college and post college years, as well as several travel destinations, clubs, bars and cities I lived in. From these collections I was inspired to write a short story, Remembering Matches, and enter it in @writersdigest contest. Feeling good.