We have a busy two weeks coming up in the Transatlantic Literary Women Series. Don’t forget the book club meets on Monday 20 February at 5.15 in room 203, 4 University Gardens, where we’ll be discussing Americanah. And on Tuesday 28 Feb we’re teaming up with the fabulous Scottish Writers’ Centre for a creative writing showcase, hosted by Carolyn Jess-Cooke, in the CCA Clubroom on Sauchiehall Street.
We look forward to seeing you on Monday for our book club, where we’ll be discussing Adichie’s 2013 novel Americanah. Whether you’re a veteran of our launch, book club, and modernisms workshop, or if February’s book club will be the first time you’ve come to one of the events in the Transatlantic Literary Women Series, you’re very welcome! Look forward to seeing you there.
We’ll be meeting at 5.15 on Monday in the same venue as January’s book club – in room 203, on the first floor of 4 University Gardens. I know some of you will be coming straight from work (me too, after seminars on Zelda Fitzgerald and Alice James – incidentally, two other unheralded transatlantic literary women!), so we’ll provide refreshments and rustle up a few snacks. As always, we want the tone to be relaxed, informal, friendly – and fun.
The janitors do their rounds and lock the outside doors shortly after 5.15, so if you’re a bit late, don’t worry: ring the bell and we’ll come and let you in. We’ll also come down to the front door regularly in the first half hour to make sure no-one’s been left stranded.
You may have seen that votes have been cast for our third book club meeting on Monday 20 March and that the winner was Nella Larsen’s novel Passing. We’ve ordered copies from the campus bookstore. If they arrive by Monday, we’ll bring them with us to the book club to circulate (and bonus: the edition has BOTH of Larsen’s fabulous Harlem Renaissance novels – Passing and Quicksand.) If not, we’ll let everyone know when and how they can collect the free copies from the book shop. Either way, we’ll leave a few copies with the book shop for anyone unable to attend Monday’s club.
If you are unable to join us, or would like to share your impressions on Americanah, feel free to do so on the page of the event, on Twitter, or just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!
Look forward to seeing you soon. Happy reading!
All best- Laura
Ps: Today is the last day to send your submissions for our transatlantic student writing showcase! Please send submissions of no more than 1,500 words of prose or 3 poems (maximum reading time 5-7 minutes) to: email@example.com, with Transatlantic Literary Women Series as the subject title. Please also include a brief bio.
Thank you very much to everyone who entered our writing competition, linked to our first book club choice, Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country (1913), narrating the exploits of a certain Undine Spragg. We really enjoyed reading your entries, which – in true transatlantic literary women style—were received from both sides of the Atlantic.
We asked you to write a dating profile for Undine Spragg or create one of Mrs Heeny’s newspaper clippings, writing a journalistic report on one of Undine’s parties.
There was no shortage of ideas, but we do have a winner. Congratulations to Deborah Molloy from Kent, who gives us a contemporary twist on a dating profile as Undine opts for the direct, targeted approach. Forget about being the Ambassador’s Wife!
Here’s Deborah’s winning entry. Enjoy!
I Mean To Have The Best
Dear Mr President
I am taking the unusual step of placing this personal ad as I realise that a terrifically busy man like you might not have time for niceties. I am currently between husbands, and really feel we were made for each other. I really, truly admire the way you always get what you want, power is the biggliest thrill, don’t you think? My daddy was a Wall Street man and I feel we speak the same language – alternative facts are the way forward. I have always felt I belonged on Fifth Avenue; why we’re practically neighbours! So, if you decide you want a First Lady who’s the home-made article my mamma will be happy to receive you at the Stentorian Hotel, 1 W 72nd St. Perhaps we can talk about lifting restrictions on pigeon-blood rubies.
With warmest regards,
Ms Undine Spragg-Marvell-de Chelles-Moffatt.
Many thanks to Deborah! We will be in touch with you about your customized prize. For all those interested in attending our next book club, we will be discussing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah. You can pick up a copy at our Transatlantic Modernisms Workshop on Wednesday 8th February, or just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask how to get your free book! More information can be found on the page of the event here.
See you all on Wednesday!
PS: Feeling inspired? You can still submit your entries for our Student Creative Writing showcase until February 14th! Send your submissions of no more than 1,500 words of prose or 3 poems (maximum reading time 5-7 minutes) to: email@example.com, with Transatlantic Literary Women Series as the subject title.
Plans are underway for a fabulous Transatlantic Literary Women event at Glasgow Women’s Library in June. Here’s a taster of the last event I went to there, and what we might expect to see as part of the TLW series in the summer. Looking forward to it!
This time last week I was enjoying the fabulous #herland Burn’s Night Woolf Supper at Glasgow Women’s Library. There are many alternative Burns nights in Glasgow, but this was unmissable. Robert Burns and Virginia Woolf share the same birthday, a fascination with Mary Queen of Scots, and much more besides. One line in Woolf’s feminist tract A Room of One’s Own stands out – or should I say blazes out? – in particular:
‘Yet genius of a sort must have existed among women as it must have existed among the working classes. Now and again an Emily Brontë or a Robert Burns blazes out and proves its presence.’ — Virginia Woolf
The Herland event took the connections between Woolf and Burns as a prompt for night of poetry, music and feasting. We gathered in the library dressed in our best ‘Bloomsbury with a Burns twist’. Picture women in feathered hats, wearing creative fusions of tartan, tweed and sweeping patterned shawls. Library volunteers have decorated the room in suffragette colours with thistle-like patterns that evoke the work of Woolf’s sister, artist Vanessa Bell. One wall exhibits Woolf’s book covers (some are even projected, in purple, green and white, on the ceiling), with smatterings of pamphlets on Woolf’s connection to Scotland. I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to display my own Woolf/Burns cut-up book art. Our salonnieres for the evening are poets JL Williams (dressed as a wolf) and Jane Goldman (with thistle-purple hair). The tone is set for a unique event.
Throughout the evening we have a feast of wonderful performances. Rahat Zahid ‘blazes out’ with her translations of Woolf and Burns into Urdu. Nuala Watt blazes out with her polyvocal poetry and singing. Poet Lila Matsumoto plays the fiddle as she leads us into the reading room where we enjoy a delicious Malaysian buffet from Julie MacLeod’s Street Kitchen. Then Sophie Collins shares an autobiography-poem inspired by Woolf’s Orlando, followed by a trio of local poets (above) who take full advantage of Mrs Dalloway rhyming with Galloway. Performer and writer MacGillivray gives a blazing performance that fuses electric harp, mermaid song and sound recordings of Mary Queen of Scots’ old haunts.
Although the supper is not a transatlantic event, it still forms a bridge, between Woolf’s England and Burns’ Scotland. The event also reaches across time: Burns was born in 1759, Woolf, on the same day in 1882, and both of them are channelled through our contemporary performers. It makes sense then, that we’ll be reaching across the Atlantic at Glasgow Women’s Library this summer.
Put June the 3rd in your diaries, for the summer extravaganza of the Transatlantic Literary Women series. There will be music and food. There will be poetry, talks and workshops. There will be keynote papers given by Professor Melanie Dawson (William and Mary College, USA) on ageing, advertising and modernity, and by Professor Gary Totten (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) on African American women travel writing. You’ll have the chance to nominate and give a pitch for your transatlantic literary woman of the year (perhaps even dressed in your own TLW inspired get-up). We’re looking forward to a day of translatlantic voices, blazing out! See you there – sláinte!
In the meantime, see you at our Transatlantic Modernisms Workshop on Wednesday and don’t forget to submit to our Creative Writing Student Showcase by February the 14th. We look forward to hearing your work on the 28th!
Poster Design by Katrina Falco
Arrangements are now in place for our Transatlantic Modernisms Workshop and we wanted to share details of an exciting afternoon of talks and discussions with you. We’d love to see you, whether you’re new to modernism or have a passion for one (or more!) of the women writers we’ll be discussing. We’re bringing together four exceptional modernist scholars to give talks on four writers who lived on both sides of the Atlantic. The event will be on Wednesday 8th of February from 2 to 5pm, in Yudowitz Seminar Room, Wolfson Medical Building, University of Glasgow.
We’ll be combining exciting talks with a friendly, sociable atmosphere in which everyone is welcome. There will be time for informal conversations and Q+A and free refreshments. And if you can’t make the whole event, you are more than welcome to attend just one, or more, of the talks as time permits. Join us, bring friends!
To whet your appetite, you can download our programme with some information about our speakers and their topics, including a talk by University of Glasgow’s own Bryony Randall!
We hope to see you there!
We’re looking forward to seeing you for our first book club meeting on Monday 30 January at 5.15 in room 203, 4 University Gardens to discuss Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country (1913). Please come and share your thoughts in a friendly, sociable group—and share a glass of wine or soft drink and nibbles. As always, everyone is welcome!
With such large numbers at our launch, we have booked an extra room in 4 University Gardens, so that we can have two groups if necessary and we will of course all join together at the beginning and the end for chat and refreshments. We’re looking forward to seeing you!
The TLW team chose the first text to kick things off, but future selections are all yours! So, now we need YOU to tell us which book we will all be reading for our second book club meeting, scheduled for Monday 20 February. Make sure your voice is heard! Thank you for the great feedback on the launch and the terrific book club suggestions for future meetings. We have taken three suggestions from the feedback forms for the shortlist for the Feb. book club. We will carry all suggestions forward, so if yours isn’t on the shortlist this time, it may well be on subsequent lists – and do please keep your suggestions coming via Twitter, Facebook or email.
Below are some information on February’s shortlist. How will this work? Louisa will be setting up Twitter and Facebook polls. If you’re not on Twitter you can email us instead: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re on none of those, then I am deeply envious and please just let us know in person.
So that we can make arrangements and order free copies of the book selected, we need you to cast your vote by Friday 27 January. We look forward to reading and discussing the book with the most votes!
Choice One: Nella Larsen, Quicksand
A writer of the Harlem Renaissance, Nella Larsen published just two novels, and a handful of short stories. Quicksand, written in 1928, is her first novel, introducing us to Helga Crane, a mixed race woman caught between fulfilling her desires and gaining respectability. Critically acclaimed, Larsen’s work speaks powerfully of the contradictions and restrictions experienced by black women. She has been described as a trailblazer in writing about the conflicts of sexuality, race and the secret suffering of women in the early twentieth century. Alice Walker calls Larsen’s work “Absolutely absorbing, fascinating and indispensable”:
“Somewhere, within her, in a deep recess, crouched discontent. She began to lose confidence in the fullness of her life, the glow began to fade from her conception of it. As the days multiplied, her need of something, something vaguely familiar, but which she could not put a name to and hold for definite examination, became almost intolerable. She went through moments of overwhelming anguish. She felt shut in, trapped.” Quicksand
Choice Two: Zelda Fitzgerald, Save Me the Waltz
Zelda Fitzgerald? Just the mad wife of the famous author of The Great Gatsby right? Wrong. A writer and painter in her own right, Zelda Fitzgerald published a single novel, Save Me the Waltz. When Scott Fitzgerald read a draft, he was incandescent, accusing his wife of plagiarising material from the novel on which he was working, Tender is the Night. Save Me the Waltz was extensively rewritten and published in 1932 to lukewarm reviews. Subsequently described as “one of the great literary curios of the twentieth century” and almost always read biographically as a portrait of the Fitzgeralds’ marriage, Save Me the Waltz is set in the United States and Europe and tells the story of Southern girl Alabama Beggs, her marriage to painter David Knight and her struggle to achieve her own artistic success:
“Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.”
“But I warn you, I am only really myself when I’m somebody else whom I have endowed with these wonderful qualities from my imagination.”
Choice Three: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah
Americanah (2013) is the award winning best seller by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who lived on both sides of the Atlantic: in Nigeria and the USA. The novel traces the story of Ifemelu, a young woman who moves from military occupied Lagos to the USA to study at University. The novel deals with contemporary politics, including 9/11, but it is also a ‘timeless’ (Wiki) love story. According to the Guardian, ‘Some novels tell a great story and others make you change the way you look at the world. Americanah does both.’
Here’s a quote from the book to give you a flavour of this particular offering: ‘her relationship with him was like being content in a house but always sitting by the window and looking out’. Americanah also offers a useful tip for reading groups!
‘If you don’t understand, ask questions. If you’re uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It’s easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here’s to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.’
How are you?
It was a pleasure to see you all last Monday! We definitely didn’t expect so many of you to join us, and even if there weren’t quite enough chairs, we had food and wine aplenty to make up for it! For those of you who missed it, highlights of the evening included a free book giveaway, and some speeches from the committee.
Laura introduced the guests to the TLW project and team, and went on to speak about Edith Wharton and The Custom of the Country. I spoke about Wharton and expatriation, and Louisa and Saskia presented our future events, including the book club sessions, workshop in February, and our future event in the trenches… Saskia read H.D.’s poem ‘Oread‘ to set the note of our student writing showcase. We also had the chance to speak to some of you about other future events, at the University, and elsewhere, including an upcoming discussion of Angela Carter! More about our March and April events in another post…
The launch was first and foremost a great opportunity to know your impressions and start taking the series to the next step with you. In the comments you left, you mentioned your desire for diversity, for cross-disciplinary events and debates, and for inspiring expat women writers. Many of you contributed their suggestions for the book club. We will present you with a selection of books to vote for on Twitter in a few days. If you don’t already, follow us on @atlantlitwomen to have your say. Suggestions included Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nella Larsen and Zelda Fitzgerald. If you have any other idea, drop us a line! If you don’t already, follow us on @atlantlitwomen to have your say, as we will soon be voting to choose our next selection!
Finally, we hope that you’re enjoying reading The Custom of the Country. We have now updated our Facebook page, and created an event for our session on January 30th: you can find it here. To make this a collective experience, why not post about your first impressions, or, even better, think about entering our Wharton writing competition? There will be a prize and winning submissions will be posted here. We look forward to knowing what you make of Undine’s antics…