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Telling Our Stories, Writing Our Lives: Valerie Eliot & Truth-telling

Originally published on the Berkshire Publishing blog in November 2016, and republished here in January 2020 because it is relevant to the opening of the Eliot letters to Emily Hale. My friend Emma once complimented me on an anecdote I’d told, saying, “I can dine out on that for years.” And there are a few stories about Emma and my days as housemates in London I still tell, especially the one about how we acted out the Lucan murder, on the stairs where it had taken place just a few [...]

January 4th, 2020|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , , , |

Valerie Eliot and the making of CATS

When I started working for Valerie Eliot in 1986, the musical Cats was only a few years into its record-breaking run in London, but it had already made Valerie a wealthy woman. She was defensive about it, as she was about many things, and would use me as a sounding board. She loved having the money, no doubt; she was good with money and would allude to decisions about her stock portfolio with that confidence that people have when they are talking about something they understand and enjoy. But she [...]

December 19th, 2019|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , |

Why Villette is Better than Jane Eyre (“Old Book” pick for December 2019)

Probably all of us have read Jane Eyre, about one of what biographer Lyndall Gordon calls Charlotte Bronte’s “searching spirit” heroines. But more passionate, more personal and autobiographical, and more searching is Bronte’s Villette. The three Bronte sisters had many fictional characters who suffered terribly, who were orphaned, impoverished, sick and lonely. But they loved. Oh, how they loved! I think of passages in Villette that are a torrent of desire. Not sexual desire (though we can certainly, and reasonably, read some of that kind of passion into the stories), [...]

December 6th, 2019|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|

Deirdre Bair on Simone de Beauvoir, Sheila Weller on Carrie Fisher: celebrating women writing women’s lives

A year ago I was accepted into a group called “Women Writing Women’s Lives” (WWWL) in New York. I thus became part of a community of biographers and memoirists who write about women, and, for the first time in my life, a member of a women’s group. (That is, if you don’t count Girl Scouts, which I dropped out of after only a week - twice.) November 12th happened to be the official publication date for new books written by two of my friends, both greeted with much acclaim. Parisian [...]

December 6th, 2019|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , |

“Thanks for Typing” in LOGOS, Journal of the World Publishing Community

This is the full text of my article, published in November 2019 in LOGOS, Journal of the World Publishing Community: Abstract In this paper, I review the Thanks for Typing Conference held at Oxford University in March of 2019, which explored the experiences of women who worked as literary helpmeets for famous men. I also give some details from the paper I presented there. In “‘Jumped-up Typists’: Two Secretaries Who Became Guardians of the Flame,” I discussed how two literary wives, Sophia Mumford (1899–1997), wife of the American historian and [...]

November 16th, 2019|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|

Smiling because we have to?

I came across this blog post, "I Tweeted About The Joker Being a Woman Who Was Tired of This Shit and It Now Feels Auto-Biographical." It made me smile, then laugh. "The Joker should have been a woman. And she finally went insane because too many random dudes told her to smile, so now she perpetually smiles while terrorizing Gotham." Geraldine @everywhereist Here's a little from Geraldine DeRuiter’ s explanation of how she came to this revelation: I wrote this tweet in the lobby of a hotel in downtown Seattle [...]

October 27th, 2019|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , |