Displaying items by tag: women's literary culture

Friday, 23 June 2017 13:45

16-18.6.2017 - Grrrl Con, Manchester!

Grrrl Con 2017

A big shout out to Jane Bradley, Claire Askew & Kerry Ryan - organisers of GrrrlCon 2017 - for inviting me to present a workshop on ‘Dealing With The Internal Critic’ as well as contribute to the ‘Paths to Publication’ panel!

And wow – such wonderful feedback from workshop participants:

“Have to say Rosie Garland has been the shining light of my Grrrl Con experience so far. Fab workshop!!”
“My first workshop was with on dealing with your inner critic, & was one of the best things I've ever been part of.”
“Worker Bees Manchester: Our new Whatsapp group name inspired by the amazing Rosie Garland is #fuckoffmavis”
“Magic atmosphere, easy, open and collaborative despite some tough subject matter. Cannot thank you enough, Rosie Garland”
“Really tough workshop but so good and so valid and needed”

Here’s to GrrrlCon 2018!
http://grrrlcon.com/

Published in News

Thank you to Diane Watt of the University of Surrey, for her interview about 'Vixen' - featured in the Women's Literary Culture blog.

You can read the blog here – or click on the link below.

Telling the truth and telling it slant: writing Vixen

Rosie Garland won the Mslexia Novel competition in 2012 and her debut novel The Palace of Curiosities was published in March 2013 by HarperCollins. Her second novel, Vixen, published in 2014, is set in the plague year of 1349. In this post, Rosie writes about writing a novel set in the medieval past.

******

I am fascinated by times when the world is on the cusp of massive change, specifically that moment before those changes take place. I view it rather like an indrawn breath, held and not released. Vixen is set during one such period of upheaval: 1349, the year the Black Death struck England. I wanted to capture that sense of a deadly force and its inexorable advance. In an isolated village deep in a forest in the south west of England, the arrival of a mysterious young woman – the Vixen – turns the lives of the villagers upside down. Amongst other things, the novel is about love found in unexpected places; the impossibility of escape if you won't accept you are in a prison; how people refuse to see what's right in front of them and the consequences of that refusal.

These are themes with personal resonance.

A very early memory is of my grandmother reading fairy stories. Magical elsewheres and elsewhens that transported me far away from childhood rural England. Which was, and is, a delightful place to be unless you are in any way different. This wasn't restricted to sexuality – anything that wasn't marriage and 2.4 children (preferably with one on its way by the age of 16) was regarded as deeply suspect. Suckled on the boundless possibilities of fairy tales, I grew up with a passion for medieval history, possibly because it too was elsewhere, other, and I yearned to get away. As a child, the Middle Ages was 'The Black Shield of Falworth'on Sunday afternoon TV. In glorious Technicolor Cinemascope, it boasted bleached-blonde damsels in crimson lipstick, knights in neatly-ironed satin tabards and an awful lot of thwarting and jousting and choreographed sword fights. This was a Middle Ages where Tony Curtis proclaimed 'yonda stands da cassel of my fadda' in his salty New York accent (sadly apocryphal).

I learned this wasn't the full story. Nurtured by inspiring teachers who introduced me to Chaucer, I found a perfect home at the University of Leeds with its specialism in Old and Medieval English. I fell in love with the cadence of Anglo-Saxon poetry, a dance of language that feels fresh despite being 1000 years old. Ever seeking the story, my undergraduate dissertation explored the parallels between Saints' Lives and fairy tales (dear old Vladimir Propp & structural analysis). My MA was in Medieval Studies – not Creative Writing. My dissertation rejoiced in the title 'The Apocryphal Elements in the Benedictional of St Aethelwold', and combined art, politics, social history, faith and linguistics. I'm sure it sounds frightfully old hat, but in the early 1980s postgraduate study that drew together separate subjects was unusual. To my mind, the MS wasn't produced in a vacuum, so it seemed nonsensical to study it in one. (As a sidebar, I was offered a doctoral scholarship to study the Lives of the Virgin Martyrs, but life has its odd bifurcations and I chose the path of singing in Goth band The March Violets).

However much I like to keep up with current research, I'm clear that my novels are not academic publications. Nor should they be. The two have different purposes, goals and styles. History on its own is not a story, let alone one that compels the reader to turn the page. One of the first questions I'm asked at book signings is how I do my research, as if that's all that's needed. My attitude is that it's vital, but like high-fat food, best taken in moderation. Of course, I need to research the period assiduously. However, it's essential to know when to stop. I am driven to distraction by novels in which the narrative comes to a juddering halt whilst the author goes off on a tangent about Babylonian cylinder seals (a prime example is Dan Brown. If you think I'm joking, check out).

The way I see it, the art of good research is when the reader barely notices its presence, only that everything feels right. Personally, I don't care if an arrow is fletched with swan feather, eagle feather or magpie feather. I want to know who is shooting it, who dies, and why I should give a monkeys. A great example of a novel in which the history – pungent, gritty, humorous and ghastly – serves the story and characters rather than the other way round is Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. It had a profound influence on how I approach the writing of my own novels.

Dammit, Jim, I'm a storyteller, not a historian.

I don't write the past because I regard it as quaint, safe and charming. When I encounter fictionalisations that portray people from 'back then' as different and one-dimensional (tropes of the simple peasant, saintly maiden, evil sheriff, chivalric knight etc), I switch off. I am at odds with the saw 'the past is another country; they do things differently there' (LP Hartley, The Go-Between, 1953). My personal conviction is that we haven't changed much; that we share the same motivations. Love tastes like love and hatred like hatred, whatever era.

I don't see myself as a historical writer, specifically. Not that I've a problem with the label – I've been called worse. But it's where my characters and their narratives take me and in it I find a freedom to plunge into fictional voices. I link this to Emily Dickinson's 'Tell all the truth but tell it slant' and Michael Ondaatje's assertion that one can be 'more honest when inventing, more truthful when dreaming' (Interview with Eleanor Wachtel, June 1994, Essays on Canadian Writing; Issue 53). The very phrase 'historical fiction' is something of an oxymoron; a dislocation of truth (history) and lies (fiction). I relish the dance of that tension.

Taking a step back in time can make it easier to see the trees, so to speak. Historical settings provide a sense of distance, which can be particularly handy when tackling difficult subjects. These are what motivate me. In addition to Plague deaths, Vixen also touches on domestic violence, misogyny, hatred of the outsider, child abuse, the urgency of brief lives and how fear can make monsters of good men. I've found that historical settings can act as a buffer between the reader and the grimness, as well as providing windows through which narrative light can shine. Light is as vital as darkness.

I have a penchant for sneaking things in beneath the radar. One of Vixen's themes is how two women find each other. Anne is a young villager whose expectations run to husband, children and no further. Through her relationship with the Vixen she discovers love can transcend gender. However, they do not refer to themselves as gay, let alone queer (if there's one thing I find more irritating than cod-medieval romps full of corsets and yea forsooths, it's modern people in wimples).

In 14th century Europe, women's sexuality was of such little importance there was no word for lesbian. The idea that women might have sex with other women was largely incomprehensible, for the simple reason that sex was dependent upon the presence of a penis. The fulminations of the church were almost entirely directed at men who practised sodomy ( (but see Judith C. Brown, Immodest Acts, OUP 1986; and The Lesbian Premodern, edited by Noreen Giffney, Michelle Sauer and Diane Watt, Palgrave, 2011). Whatever else fenced them in, Anne and the Vixen are not hemmed in by vocabulary.

One of the many pleasures of historical fiction is the opportunity to give a voice to those who don't make it into the history books. A motif running through all my writing is that of the outsider; someone who won't (or can't) squeeze into the one-size-fits-all templates on offer and the friction that occurs when they try. It explains my choice of first person present tense for Anne and the Vixen. I wanted them to speak for themselves, rather than endure the ventriloquising that comes with third-person.

At heart, I'm interested in creating characters who are greedy, curious, yearning, silly, striving, hopeful, cantankerous, nurturing, disobedient, sneaky and self-serving. Characters with unrequited sexual desires because of guilt, self-denial, or fear of social condemnation. In short, characters who live and breathe and change; and as they change their desires change and develop too.
Rosie Garland

Posted on June 6, 2016

Click for Women's Literary Culture Blog

Published in News
Tuesday, 19 December 2017 14:13

2.2.2018 - Making Thunder Roar, Haworth

Making Thunder Roar: Emily Brontë

Preview event
Friday 2nd February - 7.00pm

Old School Room,
Church Street,
Haworth,
Keighley BD22 8DR

This is the preview of the new exhibition, "Making Thunder Roar: Emily Brontë", which will open at the Brontë Parsonage Museum on Thursday 1 February. The preview show invites a number of well-known Emily admirers to share their own fascination with her life and work. Specially commissioned contributions from Maxine Peake, Sally Wainwright, Caryl Phillips, Rosie Garland and Helen Oyeyemi amongst others result in a thought-provoking selection of Emily’s possessions, writing and artwork as well as some of the well-loved household objects she used daily.

#Emily2018

https://www.bronte.org.uk/whats-on/483/bronte-treasures/501

The Brontë Parsonage is home to the world's largest collection of Brontë artefacts, manuscripts and personal belongings. During 2017 we are offering a unique opportunity to go beyond the security cord into the Parsonage Library for a close-up viewing of some of the items not on display. During these special hour-long sessions, a member of our curatorial team will share facts and stories about a number of carefully-selected objects, offering a specialist insight into the lives and work of this inspirational family. Fascinating and moving in equal measures, Brontë Treasures is a not-to-be-missed experience.

https://www.bronte.org.uk/bronte-200

http://www.bronte.org.uk/whats-on/news/208/bronte-society-reveals-plans-for-emily-brontes-bicentenary-celebrations

Published in Gig List

News and Events

  • Cover reveal for 'What Girls Do In The Dark' (Nine Arches Press)
    Cover reveal for 'What Girls Do In The Dark' (Nine Arches Press)

    I thought it wasn't possible to feel any more thrilled about joining Nine Arches Press
    - then I see the stunning cover of my new poetry collection, 'What Girls Do In The Dark'.
    Out October 2020
    https://www.ninearchespress.com/publications/poetry-collections/what-girls-do-in-the-dark.html

    Written on Tuesday, 14 July 2020 13:31
  • April 2020 - The Night Brother, Must-Read Manchester
    April 2020 - The Night Brother, Must-Read Manchester
    Manchester Confidential chooses The Night Brother as a must-read Manchester novel!

    Dystopian classics to modern crime - Nine must-read Manchester novels

    “Fantasy, romance, sci-fi, comedy…we’ve got a genre for everyone
    There’s a very good reason Manchester is a UNESCO City of Literature, as we highlighted before its bid to join the prestigious network in 2017. Innovative publishers, diverse bookshops and a lively events scene make it an unrivalled literary melting pot.

    Rosie Garland’s The Night Brother is our historical highlight
    Ever the entertainer, Rosie Garland sung in post-punk band The March Violets and now performs ‘twisted cabaret’ as Rosie Lugosi the Vampire Queen. But she’s also a literary maverick with an array of essays, short stories and poetry to her name (much of which she also reads at spoken words events citywide) and three acclaimed novels. Her latest, The Night Brother, navigates themes of gender and identity through two siblings in Victorian Manchester. Rich and Gothic, it’s a must for fans of Angela Carter.”

    https://confidentials.com/manchester/dystopian-classics-to-modern-crime-nine-must-read-manchester-novels

    Written on Thursday, 16 April 2020 18:18
  • April 2020 - The Night Brother - Best Northern Read
    April 2020 - The Night Brother - Best Northern Read

    An unexpected & encouraging piece of news!
    Northern Soul has selected 'The Night Brother' as a Best Northern Read

    Desmond Bullen, Northern Soul writer
    “In days that can seem desolate and uncertain, there’s a lot to be said for windows into a better world and, ultimately, joyfully, that is exactly the view that The Night Brother by Rosie Garland affords. Not that its window seat is cheaply achieved. Far from it.
    Rooted with disbelief-suspending specificity in Manchester at the end of the 19th century, Garland’s novel blossoms compellingly from the exquisite simplicity of its central conceit, one which owes the tiniest debt to the 1971 horror film Dr. Jekyll And Sister Hyde. Edie and her brother Gnome are joined in a very particular symbiosis, so that their singular sibling rivalry threatens to be the undoing of both. Themes that could be leaden in other hands emerge from the premise with a beautiful lightness of touch, developing into a persuasive fable of inclusivity and self-acceptance. This is a book that sings a rainbow at its end.”


    https://www.northernsoul.me.uk/books-best-northern-reads-part-one/

    Written on Thursday, 09 April 2020 15:26
  • 'What Girls Do In The Dark' - new poetry collection with Nine Arches Press
    'What Girls Do In The Dark' - new poetry collection with Nine Arches Press
    New collection forthcoming in October 2020 from Nine Arches Press

    I’m thrilled to be on the 2020 list of Nine Arches Press!
    I’m in the company of a fantastic group of poets. I couldn’t be happier.

    https://www.ninearchespress.com/about-us/news.html

    “Midlands-based independent poetry publisher Nine Arches Press, which achieved Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation status in 2018, will publish eleven new books of poetry in 2020, from a mix of established and emerging poets from across the UK and across the world…

    Acclaimed novelist Rosie Garland will also join the 2020 list in October with her third full collection of poems What Girls Do in the Dark, a book alive with galactic, glimmering energy. Rosie’s award-winning short and long fiction, poems and essays have been widely anthologised and in 2019 she was selected by Val McDermid as one of the 10 most compelling LGBTQI+ writers working in the UK.”

    Image: Poets confirmed for the Nine Arches Press 2020 list
    Top: l-r: Jennifer Wong, Rishi Dastidar, Abegail Morley, Geraldine Clarkson, Nina Mingya Powles.
    Bottom: l-r: Peter Kahn, Maria Taylor, Gregory Leadbetter, Rosie Garland, Kate Fox

    Written on Saturday, 08 February 2020 14:20
  • 11th & 12th January 2020 - Bhubaneswar Literary Meet & Mumbai Spoken Fest
    11th & 12th January 2020 - Bhubaneswar Literary Meet & Mumbai Spoken Fest

    I’m deeply honoured!
    The British Council has invited me to read, perform, and present workshops in India…
    I’ve been invited to TWO exciting literary events: Bhubaneswar Literary Meet (11th January 2020) AND Mumbai Spoken Fest by Kommune (12th January 2020).

    I can’t wait – not only for the opportunity to share my work in India for the first time… but to meet so many inspiring writers!

    Written on Monday, 23 December 2019 14:19