Category: Literary Fiction

5×5 International Women’s Month: Celebrating Amazing Female Authors

Welcome to the newest edition of 5×5, a series in which we ask five authors of similar backgrounds five questions. Today, we are talking with Sofia Fenichell, AM Scott, Collette McLafferty, Susanne Tedrick and Finola Austin in honor of international women’s month. These fantastic women write in genres across the board.

We have some exciting releases next month with Susanne Tedrick’s fascinating read, Woman of Color in Tech, that will help women of color learn the skills they’ll  need to succeed in (and revolutionize) a technical field and AM Scott’s science fiction, space opera in her last book from her Folding Space Series, Lightwave: Longshot.

Sofia Fenichell is an author and CEO of Mrs. Wordsmith, a children’s edtech company. Their most recent book, FLUSH! and 37 Essential House Ruleshelps children learn how to respect their homes, their parents, and themselves. With the added flair of vocabulary words on every page, great artwork and puns galore, kids and parents a like can laugh and learn from this read. It’s available to purchase now, through Mrs. Wordsmith.com. And it’s available for pre-order on Amazon to be shipped in June.

Finola Austin’s anticipated historical fiction novel, Bronte’s Mistress, will be having a summer release this August. It’s a steamy and captivating imagining of the affair, that is still some of the hottest literary tea out there.

Last but not least, we have Collette McLafferty. Her book, Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer, is a memoir in which she details her life in the music industry and how she had to deal with a huge lawsuit for signing a cover in a bar. This is a fascinating read, indeed.

Now, that we’ve met our authors, let’s get to the question and answers.

 

Image via Students’ Union Royal Holloway 

 

1. As a full time/part time writer, what is some advice you could give aspiring writers when things seem hopeless?

Collette McLafferty: I would say this to any writer feeling hopeless: You have to remember your voice is your gift and no one can take it away from you. There is no circumstance or rejection that can tear you away from a pen and paper, a laptop or hitting that “publish” button. At the same time, it’s okay to take a break once in a while. I’m a huge fan of “The Artist Date”, a once a week exercise from Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way”. Go out get fresh air, see a movie, call up that old friend. Inspiration is like a fickle lover, it goes away sometimes, but it always comes back!

AM Scott: a. Join some of the online writing communities. By participating in some of the pitch parties on Twitter and the writing community built around those parties, I got some really valuable critiques before I published. They’re also very supportive—there’s always someone willing to encourage you. active, not in your house or at your job. I find hiking can jolt loose ideas and help me feel more optimistic .Hang in there—don’t quit. Even if you can’t afford to take classes or buy ads,there are free writing and marketing resources out there!

Finola Austin: Every word you write brings you closer to your goal of writing a novel, and, most importantly,every word you write makes your writing better. Some writers set daily word counts for themselves but this approach has never worked for me. I write when I can—early in the morning,late at night, on weekends, and frequently on airplanes. Rather than beating yourself up about what you can’t do, given the other demands being made on you by the rest of your life, focus on what you can achieve.

Sofia Fenichell: Being a writer is a calling. It’s a need that you have within you. Not everyone has it. You can’t really give up if you have that need. When things seem hopeless as a writer, you have no choice but to keep going in one way or another. So as you grow into being a writer, remember that the best writers are those that know how to listen and take feedback. Failure is your phoenix rising.

Susanne Tedrick: I would say the first step acknowledging the feelings that you are having. I think our society has conditioned people to either quickly get over or stifle negative feelings. Ignoring or pretending you don’t have negative feelings, including hopelessness, is much worse for your overall health. Accepting your feelings as they are and giving yourself the time and space to cry, talk to a good friend or therapist, additional rest, meditation,exercise or whatever method of (healthy) release you need, is the best first step in getting over hopelessness effectively. The second, important part is dissecting those feelings and challenging them. For example, if you’re saying to yourself “there’s no point in going on” or “I’m destined to fail” in the face of a setback, what substantive indicators do you have to back those assertions up? You may need the help of an impartial, trusted friend or advisor to offer a different, less emotionally charged perspective. 

 

2. Did you choose the genre you wanted to write in or did that genre choose you?

Colette McLafferty:To say my genre chose me would be an understatement! In 2014 I woke up to the headline “Singer Sued for Being Too Old and Ugly for P!NK Tribute Band” via The New York Post and watched in horror as this story went viral about me worldwide! I was really named in a $10,000,000 lawsuit, but it was between two men and had little to do with me. I spent the next two years in The Twilight Zone as I spent $15,000 fighting a lawsuit against a man I had never met while the mainstream media completely rewrote my identity. I wrote daily in a blog called, “Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer” which eventually became the title of my memoir. Before this event, most of my writing was short form music journalism and songwriting. The day I wrote “The End” on that final manuscript of “Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer” was the day I got my sanity back.

AM ScottLike many writers, I write what I read. I’ve been reading science fiction since I was a child, and my favorite subgenre is space opera, so writing it came naturally. But I started writing romance, because that’s what I read when I’m stressed. I was reading a “military” romance, but it was clear the author had never spoken to a military person, and I thought “I can do better than this!” Turns out I couldn’t, not at first. It took me a few years of writing before I felt comfortable publishing.

Finola Austin:A little bit of both. I’ve always loved nineteenth-century fiction, especially the works of the Bronte sisters and George Eliot, and my Masters degree focused on literature from the period. I didn’t want to be an academic as I couldn’t see the appeal of writing essays that only a few people in the world could understand. Instead historical fiction, for me, is a way of making the past accessible and visceral, and shining a light on the parallels between the then and the now.

Sofia FenichellThe genre of creating books for children definitely chose me! I wanted to help my own children fall in love with writing and become great writers. I could only see the value of writing going one way with the internet. But I was shocked by the poor quality of educational materials available for the  language-learning industry – poorly conceived, low-quality visuals, with many products that had very old copyright dates! The more I dug around, the more I realized that the sector was dominated by large publishing houses that underinvest in data-driven curation and high-quality content. All the investment and creativity was going into video games and entertainment. So, I was determined that Mrs Wordsmith would become the Pixar of Literacy.

Susanne Tedrick: The genre definitely chose me. Upon reflection on my own experiences in getting into tech – the successes, failures, and lessons learned – I realize that the sharing of this knowledge with the future women of color tech leaders was the book I was destined to write.

 

 

3. Who is your favorite author and why?

Collette McLaffertyMy favorite author will always be Louisa May Alcott. “Little Women” was the first book I picked out for myself. I found it at a garage sale. I was ten years old. I read the entire series including “Little Men” and “Jo’s Boys”. It was the first time in my life I connected to characters on the page and developed a long term relationship with them. I was an avid reader as a child. Sadly, during my teenage years I fell into a vortex of self esteem and body issues. Like many girls, I distanced myself from my interests and passions during this time. I stopped reading for a while. Louisa May Alcott represents a time in my life when I could show up to the page with curiosity and no sense of limitations. 

AM ScottOoh, that’s a hard question. I have a lot of favorites! But right now, my very favorite science fiction author is Julia Huni. Full disclosure here—she’s my developmental editor, and my sister, but her stories are full of fun and adventure.

Finola Austin: Two women novelists I very much admire are Mary Elizabeth Braddon, who wrote scandalous British novels classified as ‘sensation fiction’ in the nineteenth century, and Elizabeth Smart, the Canadian writer who wrote the beautiful By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept in 1945. Both women were incredibly talented. Both were also parents—Braddon had six children of her own and raised five stepchildren, while Smart was a single mother of four. I admire their writing, their grit and work ethic, and the fact that, for both, writing was an artform and a way to act as breadwinners for their families.

Sofia FenichellI like to read inspirational stories about people who defied the odds and retained their sense of humor, humility and integrity. My favorite author is Maya Angelou. I think we are at a point in humanity now where we all need to read more Maya Angelou. We need to hear from authors who make us think about our vulnerability and our unmitigated potential for growth. My favorite line from Dr. Angelou is “life loves the liver of it”; from Letter to My Daughter.

Susanne TedrickWriter and feminist activist Audre Lorde. I’ve found her poems and essays are always so powerful, thought-provoking and incredibly relevant today. It was through her writing that I came to understand intersectional feminism; while we may all identify as women,our race, class, sexuality and many other factors will ultimately shape what we experience in the world. No two women will experience life in the exact same way on gender alone.

 

4. As a female, do you think your gender/or how you choose to identify helps give you a different perspective in the world? And how has being an author helped you share that perspective?

Collette McLaffertyAs a female in the world, I constantly experience a lot that doesn’t fly with me. I see many whistles that need blowing and conversations that need to be had regarding the climate for women. When the mainstream media presented me to the public as a “bad, ugly singer” I realized my insecurities were not my own. They were taught to me and painstakingly marketed to me. As an author tackling this topic, I’ve had the opportunity to pull down the curtain and expose the multi million dollar business of shaming women for profit.  When I wrote the first draft of “Confessions” in 2014, it was before the “me too” and “time’s up” movement. I felt like a lone wolf of sorts. Now I’m part of a big, beautiful machine, that is disrupting the old narrative. There is a real opportunity to break the cycle, and it starts with the written word.

AM ScottI do have a different perspective than men—and many women too! This is my second career—I spent twenty years in the US Air Force as a space operations officer. It was a great career, but as a woman in a male-dominated profession, I had to fight against sexual discrimination. But think my background allows me to appeal to both sexes, because I understand the major issues of both, so my both my female and male characters ring true.

Finola AustinI’m going to speak in generalized terms here but, traditionally, girls have been raised to be highly attuned to the thoughts and feelings of those around them. We praise girls a lot for being ‘helpful’ and ‘kind’, rather than ‘brave’ or ‘daring.’ This kind of conditioning helps and hurts women as novelists. Having a honed sense of empathy is great for developing the interior monologue readers love to get access to when reading, and for unpacking interpersonal character dynamics. But women’s tendency to put themselves last, downplay their achievements, and shy away from risk can really hurt them when it comes to getting the damn novel written or promoting themselves once their books are ready to see the light of day. Again, this won’t hold true for everyone, but societal expectations can be hard to  overcome. Something that’s been amazing about sharing my writing with others is hearing that I’m not alone. Writing about some of the worst parts of being a woman has led to other women confiding in me, for instance about their unhappiness in their relationships, unpleasant sexual experiences, or ambivalent feelings towards motherhood.

Sofia FenichellYes definitely, I think being female and a Mom helped give me a particular perspective in the world. As the publisher of books for kids, I’m able to translate what I see going on in the world, into the eyes of my children. For example, we’ve just published a book called FLUSH! And 37 Essential House Rules which provides kids with the rules they need to become independent thinkers, visionaries, even renegades. Research also shows that kids who are able to accurately label their feelings, have more positive social interactions and perform better in school using their full range of vocabulary. Children who can think for themselves and respect their homes and the people around them go on to do unexpected and incredible things. We believe the home is a safe place where kids can test the boundaries and learn how to operate.Being an author helped me to conceive of this book as a way to equip kids with the language they need to take responsibility for themselves, laying the foundation for school and well beyond.”

Susanne TedrickBeing a woman, and specifically a Black woman, does give me a different perspective in the world. As part of a historically marginalized group, I see and feel the challenges Black women face in the world every day. Yet, Black women have learned to be incredibly resourceful and resilient in the face of any obstacle. It’s because of this that we’ve not only been able to survive but thrive in many domains. Being an author has allowed me to share this message of hope and perseverance with others. It can be hard,but it’s not impossible.

 

5. What is the best way, in your opinion, to celebrate Women’s History Month?

Collette McLafferty:The best way to celebrate Women’s History Month is to take a deep dive into your passions. Go out and find the women who not only made history but are the history makers of tomorrow. For me personally, I like to take a deep dive into the catalogues of female songwriters and performers  that are criminally underrated. Tracy Bonham is one of the best pop writers in my book and should have stayed on the charts. She hit #1 on the male dominated modern rock charts in the 90’s, a feat that was not repeated until Lorde cracked the code 17 years later with “Royals”. I’ll listen to the music of composer Maria Anna Mozart, who is often referred to as “Mozart’s Sister”.  I like to support groups like the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls. They formed at a time when females were actively discouraged from participating in the rock world. Since music is my passion, that is how I will celebrate. 

AM ScottI love highlighting the accomplishments of women in science, technology,education and math. Stories like “Hidden Figures” are a wonderful way to bring those women to the attention of young women and hopefully inspire them to STEM careers

Finola AustinMy answer to this one may seem pretty obvious, but, no matter your gender, read books written by women (or pre-order books by women that will be out soon!). Don’t just read novels by women from your country, or of your ethnicity, or who share experiences similar to your own. Seek out the stories you haven’t heard before and, when you find ones you love, share them with others.

Sofia Fenichell: The best way to celebrate Women’s History Month is to acknowledge the hard work that it takes to pursue a dream and to encourage our children to find their own dreams. Seize the opportunity to teach your children about what you do each day whether you’re a female author or a CEO . Find gentle ways to bring them on the journey with you. They not only will help unlock solutions, but they will thrive as a result. Children learn most by the example we lead. Recently I sat down with my daughter to read our new book in the Mrs. Wordsmith child development series called Flush! and 37 Other House Rules and when she laughed out loud, I knew we had created the right book.

Susanne TedrickI think the best way to celebrate is to honor and spotlight the women in your life or in your circle who are out there doing amazing things. Sharing their stories and more about how they’ve influenced and inspired you is a great way for others to learn about more amazing women who are making things happen.

 

Image via The United Nations

 

 

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10 New Books for Fans of Jane Austen

Jane Austen will forever be an author readers and writers go back to for inspiration. With stories about fated love, family and fierce women, Austen’s classic books are important reads in every decade. If you can’t get enough of Austen, you’ll love these 10 new books.

 

1. The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow

 


If you’ve ever wondered about the fate of Austen’s Mary Bennet, you’ll devour this new release from Janice Hadlow. Only when she realizes that she will only find happiness when she accepts herself for
who she is does Mary Bennet finally get her happy ever after.

Following her own path instead of going down the road her sisters did, she finds great joy when she meets a man she could fall in love with. But the real trouble lies in whether or not this new love interest is the man she’s been waiting for. Mary must
listen to both her head and heart in order to find true belonging and happiness in The Other Bennet Sister.

2. Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev

 

Taking inspiration from Austen’s Persuasion, Sonali Dev’s new novel follows Chef Ashna Raje as she competes in a cooking competition that she hopes will get her approval from her mother and save her
restaurant. But everything comes crashing down around Ashna when the show pairs her with a man who once broke her heart: FIFA winning soccer star Rico Silva. Although the two had planned on ignoring one another as much as possible, their disastrous meeting goes viral and fans of the show begin to root for the two as a couple. As they get further into the competition, they come to find out that ignoring their feelings for each other is much easier said than done.

 

3. The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

 

The love and admiration of Jane Austen brings together a group of unique individuals in Natalie Jenner’s
debut novel The Jane Austen Society. World War II has just ended and Jane Austen’s legacy is at stake as her distant relatives do their best to keep her estate afloat in Chawton. Knowing what’s in jeopardy, a
group of strangers gather to create the Jane Austen Society. While they’re all struggling with their own demons, they put their love for Austen first and do whatever it takes to ensure that her memory and
amazing work lives on.

4. Miss Austen by Gill Hornby

 

 

It’s 1840 in England and Cassandra Austen is still mourning the death of her famous writer sister Jane. For more than two decades, Cassandra has done everything in her power to preserve her sister’s
reputation. Now, in her old age, she’s on a mission to get back one more piece of Jane. Traveling to stay with the family of her late-fiancé, she goes in search of letters her sister wrote long ago. When Cassandra finally finds the letters, they’ll force her to confront secrets about both Jane and herself. Ultimately, she’ll
have to decide whether or not she wants to share this piece of her sister with the world.

 

5. Dangerous Alliance: An Austentacious Romance by Jennieke Cohen

 

Lady Victoria Aston’s life is the best it’s ever been… until things go awry and it’s now up to her to find a man to marry or leave her family to suffer. Using the lessons of love she has learned from Jane Austen
novels, she seeks a man. But finding a suitor isn’t Vicky’s only problem. As she tries to decipher the feelings of the men around her, she finds herself in the middle of a few strange accidents that could end up killing her before she ever reaches her wedding day.

 

6. The Wrong Mr. Darcy by Evelyn Lozada and Holly Lorincz

 

 

Evelyn Lozada and Holly Lorincz give Pride and Prejudice a contemporary spin in The Wrong Mr. Darcy.
Hara Isari is a sportswriter and when she meets basketball rookie Derek Darcy, things don’t go as expected. Writing each other off after their first catastrophic meeting, it’s not until fate reconnects the two
that they come to learn that sometimes first impressions can give us the wrong idea about the people we meet every day.

7. Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

 

New in paperback, Unmarriageable tells the story of the Binat family after a scandal threatens to ruin the family’s prosperity forever. But all of that changes when they get invited to an important wedding that has been the talk of their small town. With the wedding comes the chance for Mrs. Binat to find proper suitors for her daughters. While older sister Jena sparks an immediate connection with successful entrepreneur Fahad Bingla, her younger sister Alys finds herself stuck in an unfortunate introduction with Fahad’s friend Valentine Darsee. As the luxurious wedding proceeds, Alys will come to find that under Valentine’s tough exterior is a man she could see herself falling for.

8. The Austen Girls by Lucy Worsley

 

It’s 1809 and Fanny and Anna have always believed that in order to be anyone, they have to marry a successful man. Stuck in this mentality thanks to Fanny’s mother, the girls receive a chance at building lives of their own when their wealthy Aunt Jane tells them that they don’t have to rely on a man to lead a beautiful life. Instead, Jane leads the girls on a rescue mission in Australia and in the process, both Fanny and Anna come to learn that they can be strong women all on their own.

9. Meg and Jo by Virginia Kantra

 

Sisters Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth have all found their own paths in life. While Jo’s journalism career comes to a screeching halt in New York City, her sister Meg continues the perfect life she’s always dreamed of
as a wife and mother.

But no matter how successful the March sisters look to the outside world, on the inside they’re struggling with their own issues. Then their mother gets sick, forcing all four of the girls to
return to their home in North Carolina for the holidays. It’s at home with their mother and sisters that Meg and Jo regain the strength they need to reimagine their lives and start over.

10. The Spinster Diaries by Gina Fattore

 

As a somewhat successful TV writer in Los Angeles, the narrator of The Spinster Diaries wishes her life resembled something more like the romantic comedies she watches. Instead, she spends her days
flooded with anxiety and calling herself a spinster.

To get away from it all, she seeks inspiration from 18th century writer Frances Burney—the same woman who inspired Jane Austen’s best works. Gina Fattore’s new novel is a satirical and heartfelt novel that touches on life in the TV business and the chick lit novels we all know and love.

Unpublished Charles Dickens Letters to be Displayed

Never before seen letters from famous author Charles Dickens were recently discovered, giving us insight into the mind of the literary genius. Twenty-five unpublished letters were recovered from a collection of Dickens’ manuscripts, books from his library, and other personal items. These letters give insight to the life of Charles Dickens, as he was writing some of his most famous works such as A Christmas Carol

 

 

In a letter to a friend, dated 9 November 1843, Dickens wrote, “I have half done the Christmas Book, and am resting for two days before going to Chuzzlewit – that is, if I can call anything rest, with that before me.” These letters shed an important light on Dickens’ creative process and what he did to gather inspiration to write. One thing Dickens often did was exercise, which was an important part of his creative process. In a letter written in 1846, while on vacation with his family in Switzerland, Dickens wrote, “It is a tough day, but it is a great thing to get rid of the heat… I may perhaps take a boat for exercise, this evening after dinner.” 

 

image via bbc

Cindy Sughrue, director of the Charles Dickens Museum, is fascinated by Dickens’ ability to keep working no matter the circumstances. She says, “It’s this mixture of being on holiday… enjoying a completely different culture and still ‘writing his head off’ and meeting those publication deadlines throughout.” Other unpublished letters reveal Dickens’ strained relationship with his father, though he destroyed most of these letters. The only complete exchange of letters that has survived is between Dickens and a fan of his, a young Danish woman. In his letters, Dickens offers the woman advice writing, “The state of mind which you describe is not a wholesome one… the remedy for it, however, is easy… action, usefulness.” 

 

 

The letters have been acquired by the Charles Dickens Museum from an American who has been putting the collection together for more than forty years. The museum raised £1.8m to buy these letters with the help of grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund, Friends of the National Libraries, and the Dickens Fellowship. The letters will be on display at the Charles Dickens Museum in London later in the year and available to view online over the next two years.

 

Image via India Today

 


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New Curtis Sittenfeld novel ‘Rodham’ set for release June 2020

Curtis Sittenfeld’s new novel titled Rodham is set to be published in June 2020. The novel explores what would have happened if Hillary Clinton had never married Bill Clinton and the effect on American politics. It looks at what would have happened to the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate had she not been tied to the legacy of her husband Bill Clinton. Rodham is the sixth novel from Sittenfeld who is the best selling author of American Wife

 

Image via people

 

Rodham imagines the life of a young woman full of promise, Hillary Rodham, who meets a charismatic fellow Yale Law School student named Bill Clinton,” reads the synopsis. “The two find a profound intellectual, emotional, and physical connection that neither has previously experienced.” As she did in real life, Rodham turns down Bill Clinton several times, but does so once and for all in the novel. After this, the two separate and their paths diverge for good. 

 

 

Sittenfeld approached this novel asking the question, “What is it like to be her?” Instead of examining her life from the outside, as occurred during the 2016 election, this novel aims to explore what life is truly like as Hillary Rodham. It looks at how different things would be if Rodham had never married Bill Clinton and how that would affect U.S. politics as we know it. Marianne Velmans of Doubleday Publishing said, “In American Wife, as well as some of her wonderful short stories, Curtis has shown a unique talent for writing fiction that throws a light on the lives of women in the political limelight.” 

 

 

Sittenfeld’s acclaimed New York Times bestselling novel American Wife was published in 2009. It was longlisted for the Orange Prize, along with her debut novel Prep. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and Esquire. Her nonfiction works have appeared in The New York Times, Time, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic Slate, and on This American LifeRodham is set for release in summer 2020. The novel will be published by Doubleday Publishing in the U.K. and by Random House Publishing in the U.S.

 

Image via vanity fair


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10 Thought Provoking Quotes by Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf, a literary genius, an advocate for feminists everywhere, a tormented, complicated soul, celebrates her would have been 138th birthday today. And on this special day, we want you to remember some of the remarkable sayings Woolf has blessed us with. So, here are 10 quotes by the prolific author, which makes us realize why she became such a profound figure worldwide.

1. On history

“Nothing has really happened until it has been described.”

image via bbc

 

2. on personal growth

“I am made and remade continually. Different people draw different words from me.”

image via the new yorker

 

3. on comedy

“Humor is the first of the gifts to perish in a foreign tongue.”

image via buboquote

 

 

4. On feminism

“As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking.”

image via the new yorker

 

5. on fiction

“Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.”

image via national portrait gallery

 

6. on aging

“The older one grows, the more one likes indecency.”

image via literary hub

 

 

7. on nature

“The beauty of the world, which is so soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.”

image via wikimedia

 

 

8. On diet

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

image via new statesman

 

9. on youth

“I don’t believe in ageing. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun.”

image via moniq’s artyfacts

 

 

10. on being authentic

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”

image via Blogging woolf

These quotes make it easy for us to realize the impact Virginia Woolf has had on culture, feminism, life and writing, and why her significance is as prevalent to this day.

featured image via granta

 

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