There’s a pause in my Summer Reads programme this week – the planned guest post is postponed until late July, but something very exciting has popped up in its place…
Amanda Saint, author and founder of Retreat West Books, has joined forces with fellow author (and past Sofa guest) Rose McGinty to curate and publish an anthology of short stories to celebrate the centenary of female suffrage in the UK. It will be published this autumn (date TBC), raising funds for London charity Hestia, which supports people in crisis.
I was delighted to be amongst the authors invited to donate a story, together with Angela Clarke, Anna Mazzola, Cath Bore, Helen Irene Young, Karen Hamilton, Angela Readman and Victoria Richards. The rest of the stories were selected by Amanda and Rose following open submissions – congratulations to the contributors who have just been announced.
It is a huge honour that the title of my story, The Word for Freedom, has been chosen for the anthology as a whole. Designer Jennie Rawlings has donated the powerful and eye-catching cover which gave me goose bumps. I haven’t read any of the other stories yet but can’t wait to see how the authors have interpreted the broad feminist themes we were given.
Since it’s the only available taster, I’m going to finish with a few words about my story, and about perseverance for writers, which many of you know is a regular topic of mine.
The Word for Freedom is the story of two very different women in the process of liberating themselves from abusive men. It’s set on a game lodge in the Kruger National Park in South Africa and is the third of my short stories to be published years after it was written, in this case following my second visit to SA in 2012. Two of them needed extensive rewriting, whereas with this one I changed the last line and (can you believe) the title of The Word for Freedom five minutes before sending it to Amanda!
Like most of my literary output, this story particularly close to my heart met with a great deal of silence and rejection before finding its way onto the cover you see today. Why am I telling you this? Firstly, because there is no shame in it. And because it’s so easy to give up on a piece of writing when that happens, to feel it’s not good enough and never will be. The best place for some projects is indeed the hard drive or desk drawer for ever and ever, but I hope my back story proves that it’s worth keeping faith with the ideas and characters that won’t leave you alone; to revisit, revise and continue to believe it might come to something. For me it’s something amazing this time round!
There’s been a lot of discussion recently about the double standards applied to women’s achievements, how they are (or aren’t) given recognition and how we talk about them (or don’t, because we’ve been made to feel so awkward and afraid of takedowns). Well, I am extremely proud to be part of this important anthology in the company of such talented and committed women, and I am grateful that we are free to make our voices count.
Thank you to Amanda, Rose, Jennie and everyone involved.
The next two weeks will see complementary guest posts from Catherine McNamara, author of The Cartography of Others, on Writing about Sex and Desire (more of my favourite topics), followed on 18 July by Sofka Zinovieff, author of Putney, on Writing about a Taboo Subject.