Nanowrimo – Week One

It’s been really difficult, not going to lie. Especially combined with starting a new job and what seems to have been an epic drop in my self-esteem: I’m tired, I’m lonely, I picked up enough hobbies to fill a 40 hour week and I now have about 12 to do all these in. It has been more of a challenge than I could ever imagine.

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To begin with, I got caught up in the desire to write 2,000 words a day to get ahead of the curve. I was determined to win.Then I begin to hate my novel, to hate writing. But I am the sort of person who refuses to start over, I’ve made my bed, now its time to lie in it: I have to get to the end of this month.

I was so stressed about it, that I didn’t want to do it, and that is not why I started Nano. I started to get me back into a place where I did enjoy writing. On Tuesday I wrote, 2,000 words, on Friday I wrote 300. I beat myself up about it.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that if I was writing everyday, I was already winning. At a turning point yesterday, I wrote 1600 words  -and enjoyed it. So, in my first week of Nano I have learnt that I need to enjoy what I am writing and allow myself to be organic. It isn’t about winning, not this year anyway, it is about getting started and creating a habit.

Also, I have found myself attached to a couple of Writing Buddy Groups on Facebook, and as much as I loathe Facebook on the whole, they are so encouraging. It isn’t a competition, it is a personal challenge: I think we need to be reminded of that sometimes. If you don’t win, try again next time it isn’t the end of the world. And, there is nothing to stop you carrying on after Nano ends. So, that is how I am now approaching Nano: with an open heart and a realisation that I have just encountered a very busy month. I’m going to be forgiving.

Good luck with week 2 everyone!

Can the Film be Better than the Book? A case study of Virginia Woolf’s ‘Orlando’

Hello, everybody! Yes, this is a literature review, and no this is not what I was supposed to be writing this week, but due to a farce with finding employment (guys, do a degree because you’re passionate not because you think it’ll make you more employable) earlier this week my plans and usual upload schedule were shot to hell.

But in the meantime, I have bee venturing into feminist literature in the form of Orlando by Virginia Woolf, and I have some thoughts for you….

I came across Orlando (Sally Potter, UK, 1992) during my undergraduate degree and thought it was honestly one of the best films I had ever seen (WATCH IT, IT IS AMAZING), I was also given a copy of A Room of One’s Own for my birthday and read it rapidly with interest. My next project, post-degree, was to read Orlando.

Here’s the thing about Virginia Woolf – she is incredibly intelligent, and has fantastic ideas and it is interesting to look back on early feminism. Her essays are phenomenal. Her books are dense.

I’m not saying I didn’t like Orlando (the novel) because I did, truly. I enjoyed the witticisms of the narrator – including the section where she comments that she cannot narrate anymore because Orlando has shut herself inside reading and therefore the narrator has no room to comment, and the actual concept of the novel: a man who throughout the course of time turns into a woman – fascinating. (Side note, I do feel like Orlando was always effeminate and this is why he can transform – would you ever have a novel with a woman transforming into a man, or would it not work?)

The major problem of the work, and I found this with both To The Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway is that her writing – unlike in her essays – is dense, overcomplicated and sometimes difficult to actually understand. I find this baffling considering how fluent and easy to read A Room of One’s Own is – a forerunner in feminist literature! I think she had a tendency as a writer to overcomplicate her novels with philosophy, almost in the style of the 17th-century writers that she refers to in the text – Addison, Pope, Swift. For me, this is a stylistic choice which I find very difficult to grasp.

Personally, and this is a controversial statement perhaps, I prefer the film. When I was younger, before I studied Film as an Academic subject, I thought that you could only see a Film Adaptation of a book if you had read the book, and even then the Film was NOT ALLOWED to be better than the book. I now think that books and films are good in different ways, they can show different things and explore different angles – sometimes a book can elaborate more in a positive way, sometimes they can elaborate too much.

I think Sally Potter’s adaptation of Orlando is much more succinct, impressive and politically meaningful. The medium of film allows Potter to show the passage of time in way books cannot (see video clip below), equally, it has room to be funny and extracting the narrator to use Orlando himself/herself as narrator by breaking the fourth wall is a stroke of genius. Orlando (the book), despite the complex subject matter, is perhaps not Woolf’s best feminist text; indeed most academics agree it is a love letter to her lover at the time whereas A Room of One’s Own pretends to be nothing other than it is – an essay.

So here’s the crux: can a Film be more meaningful than the source text? Where do you stand on this issue?

P.S. With any luck next week I will be back to regularly scheduled programming, with one post a week on Wednesday evening around Bake Off O’clock (8pm) – and here’s a bigger question to ponder: will the move to Channel 4, without Mel and Sue, ruin Bake Off….?

A Literary Summer: Travels Around Some of the UK’s Literary Heritage Sites

This summer we started a project I have been wanting to do since I was a starry-eyed fourteen-year-old girl, crushing on the Byronic heroes of the Gothic Novels: a literary tour of Britain.

This desire has only been extended since my literature degree, here is a quick overview of the places I have been (So far!)



Haworth, Yorkshire, home of the Brontes.

Bronte Parsonage Museum, Haworth, Yorkshire

This was my mecca and has been since I fell in love with Mr Rochester at age 14 (so, he keeps his ex-wife in the attic…we all make mistakes). I have a strange affinity with Charlotte Bronte, and the description of Jane being ‘poor, obscure, plain and little’ is always something which has struck a melancholic teenage chord with me and all told, I had to go and visit my idol (side note: yes, I know she’s dead).

The museum is a series of exhibitions in the house where the Brontes were born and died (most of them), the main attraction is the sofa where Emily died (died! how morbid…) but the overall exhibition was really interesting. Seeing the rooms they grew up in and the attitude they were surrounded by was fascinating, and has only made me admire Charlotte’s tenacity even more. The exhibition was mostly Charlotte-themed, possibly because she was the child who lasted the longest but also it is, I believe, a bicentenary celebration this year. There was a specific room set up about Charlotte which included some of her clothes (she was tiny!), her writing desk, and a pair of her spectacles but the exhibition permeated the museum, showing different, fascinating facets of her life. It was absolutely incredible, just historically, to see the type of stature someone had in the mid 19th century, interestingly, at the Jane Austen museum it was apparently obvious the Austens were much bigger in height and in size, but we concluded this was likely due to nutrition more than anything.

I did think the town went a little overboard on their plaques, including displaying one on the local pub which explained how Branwell had drunk there, an affliction he later died from, closely followed by the apothecary over the road with a plaque showing that this is where Branwell got his Opium. You can hardly blame them for squeezing every last drop of the Bronte experience though. I would also recommend you bring your walking boots and head out over the moors to find one of the many ruins they believe inspired Wuthering Heights, we didn’t get the chance and I’m already planning a trip back up there to find Heathcliff…

Rating: 9/10, would visit again.

Chawton, Hampshire, Home of Jane Austen

Jane Austen’s House Museum Chawton, Hampshire

Despite also being poor, it is clear the Austen’s benefitted from wealthy family members which the Brontes simply did not have. Having seen both the Austen museum in Bath, and Stoneleigh Abbey (where the Austen’s stayed with relatives for a short while) it is clear the Austen managed to live comfortably if not wealthily. As mentioned above, this was most abundant in the stature of the girls, but beyond this the house was fascinating, filled with relics of some of Jane’s most famous work.

The major highlight was seeing Jane’s writing table, a sight I have to admit filled me with creative inspiration. The museum was mostly about all of the Austen’s and there were some rooms linked to her brothers and their naval career, whilst some might find this interesting I must admit I found it a little dull. Around the museum was illustrations from the different editions of her books which were lovely to look at. As with all literary museums seemingly, there was a dress up area and I couldn’t resist becoming Jane for just a moment. This was accompanied by the woman helping with the dressing up informing us that the trend in the Regency period was to have the neckline cut so low, it only just covered your nipples….

The Museum was lovely, but be warned – Chawton, like Haworth is a tourist trap with very limited and expensive eateries so you might want to stop elsewhere, but it is darling and I would return. Like the Bronte museum and seemingly many other heritage attractions, tickets seem to be 12-month returns making the trip much better value (depending on where you live I suppose).

9/10 for literary lovers, and I would probably recommend this one over the other Austen houses, though if you can visit the other places, such as Bath, Stoneleigh and Winchester, I would try and get the whole experience.

Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire, home of Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s Grave, Stratford Upon Avon Holy Trinity Church “Cursed be he that moves my bones”

Finally, a trip to the father of playwrighting, ol Bill. I have been to Stratford many times before, and because of that, this time I didn’t bother going into the Birthplace Trust properties (though they are excellent and I would highly recommend them), this time however I managed to go and see Shakespeare’s grave, something I have been meaning to do for ages.

This is another experience I found remarkably moving, his grave lies in a small church and a £3 entrance fee is asked for getting into the grave. The nice thing about that is, it quickly becomes clear from conversing with the volunteers that that small donation is for the upkeep of the church and the money can be seen in the works made to keep the church upright – indeed, last time I visited it was shut for necessary refurbishment. It has a bit more of a homely feel in some ways than the bigger properties in town, and there was something quite soothing about it. There are a few information stands when you go in, but at the back the main event is the graves of Shakespeare and his family, along with the birth and death registers and the font they believe he was baptised in.

Possibly because the day was so quiet, it did feel like a religious experience – though for me it was more to do with seeing Shakespeare’s grave rather than being in a church – but along with all of the other trips on this holiday I felt that it had an affect on me and visiting the sites of these great British writers has given me a boost to begin my own writing again.

As always, 10/10.

So, kind of a soppy roundup, but if you are an aspiring writer, or just interested in British writing, these are all fantastic places to visit. Next on the list is the Keats House, and finding Wordsworth in the Lake District. Do you have any recommendations?

Links:
https://www.bronte.org.uk/
http://www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk/
http://www.stratford-upon-avon.org/