10 Great Quotations from Women Writers

Some female writerly wisdom for International Women’s Day from the Interesting Literature blog…

Interesting Literature

As tomorrow (8th March) is International Women’s Day, we’ve gathered together ten of our favourite quotations from women writers. Some are wise, some are witty, some weird; all are wonderful, in our opinion. And what unites them all is that they were uttered (or written) by some of the major female figures in literature. We’d be interested to hear your favourite quotations from women writers, in the comments below – which names/quotations have we missed off?

Austen

‘Going to the opera, like getting drunk, is a sin that carries its own punishment with it.’ – Hannah More

‘If only we’d stop trying to be happy we’d have a pretty good time.’ – Edith Wharton

‘There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.’ – Sylvia Plath

‘One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.’ – Jane…

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‘An amusement in a weary world.’ How we spell our names and other words.

When it comes to writing, I’m usually with the pedants – as Lynne Truss says ‘Sticklers unite!’  But I love this apologia for non-standard spelling in Alison Uttley’s book, A Traveller In Time. Penelope, switched back several centuries, finds herself in the company of a Tudor lady who is reading a Book of Hours, and remarks on the different spellings she sees. Mistress Foljambe, the mother of Anthony Babington tells her:

‘’Spelling is a matter of individuality…I have my favourite ways of spelling words, and I choose my letters.’

‘If I make a mistake I am scolded.’ said I.

She said that one couldn’t make a mistake, for each spelt according to his whim. That was one of the delights of writing, one was free to invent a pretty word, and she was sure that I should not be such a dullard as to spell in the same way always. ‘Life would lose one of its pleasures if we were deprived of the power to write as we wish… I myself spell my name Alys or Alice or Alyce, and Babington is full of amusement for us in a weary world.’’

This was a new idea for me and I was delighted that I could spell as I pleased and decorate my words as I wished.’

An eye-opener for me as well as for Penelope! I still wouldn’t advocate random spelling, but how wonderful to think that people might have seen it as a positive freedom rather than as something no one had yet given much thought to.

Added extras: the joy of a book with a map.

I had to buy this book…

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransom children's sailing adventure book

…because it had this in it.

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome children's adventure story map image

How I love a book with a map at the front. (Especially if the map has a little dotted line you know you will be following during the journey of the narrative. Every so often you have to turn back to the map and check where you’ve got to on that path, and what might be coming next.)

Or a family tree.

Or the floor-plan of a house – because you just know you are going to need it!

These lovely things are certainly not restricted just to children’s books. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale has all three!

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher

How A Story Became A Board Game

I was delighted to discover that Jacqson Diego Story Emporium, a lovely independent children’s bookshop in Westcliff on Sea, Essex, chose to read The Mysterious Misadventures… with their Story Bites book club in October. Then they tweeted a picture of a work in progress – Clemency Wrigglesworth: The Game – which they were making over a couple of sessions.

The game invites players in with the banner: ‘Frightening Miss Claw is coming your way so roll high to get away’. ‘Make one step back if you meet a bad person.’ Yes, there are plenty of baddies to get in the way! I can see the ship at the start which Clemency has to board to come to England, the sweet shop where Gully learns something important, and The Great Hall where Clemency and her enemies – and friends – finally tangle up.

I can’t seem to include the picture but you can see it here – pic.twitter.com/qReWZ9XwUj

In the classic board game set-up, you progress along a path from start to finish, step-by-step, helped by bursts of good fortune and thwarted by setbacks just lurking in wait. Up the Ladder – hurrah! – but suddenly down a Snake. You might be ahead of your competitors with the end in sight, but suddenly you’re back far behind them. In games like Monopoly you even choose a ‘character’ to be – the top hat, the boot, the racing car. You come into money, then have to blow it all to Get Out of Jail. Something familiar here, isn’t there?…it’s just like a story.

This brilliant idea for making a children’s book come even more alive made me think that so many adventure stories, from Famous Five to His Dark Materials, are structured like a board game. A journey to be undertaken, a goal to be reached or someone to be rescued, snags and setbacks encountered on the way, enemies met, but also helpers. No matter how clever and brave the protagonists try to be, a sudden twist of fate can turn everything on its head. Two steps forward, one step back. Or more like ten steps back and down a dark chasm with no apparent route out. Now I’m wondering about my favourite stories and how they might be transformed into games.  This would be such a wonderful rainy-day activity for children, with drawing and cutting and sticking, and remembering what came when and deciding what the key settings are. I feel like getting the colouring pens out right now!

Thanks to Jacqson Diego and their Story Biters for a great idea. I haven’t visited (yet) but it sounds like the perfect inspiring children’s bookshop, with so much going on to bring stories and children together and instil a lifelong love of books.

When autumn leaves start to fall…

I’ve never been able to resist picking up things when I’m out on a walk – interesting pebbles, twigs with lichen on them, pine cones, berries, leaves. If you have to ask ‘Whatever makes a pebble interesting?’ this probably isn’t the post for you. Because us pebble-gatherers could give you a whole list of qualities: shape, colour, texture, got lines round it, got bits in it. Got a hole in it! Perhaps the world is divided into those who pick stuff up, and those who really don’t see the point.

My pockets are always full of bits and bobs I’ve gathered. I never visit a beach without finding something I can’t seem to leave without – shell, sea-glass, pebble, hag-stone, driftwood, fossil. Here are some of my treasures:

Pebbles, oyster shells  and driftwood

Pebbles, oyster shells and driftwood

Windy autumn days provide a fantastic harvest, and there is always another leaf shape, another shade of yellow or gold or zingy pink that I haven’t quite got in my collection. Never mind that the collection withers and shrivels at home, that I wonder why I’ve got seven perfect shiny conkers lined up on the windowsill – and no kids in the house. Conkers are truly irresistible, and there is huge row of horse chestnut trees near my house where I used to take my children conker-gathering every autumn when they were small. I hope families still do that, but I haven’t seen any this year.

nature table, autumn leaves and fruit collected on walks

Another recent haul for the nature table

One of my sons used to pick up pebbles and sticks from an early age, leaning from his buggy as we walked through the park and gesturing for one more, not that one, that one! The seat filled up with treasure and the sticks often got stuck in the buggy wheels. We always had a collection of wizened and twisted wands outside our front door that Gandalf would have been envious of. He’s grown out of this habit now, but I haven’t.

This post is nothing to do with reading or writing children’s books. But collecting stuff is a passion I shared with my children, and I’m sure we will pass on.

windy day, autumn leaves and berries, nature table

My latest collection, gathered on a very windy day