#Author in Focus: Virginia Woolf – A Life of Her Own

 Virginia Woolf – A Life of Her Own

Portrait of Virginia Woolf (January 25, 1882 –...

Portrait of Virginia Woolf (January 25, 1882 – March 28, 1941), a British author and feminist.

Author In Focus Bio:

Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English writer, and one of the foremost modernists of the twentieth century. Wikipedia Born: January 25, 1882, Kensington, United Kingdom Died: March 28, 1941, River Ouse, Sussex, United Kingdom Spouse: Leonard Woolf (m. 1912–1941) Movies: Orlando, Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Golven, Simple Gifts, A Room of One’s Own Siblings: Vanessa Bell, Thoby Stephen, Adrian Stephen

Virginia Woolf’s Work and Life

Virginia Woolf’s career was filled with work that showed a desire to break free from the constraints she felt as a woman.

 “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.“~ Virginia Woolf

Opportunities for women in the 20’s and 30s were undeniably less than they are today. But coming from a privileged, intellectual background Woolf had far greater means  to express herself than many women of her era. In the period between World War 1 and II, she was part of a London literary circle known as the Bloomsbury group, which included writers, painters and other intellectuals. She may have had the privilege of a wealthy family, but from the time of her mother’s death when she was only 13 yrs old, combined with her sisters death 2 years later, Virginia suffered the first of several nervous breakdowns. Depression plagued her throughout her life, exacerbated by the sexual abuse both she and her sister suffered from their two half brothers.

  “I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in.” ~Virginia Woolf

From an early age, she grew up surrounded by intellectuals which doubtless  gave her the desire and ability to question her role in society and the position of women in general. But her depression and mood swings never left. They ultimately led to her suicide in 1941.

English: Portrait of Virginia Woolf

English: Portrait of Virginia Woolf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Virginia Woolf and Women’s Fiction 

Despite her mental health problems, or perhaps in part because of them, she managed to be productive in her literary work. Woolf strove to rid herself of her demons, and while her writing  can be non-linear and freeform  making it hard to read, she forged a unique place in women’s fiction. Now, decades later, I can appreciate the example she set for all women, striving to find ‘a room of one’s own’ in a metaphorical, if not a literal sense.




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Author in Focus is a blog series featuring vignettes of some of the greatest writers of the 20th & 21st century.


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9 Famous #Authors Rejected by Publishers

I have been submitting my manuscript to agents over the past few months so I thought this was a great post to reblog from  Bridget Whelan Writer to include on my site. Enjoy.

Bridget Whelan Writer

9 famous authors rejected by publishers (comfort for emerging writers)

Heart of litrature...I enjoyed reading the article published by The Writers Circle website about famous authors who were not only rejected (in one case 800 times), but also had to suffer crushing criticism and they don’t even mention J.K.Rowling’s numerous rejections. I wonder if there are publishers who still wake up in the middle of the night remembering that they once held the manuscript of Harry Potter in their hands.

How well would you have coped if you were told:

“…an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” (It has since sold  more than 14.5 million copies and helped the author to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.)

“There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.” (One of the most celebrated and admired writers of her generation)

Stick to teaching.” (The publisher who offered that advice has been out of business a long time: she hasn’t been out of print for 150 years.)

Read the article in full HERE. Might be worth printing it out and sticking it on the wall somewhere so you can see it when you look up from the keyboard.

photo credit: 120/365. A Light Shines In My Heart. via photopin (license)


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10 Ways to Be Creative in the Summer

Does summertime make you feel creative and want to try new things? Or do you just like to have fun in the sun? I like both, so while I’ll be posting all through the summer, I’m taking a break from blog commenting until after Labor Day. Some of you may remember this post from last year, but I felt it needed repurposing!

What will You be Doing for Creative Fun this Summer?

Summer is a great time to try things you might not normally do. Here are my suggestions for being creative this summer.

1.Build a Sandcastle or a Sand Painting

A.K.Andrew, http://akandrew.com

Brighton Beach by A.K.Andrew

Building sandcastles are one of my favorite childhood memories as we always had beach holidays. Some of the ones you see are amazing, not just the fill a bucket and turn it upside down kind. I love making a moat with a sand castle too, all that foamy water rushing in. And then at the end of the day you can make it disappear with one sweep of your hand or wait for a wave to do the same thing. Creative things don’t need to be permanent. Sand paintings are fun for that very reason. Do one on the beach with a stick or your finger, or buy a sand painting kit.

2.Write a Short Story

This is the time to let go, have some fun with it. And remember no-one but you will see it, unless you want them to. Write about an unexpected sexual encounter. Try out a different genre you don’t usually use. Never written about vampires? Now’s the time. Write in a different point of view, or from the point of view of a different gender, or sexual orientation. Hey, this is supposed to be fun right?

3.Go see a Film or Make a Movie

When was the last time you went to a cinema? No, not your home theatre, but a big screen-Dolby stereo-popcorn-selling cinema. Treat yourself. If you’re a regular cinema goer then try a different kind of film. For me that would be a horror film. Of course, I’d have to take something to hold up in front of the screen though! Maybe you’ll be inspired to make a short movie on your phone or camera. One of the best shorts I’ve ever seen was made by a guy who was stuck in his house in Minnesota one winter, and he used himself as the subject. It was so imaginative, and best of all, hilarious.

 4.Take a Photograph

A.K.Andrew, http://akandrew.com

Sonoma Cowboys by A.K.Andrew

We all spend so much time on our mobile phones these days, but do you use your phone camera for anything other than selfies or groups of friends laughing together? I love those photos, but it’s great to capture even simple things you see that give you a memory of the place you’ve been and the good time you had.  Better still, take an actual camera!You remember those right? I must dust mine off. I happened to catch these cowboys with my phone while driving home last Sunday morning – I wasn’t driving:-)

5.Try a Poem

Lots of people, myself included, sometimes find poetry intimidating. But if you think of poetry as being just the essential information you need, it’s not so threatening. Of course, the arrangement and choice of words is what makes poetry beautiful, striking and memorable. Play around with words that come to mind, and put them together in a bizarre order. See what happens.

6. Watercolors and Painting

A.K.Andrew, http://akandrew

Grasses by A.K.Andrew

I used to think water colors had to be twee little scenes of cottages with roses round the door. They can be if that’s what you want, but you can paint anything you want with watercolors including abstracts. Look at the beautiful watercolors from Leora Wenger she painted during a blackout. It’s a brilliant medium to take on holiday. I have a little Winsor Newton box that is about 3″x  5 ” with a telescopic paintbrush inside. The paints are little squares like a kids paint set. I’ve had so much fun with that little box. The key to both drawing and painting is really looking at your subject. And don’t try and get the whole thing in the painting. Just pick a small section, like a doorway not the whole house, or a single plant, not the whole garden etc. If you really want to be adventurous, try acrylics or oil paints. The textures are delicious.


A.K.Andrew,http://akandrew.comKids have so much fun with drawing , and there is no reason why adults can’t either. If you want your drawings to look as if you were classically trained, good for you. But if like me, you don’t have that skill, then draw whatever it is you see. If it’s stick figures – fabulous.  You know who they are, and I can guarantee that if you forget about it having to look realistic, you will have fun with it. Think simple , but creative. Look at the work of Keith Haring. I used to think drawing was an innate skill. Some people have more of a natural talent, but it can basically be learned by anyone. So you might want to elaborate on your stick figures, and give it a shot. Drawing your own hands is a great way to practise. Or look in a mirror as I did above for this self portrait. Drawing images from photographs is much easier than from real life, so that’s a good place to start too. Pencils are great, but charcoal or pastels are also really fun too. The important thing for me is the process.


Gardening  is a fantastically creative pursuit and I’m often amazed the effects people can get from very simple things eg. putting a plant in an old metal jug, or combining flowers with herbs. It’s hot and dry in the summer where I live, and I’ve seen some of the most amazing succulent gardens in our neighborhood. Years ago I thought they were a very boring plant, but once I saw them in the US, and particularly the ones that bloom, I’ve come to love them. They’re great for needing little water too, which is always a good choice. Watch your back though – gardening is addictive, and it’s easy to forget how much work you’ve done. If you find this is the case then try using raised beds. Here’s one surprise I found in a neighbors garden….

A.K.Andrew, http://akandrew.com

Pig in a Garden by A.K.Andrew

 9. Music

How many times have you heard people say, I can’t sing? Nonsense! Everyone who does not have vocal chord issues can sing. Some voices are more pleasant to listen to than others, but we’re talking about having fun here. Sing at the top of your lungs, and who cares what it sounds like. Or pick up a musical instrument you haven’t tried before. Harmonica’s and tin whistles are inexpensive. Ukulele’s can be very cheap these days. The chords are very simple,  – some only use one finger. It’s all about having fun.

10. Cooking


Wrapped Buffalo Mozzarella by A.K.Andrew

Cooking does not have to be complicated, and in the summer, many of the dishes we eat are cold. Some people are so creative in what they make. Check out Susan Cooper’s site Findingourwaynow.com. She has lots of great recipes, and you can tell she has fun in her cooking. I like simple dishes in the summer. There’s nothing more beautiful than a caprese salad – luscious heirloom tomatoes with fresh buffalo mozzarella, sprinkled with chopped basil and dribbled with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Talk about a treat for all the senses.

What else do you like to do creatively? Welding, sculpture, making jewellery, beading, rockhounding? Try something new this summer, and whatever it is, make sure you enjoy yourself.
Have a fantastic summer everyone and don’t forget, comments have “Gone Fishing” until after Labor Day!
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Barbara Kingsolver: What is the Heart of a Novel?


Cover of "The Poisonwood Bible"

Cover of The Poisonwood Bible

Barbara Kingsolver is an American novelist, essayist and poet. She was raised in rural Kentucky and lived briefly in the Congo in her early childhood. The novel which earned her a pulitzer prize nomination and an Oprah endorsement, was “The Poisonwood Bible”  published in 1998, and follows a missionary family in the colonial Congo.  She is now the author of 14 books and her most recent novel “Flight Behaviour “, deals with climate change.

How Does a Novel Start?

I talked a couple of weeks ago in my post on Ray Bradbury, about the short story, referencing one of his quotes. This week I’d like, through Barbara Kingsolver, to look at how a novel might come to fruition. We can look at what is the heart of a novel by looking at her inspiration for it’s beginning.

“I woke up one morning with a vision,” she says. “I don’t know whether it was a dream, but it felt very dreamlike. And I saw – I don’t want to say it because I’ve made a point of not revealing the secret – the beautiful thing that arrives, that starts this novel rolling. I just woke up and saw that, in these forested mountains where I live.”

“I didn’t even understand what I’d imagined,” Kingsolver says, recalling that vision she had, “but I spent all day thinking about it and I’m enough of a biologist to ponder what it would really mean if that did happen here. I immediately saw the whole thing. Often there is a moment when I can see the novel sort of unrolling like a carpet in front of me and that did happen with this book. I think the novel is very much about how we understand and process what we see and how very true it is how we decide first what we believe and then collect evidence to support it, rather than the reverse. When you look at the conversation about climate change it’s baffling that everyone is presented with the same facts but people come away with very different convictions about what’s going on.”

This is one person’s experience, but it struck a chord for me. A novel can start with just the tiniest of sparks, and from that it can unfold or unroll like a carpet, as Kingsolver says. Like the short story, and even more so, you need to have a feeling about the work and be totally immersed in that feeling, otherwise what the book is really about – it’s theme – will be jumbled and confused. One can have more than one theme, but there needs to be a core sentence which you can refer to that tells us what the novel is about. You could call it the elevator pitch, but it is really the heart of the novel. “Flight Behaviour”  certainly has plenty of heart, and while I loved “Poisonwood Bible”, I think “Flight Behaviour” is her best novel to date.

Flight Behaviour, A.K. Andrew, akandrew.com, A writer's Notebook


As a novelist, can you summarise your latest novel in one sentence? As a reader do you think it’s important to know the theme? Does the theme of the novel influence you in buying the book?

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Do You Keep A #Writer’s Notebook?

I’ve recently been taking a free online poetry class through the Iowa Writer’s workshop, and it reminded me how useful – essential even – a writer’s notebook is. After all I did name a whole website after it!

What is A Writer’s Notebook?

Any kind of notebook that you jot down ideas, words, stories, poems or drawings if that helps you. You don’t need the classic Moleskine notebook, any notebook will work. Sometimes the more ordinary it is the better. Fancy notebooks can make us feel overly precious about what we write.

 A Writer's Notebook, akandrew.com,A.K. Andrew

A.K. Andrew’s Notebooks

Who Would Benefit from Using A Writer’s Notebook?

Any kind of writer, or anyone who wants to record their thoughts. It’s not important to give yourself a label to use a useful tool.

What Are the Benefits?
1. You won’t forget your ideas

When you overhear a conversation where someone says something memorable, what are the chances of remembering it word for word ?  Nil of course. But beyond whole conversations , even small details, in fact particularly small details, are things that will be lost but have the potential to enrich our work. Red shoes on a subway station. The bird had a pinkish head with a pale underbelly. “I could ‘ave bloody well killed ‘er” I overheard on a cell call on a bus one time in England.

2. Developing Ideas without Pressure

The important thing about a writer’s notebook is that it is totally private – unless of course you want to share it. This in itself lets you write down ideas you might never consider sharing with anyone. Which is liberating, because you can jot down things you might think are stupid but once followed through lead onto to a kernel of something worth running with.

A.K. Andrew, akandrew.com
 3. Brainstorming is productive – one idea leads to another

Whenever I’m thinking of a title of a piece I start with one word, which leads to another, letting them lead on until I have a whole list of words. Inside that list I can usually find a title. The same goes for character traits, or descriptions – words to describe the wind blowing against a pane of glass for example. Lashing, hurl, pebbles, slanting rain, rain heavily, heaving against the glass, pouring, slash, ripples, windswept, sweeping torrents etc. You will likely go through a number of options before you get to something you like.

4. Writing words makes you write more words

When you start writing, something becomes released. Almost as if to put it on a page lets it go and you can move on to the next thing. Often when we have writer’s block all we need to do is write. Jotting something down on a piece of paper, is a very low threat way to get back into the flow of one word following another.

5. Writing down rather than typing makes for a strong connection

Although I don’t find it feasible to write a whole novel by hand, I’m a big believer that writing by hand taps into the subconscious more readily than if you type it. There are studies that have proved that people learn better if the exercise has been written by hand.

English: Moleskine notebook. ??????????: ?????...

English: Moleskine notebook. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

6. All your Ideas in one place

I know you have “notes” and “evernote” and a myriad other ways of keeping information on a computer and obviously I do, but there’s nothing like picking up a notebook, flicking through it’s pages and having your information all in one place. If you don’t want to carry a notebook with you, carry a post-it pad or other little pad to jot things down on. You can consolidate it later. Paste it in with Scotch tape if you dont’ want to rewrite it. My particular favorite is a notebook that has a little envelope at the back where I can keep either scraps of notes, or say a ticket stub to remind me of an exhibition or a train ride.

Do you keep a notebook of any kind? How do you like to organise your thoughts, memories or experiences?

Come join the discussion, and please share this post on your favorite social media. 

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