Monthly Archives: January 2017

New book: …and Paris is my hometown

Exciting news!

As part of Sian’s Spike Island residency, she has published an eBook of biographical essays about the women of 1920s Paris.

It’s called …and Paris is my hometown

which is a Gertrude Stein quote.


The majority of the essays were published by The Heroine Collective throughout 2016 and Sian is very grateful to their lovely editor Kate Kerrow for contributing the Foreword to the collection. There are some extra exciting tidbits in the anthology though so it’s worth your time!

…and Paris is my hometown includes essays celebrating the life and work of Gertrude Stein, Colette, Sylvia Beach, Josephine Baker, Kiki de Montparnasse and many, many more.

Please purchase the book today.


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Online reading group: Till September Petronella

The second installment of our online reading group is from one of my favourite writers, Jean Rhys.

It’s the story Till September Petronella and, hurrah, I’ve found an online version for you to read in the London Magazine.

But if you can I recommend you buy or borrow a copy from the library because all her short stories are such a delight.

Here are a few things to think about when reading Jean Rhys…

How does she explore being an outsider?

How does she portray power relations between men and women?

What importance do clothes have in the story?

What themes do you find interesting in the story?

Think about Rhys’s style – how does she use language?

Read the story now

We’ll have an online discussion on Twitter and Facebook at midday on 2nd February using the tags #modernistwomen and #petronella – see you then!

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Online reading group: Ada

How is everyone getting on with reading Ada?

Fancy making this online reading group a bit more dynamic?

We’ll host a live Twitter chat at 12pm on Thursday 19 January. 12pm GMT.

The hashtag will be #modernistwomen #ada

And it’ll kick off on Sian’s Twitter handle, @sianushka

All you need to do to join in is use the tag or @ sian in with your thoughts and reflections on Ada.

We want to know what you liked – or didn’t like – about it. Whether this is your first experience reading Stein or if you’re an old fan. What you think of her use of repetition. What you think about its subject. What you think Stein is trying to say. And why she’s trying to say it.

Don’t have Twitter? Don’t panic!

We’ll create a post on the BWLF Facebook page that you can leave your comments on. And if you don’t have Facebook, then just comment on this blogpost at 12pm on Thursday.

As soon as the discussion is done, we’ll post another text to read, and re-convene for another chat a fortnight later.

Happy reading!

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BBC Radio Bristol interview

Sian was invited onto the John Darvall show on BBC Radio Bristol to talk about being Spike Island’s newest writer-in-residence and to generally bang on about how much she loves 1920s Paris.

She was interviewed by the very lovely Jonathan Ray.

You can listen to the interview on iPlayer for the next 29 days.

It starts 2 hours and 11 minutes in (after Van Morrison Moon Dance) and then there’s a song (Rock the Boat) and then finishes 2 hours 32 minutes in.

Have a listen

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Online reading group: Ada by Gertrude Stein

As part of my residency, I’ll be sharing one text by a modernist woman every fortnight for us to read, share and discuss.

Why? Because the novel I’m working on throughout the residency is set in 1920s Paris, where women writers, artists and creators gathered together to live independent lives – professionally, creatively and sexually. These extraordinary women were pushing literary boundaries as well as personal ones. Their modernist work was just as exciting and innovative as anything being made by the Big Men of Modernism. And yet, all too often, their work is sidelined or ignored or marginalised. My novel aims to reinvigorate an interest in these women. And through this reading group, I can share with you why I love them and what makes their work so fascinating and experimental.

We’re going to get started with Gertrude Stein who was perhaps the most influential woman working in Paris at the time – if not the most influential writer.

Ada is Gertrude Stein’s word-portrait of her ‘wife’ Alice B Toklas. It is absolutely one of my favourite things. It’s a story of love and finding love – of escaping into the life you want to live. It uses all of Stein’s trademark repetition and is just marvellous.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a way of sharing the text with you on the internet! But have found a reading on YouTube.

Here’s an extract, published in this great article on Brainpickings 

She came to be happier than anybody else who was living then. It is easy to believe this thing. She was telling some one, who was loving every story that was charming. Some one who was living was almost always listening. Some one who was loving was almost always listening. That one who was loving was almost always listening. That one who was loving was telling about being one then listening. That one being loving was then telling stories having a beginning and a middle and an ending. That one was then one always completely listening. Ada was then one and all her living then one completely telling stories that were charming, completely listening to stories having a beginning and a middle and an ending. Trembling was all living, living was all loving, some one was then the other one. Certainly this one was loving this Ada then. And certainly Ada all her living then was happier in living than any one else who ever could, who was, who is, who ever will be living.

Enjoy reading Ada and do share your thoughts in the comments section.

Questions to think about are:

  • Why does Stein call this a word-portrait?
  • What is the significance of the repetition?
  • How does Stein express love (and sexuality) in the piece?

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Launching the Salon Series

Hello Bristol Women’s Literature Festival fans!

It’s been a bit quiet around here lately but that is all about to change, as our founder Sian is today embarking on a four-month writer’s residency at Bristol’s Spike Island.

Funded by Arts Council England, the residency is both for Sian to work on her novel and other writing projects, as well as to foster public engagement with literature in Bristol.

Over the next four months, we are therefore running a series of salon events at Spike Island, bringing together emerging and established talent from Bristol and the UK to share their work and prompt discussion.

The first takes place on Thursday 16 February at 6.30pm and feature Miles Chambers, Vera Chok and Shagufta Iqbal.

Book tickets

The second is an all-woman affair for Women’s History Month and features Bidisha, Tania Hershmann and Holly Corfield-Carr.

Book tickets

The final event is on 29 April and speakers include Ben Gwalchmai, Amy Key and Eley Williams. Tickets will be available nearer the time.

Each event will feature Sian sharing some of the work she’s created during the residency. We’ll then hear from each invited guest. After a short break, attendees will be invited to share their own work.

The events are inspired by the great Gertrude Stein’s salons in 1920s Paris, where writers and artists gathered together to share their work and support one another’s publishing ventures.

And there’s more!

Throughout the residency, Sian will run workshops for children and for adults. The first, on 11 February, is a drop-in session for kids. The second, on 11 March, is for ages 16+ to develop their short fiction.

Kids creative writing workshop: find out more

Book tickets for short fiction creative writing workshop

And there’s more! 

This website will be a portal to an online reading group for those interested in discovering and sharing thoughts on modernist women’s writing. Every fortnight Sian will share a piece of work with you from the period. Go and read it, then come back and discuss in the comments section. First up… Gertrude Stein.

To find out more and book tickets for events, visit Spike Island.

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