Welcome to the third day of the blog tour for Marthe Jocelyn’s Scribbling Women, published by Tundra Books*. Thanks so much for joining me from Open Book: Toronto, and I hope you visit the next stop: Teresa’s Reading Corner.
Scribbling women…ahh, Nathaniel Hawthorne. You may be better remembered for The Scarlet Letter or the short story “Young Goodman Brown,” but in my heart, your voice echoes across the decades in a harsh whisper: “damned mob of scribbling women.” What did he mean? Well, mainly he was upset because women were becoming so commercially successful. (For a response to this sort of criticism in the mid -1800s, click here.) His flippant remark has served long and well to discount the writing of women.
Marthe Jocelyn, author of Scribbling Women: True Tales from Astonishing Lives tries to dispute this image of women’s writing by highlighting 11 phenomenal women and how/why their writing is important. Although I found out later that the book is intended as a young adult book, I think it holds remarkably well for adults, and I’m pleased to talk about it today, the last day of Women’s History Month. Perfect for young and old, it gives a concise view of why even the most mundane of journals adds to our perception of the inner lives of women in different historical settings.
Jocelyn, a prolific children’s book author, was actually researching another project when she ran across the writings of the wife of an ambassador to Turkey, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. She says,
As I learned and thought about Lady Mary’s life,Â I realized that there must be dozens of other women who had written letters, or travel journals, or diaries; women whose observations…had chronicled or changed the world around them, even in very small ways.
And so Jocelyn highlights these women, among them prisoner Margaret Catchpole, banished to a foreign island for stealing a horse; the famous Harriet Jacobs who hid in a crawl space for seven years to escape an abusive slaveholder; Nellie Bly, a daring reporter willing to do the outrageous to be famous for her writing; and Mary Kingsley, whose tales ofÂ adventures in AfricaÂ exposed the harsh treatment of native peoples in Africa.
What struck me most was how audacious these women all were – striking out into the unknown, walking where no woman had been, breaking barriers with words and action, and risking life and limb. A quote from a letter Jocelyn uses seems to be the most appropriate for this book: “Real history is made up from the documents that were not meant to be published.”
What we have to say, as women, is no less important. What we blog about, journal about, scribble about has value, and I hope that you’ll take a look at Scribbling Women to re-confirm that and share what you learn with others. (Buy a copy here.)
After reading this book, I realized just how many writers with whom I am in contact and asked a few to join me (tangentially) in this review, providing thoughts or photos about the act of writing.
A Twitter friend, @literarychica teaches English and is a writer but says, “Interestingly, I didnâ€™t think of myself as a writer until recently. Earlier this semester I asked my students: what is a writer? Do you consider yourself a writer? It wasnâ€™t until then that I asked myself the same thing: do I consider myself a writer? The answer is ‘yes.’ I write because I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”
I ask you to join in: Dear reader, why is your writing important – even if it’s a grocery list? Why do you write?
jenn aka the picky girl (who writes)
P.S. Tundra Books is hosting a huge giveaway (28 books!) for this blog tour. You can enter for your chance to win this set of Marthe Jocelyn’s books. Just leave a comment below. Check out Tundra Books’ blog for more information and for links to the other stops on this tour.
P.P.S. A big thanks to Sylvia Chan and Tundra Books for coordinating this blog tour and shipping me a copy of this book to review. It was right up my alley.