silent-women-book

Silent Women: Pioneers of Cinema

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEW BOOK?

Silent Women is more than a book. It’s a rallying cry.

It demands that we pay more attention to the currently accepted history of cinema which cast women as a supporting role, and instead see women film-makers as taking centre stage and as a group who, from the beginning, were calling the shots.

HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA/COME TO WRITE THE BOOK?

This book came about because of getting the opportunity to work on Celluloid Ceiling. I was visiting University of East Anglia to talk about that book, and snuck into the back seats of a lecture on women in early film. I had no idea that it would change the course of my life!

As I sat there listening intently – and starting to scribble notes – of the names of early female film makers I was absolutely astonished. I had no idea that there were any women in early film. I had assumed it was an entirely male domain. In fact I’d even assumed it was ‘entirely male’ up to around the 1980s which was when – in my pop culture knowledge – women had started to ‘break through’. I had no idea that I was so wrong. And when I realised that I was wrong – and that there were so many women’s voices who had been forgotten, written out, silenced – well, I felt I had to do something about it.

IS THIS BOOK A DEPARTURE FROM YOUR OTHER WORK?

I unexpectedly wandered into the domain of non-fiction as I see my natural foraging ground as drama and fiction. I am probably more at home with writing dialogue and coming up with stories.

However I have actually worked in factual (documentary) television, so I very much appreciate the art of research and the dedication that I see amongst so many academic authors. It’s a privilege to be able to celebrate their research and shine a light on their work.

HOW DO YOU WRITE? DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL PLACE OR ROUTINE?

I’d love to be able to write first thing but this seems to be luxury domain of male authors. A lot of male writers will get up and write first thing, or write all morning and then take the afternoon off. It’s simply not like that for a lot of women who are also juggling childcare, so for me I’m a night-time writer.

WHO READS YOUR WORK? GIVES YOU FEEDBACK?

Sometimes I’ll send extracts to friends – I’m lucky to have several who are talented writers. They won’t mince words with me. If it’s not good, they’ll say so! The team behind this book were amazing. I learnt a huge amount from co-editor Cheryl Robson who is very inspiring. She has been writing and editing for many years and is generous with her knowledge as well as absolutely invaluable with her advice. I count myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with her.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO TEACH WRITING?

Yes I think it’s possible to teach writing. I think there are a number of excellent courses out there which provide people with the tools to get started in poetry, prose or drama.

What I’m not sure you can teach is ideas.

There’s a quote I like from Steve Jobs where he basically says the same thing. Creative people link things in unique ways, and real creativity comes from those ideas which seem so simple to one individual and yet know one else would have considered.

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

WHAT ADVICE TO YOU HAVE FOR PEOPLE TRYING TO GET PUBLISHED?

Write every day. Find your voice. Never give up.

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