Monday, March 28, 2011

Scribbling Women Blog Tour: Review, Interview, and Giveaway

Hello and welcome to my stop on the "Scribbling Women" blog tour, hosted by Tundra Books! For my part of the tour, I'm asking the author, Marthe Jocelyn, a few questions, as well as posting my review of her new book.

"Scribbling Women" highlights the "astonishing" lives of eleven female writers from around the world. Each of these women, who all lived sometime between the 10th and 21st centuries, have left their unique legacies behind through their writings, whether diaries, letters, novels, memoirs, or cookbooks. For some of these amazing women, entire books could be filled with their lives; for others, little is known about them besides the sources that they themselves left behind. Jocelyn has devoted only ten or twenty pages to each writer in her small book, but she still succeeds in conveying to the reader the interesting lives of her subjects. Even though I already knew about almost half of the women featured in this book, I still found new insights into their lives by reading "Scribbling Women." Given that this book is written towards younger readers, I am sure that most of the people who read this book will be able to glean not only new knowledge of a few of the most extraordinary women in history, but also a broader view of history itself. A few highlights of some of the featured females:

Most humorous: Margaret Catchpole, an English convict sent to Australia whose record exists in the letters she wrote back to her former employer, the woman she stole from.
Writers whose works I now want to read: Mary Kingsley, British adventurer who only began traveling to Africa in her thirties, and Nellie Bly, Victorian muckraking journalist.
Most absolutely astounding stories: Harriet Jacobs, enslaved mother of two by the time she was twenty, who spent seven years hiding in an attic, and Ada Blackjack, an Inuit woman who was stranded on an Arctic island for two years.
Most eye-opening: Dang Thuy Tram, North Vietnamese doctor who was killed during the Vietnam War, and Doris Pilkington Garimara, an Australian Aborigine whose mother, and then herself, were taken away from their families as part of a British attempt to "civilize" half-Aborigine children.

I also asked Marthe Jocelyn a few questions about her book:
How did you decide who to include in "Scribbling Women"?
Choosing the women for this book was maybe the hardest part. I read and thought and delved and read some more for about a year before finally narrowing the options to a shortlist of twenty. Then I began to write as if I intended to include them all. They fell off the list for one reason or another - no feasible translation, for instance, or too much context involved in explaining someone to a young reader who might be encountering an era or culture for the first time. Eventually, as I say in the introduction, I picked the eleven women whose stories made me catch my breath.

Is there a particular woman highlighted in the book who you enjoyed researching the most?
I've been worried about people asking me which woman was my favorite because I change my mind daily. I especially liked the moments during my research that made the women feel alive. Reading Margaret Catchpole's three hundred year old letters out loud and realizing that her invented spelling gives a strong indication of her accent. Exploring the old city of Philadelphia to uncover the house - on a street with a new name - where runaway slave Harriet Jacobs spent her first night in a free state. Getting email from Doris Pilkington Garimara in Australia, the only one of the women who is still alive. Speaking to Fred Whitehurst, the American who brought Dang Thuy Tram's diary safely out of war-torn Vietnam. All highlights.

Who are your female role models for writing and life in general?
There are soooo many women to admire, and so many writing women. I don't know how to pick just one!

Several of your YA books are historical fiction. Is there a particular time period/subject that you like to write (or read) about the most?
I seem to be a bit stuck in the late Victorian period - all my historical books but one are set between 1880 and 1901. I wonder whether that's because I've actually known people who were born during that time - though of course they're dead now! But it still feels like "my" lifetime, that my grandparents were reigned over by Queen Victoria. The one exception was How It Happened in Peach Hill, which took place in the 1920s, and centers around a mother-daughter team of fraudulent clairvoyents. This was a period of revival for Spiritualism, and all the accompanying scams. I love reading about that.

Do you have any current writing projects that you would like to share?
I am working on two books right now, which is normal for me. I'm writing a novel for teens, which unfolds in stories written from various points of view. And I'm making a book for young readers that is not quite a picture book and not quite a craft book but has lots of pictures and lots of crafts. I like to keep two projects going on so that when I'm stalled on one, I can go to a different room and work on the other.

Thanks for answering my questions, Marthe!

Giveaway: Tundra Books is hosting a huge giveaway of Marthe's 28 books as part of this blog tour. To enter, just leave a comment on this post. You can also get 30 more entries by commenting on other stops on the tour! More details can be found on the publisher's website. The contest runs until April 10th!

Previous Stop: ManicDDaily                                        Next Stop: The Book Tree

Probably the largest volume of writings featured in "Scribbling Women": 1100+ pages of recipes and household advice.


  1. I love your interview with the author. I wondered who was her favorite too. I think after each story I read, my mind changed too and they all became favorites for me.

  2. There are so many things to admire from each woman.

    Great interview, btw. Glad you asked Jocelyn about current projects. These are books I can happily pass on to my 12 year old daughter AND my mother.

  3. I'm really enjoying the book. The author has a very straightforward writing style that makes the book easy to enjoy. Great interview!

  4. Thanks so much for your review and for sharing your interview with Marthe Jocelyn. It is so inspiring to 'hear' her answers to your questions and to know that each of the women included had a tremendous impact on her.

  5. Great interview! I love how you (Marthe) spoke to Doris via email! Has she read your book yet?

  6. oops, think I lost my scribble. I think that each woman will be my favourite while I am reading about her. Thanks for your review.

  7. Each woman i read about was my favorite, so i'm glad to read that the author herself can't choose one over another either!

  8. Great interview - and LOVE that Marthe was able to actually "talk" to Doris. That's probably one of the most awesome parts of our virtual world: Getting to connect with people you might not be able to otherwise.

    ps: Too fun to include an image of the "cookbook" - that thing is so huge! :o)