Exactly one year ago today at the Old Vic, I saw what would be my final plays before lockdown: “Endgame” and “Rough for Theatre II.” Could it have been more prophetic?
I had tickets for the matinee, and decided, for once, to treat myself to lunch. Walking down The Cut, I found two options, a cozy pub and a burger joint. I walked back and forth between the two places, unable to decide.
Right, I thought. I’m going to be an adult and choose the three-course lunch from the pub. No burgers for me. I’m not in university any more.
I will always regret my decision to be an adult.
The pub’s small, wood-paneled rooms felt crowded with large, empty tables awaiting sizeable parties. Faced with a solo diner, the waitress didn’t know where to put me, eventually seating me at the head of an empty banquet table, my back to the window, putting my single-diner status on display to the world.
Unthrilled with my location but needing to get on with it, I ordered three courses, which the waiter assured me could be brought out all at once.
Never believe that line.
The steaming, buttery bowl of poorly-cooked mussels arrived quickly. The other course was, apparently, forgettable, and dessert was a terrible lemon disaster. Ever the child taught not to waste food, I shoveled it down and left just as a large group was seated at my table, their glances a clear reprimand of my unconventional choices.
Learning to be an adult is learning not to care what other people think about you. Tell me how you’re getting on with that, will you?
The theater was steps away, so I arrived and settled in my stall seat. I don’t think I’d ever been so close to the stage before!
It was my first double bill. We were treated to a nice, funny short play called “Rough for Theatre II.” I loved being close enough to see the actors’ faces!
Sadly, my marvelous seat did not improve my understanding of “Endgame.” I’d read “Waiting for Godot” and enjoyed it. I didn’t understand it, but I remember laughing. I didn’t laugh much at “Endgame.”
But I don’t blame Beckett or the cast—the production was superbly done! The fault lay solely in my increasing physical discomfort. By the intermission, I had begun to worry I’d caught covid, and by the sweat on my flushed face, I’m sure the people seated next to me wondered the same.
Never have I been so happy for the curtain to fall. I ran out of the theater, caught my train home, and by 7 p.m. was fast asleep.
My story doesn’t end there. No, it ends hours later with my head in the toilet, regretting my decision to be an adult and have the mussels for lunch.
Like I said, who could have known that “Rough for Theatre II” and “Endgame” foretold my last few hours of freedom for 2020!?
Happy World Book Day! Happy National Grammar Day!
One year ago, on Valentine’s Day 2020, in the Oxfam bookshop near the British Museum in Bloomsbury, I found a copy of Alison Weir’s book Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World, which hurtled me down a rabbit hole about English queens. I then read Uncrowned Queen: The Fateful Life of Margaret Beaufort by Nicola Talis. There was so much I didn’t know!
A few months later, my favorite podcast, Rex Factor, shared a photo of Norton’s book on IG. My quest for information could continue! Thank goodness I picked it up, because my knowledge of English history pre-1066 is woefully inadequate. I only recently learned that the Normans were actually descended from Vikings.
I was fascinated to learn that “England in the early eleventh century was a stable and wealthy country,” and that Emma of Normandy, born in about 980 to Richard I, Duke of Normandy, and Gunnor, the daughter of “two noble Danes,” was making an excellent match with Ethelred II (Norton 2012, 35).
(Side note: as a student, I never understood why Shakespeare sent Hamlet to Denmark. I hadn’t realized just how close, geographically speaking, the countries are, and that they shared this long and ancient history. You never stop learning! Norton has reshaped my understanding of life in early medieval England, formerly known as the Dark Ages.)
Emma married King Ethelred II (the Unready) in 1002 but he died in 1016. The invading Vikings had taken over the country and she was forced to marry Cnut, who had defeated her stepson, Edmund, for the throne.
Apparently, Emma had more power under King Cnut than she had under Ethelred II—her name appears on many charters, which is unusual for the time.
Much of what we know about Emma comes from The Encomium Emmae Reginae, (Latin for Praise of Queen Emma) written around 1041 or 1042. It compliments Emma enough for modern readers to look at the text with a critical eye: how much of this was Emma’s own PR at work?
Cnut died in 1035, and after some fighting, Harold Godwinson was proclaimed king in 1037 and Emma fled to exile in Flanders. In 1040 Emma’s son Harthacnut sailed from Denmark, where he was king, to rescue Emma. In a too-good-to-be-true scenario, Harold died that year, so Harthacnut became king. But he died in 1042.
So Emma’s other son, whose father was Ethelred II, was declared king. That was Edward the Confessor. I’m sure you’ve heard of him.
My first question was: why doesn’t this woman have a Netflix show? Did you know any of this? I’m a hardcore English-history nerd, and I knew none of it!
In addition to Emma, I discovered the lives of Berengaria of Navarre, Henrietta Maria of France, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Their husbands (Richard I, Charles I and George III) have all the renown (or infamy, as it may be), and Norton has done an amazing job of bringing these women out of the shadows. With few exceptions, queens rarely get the same examination or scholarship that kings do. Norton reveals the hidden, forgotten, or disregarded lives of the queens.
Readers, this book is perfect if you want to get titbits of information on the queen of your choice. Though each queen’s entry is brief, they are thorough enough to give readers and researchers a well-informed starting point. This book is an excellent choice for readers interested in history and who want to know about more than just one queen or are looking for an overview of the lives of English queens.
Writers, read this book if you want a brief introduction to the queen, dynasty or era of your interest. If you’re researching a specific historical era, it gives a nice background for each period, and this book is especially good for information of the lives of the lesser-known queens.
Warning: it’s longer than it looks.
Norton, Elizabeth. 2012. England’s Queens: The Biography. Stroud: Amberley Publishing.
Most editors like to keep learning after we finish our initial training. Over time, standards change, technology upgrades, and minds forget. January is a good time to do some studying. And reviewing is better in a group, right?
Back in 2018, several students in my copyediting program started an accountability group, and I was invited to join. We're all in different stages of our careers. We've helped each other with tough question and editing conundrums, and we've supported each other through major life changes.
We decided to prioritize ourselves this year. We'll be refreshing our knowledge base by going through The Copyeditor’s Workbook together, starting today.
Every month we’ll tackle two or three exercises and discuss how we did, what the pitfalls were, what minor typo we caught, and what we learned. Believe me, the exercises are tricky!
Two members are in the UK, and the others are in North Carolina, Kentucky, California and Washington state. We’re spread far and wide but we are happy to be reconnecting and motivating one another through these trying times while we also work to keep our eyes sharp!
“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.”
Edgar Allan Poe, “The Cask of Amontillado”
Celebrating Poe’s birth in 1809 today!
My copy of his collected works still sits in the mountain of books my Dad was supposed to bring me in 2020, but all of his planned visits in 2020 were cancelled, forcing me online to get my Poe-fix. That sent me down a rabbit hole: I came across this amazing illustration by Harry Clarke that was used in Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination, 1919.
The gothic and macabre images created during the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements are my favorites. I’m now drooling over several original books with Clarke’s illustrations on a rare book website.
All of this because I didn’t have my Poe book at home! I truly love the internet. Check out more of Clarke’s work here: https://www.wikiart.org/en/harry-clarke
Do you remember the moment you were first smitten? I do. My fifth-glade class was in the library, and the librarian began reading “Dealing with Dragons.” At that moment, I fell in love. In love with books, in love with stories, and in love with dragons.
It’s Appreciate a Dragon Day, and the main dragon of this series is Kazul, more philosopher than terror. Never have I ever suspended my disbelief as I did with this book. Kazul could have walked through my childhood bedroom door and I wouldn’t have blinked. She lived and breathed and was as real as my dog.
Sometimes it’s embarrassing to admit that my favorite book is a kid’s/YA book, but this title pops into my head first when anyone asks. I keep a copy of “Dealing with Dragons” with me wherever I go, and I’ve had to buy many copies because I’ve literally read it to pieces. I can’t recommend this book or series enough. It’s impossible for me to believe that anyone would ever not like it. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles has four books and the fourth book, “Talking to Dragons” is my second favorite, followed by the Book of Enchantments, which is a spin-off of short stories.
I read a lot and I hope to help authors with the craft of writing. I share good examples of difficult aspects of writing: point of view, narration, world building and more.
Occasionally I give editing tips and share insights from the world of publishing.
England's Queens: The Biography
Keeping Up With the Editors
Happy Birthday, Poe!
Appreciate a Dragon Day
I Was Wrong – Or What I Learned from a Year on the SYP London Committee
Shortlist of the Best Books I Read in 2020
V for Vendetta
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen
The Mandibles: A Family 2029–2047
The Diary of a Bookseller
The Dutch House
The Uncrowned Queen: The Fateful Life of Margaret Beaufort
Becoming a Writer
Things Fall Apart
Welcome to My Bookshelves!