Erin Blakemore's Blog

March 31, 2015

160 years ago today, Charlotte Brontë died.


Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the woman who brought us Jane Eyre, Villette and other books:


Charlotte Bronte Quote

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Published on March 31, 2015 11:34 • 10 views

March 26, 2015

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A vanity Google has revealed that The Heroine’s Bookshelf has a new name and a new cover in bella Italia!


The first edition of the book in Italian was called La biblioteca delle donna. Now Orme seems to have re-released the book as Le protagoniste and given it a pretty new cover!


(Here’s the old cover for your reference. I like them both.)


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Published on March 26, 2015 10:03 • 33 views

March 12, 2015

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It’s almost spring, and the almost part is killing me. So…how about a poem, instead?


In 1814, young Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin ran off with Percy Bysshe Shelley, the Romantic lyricist known as much for his personal excesses as his poems. Two years later, she composed Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, while living with Shelley near Lord Byron’s compound at the Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva. She later described that summer as the time “when I first stepped out from childhood into life.” She was eighteen years old.


The Book


First we met in drawing rooms, then graves—

He loved me for my mother, I suppose.

I wore my tartan then, its plaid a sign

Of all I was despite my father’s care.

But once I saw him there, my focus switched.

Now we were mouths and tongues and choking sighs,

A bit of poplar pressed into my back.

His buttons bruised my all too willing hands.

And when we made the journey overseas

I almost could forget our other selves.


Sealed up in the fine carriage like a clam

We wondered we had ever lived apart.

But by the time we reached fair Lake Genève

A certain pall was cast upon our group.

The rain submerged my carelessness for once,

Brought colic to the baby and myself.

I’d drowned myself in fairy tales so long

I couldn’t see my own face in the glass.

They wagered that I couldn’t chill their blood;

Submerged, I felt it time to tell my tale.


Now all was ice, explorers setting out—

The giddiness and sway of well-laid plans—

The certainty that one way was the best.

It wasn’t. For the certainty was naught

But hubris dressed in scientific clothes.

So eager to cast doubt on smaller folk,

It rumbled past the grand and unexplained.

Full speed to glory! Never mind the cost.

And never mind the weight of that small seed

Of human kindness, buried deep in fear.


I paused before I brought the book to him.

My mourning dress was tight and shabby now—

Unnecessary ugliness to him

Who liked to look on pretty things and laugh.

It pained me now to give my creature up.

I knew that it must bear his swift, deft pen,

That those choked words were not my own to keep.

But boldly I gave Percy my new book

And wondered if he’d notice that my rage

Roiled red beneath the ice of that drear dream.

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Published on March 12, 2015 16:15 • 23 views

February 26, 2015

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Some days it’s snowy, and I’m exhausted, and then I remember my rad friends and feel heartened.


Daniel has the risky and always odd privilege of heading up VICE News’s Mexico bureau, and his work is gritty and outstanding.


Sarah weaves her bookish interests into stories that are always thought-provoking and fun.


Another Sarah makes up crossword puzzles, people. Crossword puzzles!


My cousin’s rural health care clinic is making national news.


Kyla makes things happen at the PBS News Hour.


Melanie imagines some of my favorite authors as lovestruck teens.


Rachel helps people connect to the great outdoors.


Caitlin’s illustrations are breathtaking.


As are Melissa’s astonishing quilts.


Courtney is a warrior for gender-neutral kids’ clothes.


Lorelei knows what’s up when it comes to things legal.


Nate unburies underground music.


Tavia brings books to life in audio form.


Jason’s not too shabby in the audio department, either.


And this long list is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to friend pool talent.


 


Photo credit

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Published on February 26, 2015 15:05 • 30 views

January 23, 2015

In honor of National Handwriting Day, a glimpse at Charlotte Brontë’s public writing and the tiny scratches she kept for herself:


Charlotte Bronte Handwriting

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Published on January 23, 2015 10:34 • 42 views

January 16, 2015

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The “feast or famine” trope is familiar to any freelancer. Some days you starve. Other days are over-the-top busy.


As I poke my head out into the real world again, I’m finding a lot to chew on. I just started a new gig blogging daily on culture, science, history and innovation for Smithsonian’s SmartNews. It’s a great contrast to the longer-term projects I’m chipping away at, bit by bit. And man, am I learning a lot lately. Here’s what I worked on this week:


Sunday


I went inside the weird world of mourning rings for Modern Notion.


Monday


I covered and a study that shows that people who put down their phones act a lot dumber for Smithsonian SmartNews.


Tuesday


So who knows you better, your computer or your mom? I investigated for Smithsonian, then looked into how 700-year-old mummy poop helped solve a historical mystery.


Wednesday


I contemplated ways to recapture creativity during a dull winter for CreativeLive before turning to a surprisingly human-sounding orangutan and for SmartNews.


Thursday


Lots of news on the radar today, from word that two climbers managed to summit the impossibly vertical wall that is Yosemite’s El Capitan to research that suggests there might be mysterious new planets past Pluto to a bull who’s fathered over 500,000 cows and the possibility that feeling cold is contagious.


Friday


I started the morning with a glimpse at what the recent SpaceX rocket crash looked like and covered a new “smart retainer” that can help deaf people hear through their tongues.


And that wasn’t even the half of it. I also wrote other pieces, including a long-form piece I’m really excited about, met with the promotion committee for LauraPalooza 2015, and am working on a bunch of new pitches. I’d like to keep feasting, please.

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Published on January 16, 2015 16:11 • 17 views

January 7, 2015

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Published on January 07, 2015 07:47 • 8 views

January 6, 2015

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As the author of a book about books, I’ve come to kind of dread the question “what have you been reading lately?” Um…everything?


My tastes are catholic, weird, and often scattered, and my Kindle app, next-to-bed book pile and desk stack all seem to demonstrate split personalities. Recently, I’ve been on a fiction kick that is slightly unusual for someone who spends much of her time buried in biography. Here’s a grab bag of things I’ve read lately, in no particular order and with no attention paid to whether they were read simultaneously, in one big gulp or over a long period of time:



Ruth’s Journey (Donald McCain)
Dune and Dune Messiah (Frank Herbert)
The Tin Drum (Günter Grass)
Coleridge: Early Visions and Coleridge: Darker Reflections (Richard Holmes)
How to Build a Girl (Caitlin Moran)
Euphoria (Lily King)
Middlemarch (George Eliot)
Red Room: New Short Stories Inspired by the Brontës (A.J. Ashworth, ed.)
Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! (Fanny Flagg)
Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë)
Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate (Nancy Mitford)
The Plot Whisperer (Martha Alderson)
The Book of Lists (Wallace and Wallechinsky)
Slonimsky’s Book of Musical Anecdotes (Nicolas Slonimsky)

So…what are you reading these days?


 


 

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Published on January 06, 2015 12:30 • 13 views

December 5, 2014

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On August 28, I walked into the clinic. I took off my glasses—blind now—and lay on the table. The clinician strapped a molded plastic mesh mask to my face. She attached it to the table.


For the next 35 minutes, I lay completely still, pinned down. I closed my eyes. I could hear the mechanical arm of the CyberKnife machine darting and turning in the space above, below, aside, and over my head and face. Three-quarters of the way through I began to feel the radiation it was zapping into me: invisible, yet radiating, just like its name.


By the time the procedure was done I felt blanched and shaken. Now it was time to wait.


Seven months earlier, in the weeks following a car accident and concussion, I felt the first twinges of what I later found out was trigeminal neuralgia, tic doloureux. “Agonizing tic” is one way to put it. When my facial nerve misfired, it felt like someone snuck up behind me and started stabbing me in the ear with an electric knife. Every episode was terrifying, painful. It reduced me from a strong, healthy young woman with a high pain threshold to a quaking pile of mush, clutching at whatever I could hold onto and riding it out in silent overwhelm. Then came the medicine—blessed stuff, but cursed with its own set of side effects: exhaustion, confusion, a sudden inability to choose words or translate my thought into cogent sentences. I couldn’t work or leave the house except for a slow daily walk. I sold my company to my business partner, slashed my time in front of the computer, changed everything I could get my hands on in a bid to make things better. Everything in my life was suddenly pinned down, unable to move forward.


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I kind of thought that letting someone shoot ridiculously high amounts of radiation to a tiny 6mm spot near my brain stem would be the end of it, but then I was pinned down by the need to see how the procedure worked. Not yet, they told me, as I begged them to let me put down the pills. When they finally let me start tapering them down a month later, they told me I’d have to respect the power of the medication before I found out whether the radiation worked or not. (It interacts with other drugs, precludes eating certain foods, and twists fetuses into deformed things. I thought I had the proper respect.) They told me I’d have to taper down slowly or risk a seizure or other problems. I bucked and cried but I was pinned down. I did what I was told.


This morning was the start of my first day without pills in ten months.


My task this weekend is to finish a critical phase of a writing project that’s been occupying my brain for some time. Alone at my computer, I’ll snip off loose threads. I’ll move things from one place to another, weighing the balance of each word. I’m pinning down the boundaries of the project, defining the edges of what will be a book one day. These first days and weeks without medicine will feel strange—I don’t know what to expect. What will I do if the pain comes back? What if it didn’t work? Will I ever feel normal again? What’s normal? What’s I?


I don’t know the answer but I know that right as I prepare the final steps of pinning down my creative vision, I’ve been set loose for the first time in what seems like forever. Now to listen, and to watch.


 


Photo via merely the moon

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Published on December 05, 2014 15:30 • 42 views

November 26, 2014

shop small


I’ve got nothing but love for my local indie bookstore, the Boulder Book Store on Pearl Street. So I was honored when they asked me if I’d consider joining them this Small Business Saturday, November 29, to hand sell a few of my favorite books as part of the Indies First movement. I’ll be at the store starting at 3 p.m. on Saturday—why not stop by, do some holiday shopping, and say hi?

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Published on November 26, 2014 08:00 • 19 views