On Friday, instead of a female writer being discussed, that writer was very much discussing herself, in front of a packed lecture theatre in Christ Church. Jane Shilling's memoir The Stranger in the Mirror is a very honest, non-sentimental exploration of what it means to reach middle age as a woman. She was sparky, confident, witty. She is very upfront about the way women have to adjust to physical change and to the way society regards them. She highlighted the problems, for instance, of dressing appropriately - how when we were young there was a very clear demarcation in terms of how to present yourself at different ages. Women were, of course, middle aged earlier then: I remember my mother in the twinset brigade in her thirties. My Granny was a 'Granny' by her fifties, no doubt about it. No dyed hair, no botox, no jeans, no fillers - bodies were allowed to sag and crease, disciplined only by Playtex bondage-corsetry. Nowadays, we middle-aged women sail between the Scylla of looking like mutton-dressed-as and the Charybdis of looking 'tired' and old. Jane highlighted how newspaper and magazine articles crow when some poor celebrity is caught actually looking their age - but equally how vile it is when we are conditioned to admire the likes of Helen Mirren, held up as a role-model and inspiration for looking so good 'for her age'. She said there's no 'sartorial caesura' marking the transition between what you should and shouldn't wear. This is so true - yet I find the range of shops I feel comfortable shopping in narrows and narrows, until shopping for clothes, one of the utter joys of my life, has become a burden, a task, a pressure which I'll do anything to avoid.
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Write It! will cover all the elements of composing your story, from finding ideas to finishing your first draft.
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