Becca Anderson (author of The Book of Awesome Women Writers) honors the award-winning British-American novelist, Nicola Griffith.
Nicola Griffith is an award-winning British-American novelist, essayist, editor, and creative writing teacher born in 1960. While growing up in Yorkshire, at age eleven, she won a BBC student poetry contest; the prize included reading her own winning entry on a radio broadcast. Before her teens, she was aware of her attraction to the same sex, but as her parents had reacted extremely negatively to an older sister acting on similar feelings at age fifteen, young Nicola decided “no hint” of how she felt could be revealed before independent adulthood and immersed herself in a diversity of literature and music. Following a two-year teenage first relationship, in the late seventies, she met Carol Taylor and the two became longtime partners. They moved to Hull, where Griffith got a “real education” from the outlaws as well as the intellectuals and feminists she came to know, though the couple’s life there was in some ways marginal. She did find a women’s community in Hull and read “earnest feminist fiction” from the library. As lead singer of the band Jane’s Plane, founded in 1981, she started to write lyrics for the five-woman group; they went on to tour regionally and play on national television.
After the band broke up in 1983, she tried her hand at martial arts and writing fiction; the next year, she smoked her last cigarette, and a month later, left behind hash and speed. Griffith says of this time that she “earned her beer money teaching women’s self-defense… and arm-wrestling in bars”; in 1985, she was injured while defending another woman in a bar fight and was even briefly hospitalized. Both her martial arts practice and her writing, as well as seeing her older sister Helena’s teenage drug addiction devolve into dealing heroin and meth, led Nicola to quit all recreational use of drugs, even psychedelic mushrooms, which she had explored extensively. In 1987, she sold her first story, “Mirrors and Burnstone,” to the enduring F/SF magazine Interzone. Though she secured a staff position at a resource center for the unemployed, restlessness spurred her to apply to the Clarion Workshop for science fiction and fantasy writers at Michigan State, which accepted her with a scholarship. At Clarion, while studying with such noted authors as Kim Stanley Robinson, Kate Wilhelm, and Samuel R. Delany, she met fellow writer Kelley Eskridge, an American; they fell in love, and a quarter-million-word correspondence between them ensued.
In 1993, despite a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, which “slowed her down a bit,” Griffith blazed her way into the world of science fiction with her first published full-length book, Ammonite; it won both the James Tiptree, Jr. and Lambda awards. That same year, after some challenging wrangles with US immigration about her application for a permanent-resident green card, she and Kelley Eskridge published the announcement of their commitment ceremony in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution; it would be two decades before they were at last able to legally wed. Her second novel, 1995’s Slow River, won the 1996 Nebula Award for best science fiction novel and another Lambda. Since then, Griffith has published several novels, coedited three anthologies of short fiction, both in the F/SF and horror genres, and released a multimedia memoir, And Now We Are Going to Have a Party: Liner Notes to a Writer’s Early Life.
Besides writing, editing, and teaching, Nicola Griffith has been working toward more just standards for how writing honors are awarded. In 2015, she founded a working group to look at data on literary prizes and get a picture of “how gender bias operates within the trade publishing ecosystem”; this resulted in the founding and funding of the $50,000 Half the World Global Literati Prize. The next year, she began #CripLit, an online community for writers with disabilities which features a regular Twitter chat. As of this writing, Nicola Griffith says she is often “happily lost in the seventh century” while writing the sequel to her 2013 historical fantasy novel Hild; titled Menewood, which is expected in 2021. Nicola, who now holds dual US/UK citizenship, recently obtained a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from Anglia Ruskin University and lives on a quiet Seattle cul-de-sac with her wife Kelley.
This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women Writers by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.
The Book of awesome women writers
Medieval Mystics, Pioneering Poets, Fierce Feminists and First Ladies of Literature (Feminist Book, Gift for Women, Gift for Writers)
This one-of-a-kind tome takes a tour with Sylvia Beach and other booksellers as well as librarians, editors, writers, bibliophiles, and celebrated book clubs. Join women’s studies scholar Anders as she takes you on a ribald ride through the pages of history. Chapter titles include “Prolific Pens” (including Joyce Carol Oates, author of over 100 books), “Mystics, Memoirists and Madwomen”, “Salons and Neosalons”, “Ink in Their Veins” (literary dynasties), and the titillating “Banned, Blacklisted, and Arrested.”