blogger Jessica was first and foremost an author except on imposter syndrome days and ran her blog mainly to keep her writing hand in     

            having admired Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other she decided to try writing an autobiographical blogpost in Evaristo’s style 

            which is harder than it looks, as each sentence in Girl, Woman, Other has its own paragraph with no capital letters to start or full stops, although you can use other punctuation like commas   

from page 10, UK Penguin paperback edition

            so Jessica made each paragraph a separate block and indented first lines as Evaristo does (please excuse inconsistent indents due to sustained opposition from the WordPress Block Editor; also note links to Jessica’s previous blogposts don’t open in a new tab although links to outside sites do and Jessica who is a writer not a coder is flummoxed and frustrated by this as it used to be simple to do)         

            it was a toss-up between trying the Evaristo style and writing another post about mothers and daughters because the first one was four years ago now and she was excited because her own daughter, not seen since before lockdown, was coming to stay

              anyway that’s all some weeks ago now 

              the stay went well and it was lovely to see each other 

              Jessica returned to Girl, Woman, Other and realised how refreshing it is to read so much straightforward back story (memo to any creative writing tutor she’s ever met that she’ll put in as much as she likes from now on)

    it gave her hope for her own future books

             the reading pleasure she had once she’d agreed to Evaristo’s style reminded her of when she stopped fighting Jon McGregor’s narrative terms in Reservoir 13 and just rolled with them

             (although it was restful later to turn to the conventional narrative of The Confessions of Frannie Langton, which along with the Evaristo gives good insight into the experiences of black women in the UK both historically and now)

            Girl, Woman, Other also has a particularly useful section near the end which discusses the pronouns you can now use for variously gendered people in a witty and clear way possibly only a writer who is herself from a minority group could get away with (although what defines a minority when you really think about it?)

              but that section was very helpful as Jessica is now meeting many people who identify as non-binary

              black women of all backgrounds, sexualities, generations and classes feature in each section of Girl, Woman, Other and because Evaristo uses the same neutral style to tell all their stories (unless Jessica has missed something) the novel gives the appearance of comparing their lived experiences objectively

              and those of some black men too 

              it led Jessica to buy another recent bestseller, Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No longer Talking to White People about Race although she must admit she hasn’t started reading it yet

             returning to the autobiography, Jessica started writing for pleasure in around 2010 if you don’t count her efforts as a small child and then a teenager

             after university her writing was temporarily submerged under the stress and frustration of her early teaching career as she discovered she really wasn’t cut out for life in schools but soldiered on until maternity leave gave her time to qualify as a freelance translator

             so where many women worry having small children will stunt their creativity in other spheres Jessica found it gave her space to breathe (she was lucky because her children inherited extremely easy behaviour from their father or at least that’s what her mother-in-law put it down to)

             translation didn’t pay the bills so she returned to teaching and this time got a good fit with schools and management, progressing to work in so-called school improvement and teacher training

              in 2008 she started going on holiday to a mad and wonderful place which inspired her first novel The Infinity Pool which was published in 2015

The Infinity Pool on location

              encouraged by success including an Australian no 1 listing she embarked on The Magic Carpet which she hoped would illustrate the multiplicity of different stories any teacher must take into account when responding to the pupils who come through the door of any class anywhere

               it had to have a diverse cast because she had never learnt or taught in any all-white schools or lived in a monocultural neighbourhood and that meant some narration in the voices of characters whose ethnicities Jessica doesn’t share, which seemed more acceptable in 2016 when she started writing it than now

                 she can only say she researched it as thoroughly as she could both formally and informally and if anything is inaccurate please let her know, no offence is intended but Jessica is a white European author so The Magic Carpet must absolutely not be taken as “own voice” except in the sections narrated by Teresa

                   having read Evaristo Jessica also now understands that using third person for the characters whose background she doesn’t share would have lessened the chance of readers thinking they might be written by an “own voice” author

                 The Magic Carpet was published in 2019 by which time Jessica had been retired two years or is it three, amazing how the years start to blur

                  Jessica’s agent is now submitting a third novel to publishers which is based on women’s voices in a small village

                 while Jessica tries to summon up inspiration for a fourth novel

                 her respect has soared for Evaristo whose style appeared easy to imitate but is actually very difficult because not only do you have to pick out the salient facts and a few intriguing details to encapsulate an entire life past present and potential future but you have to do it in one sentence paragraphs that flow, retain the readers’ interest and win major prizes

                Jessica’s life isn’t as interesting as the lives of the characters in Girl, Woman, Other but it’s been a worthwhile experiment (the life and this blogpost) and of course it isn’t finished yet (the life)

                  it has been what it’s been

                  it is what it is

©Jessica Norrie 2020 in homage to Bernadine Evaristo and defiance of the WordPress Block Editor


21 thoughts on “Girl, Woman, Author

  1. Congratulations on the double whammy of blocks and writing in such a different style. And clearly Bernadine’s book is also a useful reference for political correctness with regard to gender. The world is changing and as they say adapt or die… My ability to adapt is not as fluid as it once was and blocks will have to wait until there is no other option. Which apparently is sooner rather than later according to the recent threatening emails. I have pressed for Tuesday.. Enjoy your weekend…hugsx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sally. Will say to you re Blocks that WP have attempted to be helpful but problem is helpline is run by young (polite and pleasant) geeks who understand what they’re talking about and I don’t! But they have allowed me to submit detailed and disgruntled feedback so you never know… Yes, gender is a minefield so that chapter will serve as my guide even if that’s not quite how Evaristo intended it! Thanks for reposting on Tues.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Trouble is Jessica those young geeks forget that a high percentage of the blogging community is not interested in the latest gadgets or software and are more than happy with what they have. There is also the sight impaired who many not have the software updates needed to work with the new block editor. I am all for progress but it should be by choice not mandatory. With the number of posts that I create in a week I want to keep it simple as I already have formats in place that work. Anyway.. we shall see how long they will allow us to use Classic editor and hopefully the new classic block will be less taxing than the full version. xxx

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Interested in your point about the sight impaired since as you know but for two excellent recent operations I would have gone that way myself. Will look into that – could be a discrimination point. I do hope you don’t get put off your blogging though – you are exactly the sort of person that the blogging world was made for!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is great, Jessica! WOW to you for writing in this style! Seems like it would be a challenge, for sure! I’ll be adding the first two books mentioned to my list! I already have the other waiting to be read. Currently, I’m reading “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi and “Sister Outsider” by Audre Lord. Hope all is good with you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Camilla. Yes, it was an interesting exercise and obviously Evaristo does it massively better than I do, but has made me want to explore her other books now too. There’s also an FB group called “Writers for Diversity” that may be of interest to you if you’re reading in this area.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Clever post, which I enjoyed. I haven’t read Girl, Woman, Other though it’s on my list – my never-decreasing list! I’ve had an email from WP this week so I think I’m going to find out tomorrow when I do my Saturday post what’s going to happen. My main concern is about inserting photos – took me ages to learn how to do it so if that all changes my post might be all text.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mary and thanks for commenting. Gosh what a relief to be using capital letters again to start sentences – it was so hard to overrule the instinct of decades! Don’t stress too much about inserting photos as you do it in the “image” work and then more or less as before. The problem I ahve foudn though is that its hard to wrap text arouynd them, so they have to be between paragraphs, not to left or right , and I haven’t found a way to put them in columns or next to each other as I used to. Other than it it isn’t too bad. Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I recently read Girl Woman Other for book club. At first I thought I was going to hate it – I’m usually irritated by authors who don’t bother with capitals or punctuation – but like you, once I got used to the style I really enjoyed it.
    Well done for persevering in the face of the dreaded block editor. I haven’t dared try it yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not my choice – the block editor took over! But nobody stops me writing about books that easily! And because I only set myself a target of one post afornight, it doesn’t matter how long they take to put together. Glad you enjoyed “Girl, Woman, Other”; it has an awful lot to say and some telling details.


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