NEW! Wild Women Reading

No 1: Books for curious, spirited dreamers with an awakening on their to-do list!

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Welcome Candy Club members to this, the first of a new monthly column from me and author Tanya Shadrick exploring a different way of looking at life through the books we read. It’s a little bit of a creative experiment, a light step to the side of the path we may normally tread.

Tanya and I will each recommend a book we think may prompt an awakening of sorts for you, a book that may break the spell of ‘normal thinking’, one that’ll perhaps ignite a new idea in you, or a new way of thinking about life.

I hope that doesn’t sound too grandiose an ambition. It really isn’t because awakenings come in many sizes and the small ones are often the best  - and so some of our recommendations may be a single poem or a short ‘quiet’ book.

I wanted to rediscover that feeling of creative joy I had as a teenager when I read a new author (they were all new then!), the spark that set me off on a path to something I hadn’t considered. The one that nudged me over a new threshold or made me question why something had to always be done certain way. And that’s what we hope this monthly book chat may do for you (and us).

Some of our choices may simply make you smile with recognition and the only thought you take away from our newsletter may be that ‘it’s not just me then’! Some may prompt deeper thinking and revelations. As I said it is an evolving experiment and of course we welcome, indeed would love, your participation in our Wild Women Reading project.

Tanya and I new friends, who’ve only just met but I think we share a similar curiosity about life and a sense that we can perhaps challenge the norm now and again. We have read a wide selection of books between us and the idea to start Wild Women Reading came about when I asked Tanya for book tips because she has such a huge scope of literary influences which are so different from mine. We got chatting about books we could each recommend and couldn’t stop.

Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below or add in books that prompted awakenings in you too: we’ll definitely host a discussion of these books at some point here.

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Author Tanya Shadrick

TANYA SAYS

I’m thrilled to join Lorraine in this new monthly column for The Candy Club. I have huge admiration for how her books, journalism and Postcards From Midlife podcast with Trish Halpin bring exciting and important ideas to women like me.

Many of the best-known classic books about life change involve a person who has lost everything or has nothing to lose, setting off on a grand quest or time alone in nature. In my memoir The Cure for Sleep I wanted to tell a different kind of transformation story: What does it take to wake up, to redefine ourselves, to bring more joy to our days even as we continue to be responsible for others? How do we change our lives where we are? In our small towns, our families, our roles as wives, or parents, carers or breadwinners?

I’m touched Lorraine has made it our first Wild Women Reading choice, and hope it speaks to you. Do also join me over on The Cure For Sleep with Tanya Shadrick if you’d like a chance to share your own stories on themes from the book.

To receive your Wild Women Reading recommendations, make sure you are subscribed to The Candy Club on Substack

(And subscribe to Tanya’s The Cure for Sleep on Substack for monthly writing prompts on this theme of waking up to our lives).

THE WILD WOMEN READING RECOMMENDATIONS

LORRAINE:

The Cure for Sleep by Tanya Shadrick

I’m starting with Tanya’s book because it’s the one that set off little fires everywhere in my mind when I read it ahead of interviewing her for our podcast Postcards From Midlife. Listen Here

Tanya, at 33, is suddenly minutes from death. She has haemorrhaged at home a fortnight after the birth of her first child and only the fact that an ambulance is already on her street saves her.

‘I didn’t rise from the hospital bed certain of purpose,’ she writes at the start of her book. ‘I hadn’t been washed clean of my past. I wasn’t made saintly, or simply glad to be alive. I was only more awake.’

The words ‘more awake’ stayed with me after I read this book and they burrowed their way into my days. How could I be more awake, I wondered?

I loved Tanya’s idea of challenging her status quo, of questioning the path she was on. Around the care of her young children, she became first a hospice scribe, helping dying people to record their memories. Then – after a first life as a shy office worker - she began a series of extraordinary creative endeavours, including publishing the diaries of a terminally-ill outdoor swimmer whom she met only once. And all the time she questions her mothering, delves into her past to explore the patterns that made her, and finds ways large and small to reinvent herself. I loved the idea of Tanya cherishing her new red nail varnish as much as the idea of contemplating the possibility of loving and living with two men. The book was called a ‘luminous debut’ by one critic and luminous is the right word. I began to think about how to make my day, or my attitude at this stage of life (I am 53) more luminous based on the stories Tanya had told. And it also made me open the little drawer of creativity in my mind which I had shut in my corporate world, in my day job, the one I left two years ago. So in reading The Cure For Sleep I rediscovered a part of me I had lost.

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TANYA’S CHOICE

Just Kids by Patti Smith

I first read this gorgeous memoir of two young artists in love when I was a still a shy office worker only dreaming of a more creative life. (It was a thing I did sometimes in my thirties: daring myself to at least read about bolder, more brilliant people - even if I often felt worse afterwards!)

And who could be more different to me, and less relevant, than singer songwriter Patti Smith – edgy, iconic, hailed as ‘the punk poet laureate’?

But the book was life-changing for me because of the poignant, loving detail in which Smith describes the steady effort and sheer patience it took to become a recognised artist. Arriving in 1960s New York as a penniless young woman, she immediately meets a beautiful boy driven by the same ambition and they decide to do life – and art - together. They do long hours in awful jobs, take turns to go without food, and in every spare minute they make things. Jewellery and customised clothes to sell. Thousands of drawings and poems sellotaped up in their little bedsits. No one is interested, but they keep going.

When their breakthroughs do finally come it isn’t in the fields they imagined: Smith only finds an audience when she chops off her hair and performs on stage, setting her words to some guitar chords she has only just learned; Robert Mapplethorpe only becomes a world-famous artist when he switches from paint to photography.

Their story humbled me. If I really wanted to live a more creative life, then like them I should simply start with whatever scraps of time and material I had to hand. Make things alongside my small children. Take pride mending things in my home. Find little ways to share what I cared about with people in my community. Make myself more open to chance connections. Start and not stop, like they did.

A book I picked up to fill a few spare hours in a busy work week, thinking it could never speak to an ordinary person like me, filled me instead with hope and possibility.

[You can now join Patti Smith on Substack, where she shares free weekly posts as well as a paid subscriber option.]

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