This week, I caught up at last with To Walk Invisible, the television drama about the Brontës – the three sisters who famously published their novels and poetry under pseudonyms that had the London literary scene fooled. Charlotte, Emily and Anne had been writing for most of their young lives when they eventually achieved success – although their stormy home life was anything but conducive to creativity. Sending their manuscripts off to a succession of publishers – without telling either their father or their brother Branwell – they were able to share in each other’s disappointment when they were rejected. Only when the publisher Thomas Newby insisted that Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell were one and the same writer did Charlotte and Anne present themselves at the offices of Smith, Elder & Co and explain who they really were.
Life at Haworth Parsonage must have been difficult, the three motherless sisters doing their best to look after an ailing father and Branwell, their ambitious but ultimately unfulfilled brother. It’s hard to imagine any one of the sisters succeeding on her own without the support of the others. Although they collaborated in some of their early story marking, they soon emerged as three very different writers – inevitably spurred on by sisterly competitiveness!
The Brontë sisters were born two hundred years ago but today there are plenty of opportunities to get help with your writing, whether you’re crafting a romance set in the wilds of Yorkshire or honing your skills as a poet. Frome Writers’ Collective is exactly what it sounds like: a group of writers who’ve come together to help other writers, whether they’re published or not. FWC has been listening to people who’ve tried to find an agent , illustrator or editor, to people who’ve completed a manuscript but aren’t sure what to do next. The natural outcome has been Silver Crow Books, a service that offers a stepping stone to publication for writers in the Frome area. You may not be the new Charlotte Brontë, but if you think you might be, don’t keep it to yourself!