Julia Briggs Essay Prize for 2011

The Woolf Society of Great Britain is holding another essay competition in honor of the late, great, dearly missed Woolf scholar and feminist Julia Briggs. Here are the details: 

The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain (VWSGB) is holding an essay competition in memory of acclaimed Virginia Woolf scholar and VWSGB Executive Council member Julia Briggs, who died in August 2007.
The competition is open to members and non-members (except for the Executive Council and Editorial Committee of the VWSGB, the judges, and families of the above). Entries should be sent to Ruth Webb, 15 Southcote Road, London SE25 4RG, to arrive by 10 January 2011.
Entrants should read these carefully and return the signed form with the entry. If you have any queries or would like an entry form, please email Sarah M. Hall on smhall123@yahoo.co.uk.
Please note that student membership of the VWSGB costs only £10 for those at UK addresses and £15 for those at overseas addresses, per calendar year.
Competition Rules
The essay, on the topic ‘Why is reading Virginia Woolf still so crucial today?’, but with a title of the entrant’s choosing, should be between 2,000 and 2,500 words in length. It should be the original work of the named entrant, and previously unpublished in print or any other medium. Student coursework is acceptable. 
Entrants should supply THREE typed copies of the essay on A4 paper, printed on one side only, double-spaced (or 1.5) and in a font size no smaller than 10-point. The VWSGB regrets that no emailed entries will be accepted, because of printing costs.
The competition will be judged by acclaimed Woolf scholars Lyndall Gordon and Maggie Humm, and VWSGB Vice-Chair and Woolf biographer Ruth Webb. The decision of the judges is final. The VWSGB reserves the right not to award the prize if, in the judges’ opinion, none of the entries attains the required standard. Otherwise the winner will be contacted in mid-March.
The winner will receive a cheque for £250, presented at the VWSGB’s AGM in central London on 2 April 2011, and the winning essay will be published in the Virginia Woolf Bulletin. If the winner is unable to attend the AGM, the prize will be sent by secure mail.

Barbara Holland, RIP

Why do I not know her work? She is my new hero. From the Times obit, via the Woolf listserv:
Her fight for ground to stand on as a young woman remained central to her reading of the world. A steady paycheck and self-respect were the keys to her brand of feminism, not the allowance and room of one’s own proposed by Virginia Woolf. “No, Mrs. Woolf,” she wrote in her memoir. “A job, Mrs. Woolf.”
Holland was the author of the essay collection “Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences” (1995) which has risen to the top of my TBR pile. 


I am still occasionally reluctant to admit I’m a Woolf scholar, but I’ve never been a Bloomsbury person. I drew the line there.

Nonetheless, I loved my visit to Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens, a ruined castle which Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson made into one of the most celebrated gardens in England. What makes Sissinghurst special is that it represents the best of an English garden: lush, overplanted, and making subtle use of architectural elements to better show off the plants. This is not Versailles. Instead, there’ll be a low brick wall, then a high one, each sized to best show off the clematis and roses growing before it. An arbor frames a view of the farm in the distance. The white garden, with every kind of white flower, is like a canyon between high walls, flowers on left and right, with a wide lawn between. It’s not hard to envision oneself in a moonlit scene in such a spot.

Even on a dreary day, with a damp ticket entitling me to the buffet lunch in my pocket, and with the diesel engines of the tour bus idling in the background, in my Barbour raincoat, pretending not to see all the middle-aged Americans who’d come on this pilgrimage with me, it was a romantic sight.

If you’ve been there or not, you’ll find it’s worth a click over to the lovely personal essay in today’s Times by their grandson, Adam Nicolson, who lives there now.

Photo of The Rose Garden at Sissinghurst Castle; Jonathan Buckley/National Trust Photo Library

Best Essays, a request

In earlier days of blogging, people used to publish requests for info all the time. (I am trying to avoid the ugly coinage "bleg.") Now, I guess, that's what Twitter is for. But I am going old school today to ask you to tell me your favorite essay or two these days.

I'm nominating essays for the new edition of the Norton Reader, a commonly used freshman writing textbook. (It's the one I use, too.) I'm doing my homework, rest assured, but I can't read everything and I would love to hear the essays that are thrilling you these days.

Here are some of the things I'm thinking about: Though I was a bit disappointed by Rebecca Walker's collection, I love Dan Savage's "DJ's Homeless Mommy." I liked the essays by ZZ Packer and loved Min Jin Lee's, but they speak from such a position of privilege that they really don't go in a freshman textbook, I don't think. Packer is mordantly funny about having consistently been mistaken for her son's nanny (he is--or was--much fairer than she, having a white father); but Packer is so quickly dismissive of the Midwest that I think she'd lose huge chunks of her audience on a throwaway line. Min Jin's essay is deeply moving but it's about her awkward attachment to her nanny, a woman who is, like Lee herself, an immigrant. I just think the social complexities of New York might not translate broadly.

I'm hoping to find something in Kenny Fries' book. I bought Dwayne Betts's memoir of his time in prison in the hopes that it would lend itself to excerpting; what I've read has been riveting. I have a lead on a great Solnit essay. Ander Monson has a couple great essays, so I'm having trouble choosing which to put forward.

In the end, I'll pick twelve and the editors will take, oh, one or two.

If my list doesn't jog your memory, maybe Maud's will. If you have a winner in mind, I'd love love love to hear about it!