Laurie Garrison, PhD, is Founder and Director of Women Writers School.
Eccentric, eclectic, challenging. Of the many words used to describe me during my forty-one years, these are my favorites. I don’t play by the rules; I make my own. I am interested in such a wide range of subjects that people don’t how how to classify me. I always challenge the status quo because I have the vision to be able to see how much better things can be.
When I was a lecturer, I used to joke about how I didn’t want another academic job; I wanted to start my own university. Women Writers School is just that (nearly). So I am currently in my dream job. I hope Women Writers School can help you create yours too. We can certainly help you pursue and promote your creative work, whether it is a side gig or your full-time career.
Here’s a bit of my bio in date order.
MA student and Teaching Assistant at Rutgers, my first proper introduction to the academic life. Taught two courses per semester. Learned enormous amounts about teaching in those first few semesters. Discovered the weird and wonderful world of Victorian periodicals. Loved the way it overwhelms you with information, loved especially finding the trends within it. And those Victorians: what bizarre ideas, what spine tingling similarities to our own ways of thinking. We are not nearly as different from them as we think.
The PhD years at Birkbeck. I was in debt when I finished but I felt like it was 100% worth it. I learned so much, met so many interesting people. Birkbeck really did offer an incredibly stimulating and lively intellectual atmosphere in which to study. Loved teaching in the Birkbeck classroom of entirely mature students. Also taught at Middlesex and Heartfordshire. Had a part-time job at the Royal Observatory working with George Biddell Airy’s library. Wrote PhD on science and sexuality in sensation novels, mainly Mary Braddon’s. Got first two articles accepted for publication. Offered first job before I’d even received my PhD certificate in the post.
Full time plus work in academia. Worked as a postdoctoral research assistant for Royal Holloway at the British Library. Did part-time teaching at Westminster. Learned enormous amounts about mid-nineteenth century theatre and became an expert reader of nineteenth-century handwriting thanks to The Lord Chamberlain’s Plays Project. From 2007, taught and taught and taught and taught and taught at Lincoln University, mainly in subjects that had nothing to do with my expertise. Became a fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Published Science, Sexuality and Sensation Novels (shortlisted for the ESSE award), The Panorama: Texts and Contexts (reviewed in the TLS), Electronic Editions of the Lord Chamberlain’s Plays and a list of articles and chapters.
The years of experimentation. Got A LOT better at surfing. Kept an anonymous blog about leaving academia and met a wonderful community of other women leaving academia. Fell in love with the community-building possibilities of the online world. Did freelance copywriting. Started a franchise digital marketing business with British Gas Training as my best client. Did marketing and communications for an educational nonprofit that included work for/with the Mozilla Foundation, O2 and Nominet Trust. Was regularly retweeted by HRH The Duke of York. Trained to be a UX designer and loved it but discovered that I would have to start out in a corporate role. Told recruitment agent: ‘I surf and I write books. I can’t go to work in a suit.’ Started Looking for Xanadu to promote my writing and courses instead. Got hooked on the project of promoting women writers.
Women Writers School. Creative work on William Morris in Iceland, Mary Shelley in the Alps and a whole list of other things. Time to write for a larger audience. Time to take forward a project I firmly believe in: increasing the number and visibility of women writers read, published and recognized for their talent. The online world is the best place to enact this change.