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Interview with Carol Clements, author of Sisterhood

Interview with Carol Clements, author of Sisterhood

Who is Carol Clements, the woman behind Sisterhood?

Carol Clements is still at heart, Carol Ann Moore, that’s my maiden name and who I truly am. I am a retired English teacher who specialised in teaching students with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. I absolutely adored my job, which I didn’t start until I was in my late thirties. My youngest child had started full-time school and I had gone back to college to get myself some better qualifications. A year later and with an access course under my belt I applied for a job at a local special school. I didn’t get the job though, I had no experience, just a keen urge to learn, so I asked if I could volunteer for three days a week. It was a complete eyeopener and I loved every minute of it! The Head offered me a job starting in the September term and the rest, as they say is history. I progressed from TA to Literacy specialist to Teacher, I will be forever thankful for the opportunities that the school gave to me, they paid for my degree and allowed me to work with some of the most challenging and wonderful young people I have ever met.

Nearly three years ago now, my husband and I decided that we wanted a change of scenery, sold the house and moved to rural France. We couldn’t speak the language, had bought a rundown 200 year old stone farmhouse and we had both given up our jobs, no income! It was a complete leap of faith. Cue copious amounts of dust, mouse droppings, creaky floorboards and obviously, fabulous pastries, it isn’t all DIY you know. Having more time on my hands allowed me to have the time to write more, something I have always loved.

Why did you decide to start it? What is the story behind it?

The story of Sisterhood started with an interest in the origins of my husband’s family. They are from Udine in the north of Italy. I think my initial idea was to talk him into taking a trip there as I have never been, especially as we were now living in mainland Europe! I fell down an almighty wormhole of interesting facts, one of which was the earthquake in the Friuli region on the 25th January 1348. It was a nugget of truth that started to expand into the story. I have always had a strong sense of what is and isn’t fair, my upbringing was definitely not based on gender at all, everything was available to me, my parents were very progressive. The women’s stories in Sisterhood are a culmination of all the women I have known throughout my life, intertwined with many of my own experiences.

What has been your biggest learning since you started?

The main thing I have learned from writing a book is that I oscillate between crushing imposter syndrome and absolute certainty that what I have written is fantastic! Writing is a job, much the same as any other. You have to commit to showing up and trying to do your best, every single day. Some days the words flow and when I read them back to myself, remarkably, sometimes I don’t even remember writing them. Other days trying to format a complete sentence is mind bogglingly hard and it’s times like that when you end up checking the internet for inspiration and end up miles away from your original quest.

What is the goal? The big vision of what you would like to achieve?

My goal is to get as many people to read Sisterhood as possible. I’m proud of the story and the achievement of writing, editing, formatting and self-publishing a book. I can’t mention my book without crediting my very talented daughter for the cover artwork, Libby Hagger is her name, and you can find her and more of her art on Facebook and Instagram.

I have started another book, I’m only a couple of chapters in though, hopefully I should have something print worthy by the summer.

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And this is the feminist questionnaire identical for everyone

What is Feminism for you?

Feminism to me is all about choice. Choice to live your life, educate yourself, love who you want, wear what you want, practice whatever religion appeals to you, or none at all. Marry or remain single, give birth or choose not to have children. The list is endless, but the right to make those choices is of the utmost importance.

Which “everyday sexism” really bothers you?

Language really bothers me. The use of the word ‘girl’ as an insult makes my blood boil. Language is so important, and its use around children even more so. I was once passing the sports hall at school, one of the students had earned a reward session with the basketball coach, and the young person’s carer had come to pick him up. I clearly heard the carer, a young man in his 20s, who had an excellent and influential relationship with this student, say, “You throw that like a girl”. Needless to say, I stuck my head in the sport’s hall doorway and informed him in no uncertain terms that ‘girl’ was not an insult!

Do you remember when you started identifying as a Feminist and why?

I clearly remember when I identified as feminist for the first time. I had just started at my middle school, Year 5, I was 9 years old, it was 1977. The school uniform policy was that girls had to wear skirts, despite the inclement winter weather, trousers were forbidden. With help from my mum and dad, I put together a petition and managed to get most of the girls in the school to sign it. The result was a small change, the girls were allowed to wear trousers during the Autumn term! I had elicited a change in the establishment!

Who is your biggest feminist role model?

Emma Watson is an inspiration to me, her activist work in the fields of education for girls and gender equality is fantastic. As a famous young woman, who through her acting roles has a platform upon which to speak out, her continued campaigning can only bring more awareness to these issues.

What is your favourite Feminist quote?

I have always loved this by Caitlin Moran

“We need to reclaim the word 'feminism'. We need the word 'feminism' back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist - and only 42% of British women - I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of 'liberation for women' is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? 'Vogue' by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?”

Caitlin Moran, How to Be a Woman

What is your proud feminist victory?

Apart from my trouser victory I had another gender based win when I was 21. I worked in an office, and apart from the PA to the director I was the only woman. One day, the director’s PA was on holiday and there was a meeting scheduled with the company bigwigs. The director phoned and asked me to walk into town to pick up some lunch for the meeting. I indicated that a young man, who had just started with the company, was in fact the office junior and so could he please ask him to collect the food order. In his defense, the director apologised to me and dutifully asked the office junior. I think that sometimes people are so entrenched in their behaviour and ideas that all it takes is a nudge in the right direction for them to realise that there are other options available.

What is your feminist recommendation?

  • Book:Boys Will Be Boys, Power, Patriarchy and Toxic Masculinity by Clementine Ford. She’soutspoken and does not pull any punches.
  • TV show:I do love a bit of Killing Eve, if you’ve read Sisterhood, you’ll know I have a penchant for revenge! Purely fictional, of course!
  • Film:I loved the books, The Hunger Games and unusually the film studios did an excellent job of turning them into movies. Katniss Everdeen is the ultimate hero!

What is your feminist call of action to whoever is reading?

Support each other, hold each other up, champion women’s work and businesses. We can forge change but only with solidarity.

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