Monday, December 25, 2006

Mary Sidney Pareidolia? Oh my!

An amazing example of pareidolia! ;-) I received this email this morning:

Dear Ms. Williams,

After reading your fabulous book Sweet Swan of Avon, I was eating my usual breakfast of toast and marmalade (imported from Great Britain) and happened to notice a fascinating phenomenon.

See for yourself.

I am holding off reporting this sighting to the press until the Mary Sidney Society confirms this as an actual sighting. Please let me know how I should proceed.
Thanks ever so much.

All the best,

Monday, November 20, 2006

New book on Mary Sidney as author!

A new book has just come out about Mary Sidney as author of the Shakespearean works! Fred Faulkes, a librarian in Vancouver, has just published the first of fifteen volumes, called Tiger's Heart in Woman's Hide. I'm part way through the book, and I'm impressed with his work. His entire collection of fifteen volumes will take him a while to produce in its entirety, but will, I believe, be a most invaluable contribution to this Shakespearean authorship question.

"After an exhaustive trawl through the Elizabethan archives, [Fred Faulkes] is surprised to discover that the question of Shakespeare’s authorship was alive right from the very beginning and would thereafter feature regularly in the satirical press. Yes, there was an actor by the name of William Shakspere but behind him, doing the writing, there appears to have been a woman." And that woman, of course, is Mary Sidney.

It is so exciting, and very confirming, that others have independently come to the same conclusion. Fred is actively encouraging others to pursue this possibility, and so are we all at the Mary Sidney Society. I'll be posting a list of things that would be good starting points for further inquiry.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Understanders

Well, our 13-week line-by-line discussion of The Merchant of Venice is drawing to a close. It was a grand adventure -- we all thought we knew what the play was about, we thought we understood it. But going through it line-by-line and making sure we understood every word, every nuance, every implication, made us realize the play is deeper and richer and more magnificent than we originally thought -- and we already thought very highly!

The next Understanders is a 17-week discussion of King Lear. If you're in the Santa Fe area, please join us! Check The Understanders web site for more info about what The Understanders is all about, what we've been learning, or to sign up for the next class.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Shakespeare at Sea

Well, this is a hoot! Neil Bauman of Geek Cruises is putting together several non-geek cruises -- one on opera, one on chess, and a ten-day cruise to the Panama Canal called Shakespeare at Sea! It leaves from Ft. Lauderdale and wanders around the Caribbean, goes into the Panama Canal and turns around in that big lake, then heads on back. The cruise is co-sponsored with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. There's quite a nice line-up of presentations, films, discussions, performances. I'll be giving four or five talks, plus I'll be the emcee for a really great quiz show. And I'm working on creating pages of "Shakespeare" games that will be slipped under your door every morning, games that test your knowledge of the works. Oh, it's much more fun to do this than to work for a living.

I will bring along a presentation about Mary Sidney and her role in the authorship question, just in case anyone is interested in hearing more about the possibility. But nothing will be pre-publicized about that talk because there are those who are afraid it might make some people refuse to show up! ;-) Which is true. sigh.

The cruise-plus-conference is rather expensive (depending on the room you choose), but Neil has kindly offered a "Friends of Robin" discount of $300 per person if you sign up before Thanksgiving. It would be great if I wasn't the only MarySidneian on board!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Cygnet, a journal of inquiry

The Mary Sidney Society has published its first journal, called The Cygnet. The journal is dedicated to publishing articles relating to all aspects of Mary Sidney, her relationship to the authorship question, pertinent information about the Shakespearean works, as well as articles about other unsung women. The journal is sent to members of the Mary Sidney Society, but when our redesigned web site is up, we'll have a shopping cart where the limited number of extra copies will be available. It's not only an interesting journal, it's beautiful!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sidney Supper 2006

The Fourth Annual Sidney Supper celebrating Mary Sidney's birthday was a Grand Success! We had a pageant full of earnest volunteers, a feast, Falstaff's Photo Op, an Elizabethan dance lesson! People came from California, Texas, Kentucky, and Ohio. Dana Evans showed her eleven-minute trailer with which she's applying for funds for a documentary.

The Cygnet Award to honor unsung women was presented to Beatrice Ntuba of Cameroon, accepted by Barbara Riley. The Bard-Buster Award for the person who has spent inordinate time and energy toward the authorship question and Mary Sidney was awarded by Jim’Bo Norrena to Dana Evans -- she was presented with a plaster bust of William Shakespeare, which she can decorate as she likes over the next year; at the Sidney supper 2007, she will present the award to the next worthy winner.

There are a few photos posted on our iWeb site. We hope you can either join us next year or start your own tradition of Sidney Suppers in your hometown! This event was sponsored by the Mary Sidney Society.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Breakfast with Mark Rylance

Mark Rylance was the original Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London from the time it opened in 1996 until this 2006 season. He's also the Director of the Shakespearean Authorship Trust in London, which was started in 1922 to support research into the authorship. He's also one of the greatest Shakespearean actors today. Mark's adorable wife, Claire van Kampen, also recently stepped down as the Musical Director at the Globe. They were both staying with friends in Santa Fe for a week and we had breakfast together.

Since Mark and Claire left the Globe, they've been pretty closed about what future options they're exploring. I do know that Mark is writing several plays, including one about the authorship. In it, Mark gets visited by William Shakespeare; Sir Francis Bacon; Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford; and Mary Sidney. Each one talks about their authorship of the plays and sonnets, and Mark goes into the audience with a microphone so they can ask questions of the candidates. He's asked me to go to London for a month to help train the actress to "be" Mary Sidney. Gosh darn, I'll have to live in London for a month. ;-) The play will open in Chichester sometime in early 2007.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

My SwanMobile!

Okay, I will bet that I have the only Toyota Matrix in the world with a chrome-plated swan hood ornament. I bought it on eBay for $9. Tommy Segura, my dear friend and one of the greatest guys in the world, shined it up and put it on for me.
Now my car—with its license plate holder that says “Mary Sidney” and its bumper sticker that says “Who is Mary Sidney” and now its swan hood ornament—is a traveling commercial. The things one must do to sell books.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The cave at Milford Haven

People always ask me how things might change if it turns out to be proven that Mary Sidney wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare. I do believe we certainly won’t lose anything—and we will gain so much. It’s very satisfying to connect an author with the works.
Here’s a very simple example. Dorothy Parker wrote an epigram that goes like this: Guns aren't lawful; nooses give; gas smells awful; you might as well live. Now, that’s a odd little piece, but it becomes much more interesting when you learn that Dorothy Parker tried to commit suicide at least four times.
It’s always been sad that don’t have that opportunity with Shakespeare; we haven’t been able to connect anything in William Shakespeare’s life with this rich, emotional, powerful body of work. Here’s a minor example of how interesting it could be when linking Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, to the plays:
In the Shakespearean play Cymbeline, the heroine, Imogen, runs away to Wales, specifically to the town of Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire. Milford Haven is mentioned by name fifteen times. There is a cave in Milford Haven where two young men were raised (Imogen’s brothers, who were stolen at birth); the cave is mentioned almost a dozen times. This all becomes much more interesting when you realize that in the town of Milford Haven there really is a cave. Access to the cave is through Pembroke Castle, Mary Sidney's estate. From inside the castle, you climb down fifty steps into a cave that opens out to a view of the river.
What a delightful treat to go exploring the castle and cave knowing that she was there and that this spot inspired the play Cymbeline!

Monday, July 10, 2006

A good listener?

I recently returned from Chicago, New York City, and Portland, Oregon after a spate of discussions, book signings, and radio interviews. The radio show in Chicago with Milt Rosenberg included Peter Holland, a British professor of Shakespeare teaching here in America at Notre Dame. When a caller asked how William Shakespeare acquired the amazing range of knowledge shown in the plays, Holland said “I believe Shakespeare was a good listener.”
I think that’s so sad. It’s sad that Shakespeareans must denigrate the breadth and depth of the knowledge of this writer merely so they don’t have to explain where he came by such a wealth of book learning including study of rhetorical devices, languages, history, mythology, medicine, the classics, etc. “A good listener.” Sheesh. That’s like saying Albert Einstein or Marie Curie did what they did by being good listeners.
How much more satisfying and inspiring it will be when we can take a close look at the education of this writer. It might help us gain a sense of how she came to do what she did; we might better comprehend how these plays developed and gain a clearer understanding of how the knowledge in them was transmuted into such art. Then we can begin to more fully understand and appreciate the brilliance of the mind that wrote them. That would be much more satisfying than pathetically believing the writer was merely “a good listener.”

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Sidney Supper 2006!

We have chosen a date for the Sidney Supper! Saturday, October 21, here in Santa Fe. All are welcome to attend! Details will be forthcoming over the future months, but we hope you put the date on your calendar! The event is a grand affair, modeled after the Burns Suppers, with food and libations, ceremony, a pageant -- honoring Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke and the possibility that she wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Mary Sidney—She's the Man

Last week I had a discussion and book signing at Garcia Street Books in Santa Fe, and it was so great. There were about 60 people and the store sold out of 55 books. Which is particularly wonderful because it’s my home town and because you never know if anyone’s going to show up for a book signing. Worse than no one showing up is when one person shows up, which is what happened in Cupertino many years ago. Cupertino, of all places, where Apple lives. One person showed up and it was mortally humiliating, but worse, I heard through the years that this one person told everyone else that only one person showed up. sigh.
But the event in Santa Fe was wonderful and everyone was so supportive and everyone bought books. It gives me the courage to carry on.
Our new bumper sticker: Mary Sidney—she’s the man!

Friday, June 30, 2006

Get serious?

When I showed someone our invitation to the 2005 Sidney Supper, he read through it, paused for a moment while pondering his thought, trying to figure out how to say this politely, then murmured, “Um, this isn’t very . . . scholarly. It looks, well, like you don’t take yourselves very seriously.”

Isn’t that odd, that if it looks like you’re having a good time, it can’t be “scholarly” or “important” or “right.” That's exactly what happened when I wrote my first computer book—it was easy to read and easy to understand and it made you laugh here and there. So it couldn’t have been a good computer book! But some have claimed that it changed the direction of computer books. And it's sold more than a million copies.

Serious can often equal boring. “Wives may be merry and yet honest too.” The Mary Sidney Society, the book Sweet Swan of Avon, the board meetings, the Sidney Supper—not boring.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Authorship book has an authorship problem

If you’ve been looking for the book, Sweet Swan of Avon, by Robin Williams, you may have noticed that some bookstores have it listed as by Kim Brady! Somehow Kim’s name got in the Books-in-Print database and we’re having a hard time getting it out. I don’t even know who Kim Brady is! She wrote a book about scrapbooking for Peachpit and somehow her name got attached. But don’t worry—it’s the right book.

Monday, June 26, 2006

My new book, Sweet Swan of Avon: Did a Woman Write Shakespeare, is now available at Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores everywhere!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006