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Annabel Abbs - Writer, walker, blogger and mother of 4. Her latest book, Windswept

Renata Chlumska  - Adventure athlete who became the first Swedish and Czech woman to climb Mount Everest and in 2005 did a circumnavigate of the lower 48 States of the United States by her own power.

Annabel Abbs is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. She grew up in Wales and Sussex, with stints in Dorset, Bristol and Hereford. Daughter of academic and poet, Peter Abbs, she has a degree in English Literature from the University of East Anglia and a Masters from the University of Kingston. She lives with her family in London and Sussex, and is a Fellow of the Brown Foundation.

Annabel’s debut novel, The Joyce Girl, won the 2015 Impress Prize for New Writing and the 2015 Spotlight First Novel Award, and was longlisted for the 2015 Caledonia Novel Award, the 2015 Bath Novel Award and the 2016 Waverton Good Read Award. It was a Reader Pick in The Guardian 2016 and was one of ten books selected for presentation at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival. Published across the world, Annabel discussed The Joyce Girl on BBC Radio 4’s Soul Music. It is currently being adapted for the stage.

Her second novel, Frieda: The Originial Lady Chatterley, was a Times Book of the Month, then a Times Book of the Year 2018 and one of five novels selected for presentation to film directors at the 2017 Frankfurt Book Fair. Frieda has been translated into six languages. Annabel spoke about Frieda on BBC Woman’s Hour.

Annabel’s third novel, the story of Eliza Acton, Britain’s first domestic goddess, and a best-selling cookery book writer (and a poet) will be published in the US in October 2021, by William Morrow as Miss Eliza’s English Kitchen. In the UK, the novel was acquired at auction by Simon & Schuster, and will be published in spring 2022 as The Language of Food. It is currently being translated into sixteen languages. In 2021 it was optioned by Stampede Ventures and CBS.

Annabel’s first non-fiction book, The Age-Well Project, was published by Little, Brown in 2019, co-written with TV producer, Susan Saunders, and based on their acclaimed blog, longlisted for the 2018 UK Blog Awards.

Annabel’s first foray into memoir and her first solo-authored non-fiction book, Windswept: Walking in the Footsteps of Remarkable Women, was acquired at auction by Two Roads and was published in June 2021.

In the US, Windswept was acquired by Tin House and published in September 2021, with the subtitle Walking the Paths of Trailblazing Women. Windswept tells the extraordinary stories of eight women who walked long distances in wild and often remote places as they sought their own voices. They include Simone de Beauvoir, Nan Shepherd, Georgia O’Keeffe, Gwen John and Daphne du Maurier.

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Show notes

  • Who is Annabel

  • Her latest book

  • Her interest in walking

  • Being interested in women who do long distance walks in challenging environments

  • Where are all the women walkers?

  • Researching the women who walk

  • Having a strange childhood

  • How walking was a part of her education

  • the benefits for women walking in nature

  • How wild places are not deemed safe for women

  • And why women are encouraged to stay at home and get their time in nature from being in the garden

  • Why women DO long hikes

  • Women from 100 years ago who went out walking

  • Focusing on 6 women for the book Windswept

  • Recreating their walks

  • Feeling trapped at home

  • Having family walking holidays

  • Planning the walks and incorporating her writing within the walks

  • Using old maps to help plan

  • Encouraging women to be able to navigate

  • What Nan Shepherd said about walking in Scotland

  • Why river journeys and coastal journeys were quite popular

  • Why women should learn to navigate

  • Doing the walks solo and the challenge involved

  • Thinking of all the things that could go wrong

  • Why walking is so much more complication for a woman

  • What is was like walking solo

  • Women and their relationships with the mountains

  • The struggle of mental preparation before heading out to walk solo

  • The long history of women doing walking pilgrimages on their own

  • Why we need to see more women out there walking

  • The dark side of walking solo and spending time on your own

  • Walking in Texas, USA - night hikes?

  • The importance of legacy

  • Final words of advice


Social Media

Instagram: @annabelabbs

Twitter: @annabelabbs

Book: Windswept

Windswept is a feminist exploration of walking in wild landscapes.

Annabel examines the role of walking on the lives, writings and art of several women including Gwen John, Frieda Lawrence, Nan Shepherd, Georgia O’Keeffe and Simone de Beauvoir. As Annabel walks their paths – the empty plains of Texas, the mountains of Scotland, the rivers and forests of France – she looks back at her childhood in remote Wales and asks why women have been overlooked in the literature of wild-walking.


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