Fiona Pitt-Kethley papers, 1912-2010, bulk 1970-2006

2457

Collection Overview

Title:
Fiona Pitt-Kethley papers
Dates (Inclusive):
1912-2010, bulk 1970-2006
Dates (Bulk):
1970-2006
Creator:
Pitt-Kethley, Fiona
Creator:
Kaiser, John R. (John Robert)
Abstract:
Fiona Pitt-Kethley (1954- ) is a British writer best known for her satirical, erotic poems and books and articles about sex and travel. She is active in improving the rights of writers, particularly women writers, and eliminating discrimination in poetry publishing and literary awards. The Fiona Pitt-Kethley papers consist of manuscripts and drafts of her writings in various categories, activities related to the business of writing, reviews of her work, business and personal correspondence, artwork, personal business, and documents related to her father, Rupert Singleton Pitt-Kethley.
Collection Number:
2457
Size:
26 Linear Feet
Location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the  library catalog.
Repository:
Special Collections Library. Pennsylvania State University.
Languages:
English

Biographical Note

Fiona Pitt-Kethley (1954- ) is a British writer best known for her satirical, erotic poems and articles and books on sex and travel. She was born in Edgware, Middlesex, England, the daughter of Rupert Singleton, a journalist and a leading ecumenical bishop, and Olive Banfield Pitt-Kethley, a civil servant. She attended Chelsea School of Art and earned a B.A. in fine arts (with honors) in 1976. While at college, she had a job ushering at the Old Vic, and later at the National Theatre. After college, Pitt-Kethley studied Art History in a part-time post-graduate course and tried to support herself with the sale of her paintings. Unsuccessful in the latter, Pitt-Kethley decided in 1978 to concentrate on writing fulltime. Initially, she supported herself with occasional work as a film extra. Her first poem was published after she had received 86 rejections. Gradually acceptances outnumbered rejections and her poems were published in a wide range of poetry and general interest magazines. From 1985 on, her books, including several compilations of poems, were accepted by mainstream publishers. Her first bestseller, Sky Ray Lolly, was published by Chatto & Windus in 1986.

Among Pitt-Kethley’s publications are collections of poems, travel books, anthologies, a novel, a novella, her autobiography, and a book of essays and letters. She has written articles, reviews, opinion pieces, and profiles for many newspapers and magazines, most notably The Times, The Independent, and The Guardian. Pitt-Kethley authored columns on allotments for Oldie, the arts for The Guardian, and travel for The Whistler. She occasionally writes under the pseudonym Rupert Singleton. Pitt-Kethley has performed her poetry or given speeches at major literary festivals, at libraries and universities, and on television and radio programs.

Published compilations of poetry include: London (privately printed, 1984); Rome (Mammon Press, 1985); The Tower of Glass (Mariscat Press, 1985); Gesta (Turret Books, 1986); Sky Ray Lolly (Chatto & Windus, 1986); Private Parts (Chatto & Windus, 1987; Abacus, 1989); The Perfect Man (Abacus, 1989); Dogs (Sinclair-Stevenson, 1993); The Cabinet of Curiosities (privately printed, 1995); Double Act (Arcadia Books, 1996); Memos from a Muse (privately printed, 1997); and Selected Poems (Salt Publishing, 2008). Pitt-Kethley also published the travel books Journeys to the Underworld (Chatto & Windus, 1988), The Pan Principle (Sinclair-Stevenson, 1994), and Red Light Districts of the World (Tamworth Press, 2000). Other publications include the anthologies The Literary Companion to Sex: An Anthology of Prose and Poetry (Random House, 1992) and The Literary Companion to Low Life (Sinclair-Stevenson, 1995); the novels The Misfortunes of Nigel (Peter Owen, 1991), The Maiden’s Progress (Turret Books, 1992), and Baker’s Dozen (Tamworth Press, 2000); Pitt-Kethley’s autobiography My Schooling; and a collections of essays and letters, Too Hot to Handle (Peter Owen, 1992).

In 2006, Pitt-Kethley told Contemporary Authors: “My work is largely satirical—attacking hypocrisy, cruelty, and exploitation in society. Many of my poems are about contemporary sexuality. I use explicit, everyday language. As to my general aims, I would like to see poetry taken seriously as a profession. It certainly isn’t in Britain at the moment. I am concerned with improving the rights of writers in general and women writers in particular. I have campaigned extensively against discrimination in poetry publishing and literary awards.” ( Contemporary Authors Online, Thomson Gale, 2006) Pitt-Kethley has brought attention to the injustices she perceives, such as the small percentage of female British poets who are published and/or receive awards and grants. She was a complainant against the Arts Council of Great Britain regarding racial equality in the application process for bursaries.

In 2002, Pitt-Kethley moved to Spain with her husband, former British chess champion James Plaskett, and their son Alexander.

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Collection Overview

The Fiona Pitt-Kethley papers consist of notes for and manuscripts and typescripts of her poems, articles, short stories, columns, book reviews, and books; publications to which she contributed; documents related to her professional life as a writer; writings by other authors, including reviews of Pitt-Kethley’s work; business and personal correspondence; artwork on paper and canvas; personal papers, composed of genealogical information, photographs of friends and family, school and childhood memorabilia, and personal business; and papers relating to her father, Rupert Singleton Pitt-Kethley. Manuscripts in the collection include A Cure for Impotence, Journeys to the Underworld, The Literary Companion to Sex, London, The Maiden's Progress, Misfortunes of Nigel, The Perfect Man, Private Parts, Puppet Master, Rome, Sex and Suffering in Italy, Sky Ray Lolly, and Too Hot to Handle. The business correspondence includes exchanges with Pitt-Kethley’s agent Giles Gordon of Sheil Land Associates, and publishers Chatto & Windus, Peter Owen, and Sinclair-Stevenson, MacDonald & Co. There is correspondence concerning Pitt-Kethley’s discrimination case against the Arts Council of Great Britain and her difficulties with Bloodaxe Books in getting her writings published. Greeting cards, Christmas cards, postcards, and a few letters comprise the personal correspondence. Travel itineraries and travel arrangements, engagements books, and artist show invitations document activities related to the business of writing.

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Collection Arrangement

The collection is arranged in eight series: Writings [1], Business related to Writing [2], Writings by other Authors [3], Correspondence [4], Personal Business [5], Artwork [6], Rupert Singleton Pitt-Kethley materials [7], and Digital files [8]. Writings are arranged by category, then alphabetically by title. Business related to writing is arranged by category with festivals and readings arranged alphabetically by festival name, or for general readings, by geographic location. Writings by other authors are arranged by category of writing: letters to the editor, poems, and reviews. Correspondence is arranged by the name of the organization and/or specific individual correspondent. Personal business is arranged chronologically.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Fiona Pitt-Kethley papers, RBM 2457, Special Collections Library, Pennsylvania State University.

Acquisition Information

Collection was acquired between 1993 and 2010.

Processing Information

Processed by Shirley Marchalonis, Paul Dzyak, and Meredith Anne Weber, 8/2014.

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Related Materials

Separated Materials

Fax activity logs, special occasion cards exchanged by Fiona Pitt-Kethley and her husband James Plaskett, financial records, expired passports, and issues of magazines which do not include contributions by Pitt-Kethley have been removed from the collection.

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Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Pitt-Kethley, Fiona
  • Kaiser, John R. (John Robert)

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Other Finding Aids

A detailed list of correspondents and their affiliations is available in the control folder for the collection.

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Collection Inventory

Click associated checkboxes to select items to request. When you have finished, click the Submit Request button.

Scope and Contents

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19

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Scope and Contents

This series includes materials that document the activities related to the business of being a fulltime writer. It consists of contracts and permission requests; records of readings and book signings; information on and applications for various competitions, awards, and grants; interviews and profiles; newsclippings; itineraries, travel arrangements, and diaries.

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205-7

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Scope and Contents

This series includes reviews of Pitt-Kethley’s work and poems by other authors that were shared with her.

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1154

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Scope and Contents

This series consists of business and personal correspondence and fan mail. It includes correspondence between Pitt-Kethley and her agent, Giles Gordon of Sheil Land Associates, various publishers and editors, organizers of literary events, and the Arts Council of Great Britain regarding her dispute with them.

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