Sally Mansfield Abbott was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1948, and named after New Zealand author Katherine Mansfield, her mother’s favorite author. She grew up in New Zealand, Thailand, Switzerland, Myanmar, and India, as well as the U.S. She has taught Goddess Worship in Prehistory at several colleges and universities around the Bay Area. She is an antiwar activist and writes poetry.
Abbott studied English literature at UC Berkeley with a focus on poetry and wrote poetry for several years after graduating. Her primary influences were W.B. Yeats and W.S. Merwin. Influenced by the Women’s Movement, she began to research the Divine Feminine, the pre-patriarchal strata of religion when the deity was worshipped as a Mother Goddess.
She determined to write a novel that would be informed by the era of Goddess worship and essentially be a story of the female hero journey. She envisioned it as a women’s ULYSSES, evoking the ancient myths to tell a present day story. In taking Joyce as a model, she in no way imagined herself to be creating a literary masterpiece-- it was only the mythic dimension to the stories that would be similar.
She studied fiction writing in the M.A. program in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University. After getting her Masters, she began to teach classes at different local colleges on Goddess Worship—Cal State East Bay, John F. Kennedy University, College of Marin, and U.C. Extension. She also taught classes on Virginia Woolf and the Hero Journey in Women’s Literature.
The novel went through numerous different iterations that all eventually had to be discarded, before arriving at the final version, a coming-of-age story set in the 1970’s. Abbott got the idea from a writer friend who guest-lectured in one of her classes. He described a feminist science fiction story set on a distant planet where the rites of adolescence were so extreme that only a very few survived into adulthood.
At Lough Gill, home to the Lake Isle of Innisfree, County Sligo, Ireland, 1969.
At a Bloomsbury café in London, 2009. (The plaque on the building states that William Butler Yeats lived in an apartment in the building for 25 years.)
Double exposure of Sally next to the tomb of James Joyce super-imposed on an image of the Nietzsche House in Sils Maria, Switzerland, 1995.
Sally and her sister Christine Luisi next to the tomb of Virginia Woolf, near Lewes, England, 2009